A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Adoption Photography "Must Have Moments"

As a photographer I often view life as a series of moments connected by time. I’ve often found myself trying to capture brief memories in my mind whenever my camera isn’t handy or when there is no one else around to take the picture. In my imagination I take a picture of that one moment. I take in my surroundings, the smells, every possible detail, but most importantly how I feel. These moments are more than just snapshots, they tell stories. As a photographer, these are the moments that matter and are ones that I look for and have learned to anticipate through experience.


As a birthparent, the photographs I’ve taken tell the adoption story from a unique perspective. I often think back to when I placed my own little baby boy and think about the pictures that I would have cherished if, back then, I’d been given the option. I often think about the happy moments, the heartbreaking ones, and the ones that are just a little bittersweet that looking back, I would have loved to capture. Those moments, while, at the time would have been difficult to look back on were embodied by raw emotion. At that time, I would have thought primarily of how those images would have been a great help to myself. Recently that perspective has changed.

About two months ago I was reconnected with my son, Sam. I think the thing that surprised me the most was how much he had relied upon my letters. Apparently he had gone through a period where he struggled with his being adopted and wanted so much to know more about things like, “where did (he) get his freckles from?” Or “how tall would (he) be?” In essence, he asked questions that both you and I take completely for granted. It was because of our sweet reunion that it became ever apparent to me that the details were just as much of importance as the big picture. Not only did the experience bring about a “completeness” to me that has been missing for the past sixteen years, it changed how I approach adoption photography. 

When I was shooting adoption photography in the past, I feel that I did so being a little one sided. I considered they types of pictures that I’d want to see and remember as a birthmother. The approach I take now is one of a very wholistic approach, considering what types of things the adopted child needs to see. For example, rather than just taking a picture of a birthmother’s face, consider taking a close-up of her hands as well holding the pendant that was given to her from her adoptive couple, a close-up of her eyes glancing down, or anything else that tells about her and her story. Have her bring some of her favorite things she loves to the photosession. If she’s a writer, have her bring some journals and take some shots of her handwriting, or her actually writing in her journal. If she’s an artist, a musician, a songwriter or any other hobby or interest, figure out a way to document those things through photography. Put yourself in your child’s place, consider what things he or she would need to know about their birthmother and if possible, birthfather as well

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As far as documenting the whole story, see if your birthparent is comfortable having some maternity pictures taken and consider hiring someone to take them. This will provide a neutral party to document those moments and provide sweet memories for the birthmother and the birthfather if he’d like to be involved as well. 
 
Also, consider having someone to photographically document the placement as well. If you’re in a place to do so, I’d strongly recommend hiring a professional. These moments are emotion packed and absolutely tender. Whoever you decide to be there, make sure to have someone who is capable of shooting in, how should I say it, not the greatest of lighting situations without disturbing what’s going on with a flash. Also, make sure they are equipped with the ability to take close-up candid shots, as well as wide-angle storytelling ones too. 

 
Lastly, make sure to document the first moments you’ll have with your new baby. These are the pictures I wish, with all my heart that I had and feel like they would have been such healing images for me to have. Because I placed sixteen years ago, at that time we weren’t allowed to be there at the placement. My last memories were of my social worker walking out the door with my son and leaving me in a room alone to bawl my eyes out. While these moments were probably the most heart-wrenching for me, I wish I could have seen what was going on in the other room, to see the joy on the faces of my adoptive couple in their first moments with their son. Those are the images that I would have wanted to be my last of that process and would have brought the most healing to my broken heart.

Make sure the birthparent(s) know that the whole purpose behind what you’re doing is for the child. Some people don’t love the idea of having their pictures taken, but if your birthparent knows that it’s for their child, they’ll be more inclined to be a part of it. 


When you’re all through don’t just let the pictures sit in a file on your computer or on a disc. Do something with them. There are great deals all the time on digital scrapbooks through daily deals. If you’re nervous about the technology or consider yourself creatively challenged, there are pre-designed templates that are as simple as dragging and dropping the pictures in the book. This will be something your birthparent and your child will absolutely cherish. Make sure to make a couple of backups of your digital images and keep one copy off-site or in cloud storage. That way, in the instance of a flood or home fire, your images are safe and undamaged.

Kristin Pack, ShadeTree Studios
images provided by Shade Tree Studios

1 comment:

  1. Hello!
    I am birthmom to a 4.6yo son.
    I have recently been pursuing the world of photography. My goal is to do adoption photography! It made my day to find this post and see another birthmom that is doing this too!

    ReplyDelete

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