After working as a model in New York City, I became a fashion and beauty photographer in the commercial advertising field. My dream was to be a successful photographer.
The first book of my photographs and text enjoyed tremendous success. Excerpts from the book and reviews of it appeared in both national and international newspapers and magazines, and I was interviewed on 80 radio and television talk shows.
I went on to photograph and write two more books, which were also issued by major New York City publishers. I continued to enjoy photographing beautiful models wearing beautiful clothes.
While I was teaching a week of photography classes at the Palm Beach Photographic Workshops in Florida, I received a telephone call that would change the course of my career, if not my life. My mother had suffered a stroke. For months I flew back and forth to Buffalo, New York, each trip lasting four or five days. There were times when I spent hours in hospitals. It was a very depressing time for me and my family. Experiencing the reality of the hospital and then returning to New York City to photograph beautiful people was just not sitting right with me. The fashion world is glamorous, fun, and exciting, and yet, as we all know, there is a fake component to it, an expression of an elegant existence limited to a lucky few. Retouching further transforms the reality and asks us to wonder, what is real?
I started to photograph more and more subject matter aside from fashion. Scenery, still life, people, especially children—I explored. Soon it was the children that really kept me interested as they are the ones who are so candid and real. At that point, the direction of my career changed. From photographing fashion and beauty for prestigious magazines I went on to photograph children for such clients as Cheerios and Johnson and Johnson. The portfolio I submitted for prospective jobs was completely revised: it became a collection of photographs of children, on their own and with their siblings and parents. My background as a model turned photographer gave me an advantage in my work. I have a strong eye for detail, whether it is someone’s face or the way clothing is fitting. I used this knowledge when I turned my focus to my new subjects. Soon afterwards, friends would ask me to photograph their children. Before long, I started to build my private clientele, shooting families and their children. As an extra bonus, I now had more control over my time.
I love kids, and have always wanted to have at least one of my own. Along with my dream of being a successful photographer, I felt so strongly about having a baby however my husband at the time did not share my yearning. My desire was intense, so much so that my intention was that I would make it happen one way or another.
At this point in time, I was no longer married, but I was determined to go ahead on my own. After several miscarriages, one loss at five months, I finally decided to give up trying. The scary part was that I was a freelancer, and how much money I would need to raise a child was also a strong consideration. I considered adopting and I also thought about finding a surrogate mother. Doing the research on the alternatives took time and constantly engaged my thoughts.
As time went on I made peace with myself about not having children, and it became more and more important for me to work with them. They filled that gap. I could enjoy them on a photo shoot. Soulful, whimsical, and energetic are the qualities that come through in my work.
My soulmate came into my life, and he also became my assistant on weekend photo sessions. To say the least, children love and adore him. If he doesn’t accompany me on a shoot, the kids want to know “Where is Michael?” He has a special connection with children; he, too, feels that working with them makes up for our not having our very own. We get to enjoy them and have our “child fix.” At the end of the day, we get to go home, tired but fulfilled.
I have a lot of patience—a must when working with children. They can love the camera or be shy initially and refuse to be photographed. Unless they know me as their “annual” photographer, they might just need some time to figure out who I am. I have also worked with many special needs children who require a different kind of patience. Another point I’d like to make is how rewarding it is to see the children that we photograph every year grow up and, before we know it, become teens! I have been told that the love I have for children comes through in my work. That makes me happy. When someone asks me on a photograph session if I have any children, I’m proud to reply: “These are all my children!”
I salute moms for the job that they do in raising their children, as they make many sacrifices to give their children all they possibly can. Moms keep everything together in the family. They show love and affection, deal with the problems and the moods of children. They raise their children to the best of their abilities.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmothers, surrogates, and caretakers of children. You most certainly deserve your special day.
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