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Momma Love isn’t only about the love a mother shows. Its about the love she is shown, by herself and the world around her. – Ali Smith

I met Ali Smith, photographer, mother and author of Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives, back in 2013 at one of her book launch parties. I instantly fell in love with Ali’s gorgeous book, which features forty mothers whose honest stories of the highs and lows of motherhood are shared through essays and Ali’s photographs. In Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives, Ali Smith initially included her family and friends who were becoming mothers, then sought out mothers making political points by living them, such as Sophie Currier, a mom who fought for the right to breastfeed during her medical board exam.

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Ali and I then reconnected a few months later and decided for Mothers Day 2014, we should put together a small event with other local NYC moms, to showcase the Momma Love book, and offer some easy “Ali Smith” pro tips on photographing your own kids. I am so excited to now share Ali’s tips with all of you!

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  1. Ban the word “cheese” from your photographic life: “Cheese” gets you a Pavlovian style, strained “picture face” from a child (or an adult). Instead, think of things to say that elicit genuine responses and be prepared to photograph the response. Ali Smith knows a woman who says “1,2,3, FART!” every time she photographs her children and it gets a genuine smile each time.
  2. Don’t get married to one result: Especially in the case of a holiday picture or a picture you’ve decided to set up, it can be hard to shift modes if your child decides they have a different idea or they are fed up with yours. Try to follow them to their new idea and don’t be afraid to capture some of their strange or unconventional expressions.
  3. Look for the light: This is a “rule” that is definitely meant to be broken. Maybe you want “motion, blur images” of your children, or maybe they are sleeping and you like the dim light on them. That said, if you don’t want those things, kids are often in motion and having adequate light is your friend. Particularly if you are shooting with your camera phone, which does not have a very fast shutter speed in low light situations.
  4. Change your perspective: Change your physical hight to get down to your child’s level. Take photos at unexpected angles. Your child does not always have to be facing the camera to get a good result.
  5. Distract your subject: Ask them to tell you about something they are interested in. Call their attention to something they might like- flowers, a mobile, etc. You are trying to photograph their reactions and the in between moments. Those are the times you are most likely to photograph who they truly are.
  6. Don’t let other parents interfere unless it is really helping: Sometimes parents jumping around like apes (literally) behind you is a great thing. But, other adults over directing the children or ordering them to “behave” “listen” or “smile” is not helpful.

Ali also brought her camera to the event and snapped some amazing photos, so we can see her tips in action.

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lilStrange getting her first kiss from Randi Zinn’s sweet son.

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Love this photo! It cracks me up.

The kids snacked on yummy organic snacks from Ella’s Kitchen (the bright fun packaging matched perfectly with my dress), Nibbly Fingers, Yum Yummy Baby Cookies, and food pouches, H especially likes the broccoli, peas + pear food pouch from Ella’s.

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Yes, H’s tattoo says Momma Love!

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All the little ones were lovingly watched by Sensible Sitters, a childcare source based in Manhattan, The Hamptons, Los Angeles, Palm Beach and San Francisco. Sensible Sitters is equipped to provide a last-minute sitter for an evening out, a temporary replacement for a sick nanny, a standing sitter for specific days and hours, or full-time nannies. They are also a private babysitting and nanny referral agency. Sensible Sitters has a thorough screening process for every one of their sitters in order to provide your family with a network of skilled babysitters.

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Baby Meets City‘s little one telling stories to one of the Sensible Sitters.

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Suburban Wife City Life‘s daughter playing a game with one of the Sensible Sitters.

The event at my apartment was a great success and everyone that attended went away with some great tips, beautiful photos by Ali and new connections with local moms who have a common interest (kids and photography). This event could not have happened without Ali Smith, the sweet Sensible Sitters, or yummy snacks from Ella’s Kitchen. Plus if you are still looking for an amazing inspirational one-of-a-kind Mothers Day gift (or baby sower gift) for that special mom or mom friend in your life, Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives is a perfect choice.

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