Welcome to the brand spankin' new Worthington Photography Blog! We are Sam and Mel, a husband-wife photography team based in the "rivah city" of Richmond, Virginia. We hope you'll come on in, sit a spell, and browse through Mel's journal of our most recent shoots and adventures. If you wish to reminisce, you can still access posts from our old blog here. Enjoy!

Welcome home

November 11th, 2014

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When I first met Dina, the world was a simpler place.  That’s actually not true, we were just living simpler lives.  We were college students at a prestigious university and our job was to study hard.   When four years came to a close and she made the decision to study medicine through the Army I wasn’t really worried.   I mean, it wasn’t like our country would go to war or anything.

Fast forward.  Towers fell.  A baby was born.  He was barely a year old when she left on her first deployment.  I wasn’t a mother then but it looked unfair to me and I knew it had to feel wrong.  I expected her to be heartbroken, upset and angry before she left but she stood tall and she was clear.  She told me this was what she signed up for, that it was her turn and that it wasn’t convenient for anyone regardless: its just what you do.  She made it sound as simple as that.

Now that I am a mother, now that I know how visceral your connection is with each of your children, only now do I know the angst she has felt and the strength she carries.

Between her husband Paresh and herself there have been five tours so far while raising three children.  No one gets to be the default parent in this scenario (though Dee will be the first to tell you that they each handle their roles as single parents in their own, unique way).   And not once have either of them complained, not to me anyway, not even when Dina was about to give birth to their second child by herself with Paresh stationed on the other side of the world.  (That child is his spitting image these days.)

I felt a little guilty conspiring against the kiddos when I bumped into their family “by coincidence” as they waited at the baggage claim for their grandmother to arrive (wink, wink).   I’m grateful to have been there to capture the greatest surprise and welcome her home.  I especially loved that her first born, that first baby she had to leave, was the first to run to her and greet her.  Granted, his legs are a little longer and gave him the advantage over the girls but I would like to think that this was the last deployment for their family and that it came full circle in that moment.

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Think, for a moment, of a price… an income that would be worth leaving the ones you love the most behind and putting yourself in harm’s way.  There isn’t one, it doesn’t exist.  No one does this unless they believe it is right.

On behalf of my business, myself and my family I want to wish Dina, Paresh and all men and women of service a Happy Veteran’s Day.  I realize that if I go to bed at night and feel safe there, its because of every tour, every time you left the ones you loved and put yourself in harm’s way.  I know that you did it for your family and for mine.  I can’t fully appreciate your sacrifice but I can thank you for it.

Welcome home, Captain Dee, MD.  You are my hero.

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Posted by Mel @ 6:26 pm, in Personal, Wee Ones | Comments Off | Permalink

XOXO

October 30th, 2014

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So the goal of the shoot was to get images for Anna and Ella’s birth announcement, my first photo shoot with twins!  I was terribly excited the day before the shoot, I poured through Google for ideas, is there a “right” way to approach cuteness times two???  Could this double dose of adorable make a lens explode?  I had no idea what to expect.

I knew that the girls had a big brother, age 6, I just wasn’t expecting him to be my muse on this particular shoot.  When he finally let me get close enough to him all I could see was the most beautiful set of eyes peering at me through plushie short hand for a hug and a kiss.

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His mother, Lynne, assured me that XO was a welcome presence in the pictures since anyone who knew their family knew XO too.  Its actually half of of a whole, there are two soft XO pieces that velcro together to make XOXO.  But for Hayden there is a good side of the pair that is loved and worn and the other side doesn’t feel quite as right for some reason.  Two items that look the same but most certainly are not… which felt like a bit of a theme that day.

But it got me thinking.  There is the person our child needs to be for a short period of time because it helps them to navigate a big world.  Then there is the person we know they are becoming and we just want others to see it too… which can get a parent pretty squirrely when a camera comes out.   Allow me to explain: our son can’t put on anything that doesn’t have a superhero or superhero symbol on it and it makes my husband (whose job is to think about branding day in and day out) borderline insane.  On a recent family getaway to an idyllic location Fiver insisted on wearing a Batman rain jacket everywhere despite the lack of rain.  Which meant that in every breath-taking, scenic photograph stood a kid decked out in bat symbols, making a “tough” face, hands balled in fists and ready to battle… no one in particular.    Sam was getting frustrated.  “Why can’t he just be himself for one day?  That stupid jacket is ruining otherwise beautiful pictures.”

There is this teeny-tiny window where a child does something that annoys us profoundly while they have the need to do it only to become the very thing we talk about most fondly when we later describe their childhood. And its often related to some thing: a dolly, “wubby” or blankie that they have difficulty parting with or a ratty piece of clothing they insist on wearing day in and day out despite the holes.  Should this item become lost, washed or otherwise unavailable all hell shall break loose.  Over time its story gets told and retold so often that it becomes the stuff of legend.

A family photo taken in a studio in the 80′s hung in our living room throughout my childhood, the making of which took extreme pleading followed by a very bold bribe on the part of my parents in order to successfully extricate “nakey baby” from its inclusion.  I recently noticed that this photo was replaced by an enlarged snapshot of us where nakey baby, every bit as naked as her name suggests, dangles at my sister’s pigtailed side.

The reality is that a child won’t need this thing forever.  At some point it is cast aside and we pack it in a box and wonder where the little boy or girl went.  They do, absolutely, become the person we always knew they were and feared others might not see behind the quirk.  And I guess that’s why it melted my heart when Hayden’s parents welcomed XO, no bribes or conflict, and it actually became part of things.

And I’m not sure if its because it was welcome or because he was willing anyway, but XO wasn’t actually in most photos.  And wow, is Hayden handsome when he let’s you see his face.  It was towards the end of the shoot that he placed it, lovingly, with the girls who happened to be wearing red. I couldn’t have planned it better had it been my own idea.

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Anna and Ella are indeed absolutely beautiful and thankfully my lens didn’t explode.  To be a fly on the wall of this shoot would have been comical as three adults juggled two babies to coax simultaneous naps or waking moments, they refused to do the same thing at the same time, almost as if to assert their individuality.  But the craziness really  is just part of the wonder right now.  I just hope that I am still taking pictures of this group when XO is in a box and each girl has her own version of it to play into things.

As for me, I am embracing pictures of Batman on a pebbled beach with a bay and lighthouse behind him fighting no one.  I know that someday he will be fascinated by the infinite color variations of each unique pebble, that he will pick them up and want to carry them home because he is curious.  I know that someday he will love the wind in his face and favor its sound as it whips past his ears because he is thoughtful.  I know that someday he will look out at the vastness of a body of water and dream about possibilities because part of him is free.  Its OK if he needs costumes right now to sort out good from bad and an iPad once in awhile so that he can turn comfortably inward.  He will become who I know he is.  I’m not in a hurry.

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Posted by Mel @ 1:26 pm, in Newborns, Portraits, Wee Ones | Comments Off | Permalink

Meg & Bill

October 24th, 2014

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We share some common loves with Meg and Bill: a love of dogs, microbrews, family tradition, fall, a little girl named Zyda, temperamental old houses and the lovely Richmond neighborhood of Church Hill.  Let’s just say we’ve been looking forward to this one.

Meg and Bill were married in Meg’s family parish of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Petersburg, VA where General Lee himself attended his own son’s wedding.  In case that isn’t Virginia enough for you, their reception took place at the grand Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond where the rich reds of the church’s interior continued down the iconic staircase and swept through the Empire Room in floral arrangements and warm light.

Everything was elegant, beautiful and bright… except for maybe this guy who traveled with a groomsman until it was toast time….

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But ah, yes!  I almost forgot that we also share a great sense of humor with Meg and Bill so we are glad he tagged along.  Cheers to you both!

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Posted by Mel @ 4:06 pm, in Weddings | Comments Off | Permalink

relation/ships

October 3rd, 2014

Over the summer my family boarded a ship, DC’s own Odyssey to be exact, for a belated celebration of Pop Pop’s birthday.  We gathered at the bow for a family photo op and while we did get a couple of the obligatory “line everyone up like milk bottles” poses courtesy of a fellow tourist, the shots I appreciated the most revealed a little something about the small groupings in front of the lens.  Pics about ships and relationships,if you will.  I started to wonder why I’m not doing more sessions like this professionally (adorable as my own family might be) but this looks like a good place to start.

Daddy is the clear favorite at this age.

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Silliness, at age 5, is fairly requisite in all of our son’s relationships.  He seem to be in the stage developmental psychologists refer to as “tongue outward while camera aware.”  Nana has had no trouble embracing this, she’s been sticking her tongue out at the camera for years.  Seriously.  She eats is up.

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Pop Pop is all about the playful pinch.  Whether he is threatening to eat a foot or transforming his hand into “Gus the Gator” (Gus has been nibbling at Fiver pretty much since birth), Pop Pop is a joker and a poker.

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Slightly more difficult to decipher is his relationship with his slightly older (but significantly taller) cousin, Jordan.  When she is around he doesn’t show her much tenderness but in her absence he talks about her often and tells me he misses her.  When I look closely at these pictures, I begin to understand…  In his world, being big is where its at: it represents independence, authority and autonomy.  He wants nothing more than to be a big boy.  But with Jordan he is undeniably second in birth order, smaller, and from his world view: subjugated.  He hates doing what she says, even when its something he actually wants to do (like stick a tongue out at the camera).  He’s trying to figure out how to be big without being bigger and it can be awkward.   Through my eyes they are finally the same age but that’s because I can remember holding my newborn lump of clay in one arm while grabbing the band of her diaper just in the nick of time and holding it firm, her legs and arms still vigorously moving towards the open front door/electrical socket/dog bowl and her mind trying to figure out why the items of danger/interest were not getting closer.  We have no idea which of the two will be taller when they are in their 20′s and this age difference doesn’t matter in the least but hopefully he will have it worked out by then.

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Learning what I did, I decided to pull a few other recent photos from family get togethers to see what I could see.

While Charlie is a younger cousin (and Fiver likes to remind him of that) he is the one our son sees as his buddy and peer.  It might be because Charlie is also a boy, it might be because they spend a lot of time together, it might be because their parents are always laughing and joking and pal-ing around themselves.  It may be any or all of those things but you can see collaboration between them.  (The color car shot is my all time fav of their personalities).

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With cousin Reyna, Fiver gets to be the clear elder.  She adores him because he’s the big kid and he is very comfortable with her adoration.  When he wanted to be Batman for his superhero birthday party, she naturally wanted to be Robin.  She is a sidekick.

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Dee Dee is the grandma I have the fewest images to pull from since she really likes to hide from the camera.  It reminds me that I need to try a little harder because she is the the one who tickles the most and lets him make the very biggest mess.  I did grab this one though, well these two… At Madison’s superhero party she was the only one who made herself into her very own superhero… Super Dee Dee…. Who super power is growing plants (and is therefore appropriately captured in our small garden).  She’s dedicated to all things creative and instilling that in him too.

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Grandpa is a hugger, that’s how he clowns.

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And my mother can’t take a photo with either of these kids without her immense love and gratitude rising to the surface and welling her eyes.  She is the one who sang to them and rocked them through nights when their new mothers couldn’t take the cholic anymore and went to bed.  In the morning we would find her on the couch fast asleep with a content and peaceful baby cradled in her arms.  As a result of both those nights and many very engaging, playful days they know her in an organic, almost cellular way.  They are ours but they are also hers and they know it.

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But back to the boat, this is my favorite.  While you can’t see my face in this pic you can see who I am right now.  I am safety when he is in over his head, I am shelter when the world gets a little bigger than the big boy.  I relish this picture and admit that I worry about who I will be to him once he grows taller than I am and the world becomes his oyster with little to fear.  We’ll just have to keep on taking pictures and figure it out as we go along.

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Are there grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or other “ships” we should explore?  Should we get the family together one afternoon around a special day or activity and see what we can’t see?   The leaves are changing and fall beckons with farms, fairs, apples, pumpkins and other adventures best suited for crisp air.   I’ve had a couple of gigs with littles and their grandparents and I’ve loved these very special sessions so let’s make more and share them here!

And thanks for reading, this was a LONG one.

Posted by Mel @ 4:11 pm, in Personal, Portraits, Wee Ones | Comments Off | Permalink