Spring break has begun.

We left sandwiched into Mom’s car shortly after breakfast.  Although we suffered through a few hours of traffic, once on 85S, our drive was fairly smooth.

Traveling with a trio of littles means we stop often. Luckily, we planned for leisure. No time constraints,  no rush, and no problems.

As hunger struck Ya, we began to search for the best place to dine. Ruby Tuesdays’ all you can eat salad bar won our selection. And we definitely ate (likely making up for missing lunch on the road ). Of course food led immediately to lethargy, and we had to consider which hotel was best.

Equipped with bug spray -just in case – we found an overnight offering breakfast. The bed was luxurious. ..except the company (my girls) slept as though sleep rolling were a competitive sport and it was championship time.  Breakfast,  unfortunately,  was disappointing. Disc shaped microwave eggs,  sausage, yogurt, and hardened donuts, bagels or toast were our selections.

Despite a 12 pm checkout, housekeeping attempted to break in at 10:15am. Thank goodness for that extra door bolt.  We planned to maximize time relaxing before resuming the travel west towards our destination.

Congratulations, again.

Once again, you’ve selected. And once again I’m reminded how rare it is that my 5 shades of brown family is ideal representation.

I comb through the albums, scrutinizing the many beautiful faces contained there. Each child unique, each child special. I linger at my favorites – the kids who immediatly captivate with infectious smiles, quirky features, freckle sprinklings, or that indescribable “it” factor that says star. The competition is often tough – if only judging the children.

But usually, these contests are advertised as part model magic and part photographer product.  I’d assume,then, that the child who wins does so because his portrait is amazing: crisp, lit well, staged to perfection – especially if the prize is publication or opportunity to receive products to model.  And yet, it seems there’s a caste system in this circuit. The best quality photo, the best showcased personality doesn’t always get the kudos.

Those at the top are long haired children with pale skin and bright colored eyes. Next, the children whose ethnicity is obscured by wild locks, vibrant eyes, soft tanned skinned, or any combination of these.  Occasionally,  an exotic child with uncommon features rises up in admiration. Last, though, seem to be the children of Black heritage.

Is there no marketability for these children?  Aren’t there consumers who identify with these models?

If I were to speak out, as one friend suggested, what would I say?  To call for diversity might be seen as a demand for some type of model quota.  And I’m not sure that’s what is needed.  But I’m always in awe when businesses have not a single face like ours in any of their advertising, or when every page of a magazine presents the same mold of child. 

I don’t expect to “win” them all. In one  competition,  I was rooting for another child (and her photographer ). The ‘tween is stunning. Confidence radiates from her. And her look? Straight out of a major editorial for a fashion magazine.  Though she was entered in a best of competition for several categories,  she wasn’t even recognized as an honorable mention.   I remain awed that her pictures didn’t earn publication.

And some of those who took top honors? Blurry, cluttered, color cast. How is that even permissible? What publication of merit will survive with subpar pictures?

As for the shops, I wonder if there is a consensus that people of color don’t buy from boutiques?  I hardly think there was a poll, or that demographics of customers support the generalization. There’s money to spend and fashion is a bridge across cultures and ethnicity. Not to showcase diversity in advertising, though, might lead clients to seek out creatives who do.

Frankly, I’m tired of the playing favorites. Contests, bookings, and publication shouldn’t be about who you know (or how much support you can buy).  There has to be some merit for quality and originality.  A great photo is worth the risk of breaking free of the “trendy.”  It’s the difference that makes memorable impact.

Frozen in time: no Disney here

I’ve worked a bit these past two years on shoots alluding to movies of the mainstream variety. I could argue that since I rely quite heavily on the novel descriptions and not on the cinematic adaptations, that I’m shooting my way through popular literature. Very slowly. As in, one or two shoots a year.

Lately, though, I’ve wanted to delve more into editorial shoots without the novelty of popular influence – – namely, capturing fashion and tween-dom in pictures without the fanfare.

Chi reluctantly obliges. And when she does, she insists I “make her up” with a little eye shadow and, ocassionally, some lip color. But the rest is all her – the hair, the poses, the beauty. She is my original muse and the camera loves her.

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Snow day for five

We ordered up a little snow for the five to enjoy.  It started early,  while I sat scrutinizing my peacock painting at Cheers. First, it looked pretty sparse, just a few flakes wafting through the air before settling and melting. But then, they came faster and began to stick. Suddenly, there was a blanket of white.  Traffic slowed, as caution and chaos battled along the roads.
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And when they called closure for school, we decided to explore the few open spaces that remain in the community. We were first to the hill, with our makeshift sleds in hand.  Why can we never find the real sleds when needed?
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Ri wanted no part of the snow or cold, while JD insisted winter was his favorite season.  But when his wet canvas sneakers began to freeze, he was more than happy to escort baby sister home.

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We gave it a good half hour and left the hill when too many would be sledders joined us on the slope.
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The parting of the sea

I remember it clearly: Mel handed my mom a box on Christmas morning. Tav and she were “making rounds” to their list of must appear on holidays folk. Mom opened her box with a mixture of trepidation and excitement – the kind that comes from not knowing what natural reaction will read on her face as she discovered her carefully selected gift chosen by her son’s wife.  And as she pulled out a variety of baby things,  her eyebrow raised in perplexity. She read the accompanying note as Mel swelled with happiness next to her.

I guessed, easily, from the unfolding events that the couple was expecting – my brother’s first child, though he’d been a father in so many ways for years.  I think I left the room, then, settling in to watch television while my parents processed the news. Tav came in shortly thereafter,  “Mel and I are having a baby,” he said.  “Congratulations, ” I replied. And an odd, uncomfortable vibe filled the room.  Then, after less than half hour’s tolerance, they left for other visits.

I don’t know how to describe my feelings about it all.  There’s been this pervasive distancing between my closest brother and I for the last five years.  I’m almost certain it started when his first marriage dissolved at what I believe to be an onset of unspoken mental illness in his ex. 

He pulled away from me even as I rekindled my relationship with hubs – maybe to allow this new man space in my life, or maybe to sort out where his own life was going. 

And somewhere in our separate quests to find love, we seemed to let go of that bond that held us close regardless of physical distance.

I suppose I can point toward a closet of secrets that has been steadily filling as we’ve grown older. No shady, sordid truths within the confines, but rather, a build up of omissions about life events that family – especially siblings – would share.  We stopped confiding, stopped dreaming together of what we most hoped for in life.  And what has remained is superficial conversation.

It’s been over a year since that Christmas.

We never spoke of what happened to the child they’d created together.  One minute I’m calling Mel for permission to get baby a Tigger play suit (in honor of Tav), and the next Mom is saying the ultrasound came with unexpected news.  I know my brother grieved, but I was never made privy to his now very private adult life.

Near Thanksgiving I got a text. It simply said, “It’s a boy.”  But he’d never said prior that they were again expecting. News was sparse, and I wasn’t welcomed into the months of anticipation – of dreaming possibilities – that Mel so readily shared with her family and friends.  

There’s been this she can’t hold water cast I’ve been dealt. And the privacy veil about my brother’s whole life has grown thick. Don’t post… don’t mention… don’t speak…  Essentially, don’t feel like this is your happiness to share.

I shot her…

And it felt good.

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You see, RiAnne and I were given the opportunity to work with an online vendor who sells beautiful pieces at reasonable prices. And because she trusted us, we really wanted to give her our best. But Ri and headbands don’t always agree. This time, though, she really worked with me and the shots, I think, are beautiful.

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