This afternoon, I had the privilege of being the photographer at the surprise party of my very good friend’s father. It was his 70th birthday. My friend, who is also named Claire, teaches music at our school. She and I have become very good friends and have spent a lot of time together. I know a lot about her family, as she does mine, but other than her husband and children, I had never met any of them before today. A month or so ago, her mother was looking for a photographer for this day, and Claire recommended me. I was touched and honored to do it.
Claire grew up in England and much of her extended family is still living there. She has three sisters and all of them have families of their own. Today, all of them, along with their uncles, aunts, cousins and close friends got together to celebrate this special day. I was welcomed warmly from the moment I arrived at her parent’s home in Princeton. Throughout the day, I was able to meet everyone and put faces to the names of all of those she has told me about. Everyone there was lovely. They treated me as if I was a guest at the party, not just the photographer. I learned that they hadn’t all been together at once in more than twelve years, yet the love and warmth for each other was evident throughout the entire afternoon. If I hadn’t known better, I would have assumed they were together all of the time because everyone was so close and loving towards one another. The nine grandchildren, ranging in age from 2-18, played together as if they were old friends.
Claire and some of the guests kept jokingly apologizing for their “crazy family,” which only made me laugh because it was as if I was with my own family. Other than their English accents giving it away, it really could have been one of our family get togethers. I stayed for hours getting hundreds of photos for them. Big family shots, group photos, candids… I can’t wait for them to see them all. My favorite part of taking photos for others any time is when I can warm up enough to those whose photos I am taking to get them to act naturally for the camera. There was no problem getting this to happen today. There is so much laughter and love portrayed in all of the photos. Even some of the youngest family members who started out camera shy, were posing for photos by the end of the afternoon.
When I got home, I told Dave about their family and how I felt like a part of it while I was there today. Minutes later, I received a text from Claire telling me that everyone there said that I seemed like a member of their family. Those are always the best photo shoots. Blending into the crowd and just kind of fitting in.