I recently had a newborn photo session with Joe and Katelin and their baby girl Claire. I regularly encourage my clients to bring items such as blankets, outfits, stuffed animals, or other things that have special meaning for them. Usually I can include them in some way to add an extra personal touch. Among other things Joe and Katelin brought along a bear made from the military jacket of Katelin's father. Here is what Katelin told me about the bear and her father.
"There is a lady that my aunt knows who makes bears out of the clothing of deceased loved ones as a way to remember them. My father, Frank Wayne Riske, passed away suddenly on Nov. 11, 2005 in a motor cycle accident. It was a beautiful day, ironically Veteran's day, and he wanted to take the bike out for a spin. He was stopped at an intersection and was hit by a man who had a seizure while driving. He was only a few miles from his home and this man was not supposed to be driving. He was killed instantly so I am grateful for that as I know he did not suffer and did not have to hang onto his life in the hospital. If he was going to leave this earth, it was the best way. He was only 45 at the time, so very young. He left behind a wife, (my stepmother), me, 20 years old at the time, and my half sister who would turn 3 that November.
"His rank was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and he worked as an Aircraft Maintenance Production Superintendent and had completed 24 years of service. He was responsible for maintenance production supervision of five flights and leadership of 600 people that accomplish over 15,000 maintenance actions annually on 54 F-15C/D and 13 F/A-22 aircraft. He was serving at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia at the time.
"Thankfully, Joe was in my life at the time and he got to know Dad pretty well before the accident. Now it is up to us to tell Claire all about her Grandpa and how special he was to so many."
At the time of the photo session I didn't know all these details about Katelin's father's death. I did know it was important to do my best to get it 'right'. I wanted the bear and the baby to both be featured, yet somehow not compete with each other. I needed something to reveal that the baby was a girl but not so much that it would draw too much attention. Last summer I had found a stretchy dress in a discount bin and this seemed the perfect setting to use it. Here is a photo of Katelin holding up the dress. The dress's color is subtle and it has just a bit of lace at the waist - perfect to show that the baby is a girl.
We wrapped Claire in the dress with the lace at the top and tried to position her with the bear. We quickly discovered that the bear would not stay upright on his own. Enter Claire's daddy, scrunched into place and needing to hide himself and still hold the bear in position. We had soft light from one window, a soft background in the bedroom wall, an off-white coverlet over the bedspread, and the subtle wrap with lace.
I shot from several angles but this is the one I like the best. Here is the image straight out of camera.
I decided to edit the image to bring out the bear's face a bit and give a little glow around it. I needed to be sure the name badge and emblem could be seen and I needed to call a little attention to the bear's paw on the baby's head. Here is the final result.
Though it has been a number of years since the passing of Frank Wayne Riske my heart goes out to his family. I feel honored to share in this story, if only briefly, by capturing this image of the Teddy Bear and Baby Claire.