I lived and worked in Paris in my early twenties and somehow never came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work. I knew of Robert Doisneau’s famous 1950 “Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville”. In fact, my parents gifted me a beautifully-framed 20×30 print of the image for my sixteenth birthday. (If there’s a nudge for suggesting I’d later become a portrait photographer, this would be a not-so-subtle one). Later, on my second day ever in France, I naïvely asked my French laision and family friend, “How much does it cost to stay in that hotel?” Dead stare . . . (L’hôtel in this context means city hall).

Only recently (as in a few years ago) did I unearth this amazing body of drool-worthy work and dream of the idea of creating candid black and white children’s portrait work in the same style as these men.

This was the genesis of my idea to work with Ms. Maisie at Cannelle by Matt Knio in Ann Arbor. I’d been to his Birmingham location several times for coffee with friends but Maisie and her family live near Ann Arbor, so it made sense to try his location closer to home. I hadn’t been to this spot but scouted it online hoped and trusted it would be as quaint and photo-worthy as his other locales.

We arrived at 10:00. The café was bustling for a weekday morning, but not busy. I feared it would be too crowded to photograph without disturbing others (or that we might get kicked out — we bought a good amount of food and tipped very well – the staff was nothing but gracious and welcoming).

I brought a full wardrobe for Ms. Maisie but unhappy at the idea of wearing a dress or skirt, she only acquiesced when we agreed pants could stay on underneath. When you’re three, you want what you want.

It turns out toddlers aren’t super at knowing what tastes they like, however. Only through extensive life experience do we acknowledge preference for lemon-raspberry over lemon-peach. Or no lemon at all. And looks can be deceiving. Maisie first chose a gorgeous lemon slab tart crowned with a perfect dollop of fresh whipped cream. Here she is above in full anticipation. (Don’t worry, the coffee beside it is mine but it made for good prop, so we left it in.)

But as things sometimes go, lemon was tart and not what she expected at all. It was a no go. After a single “safety finger lick,” it was a “hard pass” went in the “to go” box for dad to enjoy at home. Back to the drawing board, or glass pastry case, as it were.

In her second pass, Maisie chose a sensible strawberry tart. No doubt a crowd pleaser with the promise of a sweet, glistening treat on top. We moved to the back of the café where I had a bit more room to shoot. She scooted herself to the back of the chair and awkwardly shuffled the plate atop her lap. The pastry did in fact fall on the floor, but only momentarily and we of course employed the trusty five-second rule.

After finishing her treat, we ventured outside on what was a mild, but dreary day, and rested on the curb in the nearby alley, did a little antique window shopping, then took in the view of Ann Arbor from the top of the parking structure she was dying to ascend.

I love creating storytelling sessions like these. Black and white makes for an emotional, timeless look and forever captures the heart and really focuses the viewer on the sense of subject and place.

For a photojournalistic session, I always provide wardrobe, props (especially the delicious kind!), and a storytelling presentation in the form of matted prints and / or album. If you’d like to learn more about creating a story of and with your special little one, contact me.

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