The past Sunday was overwhelmed with mama’s love as we celebrated Mother’s Day by treating our new local clients, friends, and neighbors (over 70 people!) to the touching portraits in our Poconos photo studio.
The details of this event were already covered here. I’ll just note that I’ve done this annual treat for six years in NYC, took a break in the past few years, and brought it back this post-pandemic year. It would be a perfect occasion to introduce the new Pennsylvania space to my new neighbors, so I opted to have this returned event in Poconos. I’ll probably have it in NYC next year, later alternating between the two locations.
I had my Poconos photo studio decorated the first year we moved there, 2018. However, except for the visiting friends whom I toured around the house, very few people got to see it. The bulk of my clients are in NYC area, hardly needing to travel to this location. I only had one local consultation and three shoots there. I got all its beauty to myself so far, where I spend 10-12 hours on weekdays when not commuting and shooting. So, this public event could be an unofficial “grand opening” of a sort.
We dusted and vacuumed it, fixed some broken furniture, power-washed the glass wall overlooking the lake from a cliff, tidied up the exteriors, and, with help of a neighbor Ilya, finally moved away the old disassembled billiard table that had stood as an eyesore next to the studio entrance for years. I then tied the ribbons to mark the pathway to the back entrance of the house, advising the participants beforehand. Most peeps still knocked the main house entrance. 🙂 Bad Hansels and Gretels… got to use a string next time. 🙂
I offered free mini-sessions and a free print to all my local clients and friends who are moms, or would bring their moms. They only paid for the high resolution proofs from the shoot, if desired. I extended the offer to our community neighbors for a symbolic fee, too. Almost all faces were familiar. Three families came from the neighboring communities so I got to meet some people!
Expecting a big interest, I only announced the event locally to keep the appointments manageable. Also thought of offering two days but a job in the city came about, leaving just Sunday available, the actual Mother’s Day. 26 families signed up. This turned out to be a good thing to those who planned any celebratory outings (you preen yourself once) but others couldn’t make it because of the bigger holiday plans away from the area. Several booked families canceled last minute, too.
Still, I had 19 families to work with back to back, with a few breaks for me (and my wife’s own little shoot). Interestingly, this event would attract less than half of that in NYC… It’s been always limited to clients’ moms. I suppose that was the impeding factor. This year, it came to 71 smiling faces in my studio that day! (I incorrectly reported a higher number initially.) It felt hectic at times, but never stressful. I can’t express how heart-warming the experience was…
Let’s go family by family and I’ll try to reflect on just a few of my own favorites from over 1,100 images I took that day. After all these years, this will be the first time I’m sharing a narrative of Mama’s Love event.
It all started at 9 AM with Inna. I haven’t met her yet, but she’s from my community and caught my announcement welcoming neighbors to also join this client/friend appreciation event. She brought her mom and daughter. Double mama’s love!
Second came Ellie who is our closest friend in the community. I met her through my Porch Portraits project last year, a lockdown documentary on my community coping with the quarantine. A Russian-speaking Lithuanian from Brooklyn, she only spends part time here in Poconos, but we celebrated her birthday and past New Year at their place. When my girls stood overseas, she’d drop me a dish occasionally, and invited me to their hearty family Easter table — a particularly warming gesture as I was by myself then, stuck for weeks in the woods without a car and eating canned food.
One of the connecting links is our daughters. They are two years apart but share many character traits and some may say, appearance! Funny thing, my phone’s pretty accurate photo face recognition even confuses her daughter with our Veya. The girls act like sisters, reminding me of my oldest Evelyn and her BFF Lillian. I guess you’ll see them a lot in my IG or FB. Veya came down for a few shots together.
Next, Kelly’s kids. I photographed them past Halloween for another little treat of free portraits outside of our house. Now, the little man was the least smiling of the day… I could only catch a glimpse. Kelly has a sister; she got tied up at work and couldn’t make it for her family’s slot, unfortunately.
Tetyana came about during the Porch Portraits project. She became our other friend and big supporter. See, she has two girls a little older than Veya and we get loads of clothes from them. We barely buy anything! I’ve been pressing her for a maternity session (expecting a boy now) in appreciation for her help. I may be in luck soon.
As soon as we started, the younger one’s nose started bleeding, so Tanya had to step away briefly, leaving the other girl. Not to waste time, I snapped a few, then worked with all three.
Next up, Valentina with her three boys and hubby. This bunch connected with us via a local FB group. We were new to the community and got the word out, basically inviting to befriend us for playdates and beyond.
Christina is a makeup artist and took part in my free boudoir raffle for the Pike County residents. Although she didn’t win, we stayed in touch and finally got to work together. Her middle boy, by the way, wrote a book, “How To Fight Posing”, available to all toddlers for a free download.
You may recognize this one from a blog about three families having fun time in sunflowers. Tanya is one of the three best girlfriends from NYC who got their summer houses here in Wild Acres. I also worked with her father who moved into the community on the Porch Portraits.
Bailey heard about the Mama’s Love event but wanted to do a separate, regular photoshoot with her sister to create a photo gift for their mom. We had it just three days prior to the event, both in the studio and outside by the lake. I hope to blog about it if I have time. Becoming a client this way instantly qualified her for a free treat this Sunday so they were back, now with the beautiful mom!
Another Porch Portraits documentary participant, Lois with her daughter and grandchildren. I also photographed them for the Halloween free portraits event.
Here’s the second of those three best girlfriends, stylish Vicky. She surely was in those sunflowers, but we also did her separate family vacation shoot, and then a quarantined graduation party for her kids. She also generously offered free toys and educational games in the community. We got some, and an outdoor wooden kitchen house for Veya.
My wife met Svetlana and her youngest in the playground, so they were ahead of me making friends. It was my first time meeting her, I believe. Another stylish lady.
Now, this gang. 🙂 Four boys and a little princess. What a proud mama Mandy must be! She always seems to be a special woman to me. Covered their story in the Porch Portraits. Loved seeing her mom surrounded by the grandchildren.
These two families came from another Poconos community. They are friends but I didn’t get to know them until this Sunday yet. Hope to have set the ground for future occasions to meet!
Ah, these kids seem so gentle and caring for each other! Mom did a good job. I’ve met them earlier, both shooting and not. Here is the son’s killer shot from my Halloween event, and a candid of the girls enjoying the view while I was busy.
Oksana helped us out with rides in the past, and I photographed her daughters for the Halloween. She’s part of a good crowd and I have a feeling our families will see each other often. And don’t you love the thought they put into the color gamut? I don’t see this approach often, way to go!
And then came my wife’s turn! She’s not a stranger to my blog, obviously. Her debut was with our elopement wedding in Moldova, followed by her maternity series from the cross-country RV trip and Wild Acres, and finally Veya’s first birthday shoot with an epic piece of Lara standing in the waterfall. How could I not treat Veya’s wonderful mom and an amazing teacher?! Veya wasn’t quite in a mood, however, making faces and giving me fake smiles… She’s usually very cooperative when posing for my phone camera. All the lights and setup must have derailed her. I had to make do with candid moments.
You may spot the difference in the artistic feel of her portrait below. First, she had two time spots so I had a little more time to fiddle with my studio light — there is a glimpse of a difference between quick shoots and more elaborate photo sessions at least 1-2 hours long. It also required additional time in post-production for a more artistic, painting-like feel so I limited it to just one portrait in the story. I already spent the entire day (13 hours) focused on retouching about 70 portraits for this blog. Needed to complete this before leaving the studio today for the rest of the week. If you prefer your free printed portrait finished this artistic way, I’ll be happy to do it, just advise!
The last visitor that day at 7 PM was Stefaniya, my neighbor across the street. We chat a lot in local FB groups but never got a chance for a real life conversation… After several neighborly invitations to let me photograph her, she finally gave in.
See? Are you getting that warm fuzzy feeling just scrolling? Imagine being in the center of all these emotions, kind words, and Mother’s Day wishes! Simply euphoric, and worth every effort and minute of my time.
To some, the event was an occasion to dress up, to others — express their individuality. Some were dragged into, others wouldn’t stop hugging or were not rushing to leave (aah, the best!). One was in common—mama’s love—absorbing, radiating, or both. They all wanted to capture the sacred love. A mini-session of 10-15 minutes is by far the proper way of fully achieving this but it was an easily doable invitation for a quick try.
An icing on the cake: some visitors brought gifts and flowers! Ooooof, this is beyond the pure business! Is it just a coincidence, or did they know I love Pinot Noir and strongly prefer tea to coffee? And Veya appears to be ahead of her age’s puzzles, so this is perfect! I felt like the biggest man of the moment. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, people!
I asked my wife and one father to snap a few shots. Here are some. To give you a further idea, the room goes beyond: my office with the power station and ultra-wide screen are behind the hanging background. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll create a virtual tour of my Poconos photo studio one day. No rush or need for that, at least for now.
I thank you and all women who gave us life.