When my wife Lydia was a teenager she thought it would be fun to be a fashion model. Her real ambition was to be a writer. But she looked at modeling the way I looked at playing center field for the Boston Red Sox. These were our adolescent dreams. Then we grew up.
College, marriage, children and profession fast-forwarded us to our forties, where we now reside. It's a very busy place. Lydia is consumed raising four children between the ages of five and fourteen and running our organic family farm. I'm absorbed by my career.
But as a writer, at least I get recognition. Mothers seldom do. Motherhood is endless, exhausting, hard work. But it should not be thankless work. And there ought to be days off besides Mother's Day.
With my wife's adolescent dream in mind, I contacted portrait photographer Jeffrey Shaw. He's based in Fairfield County, Connecticut and his studio is in New York. But he has clients all over the U.S. He shoots strictly outdoors and relies on natural light. So instead of his clients coming to him, he goes to them. He's particularly popular among families because he is exceptionally gifted when it comes to photographing children.
I asked Shaw if he'd be willing to spend a day photographing Lydia, capturing her in a variety of environments. My idea, I explained, was to make her the center of attention for a day and give her a taste of the modeling dream she had as a girl. "No one has ever requested anything like this," he told me. "But I love the idea." We talked about it a couple more times and ultimately decided to give the photo shoot a theme: A DAY IN THE LIFE. Shaw agreed to come to Virginia and do the shoot on our farm.
Then I had to tell Lydia. The first take at this conversation was not a big hit. The notion of being in front of a camera with a professional photographer for a day didn't thrill her. But once she checked out Shaw's website (click here to visit his site)and saw the quality of his work, she warmed up to the idea. Then she talked to him on the phone and started planning. I knew she was on board when I came home one night and found over a dozen of her outfits spread out on our bed.
The day of the shoot is one our family will remember for a long time. Once the sun was up, Shaw started photographing Lydia in a white summer dress on a grassy hillside. Then he captured her working in the vegetable gardens in her overalls. Next they went to the flower garden, where she wore the red dress and summer hat. Then she put on swimwear and posed under a tree.
Lydia in swimwear
While all that was going on outside, I was busy inside with the four children, doing all the things that Lydia usually does. Every time Lydia ran in the house to change outfits, my daughters got more and more excited.
"Mom looks like a model," my eight-year-old daughter Maggie said proudly at one point.
Lydia in a beach dress
By that point, we were treating Lydia like a celebrity. We brought her beverages; served her and Shaw lunch; cleaned up the mess; and made sure Lydia didn't have a care in the world. It was a good reversal of roles.
The afternoon was more of the same. At one point, Shaw was photographing Lydia against the sunset and he invited my children to look through the camera. It was good for them to see their mother through a different lens.
Their perspective improved. Jeffrey Shaw showing Maggie and Clancy how he frames a shot
As parents we are always modeling for our children. On this day, I was modeling for my sons. I wanted them to see their mother the way I see her – as the most beautiful woman in my world. When you see a woman that way it is easier to treat her that way.
The shot that Jeffrey Shaw took while my kids assisted him
When Shaw finished with Lydia he took our family portrait. I typically dread family pictures. No photographer is able to get all of us to smile at the same time. Plus, the backdrops are too staged. Shaw put us in a field, gave us a few simple instructions, and started shooting.
Family portrait by Jeffrey Shaw
A couple months later he shipped us a family portrait for our home and a custom photo album with about forty portraits of Lydia. That was my Christmas present to her. One day our grandchildren will look at it and see what their grandmother looked like when she was in her forties.
Lydia told me that her day as a model was one of the best gifts she had ever received, an unforgettable day. Every woman deserves days like this. It may not be with a photographer. But every woman has a childhood dream. One of the best things a husband can do is discover it and then bring it to life. You never know what might come of it. In Lydia's case, the dream became a reality. Jeffrey Shaw is now using her as a model to advertise a new portrait service called A DAY IN THE LIFE. You can watch it here. http://jeffreyshaw.com/portrait-services-travel
For me, it's proof that it is always better to give than receive.