Of all the things I photograph here in Seoul, by far the most rewarding are the family sessions I am able to be part of. I have witnessed more than 20 children meeting their new families through the international adoption system, and spent hundreds of hours with expat families looking to create a memento of their time here in Korea.
Brooke and Justin got in touch way back in January of this year. They had seen the work I did with Lori, Steve and Davis in Seoul, and were waiting patiently for their own travel dates to be set. We kept in touch throughout the year, but it wasn’t until August 25th that I would finally meet them as they held their second son for the first time. Their waiting paid off immediately as Jack Cruz ran them around the room and smothered them with hugs and kisses. We had this short time together, but on their second trip, I would spend time with my new found friends as their family came together.
It was 7am, the day after custody, when I arrived quietly expecting to be buzzed into the apartment complex. We thought that Jack Cruz would still be sound asleep. Exactly the opposite was the case. He was up and ready to face the day, walking his new family around the apartment complex with everything he had. We started our day with a session in the playground in the complex with slides, borrowing of tricycles and chasing each other every which way.
Following the morning session, I was there for Jack Cruz’ first lunch with his family, his first war for a Starbucks’ bagel with his brother, his first shirt change, the simple joy that a remote control can bring, crayon drawing session on the shower walls, and trip to the top of Seoul tower. I saw his brother lead him safely across the road, and finally kiss him good night. Nothing could have prepared me for the love and understanding that was forged that day between Jack Cruz, Perry, Justin and Brooke. Being a part of this day was an absolute joy and honour.
“This adoption thing is for real,” Brooke messaged me the following day. It sure is. Jack Cruz wasn’t all smiles. Like any person who is displaced from everything familiar, he had his ups and downs during the day. Far outweighing his short crying bouts, however, was the love shown to him by his new family and their dedication to doing the right thing by Jack Cruz in the long run. It’s easy to see that Jack Cruz will have a wonderful place in the world to call his own, with a loving family that will give him nothing but the best.
Again, thank you Brooke and Justin for allowing me to be a part of your lives at this special time, and for becoming great friends in the process. It was wonderful to be able to document your family and give you these memories to look back on. The video below will give you a much more detailed look into our day together.
Below is an excerpt from words that Brooke shared with me after our session.
After we received that long anticipated phone call saying it was time to come to Korea to meet our son, Jack Cruz, the first person to know was Dylan! Thankfully, his schedule was free during our travel dates and we were booked.
Before our meeting, Dylan was kind enough to meet us and take us for coffee (and smoothies) to brief us on how the meetings typically run and what to expect, etc. It was so comforting to really get to know Dylan on more of a personal level before we experienced this life changing meeting with him. He eased our anxiety and really prepped us to just enjoy the moment and have fun with our new son.
I cannot express enough how thankful I am to have had Dylan by our side during that meeting. We rode the elevator doors up to the correct floor and they opened, and we were facing our son! He was literally running out of the meeting room toward us! And from there, we were ninety to nothing the entire time! Jack Cruz was (is) SO full of energy and joy that we were either running, jumping, or giving kisses to one another the entire time. I didn’t have a single second to grab my camera or phone to snap any photos and video…and honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to. It was such a blessing to be able to soak up every single second with Jack Cruz instead of worrying about settings on a camera.
On that first full day with our son, we asked Dylan to arrive about 7am thinking our little one would sleep until at least 8:00 or so. But Jack Cruz surprised us with a 5:00 greeting to start our day. So, we ended up meeting Dylan at the playground our apartment complex had. From there, Dylan followed us as we enjoyed breakfast, nap time, lunch, more playground time, a trip to the Seoul Tower and Folk Village, dinner at an amazing little American pub, shower time, and then lullabies at bedtime. Basically, whatever we were up for, Dylan was there to document.
The photos from this day are stunning. I can’t look through them without being flooded with emotion and shedding a few tears over how special that day was to us. Being able to relive each moment of the day is priceless. He captured SO MUCH. There were so many photos that I didn’t even ‘see’ in the moment, yet I have them to cherish for a lifetime. I can’t imagine missing all that I would have if it weren’t for Dylan. And of course, add in that he was able to translate some of the Korean language for us and we pretty much owe him our life.
We wouldn’t trade our decision to have Dylan in our adoption journey for anything. We are so grateful for his amazing talent and that he is willing to exhaust so much energy to help us cherish these blessed moments forever. (Seriously, his job is exhausting!) Adoption is such a heartbreakingly beautiful journey and there is so much that both the adoptive parents and adoptees lose and miss out on, but because of Dylan, these precious moments didn’t have to be one of them.