There are few things that remind me that what I do as a photographer is important more than people’s reaction to the photographs I give them, to the story I have told for them. Mary Leigh reminded me of that time and time again, even before we met here in Seoul. I first worked with some good friends of hers, Lori and Steve, back in January of this year. Before Lori and Steve had even left Korea, Mary Leigh had been in contact with me and organised to order them a canvas of one of my prints for their home. She then proceeded to put my name at the top of her adoption ‘to do list’, above booking flights and a hotel. Nothing makes you realise the value in what you do more than small things like this. It’s a responsibility and an honour to work with a family, and when the time came for the Brown family to visit Seoul and meet Nell, it wasn’t just them who were nervous!
We were all early, very early. The Brown’s had been waiting a long time for this, longer than most families. Mary Leigh and Nick were keeping themselves busy and making sure everything they had prepared was ready so they could focus entirely on meeting number three. Yep, this was their third adoption! Bates and Brodie could not have been happier to be meeting their sister. Bates was calm and obviously thinking it through, while Brodie was darting about with his camera and whatever toys he could find. Nell arrived a little later than some of the other children, so we occupied ourselves with a stand-off until she arrived.
When Nell did arrive, she was a little nervous and reserved. She spent quite a bit of time in the comfort of her foster mother’s arms, preferring to interact from a safe place. Her loves were quickly shown though. She loved to look at photographs of herself, nibble on snacks, and hold on to jewelery. Hello Kitty stickers were also a hit. They ended up everywhere except the sticker book. All of these things helped Nell to feel safe with her new family, and she even let her big brother Bates hold her hand and lead her around. Oblivious of all the other families in the room, the play time continued with Nell singing a song, feeding her family, and giving dad a drink when the boys got to be too much for him. But, this meeting was over too quickly. The family was just starting to bond and I was just starting to capture those interactions. Time was up, and Nell waved goodbye.
Pouring over the photos when I got them home, I realised that I was telling a different story from the one I had expected. This was a more subtle, slower developing story. It was two young boys deciding what to make of the idea of having a sister. It was too parents yearning for their forever family day. It was a young girl meeting people she’d only seen in photos. But most of all, it was a story of a lot of personalities finding a common point to bond. Another couple of days and we would be back to do it all again. But for today, this is Nell’s story.
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