Imagethirst Family Photography are the Official Photographers to the Portland Hospital for Women and Children in London.
'I have photographed so many newborn babies, I think I could be a midwife!' John Dawson, Imagethirst's main photographer, told us. 'Working with The Portland Hospital for over fourteen years can have that effect, and I have loved every minute of photographing every newborn... even when they are crying!'
John has been taking photographs for over forty years, starting back in 1977 when he was at secondary school in Romford, Essex.
'It was film, a basic SLR camera and access to a darkroom that sparked my interest. The thought of taking a photograph, developing the film and then making a print of the picture the very same day was magical. I still have some of these images and they are priceless to me now I am in my fifties.
If pictures of tree stumps or water coming out of my mum's '70's bathroom taps are highly nostalgic to me forty years later, imagine what images of your own children will be worth to you three decades on. This is why I love what I do. I am creating something tangible, I have stopped time and given so much pleasure to so many families.'
Going from film to digital was an exciting, but worrying time for many photographers and John certainly had his reservations.
'I love the whole "hands on" process of using film. Film made you respect and understand the art, it made you wait for the image, but rewarded you highly. I had my fears of surviving as a professional photographer. Everybody, it seemed, now had access to a camera and was a budding photographer.
What I have found, however, is that people are more appreciative of photography and realise that it is a great deal harder than pointing an auto focus lens and pressing the button. In fact it has made me busier!'
Fast forward to 2002, and The Portland Hospital invited Imagethirst to be their official photographers and John to be their baby and family photographer.
'Having done years of music and commercial photography, I was confident that I could add this to my portfolio, little knowing what a change and profound effect it would have on my life.
To say you are a "baby" photographer (that is taking pictures of, not dressing up as a baby) to your commercial and music photographer colleagues, doesn't sound cool and exciting, but years later I realised that I am photographing the most pure, honest and natural subject on this planet ! Now that IS cool!'
Although John's work has taken him all over the world to many different countries and cultures, he's found that people are basically the same, especially when they are only two weeks old!
'This is very handy; (going back to the crying baby situation) when you know your subject, it's so much easier to get on with the job of photographing them. They cry for a reason, it is their way of communicating that they are either tired, hungry, need winding or their nappy (diaper for my friends in North Carolina) changed. If you resolve these basic issues, you can get on with photographing a content baby.'
We asked John to share his top tips for achieving beautiful newborn photographs that you'll treasure forever...
'New-borns photography beautifully! My two cents is to have the first session before the baby is ten days old. And no, it's never too early. It's just magic! They will only be this little for the shortest of time and the problem with hindsight, is that it’s too late. I meet so many parents who say “I wish I had…”
'The first piece of advice I give to parents having a photo shoot is to feed the baby just before we start photographing. Once the baby has finished eating, they can be photographed in the arms or on the shoulder of the parent whilst being "winded". This makes an excellent start to the session, as it is a natural and comfortable act for a parent to do, whilst capturing some superb photographs of a 'milk drunk' baby and his feelings of warmth, happiness and satisfaction.'
'New-borns and infants look just wonderful in their birthday suits, so you don’t need much to prepare for it. Bundling them in pale shades and soft blankets and throws. Snug as a bug. These photos are about capturing the pure, so I normally suggest “keeping it simple”.'
John still gets the same buzz that he had all those years ago when he first started taking pictures.
'I love the complexity and simplicity of photography. I love the challenge of a difficult situation, I relish seeing the final images and reaction on the parent's face when they see what I have photographed from their session. You might leave the session feeling it was utter chaos, but chaos is creative! And remember, if your photographer is happy, "you are going to be over the moon"!'
You’ll find John and the rest of the wonderful Imagethirst team at www.imagethirst.com and if you would like a tête-à-tête, there is nothing they love more.
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