Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Stories behind the images – The Walk to Paradise Garden


This month’s image was inspired by a picture by one of my favourite photographers – the late, great W. Eugene Smith and his famous shot of his children, The Walk to Paradise Garden.

One of the best things about photography on location is the inability to plan. Until I arrive somewhere on the day, I have no idea what I will discover – even if, like Holland Park, it is a location that I know very well. Each day the light will be different, different things will be happening and the children will have different ideas about what they want to play and where they want to do it.

So I never plan my shots in advance, preferring to follow the momentum of the action on the day. This also helps to ensure that each photo shoot is unique to the family involved – I don’t have a set of stock poses and locations that I use week in, week out – everything is fluid.

I was thrilled when we began to head towards the nature reserve in Holland Park and I saw this tunnel of light open up before us. The family were walking together, so I softly called to the parents to hang back and let the children go on ahead. I saw in my mind’s eye Smith’s wonderful shot, but wanted to give it my own twist – to take in the scale of the trees and how small, how young, how innocent the children are while retaining the feeling of exploration and of sibling protection that I feel is key to the original shot.

As I pressed the shutter, I knew it would be magical. The children holding hands and talking seriously to each other – who knows what about. I wonder if they will remember when they look at this picture when they are older?

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