Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

A Portrait Photograph to Celebrate Ben’s Birthday


It was a beautiful day for Ben’s thirteenth birthday party and I was thrilled to be joining Ben, his family, and his friends to celebrate this special day and record the event in my documentary family photography style. It was a fantastic day, we had such a great time and I’m looking forward to sharing some more images in due course. Today, as a sneak preview for Ben and his parents, I’m pleased to share this stunning portrait.

Before the party started I joined the family while Ben opened his birthday presents and to take a few portrait photographs in the garden before his friends arrived. This picture is one of my favourites. I truly believe that black and white is the perfect medium for family portraits and this picture of Ben has so much of what I love about it.

It’s an image with immediate impact, as Ben looks straight at the camera, happy, confident, and about to have the most brilliant birthday party. By working in black and white we are drawn straight to the important things, to Ben’s expression, to the bright intelligence in his eyes and the glimmer of a smile on his lips. The colours in the background – the grass, fence and trees, don’t distract us. Instead we have a perfect canvas of textured greys on which to present our portrait.

Black and white is a timeless medium. Looking back on this image when Ben is in his thirties or forties this image will have retained it’s impact, it will not have dated and will look just as great then as it does now. I hope that Ben will look back on this picture as an adult and will be reminded of his thirteenth birthday. I hope he will call up the friends he has kept in touch with and fondly remember the others. I hope he will visit his parents and chat about this brilliant day they had together and the amazing party they arranged. This is what family photography is about, a medium to conjure memories of the past and, in images like this, a portrait of Ben as he moves into his teenage years, to make us think of the wonderful people we have around us now, our family and friends while also encouraging us to look forward to all the wonderful things that the future will bring. Photography is an amazing thing and it’s such a privilege for me to be invited into people’s homes to contribute my photographs to their memories.

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