There's nothing like adrenalin to get the creative juices flowing. So many times I've been on jobs when I've had no inspiration what-so-ever, then the adrenalin has kicked in and, before you know it, a masterpiece has appeared out of nowhere (masterpiece might be a bit 'over the top', but you know what I mean). The photo you see here was one of those times.
Every new year's day the one job that remains the same is photographing the new year's day baby i.e. the baby that was born as close to midnight on Jan 1, thereby being the first baby born that year. Photo editors write that job down as soon as they get the following year's diary.
On January 1, 2000, I was working a newspaper shift in Brisbane. The new year's day baby had already been photographed and I thought I was in the clear. Then a late call came through. The not-so-big Redland Bay Hospital had recorded a large number of births and I was to go and get an additional photo for the 'new year's baby' story.
I grabbed my gear and headed for Redland Bay. Being late in the day, edition time was looming, so I couldn't waste time. Get the shot and get back!
I had no idea what to expect and when I arrived I was confronted with 8 babies. The old addage of 'never photograph children and animals' was running through my head - what am I going to do with 8 babies???
They can't pose for me. They'll look where they want and do what they want - smile, cry, sleep, yawn, all of the above - no matter how much 'look at the birdy' I do.
The new year's day baby is easy when there's one baby and a mum/dad/family. The mum/dad/family can pose for you and then it's a case of waiting for the baby to do what you want (and the mum/dad/family can tilt the baby's head etc where it needs to be).
As is the case with most things in life, 'less is more' - 8 babies with 8 sets of parents was shaping to be my worst nightmare. What was I going to do with them all?
So, I walked into the hospital and 8 sets of parents looking at me expectantly. I could see them thinking, 'He's a professional photographer. He'll know what to do...'.
At times like this the old addage of 'if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit' really came to the fore. Without showing any of the ever-increasing panic surging through me (what the hell was I going to do for a photo?!), I assessed the situation in as professional a manner as I could. This meant standing back, then walking a few paces to the left and right, assessing the scene as if conjuring ideas. The scene in my head? Blank, blank, blank (think Homer Simpson).
I could sense unease among the parents. I think they also knew the '...brilliance...bullshit...' addage and suspected the latter was unfolding before them.
Still with no ideas and grasping at straws, I suggested the parents lay all the babies on the couch in a circular style arrangement.
"I'll try photographing them from above," I lamely told the assembled, in the hope that getting them to do something might stall things long enough for me to come up with an idea.
The babies were arranged and I stood on a chair to get some elevation. It looked kinda cute but at the same time it was a bit 'ho hum'. Eight newborn babies in a circle doing nothing in particular - big deal! I needed something to happen. And with that, something did.
As I looked through the camera, a set of hands appeared in the side of the frame and lifted a baby's head. I peered over my camera to see one of the parents doing what parents do - showing concern for their newborn baby. They pulled their hands away and, trying to show restraint, I remarked, "Can I get you to do that again?"
They placed their hands back on their baby's head and I looked through the camera. One set of hands looked really nice. Now, what if all the parents did the same? It would look great! Fantastic even! I had my Eureka moment!
Trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, I said, "That looks really nice."
Then, looking over my camera once more, I said to the other parents, "Can I get you all to reach in and hold your baby's head?"
I made it sound like this was the photo I had intended all along. In reality, my knees went weak and I nearly fell off the chair with relief.
I fired off several frames (including the photo you see here), grabbed all the details I needed, thanked everyone and bolted for the door.
The following day I searched the pages of the paper to find my adrenalin-fuelled 'masterpiece' had been reduced to the size of a couple of postage stamps on the 'new year's day baby' story.
Gear used: 35mm f2 Nikkor lens, Nikon F4 body, Fuji 800ISO film, around 1/60 sec, f5.6 (available light)