Following is a quick little "jot down your thoughts" I did after shooting for the family. I couldn't share it before the show aired, but I guess now I can : ) I'll post more with pics and details in a while, but for now, here goes!
Wow, that experience was absolutely nothing like I expected, but was definitely very interesting and fulfilling...lol. This was not a situation where there was time for introductions and details, it was shoot-now-shoot-fast as Tim Gunn would say, MAKE IT WORK (we were kind of-- understandably-- second fiddle to the video crews who were interviewing the family members).
That being said, our design liaison was very sweet and accommodating, and everyone there seemed to really be happy to be doing their jobs.
I did have a Ty sighting when we were walking to the "ice house" (neighbor's house where they keep the family unless they are needed for filming). He was in a crazy hurry because they are also filming a build in another state and he had to finish up here and fly there... but was sweet and waved when i involuntary blurted out "oh hey it's Ty!"
I was disappointed in the weather, because I couldn't really do the types of portraits I usually do (it was way too cold and windy to shoot successfully outdoors, especially with the littler kids). We made a makeshift studio out of the neighbor lady's kitchen, and did mostly headshots. I guess they don't usually work with families this large, because we had a super duper short timeframe to get all those pictures in (thank the good Lord above for my assistant Karen!). By the time we got to the large outdoor family picture, most of the kids' fuses had completely run out, and it was SO WINDY!!!!! We got a few, though. Hopefully one will turn out. Pics of 15 people in heavy coats are always fantazzy.
This family is so very loving. Exactly what you would hope for after reading about them... even after being woken up before dawn and carted around in a bunch of uncertain "wait and see" circumstances, they were all very loving toward one another, well-behaved, and good-natured. Little Grace was the biggest ham of them all, cute as can be, and following me around like a shadow. I let her "shoot" with a camera on which i had a huge lens, and she thought she was hot stuff... quite the little gigglebox. she loved Karen too-- whoever had a camera was her BFF.
Jeremiah and Mercy are the two youngest and are very high-level special needs. After we were done shooting for the show, I asked the parents if there were any other pics they'd like... so we did a Mercy and Jeremiah shoot, because they don't really have any pictures of those two. Jeremiah can only see bright light, and he loved being up under the warm softbox because it was so bright and warm. His mom tickled his feet, and he was laughing so happily. Mercy has a very rare condition that causes some physical abnormalities, but has the most beautiful blue eyes and long lashes (and the cutest sassy barbie ponytail you ever saw). it was definitely a new experience working with a blind child and a deaf child at the same time. You have to move around AND make noises... I'm happy to have worked with the kids at Texas Children's and Memorial Hermann, I wasn't freaked out by the trach or anything.
I took Melissa and Larry outdoors for a quick shoot of the two of them together (much easier to get the grownups to agree to something like this than the kids). it was touching to see how very clear it is that these two sweet gentle people love one another dearly. I asked them to look at one another, and they immediately kissed and nuzzled like when I shoot engagement portraits. Quite heartwarming : )
The strangest part of the experience was to have the staff and media photographers taking pictures of us while we were taking pictures. I stopped shooting when we were outdoors to play with the kids a little (who can resist?) and it was click click click all around me. Weird! Luckily they were not doing that when i was shooting indoors.
That show really takes over the whole neighborhood, WOW!
I need a nap. Karen and I did not pass go, did not collect $200, we went directly to the Kemah Boardwalk and had a nice late lunch at Saltgrass Steakhouse.
Here's another little journal entry from the end of the build process, when I had gone back to drop some things off and gotten to look at the interior of the home:
There are no people living in the house yet. Today they had volunteers in cleaning it up and stuff. It was ready for reveal yesterday, but there was a lot of punch-list type work that needed to be done (edges of doors that needed to be painted and the like). There were probably 100 muddy people in that place yesterday, so mopping was a high priority. They had plastic over the stairs, but they probably still had to be repainted because there was so much mud. you had to put on scrub-booties when you entered the house (there was a volunteer whose job it was to put booties on everyone) when you went in but that didn't keep all the mud out.
It is really, really just awe-inspiring that any team of people did all this in a week. In freezing and rain. Eating in tents when they can. Sleeping in trailers (very cramped and messy trailers for the most part. Ty's is a little more fabulous). It is sooo not glam...lol. My design assistant that i've been talking to all week called to let me know I could go into the house and take pics, but said, "Oh and I won't be there, I have to go return everything we didn't use". Can you imagine? aaaack.
When I was leaving the house, the camera crew was coming in to shoot their final footage, so I was glad they gave me that little window of time to be a free-range photographer ; )
One of the designers came by as I was leaving (she had been down the street eating in the tent) and asked if I got everything I needed, and told me thank you about 90 meeeelion times. She also mentioned that I was very easy to work with, and they appreciated that very much.
Then I got in the car and listened to some KSBJ and cried because it is so overwhelming that so many hundreds of people can come together in crappy weather and cramped circumstances and just work together LITERALLY 24-7 to do something for one family. It's inspiring that that ONE family has done so much for so many children... and they will continue to. It was an overwhelming "my cup runneth over and my heart is full" moment.