Barefoot in the Bark

March 22, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

This photograph of a little boy with a splinter in his foot was taken in 1978.

 

I was finishing up my degree in Early Childhood Education and had one final course to take. We had a practicum in the operation of a real-time preschool. Parents in the community signed up their four-year-olds so they would get the benefit of a college professor directed lab school with graduating student teachers.

 

One of those parents invited me to photograph her three young sons. Her middle son was in our lab school and I especially wanted to capture the sweet spirit of this precious little boy who loved spending time outdoors on his family's mountain acreage.

 

Brian's favorite activity was taking an empty one-gallon milk jug and hunting for blue belly lizards.

 

When I brought my camera to his home, he gave me a tour of his wooded back yard and the many wood piles his father had carefully stacked to dry out before winter. Then Brian showed me how to skillfully hunt for blue bellies!!! His technique was amazingly simple yet effective. He would see a blue belly lizard sunning itself on one of his father's warm wood piles. He would ever so quietly sneak up behind it, and  without any warning, he would suddenly turn his hand up-side-down and flick the back of the unsuspecting lizard with his littlest finger.

 

The stunned lizard sat quietly in a daze as Brian scooped him up and slid him down the slick milk jug. We are not talking about an amateur lizard hunter, mind you, but a professional!

 

Brian would catch up to twenty blue belly lizards within an hour and proudly march around his yard with his jug full of living trophies. When he was done, he would release the tail tangled lot of them onto another wood pile where they would scatter as quickly as their tiny legs could scurry.

 

Brian was a good sportsman who enjoyed the hunt, and by releasing all of them, he guaranteed himself another day of delightful hunting!

 

As I enjoyed watching Brian having so much fun, I began taking mental notes of posing ideas. I set up my camera and made several exposures. Afterwards I took home my rolls of film and developed them. As I studied each image, I was disappointed, because I had failed to capture Brian's winning personality.

 

So I called Brian's mother and scheduled a re-take. After the second batch was developed, I believed them to be better than the first set, but I was still not satisfied that I had adequately portrayed the tenderness of this little boy I had grown to love.

 

I asked for one more opportunity to photograph Brian at their home which they kindly granted. It was a warm sunny afternoon with lizards slithering all over the hot rocks and warm wood piles. These quick moving blue bellies were frantically running around the property, because they saw their four-year-old nemesis approaching. I tried several candid shots of Brian, but nothing felt right until he sat down in a wood pile and began playing with a couple of pieces of kindling.

 

As Brian played, he got a splinter in his middle toe. At the exact same moment of the splinter, a gigantic cloud moved overhead and gave me some absolutely gorgeous diffused portrait lighting. Brian was busy with his splinter, and I was busy thanking the Lord for the cloud cover which gave me incredible color saturation and much needed shading to make this picture perfect. 

Barefoot in the Bark

When I brought back the proofs of my third session, Brian's parents were elated. They loved his portrait, and naturally, they picked out the one where he was looking directly at the camera and smiling at them, but they didn't give a second thought to this portrait of their son gently searching for the splinter that had pierced his tiny little foot.

 

A children's magazine publisher saw Brian's splinter portrait and asked permission to use it on the cover of her magazine. Thousands of copies were distributed in our country as well as overseas. I entered his portrait into a county fair and won Best of Show as well as first place in the Portrait Photography division. I brought a beautifully framed 8 x 10 as well as a few magazines and gave them to Brian's parents so that he could have them when he grew up.

 

It has been years since I last saw Brian, but as I think of him I ask the good Lord to richly bless my dear young friend who helped me create such a winning portrait! 


 

 


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