In April this year I got one of the most wonderful photographic story commissions for a magazine I’ve ever had… when I read the phrases in the email “make things with mud”, “kids getting dirty”, “do you love the subject?” I barely held back my excitement and I was quick to reply YES! It ticked all the boxes for me and I couldn’t wait to schedule it in & get thinking on what I could create for this story for the summer issue of Happi Kids.
Do you remember when Laly was around 2 years old, I made her - by hand, spending no money (yes I’m proud!) - a sandpit in our back garden? Here is the post to jog your memory. Well, she’s now a regular beach goer, no longer afraid of the vastness of the ocean and loves ‘surfing’ on her body board. She’d outgrown her mini backyard beach so, inspired by the story for this shoot and in need of the perfect location, I turned the sand pit into a mud pit! I dug out the sand, and collected some buckets of dirt from the back area where our first chickens used to roam (we now have chickens again, but that’s another post for another time! We may live in the city, but that hasn’t stopped us from creating a mini farm it seems). I cleared the area around the pit and planted a few hardy flowers and pretty palms. I needed to create a space big enough for a couple of kids to play in, as well as a painting area. It was a lot of fun to build this set, gathering vintage kitchenware for the mud cafe, and mixing mud with beetroot, spinach and turmeric to create mud paint. I spent a glorious hour or two by myself making the tiny mud house (inner child meets grown up job - the best)…
I had three wonderful young models for this shoot. With the fabulous production assistance from my friend Celia, she found two boys from Laly’s school, Zephyr and Luka, who came over with their mums Eliza and Narelle, one afternoon and basically hung out in the mud for 3 hours while I snapped shots of them playing. I only needed 3 hero shots from the boys, but there were many more created, they had so much fun and it was pure joy to capture them in action. I don’t think they could quite believe that this was a real job, and all they had to do was play and cover themselves in mud! Shona was my styling and photography assistant for the afternoon, so it was certainly a relaxed and joyful shoot…
At the end of the shoot, while Zephyr’s mum Eliza was hosing him down, I saw him look up at his mum and say “I will never forget this day!”. My heart exploded.
The next day was Laly’s turn, and she took on her role with not just enthusiasm but surprising skill, as she doubled as my photographic assistant as well, helping me set up certain shots and gathering materials, and restyling the props when needed. This is the first time she’s worked with me or seen me work as I have only ever brought her with me to a shoot once - when she was 6 months old, and it was a disaster, so I never did it again! Until now, at 7 years of age. She was so great, and I think I may have myself an ongoing assistant for as long as she finds joy in it! I’ve noticed she’s a natural behind the camera actually - she took a video of her friend the other day singing, and I couldn’t believe how still she kept the camera and how she followed her friend around, patient and mindful of how she was placed within the frame - there were even natural light flares from the sun, it was like a professional film, I couldn’t believe it! I’ve never taught her so I was pretty blown away - let’s just say she gets that from me, because as we know, it’s not one of Romain’s many talents.
The article is out now in the Dutch edition, summer issue. And I cannot recommend highly enough to play in mud. I may even turn it into a mud bath for myself, that will be some serious earthing!! Ha.
Here is the mud-inspired-but-completely-edible energy balls recipe for the article, which I made up from ingredients I had…
1/2 cup of almond meal
3/4 cup of pitted dates
2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon of almond butter (or any nut butter - I used peanut butter which was delicious)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Pinch of salt
Place the almond meal in the food processor with the dates and coconut oil and pulse until they are nicely crushed. Add the nut butter and cacao and then mix again in the food processor. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Continue doing this until the mixture is finished. Place the rolled balls into the freezer for an hour, then remove and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Makes 8-12 balls (depending on how big you make them).
A big thank you to everyone who helped me on this shoot: Romain, Laly, Shona, Celia, Eliza, Narelle, Zephyr, and Luka!