Austin Anthony's story 'Serenity' got Silver in Domestic Picture Story at CPOY 69. Catching Photo of Yours (CPOY) is a new CPOY Blog feature that gives photographers a chance to share the emotional and technical aspects of making their award-winning photograph.
I first met William and his family my freshman year of college. The first photo story I ever did was about his struggle to stay in high school. Throughout college I kept in touch, and his family became my friends. I would stop by a couple times a semester to catch up.
During one of those visits they happily told me there was a grandchild on the way. I decided to do a story about the pregnancy only knowing that they were open to me and that they didn’t hold back emotions when the camera was around. Everything had gone fairly smoothly for them up until the birth. William and Stephanie had gotten their own apartment, William had a minimum wage job, and friends and family members had given them several of the supplies they would need once the baby arrived.
The day the photo was taken began at court. The judge essentially said that the nurses were concerned about their behavior with the child and that they wanted to put Serenity (the baby) into temporary custody while they took parenting classes. Over the course of the day they began to speculate and blame each other, which lead to a long drawn out fight. I was there for all of it, which helped me feel a little more comfortable taking photos. I was one of a handful of people that knew the entire situation so I didn’t feel out of place. It was still very difficult to take the photo. It’s awful to be around two people fighting and I had to constantly remind myself that if they wanted me to leave they would have said so. And then after a lot of tears and yelling this moment happened. It felt like such a private moment, and it was so pure and beautiful. It was the moment they decided to try to let love win and not have this horrible situation tear them apart. He held her face and told her he wanted to stay together and make it work after hours of fighting. Prior to all of this I thought those moments only happened in movies.
It was one of the most emotionally exhausting days of my life. It began at 8 in the morning at the courthouse and I didn’t get home until 10 at night. I knew I had seen something special, felt lucky for that, and happy that they decided to try to make things work. But most of all I was heartbroken that they weren’t holding their baby.