Sleepless and bleary the day following my son’s birth, I got an email about a job. A creative director at the LA agency Mistress had seen a picture of mine and wanted to talk about my shooting something similar. They asked for a creative call.
Unshaven and having slept badly on the vinyl couch in my wife’s recovery room, I looked over the creative brief and laughed. I saw among the reference photos something I had shot – an image of an 8-month old baby duct-taped to a wall, alone and staring off into the distance, maybe about to cry. I made the picture as part of a personal project many years prior to having children.
Mistress was creating a similar shot for Cedars Sinai Children’s Hospital along with some other concepts. The creative was about how we gladly forgive our children’s mischievous havoc, just grateful that they’re safe, healthy and thriving – the essential deliverables of a children’s hospital.
Shuffling out of our room and past the closed blinds of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), laptop clutched in my grip, I turned into a nearby waiting room and dialed in. I thought it somehow fitting that I was discussing a picture I made about childcare long before I had a child, just as my notions about parenting were being drastically rewritten.
On the call I drew upon my 24 hours of parenting experience. When speaking about how I felt about the concept, I kept thinking about the NICU I’d just passed. About all the parents who had sat in this waiting room, unable to touch or talk to their newborn children lying alone in a Plexiglas warmer–waiting for some news from a pediatrician–waiting for when they can all just go home. I was getting horribly choked up-but for good reason. Our son was with my wife in our room. I was feeling gratitude, but also compassion for the audience of these eventual ads, which I realized suddenly, included me.
Gratefully I was awarded this special project and soon after flew to LA to produce the work. The schedule was demanding and working with babies, children and animals challenged my crew. However, then a parent for just 3-weeks, I felt some added license with the child talent I was working with. I approached my role as a director with more than my average patience. The production as you can imagine took its detours, which needed my solving but the whole experience was more joyful knowing that I’d be soon going back to my own little guy.
Agency: Mistress Creative, Art Director: Damien Eley, Client: Cedars Siani, Agency Producer: Emily Brackett, Photographer’s Producer: Megan Sluiter