I was honored, and humbled, to photograph the MIT Media Lab Director's Fellows this year. These individuals are truly the superheroes of their fields. Every single one of these people's stories and accomplishments are enough to fill a book. Or two. Or three. And yet, despite their never-ending lists of ways they have changed our world, they were all absolutely kind, down to earth, and a total pleasure to photograph. [ Photos by Diana Levine ]
On set at an amazing shoot for MIT, photographing 30 jaw-droppingly inspiring + influential Fellows. My daughter spent most of the day with her Dad, but they stopped by to visit Mama at work!)
My daughter, learning to walk on set at Mama's photo shoot for MIT! Loved having her stop by with her Dad to visit!
Shooting a magazine feature at a high school today. <3
4:00am wake up call for my shoot today. Before having kids: painful. After having kids: I was already awake for 30 minutes before the alarm rang ;)
Had a fun meeting at the Boston Globe today -- totally geeked out at seeing the printing press! Hoping to come back sometime when it's actually running and see it in action :)
Downtown for a meeting and feeling so grateful to be back living and working in this beautiful city.
I have a dream job -- I photograph people for a living. And over the last 10 years, I've been blessed to photograph some of the top musicians and celebrities in the world. During the first part my career, I was laser focused on one priority: being the best, most reliable photographer for my clients, and I devoted every ounce of my body, mind, and soul to work.
When I became pregnant with my first child, it was a game changer -- suddenly, I had two priorities. Being the best photographer I could be -- while simultaneously being the best pregnant-Mom I could be. Some days, these priorities worked well, hand in hand. Other days, my unpredictable and high-pressure industry made my shoots challenging.
I want to start a conversation about how photographers and other independent creatives can approach having children, while maintaining their careers. When I was pregnant with my son, I devoured every word of Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg. However, because I was a freelancer, and in a career that had physical demands, I found that guidance targeted toward women in the corporate world just didn't apply to me.
I think it can only benefit us to openly talk about our experiences as freelancers who are starting families. I would love to hear from other photographers, directors, cinematographers, assistants, and other independent creatives about your experience working while pregnant. Or, for women who are hoping to start families soon, what are your biggest questions or concerns about going through pregnancy in your job?
I'm certainly not trying to compare my life as a pregnant photographer to any other profession. I know that my work is worlds away from the experiences of a pregnant police officer, nurse, surgeon or soldier. I can only talk about my experience, in my profession, in hopes of finding ways to support women who want to safely and confidently have children while working in photography and film.
#1 Unpredictable Environments
Because my work ranges from studio to documentary, my shooting environments are completely different on every job. Sometimes, I didn't even know the actual locations of a shoot until I arrived on set. I found myself on shoots where people were smoking cigarettes or marijuana. There were shoots with fog machines (see #10) and studios with recently painted walls. There was loud -- way, way too loud -- music in recording studios, cars, and concerts. There were long days, with not nearly enough time to sit down, rest or eat. I often struggled with keeping myself in an environment that I considered safe for pregnancy, while still getting the job done. I had to find ways to stand up for myself and my growing baby, but in a manor that wouldn't affect my work or my relationships with my clients and subjects.
#2 Pressure to Seem as Capable as a Non-Pregnant Photographer
I never wanted my clients to think I wasn't a capable photographer because I was pregnant. In fact, I hid my pregnancy from Facebook and social media, partially because I worried that clients wouldn't want to hire a pregnant photographer. While women in the corporate world are (supposed to be) legally protected from being fired due to pregnancy -- the same protections don't (and possibly can't) be applied to freelancers. Luckily, I was blessed with clients who were extremely understanding of my pregnancy -- most continued to hire me and had no problem when I set some basic limits on my work, such as excusing myself if there were people smoking. Still, when it came to more physically strenuous shoots, I would do my best never to appear tired or uncomfortable. And as anyone who has been pregnant knows, it isn't always comfortable. It isn't always easy. I didn't want my clients thinking I wasn't performing at the same level as I did pre-pregnancy. So there were times that I pushed myself way past my comfort zone in order to get the job done without looking exhausted or in pain.
#3 Not Knowing How a Break Would Affect my Career
Prior to pregnancy, I had never taken time off from work. In the 7 years I was shooting before getting pregnant, I took two vacations, which were each less than a week long. When I got pregnant, I knew I would have to take time off at the end of pregnancy and during my recovery. Because of this, I often worried that if I was unavailable for work for a few months, my clients might find replacements for me, and I would lose the momentum I had worked so hard to build. As a freelancer, there is no maternity leave, so I had no guarantees that my work would be there when I returned. Because of this, I started taking work as soon as I possibly could after my son was born, taking my first shoot when he was 6 weeks old. Given that I had a (very unplanned) c-section, I look back now and realize how emotionally and physically challenging it was for me to start shooting so soon after his birth.
#1 Connecting with my Subjects
One of the most important parts of my job is quickly connecting with and establishing trust with people I've just met. In my work, the single most important thing is making sure the people I'm photographing are comfortable with me. And I found that, during pregnancy, this was especially easy. Pregnancy is such an incredible common experience for those that have experienced it, or whose loved one's have been through it. There were many shoots that I found myself immediately in an intimate, honest discussion about pregnancy, birth and motherhood before I even took out my camera.
#2 Parenting Advice from Superstars
It was a pretty amazing experience, getting to talk about parenting with so many well known people. Swizz Beatz was adamant that I was having a boy, even though I told him that everyone in my family has girls. Spoiler alert: he was right :) I got to talk with musicians, actors and executives about their pregnancies (or wives' pregnancies) and children. I got to see family photos, and hear stories about the hilarious things their 3 year olds said at dinner the night before. There were musicians who were so protective of me that they would insist on carrying my camera bag and opening the door for me. There was even a K-pop star who ordered me a whole meal because she was worried that I hadn't eaten enough during the shoot!
#3 Telling My Kids About All the Cool People They Met When Growing in my Belly
I love when my son hears a song on the radio and I get to tell him "That's Colbie Caillet! Mommy worked with her when you were growing in my tummy, and you got to hear her sing just a few feet away from Mama's belly!" My son loves Ed Sheeran's music and I've often wondered if he somehow remembers hearing Ed singing and playing guitar next me when I was pregnant. I love showing him photos of him in Mommy's belly, backstage at Radio City Music Hall or on set shooting magazine and advertising work.
Balancing pregnancy with life as a photographer was harder than I expected, but also provided me with some unbelievable opportunities. It was physically challenging, especially on days that I was having extra aches and pains, and emotionally challenging when trying to balance the needs of my clients vs the needs of my body and baby. At the same time, it provided me with a rich network of Moms and Dads who had been through pregnancy and parenthood in my industry.
Please comment below or on Facebook, and let me know -- how was your experience? Or, if you are considering having children in the future, what are your questions or concerns about approaching pregnancy while maintaining your career?
I have so much more I want to discuss about life as a photographer and Mom. If you'd like to stay up to date with these conversations and more, please sign up for my newsletter below. <3
This year, I've had the pleasure of shooting a few projects for the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. The photos above are from a shoot I did with superstar professor, artist and designer Sputniko! and MIT Media Lab founder Joi Ito. They are both fascinating people, and the photos were the promo shots for their TV show in Japan, SuperPresentation.
One of the highlights of the shoot was getting to tour the MIT Media Lab with my friend, former colleague, and all-around awesome woman Jess. The Media Lab feels like a sleek, modern combination of a science lab and Disney World. I brought my kids to the location scout, where they got to interact with robots, check out the amazing Lego room, and of course, scope out where we'd be setting up the studio.
In addition to the scout, I actually got to bring my son and daughter on set with me! Matt provided the on-set Daddy Daycare, and the kids had a blast seeing Mommy use big lights, stands and gear!
I've been working on some other fun projects for the lab since, and am so glad to have been part of this project and team.
I'm so excited to officially relaunch my website -- in my new city.
My husband Matt and I spent most of the past 10 years living and shooting in New York City -- and we loved every minute of it. Well, the minutes that weren't spent trying to cram the belongings of one photographer, one cinematographer, and one baby into a tiny one bedroom apartment. New York is where our careers grew from internships and shooting-for-exposure into working for the top companies, brands, and personalities in the country and around the world. It's where I first saw my photos published larger-than-life in Times Square. It's where I first walked into a Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of a national magazine with my photo spread in it's pages. It's where I was able to spend hours, and in some cases, days, photographing and getting to know people like Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys and Usher. It's where I was blessed to photograph ad campaigns for companies like Converse, Bud Light, and Bumble and bumble. It's where I schlepped my camera around the city with my ever-growing belly, and continued doing photo shoots until I was 9 months pregnant. It's where my son was born and raised.
It's because of all of these ways that New York blessed us that people frequently ask me: "Why did you leave New York??"
And the answer is this: As much as I loved my career in New York, I wasn't living the lifestyle that I wanted. I had my dream career, but I didn't have my family next door. Matt and I were both raised in Boston. In fact, we met for the first time on the playground of our elementary school when we were 7 years old. Boston is where we grew up. It's where we fell in love. It's where we spent hours as teenagers, animating claymation movies, playing with these new fangled "digital cameras" (like this bad boy), and building epic card towers. It's where we got engaged, on that same playground where we met. It's where we got married, surrounded by our closest family and friends, on the beach. In the cold. In the rain. It's where our families live. It's where I wanted to raise my children.
It was last year that we realized: we have control over our destiny. We could design our futures to meet the needs of both our careers and our family. We bought our first home, and made the leap from Manhattan to Massachusetts.
A few months later, our daughter was born and we became a family of four. It fills my heart with indescribable joy to see my son and daughter laughing and playing with their cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles -- not just every month or two, but every week. Sometimes every day.
That's where we find ourselves now -- back in Boston after almost 10 years away. Discovering the city in a new light, and seeing it through our children's eyes. Matt has started a new company and has been working like a mad scientist in his third floor office on his industry-changing software that launched last month. I've started shooting for incredible Boston-based companies (like the fascinating MIT Media Lab), and am so excited by all of the new photo studios and photo shoot resources that have been created in Boston while we were in New York.
I've fallen in love with the Boston Children's Museum, and tote both of my kids there at least once a week. I relish the feeling of freedom I get when I bring my kids to the beach and watch my son run, splash, build, and get dirty in a way he never did when we lived in the city. Every day, I'm meeting incredible entrepreneurs, small business owners, and creatives that make me so excited to be back in this beautiful city.
So, that's the story of how we went from New York to Boston. There are definitely days when I miss my Wafels and Dinges, B&H blintzes, and Central Park. But I am so happy and beyond grateful to be home, and discovering Boston all over again.
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