when a cover photo comes knocking

158-coverWhen I begin work on an upcoming issue of Mothering—as I’m doing right now—I usually put out a call for images for the cover and any stories that need illustration. I email a description of the photos I’m looking for to a list I’ve gathered over the years of 300+ photographers. Since the kinds of shots we’re looking for are often the kinds of things people are already out there shooting (pregnant women, newborns, toddlers families, breastfeeding, etc), this often results in several cover-worthy photos arriving in my inbox.

For our January-February cover, however, we wanted a specific photo: a dad reading to his child or children. So in addition to my usual email call, I hired a photographer and arranged for a photo shoot for the cover.

Two days before the shoot, something happened that had never occurred in my six years at Mothering. I got an email from a mom with a photo of her baby attached. (That isn’t the part that was unusual—I’m always getting emails from moms with photos of their babies attached.) (I don’t mean to cast aspersions on unsolicited photo submissions from parents—I enjoy getting these; it’s just that often they tend to reinforce the notion that a mother’s love is blind . . .)

No, the thing that was so unusual was that this photo was stunning. This was one mom who knew what she was talking about: the photo was perfect for a Mothering cover.

We went ahead with our photo shoot, then mocked up several covers, using both the photos of dads reading and the photo submitted by the mom. A couple of the dad photos were good ones which at any other time might have been our cover. But the new, unsolicited baby photo was, hands down, the staff favorite. Beautiful babies (those with the “ooh factor,” of course) trump just about everything else in our cover world.

Now, about that cover baby: Elianna “Babbins” O’Hanlon, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her mom, Carrah Bechtel. She was 5½ months old when Kansas City photographer Lea Murphy snapped this photo. To see more of Lea’s work, visit her site here.

On stands now. . . (or you can subscribe here or buy the issue here).


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on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 at 12:59 am and is filed under backstory, photography, the making of a magazine.
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