I love to photograph kids. They mug for the camera and if they are having fun, they provide for a lot of good action shots. Birthday parties are particularly engaging as there are all those bright, happy faces. I love the shenanigans, and there are almost many, but I also love all the ruses I see perpetuated by parents who are trying to hid the big birthday present from their child. It can be a puppy, a video game set, Star Wars kits, or a new bike for kids, like these from On Road and Mountain. Anything fun will get them excited. They want to bring it out at the last minute and see the shock on the kid’s face. You bet I am there for the big unveiling. I hide in nooks and crannies of the house and yard to capture candid shots.

A recent party involved a special surprise bike for my ten-year-old niece that was a gift from me, considered to be the cool aunt, who got one in amazing, bold neon colors. It had fancy stripes and streamers and was so eye-catching that I photographed it alone. I also, of course, took numerous shots of the birthday girl riding in incessant circles with little tyke guests trailing behind. As the aunt, I got into several photos and was colorfully dressed and certainly looked like part of the action. My sister’s family has been a subject of my photography for many years. Parties are best but I have documented the growth of my niece as a personal project.

The birthday party shoot was routine, but the kids’ antics made it more exciting. I laughed aloud when one little boy pushed my niece off her new bike and appropriated it for his own use. She didn’t cry as expected. She ran alongside the little rider shouting instructions to cease and desist. I practically expected her to bonk him on the head with a party balloon. Then it started to get chaotic. Other kids followed suit and wanted their turn on the bike. “No, no, I cried. “Let the birthday girl have it for herself.” Then the parents got into the fray trying to restrain the fighting kids. “It’s time for cake you little devils,” my sister said. You could see she was totally exasperated. She blamed me, the crazy aunt, but I had no part in the melee. When you get feisty kids together, things just happen. I have photographed enough birthday parties to know.

Soon enough, the kids settled down and after cake and punch they had games to play. That preoccupied them and turned attention away from the coveted bike. I got some calmer photos that were more representative of the celebration, which made my sister very happy. We didn’t want only those that showed angry faces.