During our most recent vacation, in which we visited Georgia and explored the lovely Caucasus Mountains, we decided to hire a photographer to take family photos. I would not be exaggerating if I told you that the days, nay weeks, leading up to our trip were entirely consumed by planning for the photo shoot.
Dinners went unprepared and errands uncompleted as I neurotically laid out potential outfit after potential outfit. I took pictures of tiny sweaters matched with adorable hats and sent them to friends, demanding immediate feedback. “Is this too much red?” I asked them. “If we only have brown shoes, is everything ruined?”
I ordered new clothes online, bought backup outfits in case our orders didn’t arrive in time, and then returned them. I cursed the lack of winter clothing stores in Kuwait. I wondered if we would be too cold. I worried about rain.
My husband briefly wondered if I had entered “too stressed out to enjoy it” territory. I recommended he go back to sorting scarves. He had caused enough photo shoot-related hysteria already, insisting that he wear a black turtleneck sweater in our pictures and suggesting that I “lacked vision” for failing to see the appeal in his proposed Archer meets Game of Thrones aesthetic. It was only through Kuwait’s complete lack of turtlenecks – and believe me, he looked in absolutely every conceivable store – that we avoided fashion collar disaster.
We scheduled the photo session for our first full day in the mountains. At such an early juncture in our trip, we’d still have mostly clean clothes and probably no one would be sick.
Our photographer, the celebrated Bessarion Chakhvadze, met us at the hotel. With his dangling cigarette and serious expression, he looked intimidating on his website, but he was in fact much closer to a cheerful Georgian Santa Claus, especially where children were involved. We quickly and efficiently and with no crying whatsoever loaded everyone into the car and drove to our first location.
Just kidding. We waited for Avery to wake up from her morning nap. Then we tucked her into a few dozen layers of clothing. We fed Connor a snack. We lost and later found his winter hat. We collected his Matchbox cars so that they could come too. We persuaded him to wear shoes. We changed a few diapers. By this time Connor thought he might be hungry again. There was more eating and nursing. We made it to the lobby. I went to the bathroom. We put the kids in the car, and I climbed in after them. Dave went to the bathroom and our driver almost left without him. But then finally, finally, we were on our way.
The light would be best, Bessarion thought, we if started in the mountains. We made our way first to Gergeti Trinity Church, a thirty minute drive up bumpy, narrow, winding roads. Built in the 14th century, the church is remote, a lone outpost in a sea of rolling green, in the shadowy of snowy Mount Kazbek.
It was windy and cold on the mountain, but lovely. These were the pictures we wanted, photos that showed us together, braving the elements to see something beautiful and new.
Connor loved visiting the church. He loved how dark and quiet it was on the inside. He loved clambering over stairs and ledges cut in to the stone. He loved seeing snow and collecting pebbles on the way back down.
Back at the hotel we posed inside the library and outside, trying to take advantage of the light and the mountains and our fantastically tolerant children.
While we came away with some amazing family photos, the best pictures were those Bessarion took in between posed sessions – Connor and Avery playing, Dave and I parenting.
There were plenty of outtakes too, between the wind and our coats and our tiny children who did not see the point in all the smiling, like these two photos, taken about thirty seconds and one child-shuffle apart:
And this one, in which Connor tries to persuade Avery that hay piles are the best:
It was an intense day, a long one of making sure everyone was warm and fed and rested in between camera flashes and bathroom breaks, trying to make the most of this amazing opportunity. I love looking at these photos not just because we’re so darn good-looking, or because the mountains are also pretty, but because of the way we look at each other. It’s the best reminder at the of a long day of crying and tantrums and short naps of why we’ve chosen this life.
All photos by Bessarion Chakhvadze.