When you are a photographer you get asked to be present and capture some of the most important moments in peoples lives. In these moments, you become acutely aware of the emotions in the room, you are looking for verbal or more often than not, non verbal cues to give you the opportunity to be in the best position to take the picture that most poignantly captures what is happening.
Towards the end of October, during a wedding I was photographing, I sat down to dinner, with most of my days work finished, my mind started racing with all the last minute things I'd yet to do before flying to LA the next morning with work. My whirring thoughts were interrupted by a text from my sister Victoria. She was wondering what I was doing. Not realising I was getting on a flight first thing, she was contacting me to see if there was any chance of me coming down to her work in Belfast to take some photos of her friend.
At this point I should mention my sister is a midwife and this friend had just given birth to a little baby boy called Padraig earlier that day.
Two days earlier the family had been given the devastating news that they couldn't find a heartbeat.
Briege, Padraigs very brave Mum still had the unimaginable task of delivering him.
He was delivered the afternoon and I said to my sister the only time I could do was late that night. So after finishing the wedding in Bushmills, I jumped in the car. The whole 50 miles I spent trying to get my head around how Briege and Mario must be feeling.
I was acutely aware of the privilege and the pain of being invited to photograph the wee man before his Mum and Dad had to say goodbye to his little body.
The moment I stepped into the room, the silence was deafening.
Vicky and myself spent the next hour with him and his amazing Mum and Dad. I sat and listened, trying to understand how they must be feeling and only coming inadequately close as I tried to place myself in their shoes. On a couple of occasions the silence was pierced with the faint noise of a baby waking in the room next to the private room we sat in, bringing into stark contrast the silence of our room.
I have always been a big fan of the work my Mum (who is also a midwife) and sister do, aiding new life into this world everyday. That night though I swoll with admiration & pride for the amazing work they (that is often unheard and unseen) when things don't go right for new parents.
I often get to be part of the very best and brightest days in people lives, the family reunions, the first dances, the vows, the smiles and I get to share a little in their joy. And that stays with me.
But etched in a deeper part of me still, is the honour of being allowed into that sacred silent space of saying goodbye, to capture the courage of loving parents to face into the unimaginable. And what a privilege to have got to see with my own eyes, little Padraig.