How to Photograph Victoria Faith

"Let's go take pictures," I say to my four-and-a-half-year old niece, handing her the ballerina-blush tutu I bought her.

She grabs it, shrugging off her school dress and pulling the new one over her bare shoulders and head. Let's go, she says, heading toward the door. "I don't want to wear shoes."

"You don't have to," I tell her.

She is out the door, barefoot. And, I am already snapping away, watching as she skips across the lawn. She leads me across the street to summer's waning flower beds and then back across the road whirling through the grass, falling to the ground.

She is oblivious to the camera as she begins to spin her tale. "I know," she says. "Pretend I am a little girl and I am lost and you are busy working and you forgot to feed me." She pouts, doing her best to look forlorn.

I snap away.

She jumps up and runs out back to the trees. "I am a fairy," she says, as she peeks through the leaves. "I am all alone in the woods. Would you live with me?"

I press the shutter button.

Before I can say anything, she picks up the fluffy pink doll bed I gave her and a stick and runs down the neglected cement path, striking a hobo's pose. "I'm running away," she says.
"Move over there in the light," I tell her, but now the stick has become a cane and she is limping down the path like an old man. She flops on the grass again and stares back at me over her shoulder.
Click. I capture that one.

She's up and running toward the back fence where the pugs are playing in the water that has pooled on the pool cover. She grabs a pine cone off the tree and throws it into their midst. "Let's make Alfie stew," she says.

Go over there by the branches, I direct. She ignores me. "Stand here," she tells me. "That's too far away for my lens," I say. She doesn't hear me.

"Stand here," she orders. "I'll tell you where to stand and when to take a picture."

She sits in the grass and spreads her skirt around her. "Now," she commands. "Okay."

"Again." She actually pauses long enough for three shots and then is up again, moving toward the shed.

"I'm lost and I'm sad," she says. "Pretend you find me sleeping." She curls up on the pink doll bed. I snap the picture.

"Move your hair out of your face," I instruct. She tosses it as she springs up marching toward the house.

"I'm hot now," she announces. "We're done."

And, that is how to photograph Victoria Faith.