There's something about this age. The innocence, the willingness to just "be", to show what lies beneath.
The "beneath" is easy to see with this little one. Contentment. Vulnerability. Contemplation. Adoration. Amusement. Confidence. Happiness. Love. That's just the first eight photos. She held nothing back.
It becomes more difficult as we get older to show, and to see, what lies beneath—in any capacity, not just photography. Adults, in front of my camera, will often pose and present their safe, approved looks. I do it too, on the other side of someone's camera. In these moments, I press the shutter and capture that moment. It might seem to someone watching that I've got "the shot" but this is never the shot I am after.
I wait. Maybe we move to a different location. We talk. Joke. Laugh. I lie in wait for the in-between moments. The ones where you're not trying and where you've sort of forgotten about me. Suddenly, you tilt your head in just that "you" way and laugh in just that way that you laugh. Or maybe something flashes in your eyes. I see you drop your chin, slightly, feeling whatever it is that that is. What was it? It was something, I can tell. So will everyone else who sees that photo, down through the years. They wonder. They know, from a simple photo, that there's a story.
Children give it away easily and it's beautiful and instructive. As teens and adults, we are guarded and slightly ill-at-ease. It can take some time but when I get it, and I nearly always do, what you see is essence. Her essence, your daughter. Or your shared essence, mother and daughter. Or your family's essence—more precious to you than anything. It's a trite and over-used turn of phrase only because it's true: beauty begins on the inside. It's what you've got inside that lights up the outside. These are the photos that matter.
So take notes. Tell us, show us, little one...what lies beneath?