I went to visit my mum and dad recently to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time. We ate, drank, and reminisced. My mum was 3 months pregnant with me when they got married, so I was there too.

The night before their wedding day in 1974, my mum and my godmothers made a feast of the most delicious food. They were running one of the only vegetarian restaurants in London in the early 70’s called Wheat (that’s another story), and knew how to create a wonderful veggie banquet.

They got married in Hampstead registry office, and the party was at a friend's squat in the Vale of Health on Hampstead Heath. Being the 70’s there was no ‘official’ anything. They took turns putting on records (Al Green and the Kinks) and the ‘wedding photographer’ was their wonderful friend and talented photographer Kulu Kahn.

In those days there were no phones, so the only images we have of that day are Kulu’s prints which were shot on film. The young, the old, and the unborn me partied until the early hours. Both my mum and dad said that he managed to capture the joy and celebration in the most beautiful way. I couldn’t agree more. My mum looks like a film star, and my dad a Jewish John Travolta in his white flared suit.

lolly stirk on wedding day in blog about pregnancy photoshoots london

It got us talking about other photoshoots we had been part of in Maida Vale in the hippy 70s. The next one that came to mind was a photoshoot of my pregnant mum when she was 26 years old and 8 months pregnant with me, just 5 months after they had been married. The photographer this time was friend Rosemary Adams, at that time, rock and roll photographer with a studio in Soho. As I said in the last blog, those images are endlessly fascinating to me. Witnessing my gorgeous mum's pregnant body with me as a bump. She and I as one. It’s totally awe-inspiring, as she will attest. She says that becoming pregnant with me was a big part of why she went into doing the groundbreaking work she has done over the last half-century. 

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The next photo shoot, in 1976 when I was two, was shot by photographer friend Dodo Von Greif, a glamorous Argentinian blonde who drove a blue VW Beetle. I loved her. These images of me in my kaftan, and my mum and dad at 28 and 32 in our autumnal communal garden in Maida Vale are the stuff of family legend. They capture an innocence and a joy that somehow couldn’t have been created if my mum or dad had tried to take the images themselves. The photos my parents took are also priceless, but there’s something about the objective eye of a photographer, the ease and lack of posing, and the fact that we are all in the photos that shows us in a different light. 

Last weekend, during the celebration, we decided to revisit the images that weren’t on their walls, and with a glass of champagne go down memory lane. Panic struck when the box that we thought they were in was empty, just full of a few images that we knew weren’t the priceless shots. Where were they? Had we thrown out the wrong box when having a big clear out last Christmas? Was our family history, our only existing images of great grandfathers, my beloved grandpa Wallace, my parents as children, and the shoots I just mentioned in the bottom of a skip at the dump? Luckily, there is a happy ending to this tale. The box and albums were found. The moral of this story is twofold.

One. If you feel shy, overwhelmed with things to do, your bank balance won’t allow it at the moment, you can’t see the value in hiring someone when you can take pictures with your phone, or any of the other reasons why you don’t book a photoshoot, let me tell you that it will be worth every penny (I have payment plans available). When you’re looking back on your life with your family, you will be so happy that you overcame your resistance, seized the moment, and invested in your collective history.

Two. Scan and save the images you already have that are only in printed form. I want to save everyone the sheer terror of not knowing if you still have records of relatives that are long gone, pets that have passed, homes you grew up in, and moments that are irreplaceable. These days images are usually delivered in digital form, so as long as we save them in safe places, we’ll always have them. Make sure your old images are as safe. Your grandchildren will thank you!

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2024 is a big year for the Stirk family. My mum and dad's 50th wedding anniversary was in April, my mum turns 75 in August, it’s my 50th birthday in October, and my dad's 80th in December! At moments of reflection and celebration like these, I can’t thank Kulu Khan, Rosemary Adams, and Dodo Von Greif enough. 

Please don't hesitate to get in touch to discuss your own photoshoot where I can preserve the memories you are creating with your family forever.