A few weeks ago, Emma and Ruben participated to a very special photo shoot. Nicole, the talented photograph behind Bear & Dragon Photography, invited us to the photo session she was organizing in an incredible Horta house.
I often yearn for my children to grow up faster so that they get more independent, make less noise… so that I get back some of my freedom.
But sometimes I look at them, at their beaming smile, their rosy cheeks, and I wish I could keep them like this forever.
I wish Emma would never stop asking me to tell her princess stories, I wish Ruben would always laugh heartily when I make funny faces.
We try and immortalize their childhood with thousands of clichés, but never quite get the portrait : don’t move, don’t cry, look at Mummy, no stay stay stay stay theeeeere !
A retro atmosphere
Emma and Ruben had never taken part in a professional photo shoot and I was quite nervous, especially about Ruben who just can’t keep quiet for 10 seconds.
But I am an admirer of Nicole’s photographs and an Art Deco enthusiast (gosh I wish I could have lived in the Twenties!)… so when she told me about the photo sessions “La vie est belle” she was organizing in the stupendous Art Deco house of a friend of her, I instantly embraced the project.
Nicole is so sweet that, despite my apprehensions, we all felt at ease.
She played games with the kids and smoothly captured those marvellous and romantic images, perfectly reflecting the magic of the place and, behind the staging, our little ones’ character.
Time flies and soon they may feel too old to cuddle or play hide-and-seek… but we’ll still have those beautiful photographs of their playful innocence.
Although this enchanting photo shoot was very particular, Nicole organizes seasonal photo sessions at special locations, usually in Brussels or its surroundings, designed to capture the seasons at their height : the Bear & Dragon Adventures. Sign up for the advance notice on mini sessions and adventures on her website !
Nicole also captures beautiful and spontaneous family portraits in her studio (close to the Ambiorix square) or at your home.
American Mum of three, Nicole has been living in Brussels for 8 years until her recent move to its green suburb.
She accepted to answer to a few questions about Bear & Dragon and the life of a mother in the city.
Bear and dragon photography, where does this romantic name come from?
My husband’s name is Bjorn which means bear in Swedish and my maiden name is Drake which means dragon in Swedish. One day we were musing on what to call my little venture and it just jumped out, Bear & Dragon Photography.
How would you describe Bear and Dragon in one sentence ?
I sum it up with the phrase “A Beautiful Adventure”; an adventure for me and the families I work with where everything from the first interaction, to the session and finally the resulting images should be beautiful, fun and meaningful.
When and how did you start your project?
I started Bear & Dragon in 2012 as my first daughter was just learning to crawl. A wonderful career as a business consultant had taken me around the world and eventually to Belgium. With this venture, I wanted to grow a new space in my life to develop my love of photography. Though I have tried out other photographic projects (weddings, product, real estate) working with children and families is my passion and exactly what I want to be doing now.
In the beginning, I started photographing my and my friend’s children, expanded my studies and jumped in with a home studio. Just this month, I opened my new studio space which is really a dream come true.
You take pictures at people’s place, in your new studio rue Archimède or in beautiful outdoor spots you picked for the mini sessions you organize. What do you prefer?
That is such a hard question! Can I answer all three? At the moment, I am really excited about the new studio and it is a cozy space as the weather is turning cold and dark.
Working in homes is always a fun challenge as I must quickly assess how to get the most beautiful images in a new space. Plus there is something really special about capturing someone in their own world, where they spend time together as a family.
And by the time spring comes around, I am sure I will answer outdoors as we are all bursting to get out in the fresh air and flowers by April!
What is your favorite part of your work ? Your best experience ?
I love to see people’s reactions during the sessions and when they receive their galleries after. I use a game-based method during the sessions so that kids and parents that arrive unsure or even dreading the experience are soon laughing and having fun together. This laughter creates so much happy energy and I cannot help but be carried along with it.
I am always touched when I visit a family I have photographed and see the pictures we took up on the walls of their homes. These moments become a part of their everyday life and to me that is really special.
One session that I will never forget was capturing a 102 year old great grandmother with her family. She was so touched and laughed the whole time. An incredible woman and a lovely spirit. I am grateful to be a part of these moments.
You used to live in Brussels with your family. What did you like or find difficult about being a mother in the city?
I loved living in Brussels and being a mother there. The beautiful parcs, so many child focused events and happenings (as you know ;)) and a welcoming community. Being a little out of town now is lovely but I must admit, I miss the mother in the city life.
If there is anything difficult to mention it was lugging my double stroller up and down non-functioning metro escalators. I don’t miss that!
What are your favourite spots/activities in Brussels (with and whithout kids)?
Favorite spots include the Rouge Cloitre for walking and exploring, Ferme nos Pilifs for fresh produce and animal watching and for indoor play we spent many a morning at Baboes. I am always happy just to spend a day walking around and taking in the city. Something I don’t do nearly enough these days!