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Flying Babies: Rachel Hulin’s Mini-Superheroes Are Awesome

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flying babyWho among us hasn’t tossed our baby gently in the air, only to have them squeal with delight? (Growing up, we called it “Superman.”) Photographer Rachel Hulin has captured that magical moment in a series of photographs that show her little boy, Henry, floating in mid-air. The results range from spooky to extraordinary, and the photos are beyond intriguing.

Hulin began the project last summer when Henry, her only child, was just six months old. As a new mom, Hulin had lots of fears and, as she explains with a laugh, “I was so afraid I would drop him… Maybe subconsciously I was trying to get him to fly.”

Based in Providence, Rhode Island, Hulin spent 10 years as a photo editor in New York for a slew of publications, from Rolling Stone to Nerve.com. Her photographs have appeared in mags like Martha Stewart and Country Living, but the flying series is something altogether new for Hulin, who hints that she may one day transform them into a mini-coffee table book.

We caught up with Hulin to learn about the project and her creative process. See what she has to say below and view our gallery of Hulin’s awesome photos, including some exclusive behind-the-scene shots.

How did you come up with the concept for The Flying Series?
We were always flying Henry, lifting him up before bed, and he just loved it. I had taken so many pictures of him, I literally had thousands of them. But then I took this one picture that I really loved of my husband David flying him over the bed at night. I thought it would be interesting to take David out of there and have Henry hovering in the air. I loved the way it looked. It was kind of spooky. But once I started doing more, the photos became them less spooky and more about Henry exploring different environments.

What makes these photos so unique? What do they mean to you personally?
To me, they reflect the wonder of having a baby. Children are so much more complex than I realized. From a photographic standpoint, it’s confusing to your eye to see a baby suspended in mid-air. Of course, lots of photographs show people in mid-air, but they’ve jumped. Babies obviously can’t jump, and so people are interested in how it’s done.

So tell me, how did you get Henry to float without actually tossing him in the air?

It’s a really simple Photoshop job (because I’m actually terrible at Photoshop). I’m actually holding Henry in the air like that and the only thing I Photoshop out is my hands. I do a few different takes for each one. It’s obvious that someone’s holding him in some, but I try and convey that feeling that he could actually be flying in others.

We’ve seen Henry, mid-flight, by the kitchen window, above a hotel-room bed, in a barn… How do you pick your locations? What criteria are you looking  for?
I’m trying to find beautiful spaces that would stand as photographs on their own – places that have an element of mystery. The barn one is actually my aunt’s farm in Vermont. I’m always on the lookout, though I do shoot lots of them around my house. I’m very excited for spring and summer, though, because I plan to do lots of outdoor ones.

Which is your favorite photo in the series and why?
Everyone’s been intrigued by the kitchen one, which I think has beautiful lighting. I personally like the shower one because it’s different. But if I had to pick just one, the white hallway one is the first one that really clicked for me. I like that its so simple. And Henry’s expression is very serene. It looks like he a has secret.

What type of feedback have you received?

It’s funny because I had some parents emailing me asking me to fly their babies. They want custom flying pictures. But, hey, I don’t want to be responsible for flying other people’s babies! But, really, the best feedback has been from moms saying how much their babies love to fly, too. People send me pictures and videos of their babies flying and squealing in delight.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with and intrigued by the series? Is it moms in particular?
I think everyone is but parents especially. There’s something beautiful about seeing a baby hovering. I’ve always liked pictures of levitation – it’s an aesthetic that appeals to me. And it appeals to a lot of people. With my photos, there’s that aspect of how did she do that that’s especially potent with the subject matter. Also, they’re not overly cutesy.

How do you balance work and motherhood?
I’m a lot more organized than ever before. If you get three or four hours a day to work and you’re paying someone to watch your child, you’re not going to look at Facebook during work time. It’s actually made me much more structured in general. When I worked in an office [as a photo editor] and was sitting at a desk for 50 hours a week, I spent so much time chatting with office mates and fiddling around. We worked hard, of course, but there was a lot of down time. Now I maximize my time. Plus, I get to use child in my work!

(Photo: rachelhulin.com)

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