Those of you who follow me on social media will know that there’s been a big personal event in my life recently: yip, my boy Spencer turned eighteen. Eighteen. I can scarcely believe it.
Life events always send my rifling through the photo albums - what can I say? I’ve always loved reminiscing with photographs in hand, even before I became a photographer - and I came across this gorgeous image of my little man when he was aged just four or so. I’ve always loved this photo of my Spencer. He’s dressed as one of his favourite superheroes of the time and I can remember that costume like it was only yesterday. How can it be that this boy is now a man?
Spencer - Gary Spencer Chalk, to give him his full title - was born on the 23rd December 2000 weighing a whopping 10lbs½ oz. I had no pain relief. The memories of those early days are as much of a contradiction as Spencer is himself: I fell in love with my beautiful boy, but I also felt overawed by responsibility. Sleep - well, sleep was a distant dream for a long time and it was a strange, intense period. Months later we emerged from those heady, newborn days somehow still intact, still clinging to each other, but something had changed forever: an unbreakable bond had developed between us. It’s a bond which I’ve always found impossible to fully explain.
I wasn’t going to have any more children after Spencer, but somehow I went from saying ‘no more’ to having his brother shortly afterwards. I often think it was something in Spencer that convinced me to have another - somehow I knew he needed it, and he made me feel a love so powerful I felt I was capable of doing anything.
Spencer didn’t get the easiest hand in life: when he was still a little boy, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and then Asperger’s Syndrome. Life can be, and has been, tough for my eldest. However, I’ve never met anyone who deals with challenges with such determination.
Spencer tackles everything head-on - like a superhero, really. Maybe that’s why I felt so drawn to the batman photograph while we were flicking through our albums.
This photo isn’t ‘professional’. It isn’t perfectly set up and it’s not the greatest quality. But it captures his energy and personality at that time and conveys it so powerfully that I almost feel I can reach out and touch four year old Spencer. However, I wanted to mark his 18th with a ‘proper’ photograph, and so the day before his big day I asked him into the studio and took his very own, special occasion portrait. I was thrilled with the results - just look at him. My fantastic, handsome boy.
Spencer, you are so kind. You’re so intelligent, determined and strong. You’re funny - no one can make me laugh like you. In short, you’re full of the qualities I hoped for you when I looked at you for the first time in the early hours of 23rd December 2000.
I hope that in years to come these photographs and memories bring you and your family as much joy as the picture of my little superhero has brought me. I hope that you can look back and remember the person you were just becoming at the time - changing, growing, full of dreams and aspirations, on the cusp of adulthood.
Happy birthday, Spencer. I am so proud of you and you are so, so loved.