Photographing families in their allotments

My green fingers extend to planting modest amounts of bulbs each spring, putting some herbs into pots and mowing the lawn when it's my turn. So learning from some expert gardening families here has been a wonderful experience.

"Our allotment was an anniversary present from Duncan’s dad as he didn’t know what else to get us. Though he’s regretting it now as we’ve won first prize in the Best Allotment competition at the annual show for the last two years"

I was asked by JUNO magazine to contribute a photo feature about families and their allotments for their 50th edition. I spent time with three families and got to live a little part in their green fingered world for a day.

"Our parents and grandparents were keen gardeners, it’s something we’ve both grown up with. We kept a small vegetable patch in the back garden, but when the girls came along it competed with a trampoline, slide, ball games and the guinea pigs. So we put our name down for an allotment and within six months we were given one to do with as we wish."  George

Not only did I get to learn a few gardening tips for myself. I also learned of the best places to hide, trees to climb, the best raspberry bushes to eat from when no one's looking and discover the places where most worms and wood lice live.

"I like to read here. After I’ve done a few gardening jobs with dad, I’ll sneak off and find somewhere to sit with my book." Laura

Their allotments have become a way of life and a place to escape to. We all too often get bogged down with day-to-day routines, not seeing the end of that 'to do' list, and for new families it can be quite challenging to re-establish identities after having a baby.

"As a first time mum, it can be tough finding some time for yourself, but this has become somewhere I can do this. When Emily was tiny, I’d walk over from our house with her in the pram and would let her sleep as I quietly got on with some weeding. It’s such a peaceful place, it gives me space to think." Nickala

One day I walked into a family BBQ celebration being held in the middle of their plot on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Surrounded by lush fruit and flowers, spades put to one side and the summer house doors wide open, as sausages sizzled and the bottle corks popped. With John being a keen gardener nearly all his life, his wife Sarah, children and grandchildren are used to joining him in his allotment kingdom.

"I’ve always loved my horticulture, it’s been part of my life since I was 16. I love the great outdoors. When I’m not here, Sarah and I will often be walking the Welsh coastal path. I’m also keen on my wildlife photography, particularly birds." John

We can all get excited by the latest piece of technology and scientific breakthroughs, or saddened by some of the current global news, maybe a few of us out there are planning the next big leap into a brand new adventure? I'm sure these families, with their busy lives, are no exception. Which is why I found this photographic project so grounding. As they've gone back to, or newly discovered the simple and rewarding, yet hardworking lifestyle of gardening. And they do this, quite seamlessly, all together.

Photographing Science Week at a Monmouthshire school

Future astronauts, rocket scientists, engineers and bio-chemists were busy performing death defying, life saving and heart racing experiments across this Welsh language primary school in Monmouthshire, South Wales. For taking part in British Science Week last month.

The energy and enthusiasm around the school was infectious, as I joined in to photograph the children running their different experiments. From exploding Coke bottles that had been detonated with Mentos sweets, through to erupting volcanoes and finding out how our immune systems work.

"I reckon this is exactly what real life astronauts have to learn when they go to school!"

There were intelligent, from-the-heart debates as groups of badgers, hedgehogs, children and construction workers each gave their valid views as to why a main road should or shouldn't be built alongside their village - a truly wonderful roleplaying exercise from a representative of the Gwent Wildlife Trust. The school also experienced extreme weather systems and climate change from a meteorology expert.

It was a week full to the brim, of learning science in the most exciting and dynamic way. But what really touched me, was how these budding astronauts and bio-chemists pulled together and guided their peers through the many activities on offer.

The amazing teachers of this school and the equally amazing scientific volunteers, helped to empower the older children by letting them demonstrate many of the experiments to the younger years.  Adorning protective eyewear, clothing and gloves, these kids gave their younger peers a "there's no room for error" and "please stand back for your own safety" drill before each eruption and explosion...  I must say that I'd feel in safe hands heading up into Space with these lot!

Science Week Jo Haycock Science Week photos Jo Haycock Science Week experiments Science Week photography Science Week school playground photos Science Week Science Week Science Week photography by Jo Haycock Science Week photography Jo Haycock Science Week Monmouthshire Science Week photos Jo Haycock Learning through science Jo Haycock Jo Haycock Photography Science Week Monmouthshire





If grandad was an animal he'd be a buffalo - a photo story

There is no doubt in my mind, how incredibly special a bond between a grandparent and child can be. So when JUNO, a magazine with a natural approach to family life, asked me to explore through photographs what this might look like, it was pure joy, if a little emotional at times, to watch some of these relationships unfold for me.

"Having Grandchildren is the best present your own children could ever give you. They are miniature versions of your children, and though they are like them in many ways, they are wonderfully unique"

I asked each of the children and their grandparents the same questions before the photoshoots began. These ranged from wanting to know what kind of animal they might be, how they make them laugh, to the types of inventions they would invent if they could, to make that other person's life more easy or even happier. Their responses were hilarious, intelligent and sometimes reduced me to tears.

"I'd love to invent a flying carpet so that she could see more of the world in the most magical way"

If you scroll through this post, you may notice one of the children featured is my own daughter, Jeanie. I photographed her with her grandparents, my parents. This gave the project an even stronger connection as I rarely photograph my own family in this kind of situation. I found it fascinating to stand back and observe how they responded to the same questions, scene-setting and guidance I give to other families that I photograph. How are they are seeing me right now?  As a photographer, mother or daughter... which role was most present? It was unusual and quite moving for me to shoot.

"If I was a famous inventor, I'd invent a saddle so that I could ride about on grandpa's back"

It is true that grandparents' roles and the relationships our children have with them are different to when we were children, as well as our parents before us. More households than ever have both parents working outside the family home so grandparents are an integral source of childcare to them. But I find it quite amazing how they balance the must-do's and structure of the day given out by the parents (their own children). To still being able to have fun, step back and enjoy sharing so much with their grandchildren.  We should, without question, celebrate them and this special relationship far more than we do.

"My grandad would be a buffalo if he was an animal. He's big and strong and doesn't let anything stand in his way"

So to Miles, Ollie and Jeanie... thank you for sharing your grandparents with me, each in your own special and unique way...



A photoshoot in the connective and colourful world of babywearing

It was a perfect autumnal day at the Bristol docklands where we'd arranged to meet Katie and her completely gorgeous baby, Juliette. The team at JUNO, a natural parenting magazine, had commissioned me to photograph a feature for their Autumn Extra, which is all about the creative and connective world of babywearing.

I look back and remember placing my now-not-so little baby into a pre-tied sling to go and hang the washing out, breastfeed on the go, even edit the odd photoshoot while she slept contentedly next to me. But the term 'babywearing' as ancient an art form as it is, and the most natural and beautiful way of carrying your child, has become a whole big, colourful world of fabric designs and tying techniques.

I started our day in Bristol faced with wraps in many beautiful fabric prints, surely these can't be turned into safe baby-carrying devices?

Katie of Carry Me Slings offers valuable support to parents new to wearing these wraps and those wanting to try out new sling designs of the already vast choice of options out there. Seeing her in action, twisting and tying these wraps into shape, checking all was safe and secure, it was easy to see why JUNO wanted her as a feature in this particular edition. Watching her apply the different techniques to each wrap ready for the photo essay was mesmerising - we were quiet and still watching her at work. Baby Juliette took it all in her stride as her mother gathered her up in exquisite folds of fabric and settled her into position. Carefree, full of smiles and quite the guru baby-wearing baby.

Watching Katie effortlessly twist and shape these wraps while Juliette sits in them is mesmerising to watch

Not only a sling specialist but more importantly a mother confidently 'wearing' her baby. Listening to Katie explaining the benefits of each sling and watching how Juliette responds to each one is incredible to be part of. So it was no surprise, that when it came to nap time, the right sling for the job came out for demonstrating...

Her little thumb went into her mouth and her eyes became half-closed... "She know's the next wrap I'm going to show you, it's the one she sleeps in"


Katie and Juliette for Juno magazineKatie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine

Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazineKatie and Juliette for Juno magazine


Classroom photography raises funds for school's PTA

I went back into school last term to photograph more children at the heart of classroom learning. It's an amazing feeling to watch and be able to experience first-hand, the magic of learning through their eyes...happening right before my eyes. What also feels amazing is to be able to gift that same school's PTA with some well-needed funds raised from the sales of these photographic prints. As a documentary children (and their families) photographer, I'm forever learning through their play - it is always a privilege to be invited into their world, and this was no exception.


classroom photo project

The photos have been bought by the parents and families of these same children, and I'm over the moon that they now own a frozen nano-second of what their child looks and feels like, through their 'wonder-tinted' glasses of their own school's learning and playing environment.

I found myself putting the camera down at certain points during classroom sessions and saying to myself "I never knew that" - it just goes to prove that you're never too old to learn new facts!

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I'm absolutely delighted to be able to donate to this group of parents and teachers, who work tirelessly with passion and enthusiasm, to give our children the best of experiences during their school years.  I've seen the incredible energy that these amazing people bring to a school, through my own child's school PTA. So if you're reading this, and think that your school might like to adopt this style of classroom photographic project, then please do get in touch. These are unique documentary photo stories which require time spent over a duration of a few months. This enables me to photograph children as naturally as possible, with minimum disturbance to lessons.


classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project

classroom photo project



A Breastfeeding Support Group in Photographs

Being able to breastfeed my baby was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It is still, without doubt, one of my greatest achievements. Not an easy journey, there were lots of tears from me, painful moments, emotionally and physically.

But had I had the emotional and physical support of this particular group in my own breastfeeding journey? I’m certain it would have eased my self-doubt, closed that stupid ‘rule book’ and got me creative with my feeding experience.

This is not a story intending to spark debate, of what's right or wrong in the baby-feeding arena. Nor is it meant to fuel the guilt-measuring machine of how we chose to or couldn’t, for whatever reason manage to breastfeed our children. Hey, we have enough of that big jar of guilt neatly handed to us around the same time our newborns arrive don’t we? I write here merely as little celebration and reminder of my own personal journey, nothing more.

We discussed the #brelfie – the breastfeeding equivalent to the selfie!

This here is a small window right now, looking inwards to a special group of mums and their babies with their own feeding journeys. It is here we spent time discussing the #brelfie – the breastfeeding equivalent to the selfie!  We shared warrior mum ‘street feeding’ moments - the disapproving look of a cafe customer, or the well-meaning superstore worker informing you "there is a designated feeding cubicle for you in the ladies toilet.”

It's a special place where I’ve seen new mums walk through the doors over the weeks, some distraught and in tears. These same mums have left laughing, armed with new friendships and a whole list of positions to try feeding their baby in. Tips and techniques often shared by other mums themselves as well as the trained advisors. It is quite simply amazing, simple human-to-human support.

I’ve also made new friendships of my own during my time photographing this Bristol group. In fact a few of us will be meeting up again to find their favourite places to feed in – ranging from the sanctuary of the bedroom to the vibrant market place. A whole new photographic project for me, and a whole new bucket list of feeding locations for the mummas.

To call this simply a breastfeeding support group doesn't do it justice. I’ve watched mums overcome their feelings of guilt and worry to reach those vital feelings of connection and self worth around feeding their babies. It’s some of the toughest terrain you can tread as a new mother. So however you chose to feed your baby, it’s surely about the bond between you and how you grow together during those quiet connective times that counts the most.

Bristol Breastfeeding Support Group

Bristol Breastfeeding Support Group

Bristol Breastfeeding Support Group Bristol Breastfeeding Support GroupBristol Breastfeeding Support Group Bristol Breastfeeding Support Group Bristol Breastfeeding Support Group Bristol Breastfeeding Support Group honeysuckle-13




A Dancing Maternity Photoshoot

There is a term 'like a child in a sweet shop' and this would best describe how I felt last week when I got to photograph Emma at eight months pregnant. In the magnificent grounds of Wyndcliffe Court Sculpture Gardens nestling in a hillside, just outside Chepstow, South Wales with views of the Severn Estuary.

I first spotted Emma and her baby bump performing ballet and jazz routines during a dress rehearsal for dance shows that took place last month. These were organised by a local dance school and it was at that point I met her backstage (my daughter was part of this spectacular show, along with over 200 dancers aged from 7 years upwards). So after I hurridly explained to her who I was, between the speedy costume changes, a photographer who'd love to do a maternity photo shoot with her, it was six weeks later we got to meet again.

"So, what exactly are you doing here?"

She arrived complete with her wheelie case not even unpacked from the dance show, full of the amazing outfits she had worn on stage and I might add, were only now just fitting her and her growing bump. There was plenty of laughter between us and one of the tradesmen working in the main house that day. He got quite a shock as Emma tiptoed passed him, wearing a vibrant array of dance wear on a quiet Monday morning  "So, what exactly are you doing here?" he asked. To which she replied "that is a really good question!"

We planned our escape into the gardens between the downpours

The natural light that poured into the Ballroom of Wyndcliffe Court was perfect. We cleared an area to be able to use the magnificent 1920's window as one of our backdrops. And as it was a typical showery spring day, we planned our escape outside between the downpours. It was there that we discovered all sorts of secret gardens, the naturally wild and the elegantly landscaped. We found a couple of rope swings which sit in a tiny dell, framed by the bluebells growing there, and sets of elegant gates which separate one garden space from the next.

It was during the morning that Emma poignantly told me how this pregnancy has been quite a whirlwind for her and her partner (they already have a one-year-old son). So for her this morning became an important and unique experience that she will able to share with her unborn baby when s/he grows up.

But for me?... I'm just happy that Emma turned sideways on stage when she did during her dance performance, showing her and dancing baby bump in all their glory.




forest family photoshoot Monmouthshire photographer

A forest family photoshoot: the next chapter

I want to hold my hand up and tell you here and now, that I was emotionally unprepared for this photoshoot. I'll explain why... Bethan's mum contacted me last-minute and asked if I had any free time on a particular Saturday.  It was because her eldest baby was about to start university life and this day would be their final morning together as they are right now. All seven of them (not forgetting Rosie and Maggie, the family dogs) taking a walk in the woods, before they drive off to the uni campus to begin a brand new chapter of her life.

Jo Haycock Photography

Bethan's mum had been thinking for sometime about how to get them all together for a family portrait, then with overwhelming clarity - without telling the rest of her family when she booked, I might add! - she decided "why not make it on the day we take her?"

As a parent myself, I felt this bittersweet point after B's family had supported and guided her into this next adventure of her life. Her ambition and excitement that morning was keeping up the stronger wall, with just a little keyhole of the unknown shining through.

The 'flying of the nest' thing, it's huge one and I can't help but let my mumma-time machine fly 10 years ahead and see us, on that same morning, doing exactly the same thing.

Jo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock PhotographyThey are an extremely close family, with the usual sibling pranks and outrageous teasing that takes place in most families. This morning was no exception. With younger sister, Carys and brother, Ioan teasing about how much more space there'd be at home, and the potential bedroom swaps, as they used fallen branches, tree trunks and woodland paths to act out their fictitious rivalry.

There was plenty of laughter, quite honestly it was the most perfect way to start any day. And I'd been doing so well at keeping my emotions in check...after all it was just another family 'shoot in the woods, right?

Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock Photography
Jo Haycock Photography
Jo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock PhotographyJo Haycock Photography

When they got back to the luggage-ladened car, reality hit as Carys saw she was in with a real chance of her big sister's bedroom. Tears flowed all around as the enormity of what was happening, happened. Not wanting to end this story as a 'farewell to Bethan' story because it isn't. I should finish by saying that she's nearly at the end of her first year in University, has made loads of life-long friends and her family enjoy many city breaks while visiting her. She'll be home soon for a long summer, so I must find out if Carys got her bedroom after all!

Jo Haycock Photography




To mum, I love you because...

As a mum to a daughter, and a daughter to a mum there is nothing more deep rooted in me than this kind of relationship. I put a call-out for two people to come and spend a morning with me to practise some new connective techniques I've been learning about. So I was absolutely over the moon to hear from 10-year-old Maisie and her mum, Bev.

jo haycock photographyjo haycock photographyWe went to one of my favourite places only down the road from where I live, Magor Marsh, which is one of the natural homes managed by The Gwent Wildlife Trust. A truly magical place with overhead height hay meadows, waterways and an abundance of wildlife. It's a place where I breathe deeply, reflect and feel totally alive in the great outdoors. I'm so happy to know that it's also become one of Bev and Maisie's special places too.

It was there I learned about a few of Maisie's hidden talents - did you know that she is the perfect impersonator able to mimic any member of her family with hilarious perfection? And that the best feeling in the world for her is when her mum wraps her up in a blanket when she's feeling unwell, or when she's feeling sad...they talk about everything together.

jo haycock photographyEarlier that week, I'd asked Maisie and Bev to each write a love letter to the other to read out on the day. I wasn't prepared for the emotional words that flowed from these pages as they spoke to one another. The complete honesty and sharing of a very real deep bond reduced us all to tears. I cannot thank you enough for letting me be part of this moment with you both.

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jo haycock photography jo haycock photographyjo haycock photography



a day in the life of a classroom


I have a great relationship with the school my daughter attends. Regular updates on her progress, interactions with teachers and plenty of social occasions that enhance my picture of life through her eyes with the teachers she learns from and children she learns with. Of course many of us understand how our children connect and behave within their learning environment. BUT what really happens in the classroom? What does it look and feel like to see them engage and show pure excitement when they grasp that mathematic equation, or how they work out some of life's debates through playground games with friends at break times?

It has been a privilege to witness this first hand, not just for my own daughter but for many other parents' sons and daughters lately. The traditional school photograph will always hold an important record of our children's time there. So I'm now offering an alternative approach through fly-on-the-wall documentary to show these profound moments as they happen in the classroom.

If this is something your school might be interested in hosting please do get in touch. I also donate a percentage of fees to the school's PTA fund.

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