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Moms create whimsical photos of kids with 'imaginary' pals

When her little girl started developing a big imagination, one photographer was inspired to capture images of kids and their imaginary pals.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Photographer Anna Angenend spent the first few years of daughter Mia's life photographing the funny-but-stressful moments of motherhood. But, as her daughter began to move from the toddler years to become an imaginative pre-schooler, the Texas mom says she wanted to focus more on capturing her daughter's wild imagination.

"My yellow monster doesn't want to brush his teeth because he loves his cavities," said Mia, 3.Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder

"One morning several months ago, Mia said to me, 'My yellow monster is kind of scary,' Angenend told TODAY Parents. "Later in the day, she told me, 'He's not so scary, he just needs a friend.' This was the first time she had talked about an imaginary three years old, her imagination and creative play has really soared and I wanted a new photo series to capture this part of her childhood."

Irelyn, 6, and her dragon, Dolores. "The mama dragon is looking to see what I did to her eggs," said Irelyn. "I helped the baby dragon hatch, because babies are cute and I wanted to play with it."Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder
Marie Elise, 2, with Larry the cactus. "He popped my balloons," said Marie Elise.Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder

So Angenend teamed up with illustrator and mom of four Amy Snyder to create images of kids playing with their imaginary friends. The series captures kids taking baths with monsters, caring for baby dragons and making mischief with their made up pals, and is created with a mix of real-life images and Photoshop magic.

Angenend calls Sheila her "spirit animal." The pink, imaginary monster was inspired by her daughter's reaction whenever she gets her hair brushed.Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder

"I shoot the images first," said Angenend. "The background and furniture is all real...I pick the best shot and e-mail the file to Amy for her to sketch the monster and their accessories. Then, Amy scans her illustrations and e-mails them to me so I can sprinkle some Photoshop fairy dust on them. I'm not sure how else to explain it without getting too technical."

Mia, 3, with Maximus. "I don't like to get soap in my eyes when I wash my hair, but my monster makes it fun," said Mia.Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder
18-month-old Evangeline with her tribe of "mini monsters."Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder

Angenend says she and Snyder plan to continue adding more kids and monsters to the series, and have even toyed with the idea of putting their monsters into a children's book.

"She is waiting for me to finish drawing her picture so she can see it," said Irelyn, 6, of her monster, Wendolyn.Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder
Mia, 2, with her space monster, Melvin.Anna Angenend and Amy Snyder

"It is fun to show the children the finished photo and watch their reaction," said Angenend. "Of course, we'll never know exactly what the monsters look like in their imaginations. Mia was confused at first when I showed her the yellow monster. She looked at the image for a second with a 'How did he get there?' expression, then shouted, 'Yeah, that's my Zasby!'"