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In one black and white photo, the father’s smiling face gazes serenely at the camera, an image of pride and joy as he cradles his sleeping infant son in his forearms like a football. The naked baby’s gangly arms and legs dangle, his little head pillowed comfortably in the palm of his dad’s hand.
The chaos that ensued an instant later — as the baby pooped — reminded Al Ferguson that the hazards of handling a sleeping, naked newborn are very real, and very messy.
“It happened within a second,” said Ferguson, a 26-year-old blogger from Kent in the United Kingdom. “As I felt his stomach tense, in the back of your head you know he’s about to go poo, and then before you know it … he’s doing it.”
Photographer Kirsty Grant somehow caught it all in pictures that have gone viral: the little smile on baby Ted’s face, the sudden shock as dad looks down, the projectile stream coating dad’s arm on its way to embedding itself in the shag rug in the Ferguson family sitting room.
“It’s not the kind of carpet that can be cleaned particularly easily,” said Ferguson, who stood in shock as the remnants dripped off his arm. “But the photographer did an amazing thing — she reached down for a nappy [diaper], picked it up, then went to put it over Ted’s bum to stem the flow. And she still got the shot.”
Grant was laughing, Ferguson said, along with his wife, Jen. Dad was more concerned with the rug, but he recognized the humor later and wrote about the incident for BabyCentre UK, as well as his own blog, the Dad Network.
Throughout the shoot, baby Ted remained blissfully unaware.
The photo shoot took place in early August, a few days after Ted was born. After browsing around the Internet for ideas, they asked Grant, a family friend, to take portraits in the “sleeping, naked baby” style popularized in the 1980s and ‘90s by photographer Anne Geddes.
Some of those photos are quite lovely and already are framed in Ted’s nursery, but the “money shot” is what they’ll remember most.
Of course, the depiction of naked babies in art is not a new concept. Unfortunately, there is no record of how the Greeks and Romans dealt with the inevitable baby poo exploding from the business ends of the models they used for their mosaics and friezes.
Nor did Italian Renaissance artist Donatello record the precautions he might have taken when he revived the art of using naked, fat babies (sometimes winged, often not) to represent love in sculpture and painting.
Not even the great and powerful of 21st century pop culture are immune – as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian discovered during an artsy family photo session commissioned by Vogue. The intense look on baby North West’s face said it all: “Imma let you finish… right after I go tinkle on Dad-ye.”
It wasn’t merely about fashion for the Fergusons. In the end, what mattered was the memory.
“These baby photos are becoming a bit more of an art form,” Ferguson said. “Not just an art form, but also a demonstration of photography skill, something that you’d want to put on the wall.”
On the wall? Sure. As long as it doesn’t end up on the carpet first.
(Hat tip to Sara McGinnis at BabyCenter for this hilarious story.)
Carter Gaddis is a writer and journalist who lives with his wife and two sons near Tampa Bay, Florida. He writes about fatherhood on DadScribe.com. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.