Behind the Scenes: President Ava Crosses the Delaware

She’s determined she’ll be President of the United States someday.  That’s the kind of resolve and confidence she has, and she’s just thirteen. I knew that an Imagination Portrait for Ava would have to be something special. So, we chose as inspiration the very first president, George Washington, whose calm determination and patriotism is depicted in the famous 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze, “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The first step to creating this intricate composite photograph was to choose a location and find a boat. My sincere thanks to Lake Fayetteville Boat and Bike, who allowed us to borrow one of their metal boats and wooden oars and set it up for our shoot in a small field just a few feet from the Lake Fayetteville dock. (A safety note: this photo, like nearly all of my Imagination Photos, is a carefully planned composite. Because the costumes would not allow for life vests for the children, we photographed everything on dry land and used Photoshop to digitally put the boat in the water.) Even though the material and color were different than George Washington’s boat in the painting, the shape was perfect, giving us just the right setting that I could use to bring everything together. The kids had a fantastic time!  They suited up in their patriot soldier uniforms, and enjoyed carrying around their toy muskets and bringing the scene to life.

Vivlio Photography, Arkansas Children's Photographer,  Imagination Portrait - President Ava Crossing the Delaware. Reimagining of the famous Emanuel Leutze painting of George Washington from 1851. With black and white behind the scenes images.
President Ava Crossing the Delaware, Vivlio Photography, 2019. Black and white images taken behind the scenes at the Lake Fayetteville photo session.

Using the Leutze painting as our guide, I posed the four siblings in the boat multiple times in different sections and holding different props (the American flag, neutral-colored blankets, the muskets, etc.). Ava shines as George Washington (but if you look carefully you can also see her again toward the rear of the boat as one of Washington’s soldiers. 

Where I can, I always love to add in details that enhance meaning – either personal meaning for the subject of the portrait, or generally for the theme.  For this image, I digitally combined the pictures taken during our portrait session with photographs I took looking out onto the Potomac river from the dock at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia.  I like to think that George Washington himself admired that view from his estate, and that he in fact traveled by boat across those very waters. From there, I used a variety of techniques to match the colors across the image, and to enhance the textures and lighting.  In order to recreate the icy waters depicted in the painting, I blended in details from several commercially licensed stock images. 

President Ava

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Little Rock, AR 72201

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Vivlio Photography is a child and family photographer in Little Rock, Arkansas. I help parents in Little Rock and all over Arkansas to capture their kids' wildest dreams and imagination and bring them to life in creative custom portraits.

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