My interest in photography has grown over the years, along with my penchant for traveling and the great outdoors. Over the past decade, I’ve been dogged and deliberate in my pursuit of the planet’s most beautiful vistas.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to see more spectacular sights in the past 10 years than I deserve.
Italy’s Amalfi Coast. British Columbia. Alaska. Coronado Island. Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher.
The crown jewel of Hawaii, the Na’Pali Coast of Kauai. The mystical Isle of Skye, a ferry ride beyond the farthest reaches of the Scottish highlands. The island of Capri, where fabled sirens once sang to sailors in Homer’s The Odyssey.
But on July 17, I saw unrivaled beauty in the eyes of my 1-minute old baby boy, Joseph Mario Capecchi. His 8-pound, 13-ounce frame knocked me over; my 20-inch son was more awe-inspiring than the tallest mountain I’m ever climbed. I could barely fathom the miracle in front of me, let alone do him justice with a camera.
So I brought in a professional. Anna Ligocki is one of the hottest young photographers in the Twin Cities and came highly recommended, so I hired her for a newborn photo shoot. She seemed ideally suited for the gig––herself a new mother and former nanny––and has been on a busy streak for infant shoots, with seven newborn sessions last week alone.
The photos on her website look fantastic, so I was pumped for our big day. Yet as high as my expectations were, she blew them away.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, dear reader: With such an unbelievably adorable baby, of course the photos turned out great. Well, it’s kind of you to rave about Baby Joe (and I agree, he is remarkably cute), but a shoot with an unpredictable newborn is no easy stunt. Ligocki’s skills made all the difference.
She brought a trailer full of props, a space heater to help Joseph sleep and a golden touch with babies. When he pooped all over her brand new blanket, she didn’t blink an eye––she just cleaned it up and kept shooting. When we couldn’t get him to sleep, she suggested we turn on the vacuum, and the background noise helped him doze.
“My dad always told me if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life, and that’s how it is for me,” said Ligocki, who quit her job at Kohl’s two years ago to jump into photography full-time and launch her own company.
The 29-year-old grew up in the tiny town of Waterford, Wisconsin, some 30 minutes out of Milwaukee, and first fell in love with photography in a high school photo class. Ligocki majored in photojournalism at Winona State, and worked for a year at a photo studio in Stillwater.
When the studio closed, she went to work at Kohl’s as a Visual Supervisor, but she kept shooting freelance gigs and always had her eye on returning to her calling full-time.
“It was scary when I quit my job to do photography full-time,” she admitted. “But it felt fantastic. This was my dream, and I feel very blessed to be able to do this.”
At the beginning, it was unclear if Ligocki would be able generate enough business to make photography a viable full-time career. A store manager at Kohl’s gave her three referrals for shoots, and from there Ligocki gradually built up her business and today boasts over 250 clients––nearly all via referrals.
Her customers rave about her.
“The photos Anna took of our daughter's first year––from her birth to her baptism to her first Christmas––are among our most cherished,” said Christina Ries, of Inver Grove Heights. “Anna has great instincts. She knows how to manage a shoot, how to collaborate with the subjects and how to sniff out a potential pose or prop. I feel like she gets us, as a family, and somehow that understanding comes across in her pictures.”
Ries hired Ligocki to come to United Hospital and photograph the birth of her daughter, a unique photo shoot that produced the proud mother’s most cherished photos.
“What an awesome opportunity to have our little girl’s very first moments of life captured so beautifully,” Ries said. “She nailed every shot, delivering incredibly sharp and poignant images of labor and delivery. Somehow she could make a sterile hospital room feel artistic. Anna handled the delicate situation with grace, maturity and reverence.”
Ries was so impressed with Ligocki that she’s already hired the photographer to come back several times to capture key moments in her daughter’s life. “Life gets busy, and it's hard for busy parents to pull out the camera and capture the moment as often as we intend to. We will always be grateful that we hired Anna to do this for us.”
Nick McCarthy, of St. Paul, hired Ligocki as his wedding photographer on July 19 and was similarly impressed. “As a high school teacher and football coach, I have been called many things over the years, but ‘photogenic’ is not one of them,” McCarthy said. “Anna even managed to make me look good in a few photos, so that’s real talent. Plus she was great to work with on the day of the wedding. She was like a great quarterback, like Tom Brady, managing everything and directing traffic to help us get some mementos of our big day.”
As for myself, I am realizing that the mementos in my life will change. The birth of my son signals that. My basement is filled with photo collages of trips my wife and I took––perfectly framed images of Jodie and me carefully posed in front of spectacular scenes and historic landmarks. The photos we take today are on rocking chairs and car seats, ourselves often cut-off in the background and almost always disheveled and un-showered.
I will always love to travel and will continue to do so, taking countless photos along the way, but having a child changes the lens through which you view the world. You become less interested in your own conquests, and more interested in your child’s development.
In the future, my photos will be less about the last trophy fish I caught or mountain I climbed, and more about the steps my son is taking in his own journey.
I can’t think of anything more beautiful.
Anna Ligocki’s website is www.annaligocki.com. To contact her, call 651.307.6577 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My wife’s family is from St. Louis and many of her relatives, including her father, worked for the Cardinals for part or all of their careers. At our wedding reception, my father-in-law gave my wife and me this baby Cardinals jersey. During his toast he presented us with the gift, saying that he hoped we’d have kids someday who were part of Cardinal Nation.
One month later, he died unexpectedly. My wife wears a pendant engraved with her late father’s thumbprint. Joseph won’t have a chance to meet his grandpa so this photo, which Anna artfully captured, has special meaning to us.
I have over 150 fishing pictures displayed in my garage. For some strange reason, my wife thinks they match the décor in the garage above our lawn mower better than in the living room above the fireplace. The photos feature me hoisting 55-pound sturgeon, 40-pound catfish, 30-pound muskie, 25-pound king salmon and 20-pound pike, plus a wide array of other trophy catches including lake trout, leopard sharks, bonefish and sting rays with 5-foot-long wingspans.
In the years ahead, I am ready for these ego shots to give way to pictures of Joseph holding a bluegill. I think my fishing pictures will have less to do with the species and the size, and more to do with the smile on my son’s face.
They say it’s good to talk a lot to your baby, but sometimes I don’t know what to say to a 10-day-old, so I take him into the garage and tell him fishing stories––some of which are even true.
I look forward to the day when Joseph becomes a part of those stories, though for now I am loving the baby stage and am thankful Anna’s photography skills can help me capture and savor these fleeting moments.