The Crane Wife | Children’s Concept Photography

First, you need to know that this concept was inspired by one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists. They released an album in 2006 (and, I think it is also my favorite album of theirs) titled “The Crane Wife”. There are 3 songs on this album (Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3) that tell a story that has captured my imagination for quite some time now. I’ve included a video of this below; please watch it to get the full effect.

This was a personal project that was very special to me. I knew going into it that I was going to have to take my time with every last detail since I also knew that I wanted these on my walls. I could not find a wardrobe that fit my vision for this shoot and I did what I often do and decided to just make something. Unfortunately, I do not have the best sewing technique and tend to learn things like that on the fly so I enlisted the help of a friend that is a very talented costume seamstress and knitter to help me construct the bones of the dress. My vision for this shoot was sculpted by the Decemberists style of music, especially on their Crane Wife album, which has a whimsical western flare to it (in my ever so humble opinion, anyway); the dress had to reflect that. I started with a “western” prairie girl-esque dress pattern from Simplicity (kind of like this western style girls costume but I can’t remember now if it was actually this pattern) and mixed and matched the pieces in there until we got the look I wanted with a stark white sateen-like material. I then picked different elements, all in grey, white, and black, to embellish it and give it an avian feel. This included a white with black piping ruffle fabric, sheer white frienge, lots of lace, and some grey organza to add a Victorian sash (kind of like tail feathers). To put it simply, the finished product is, despite my shoddy costuming abilities, stunning!

I ended up compromising quite a bit on my original vision and plan because I could not find the right location. Once I found it, my girl (whom the dress was made specifically to fit) had outgrown it to the point that we couldn’t even zip it all the way up! My perfect location is in the Tacoma area and I was flying back to Houston to pick up the kids after a stay with the grandparents and I knew that I couldn’t wait another 2 weeks to do the shoot, so I threw the dress in my luggage and purchased props in Texas, where I photographed my kid the first day I was there. It isn’t perfectly what I wanted but I still love this set of photos for what they are. I do plan to photograph this again with a different model in the Seattle area, so if you have a girl (preferably with dark hair) that fits a size 5/6 dress, and are interested in a session like this, let me know!

“And all the stars were crashing around
As I laid eyes on what I’d found”


“It was a white crane
It was a helpless thing
On a red stain
With an arrow its wing
And it called and cried
And it called and cried so”

“My crane wife arrived at my door in the moonlight
All star bright and tongue-tied, I took her in
We were married and bells rang sweet for our wedding”

“We were poorly, our fortunes fading hourly
And how she avowed me, she could bring it back
But I was greedy, I was vain and I forced her to weaving
On a cold loom, in a closed room with down and wool”

“Sound the keening bell
And see it’s painted red
Soft as fontenelle
The feathers in the thread
And all I ever meant to do was to keep you
My crane wife…
There’s a bend in the wind and it rakes at my heart
There is blood in the thread and it rakes at my heart
It rakes at my heart”

“And under the boughs unbowed
all clothed in the snowy shroud
She had no heart so hardened
All under the boughs unbowed
Each feather it fell from skin
‘Til thread bare while she grew thin
How were my eyes so blinded?
Each feather it fell from skin”

“And I will hang my head, hang my head low…
A grey sky, a bitter sting
A rain cloud, a crane on wing
All out beyond horizon
A grey sky, a bitter sting”