Through the eyes of a photographer: Babies, maternity and more

Published on: June 24, 2015


Marilin Larken displays a gown for a quinceañera ceremony. Lisa Stark photo.

Marilin Larken displays a gown for a quinceañera ceremony. Lisa Stark photo.

One of the most extraordinary times in a couple’s life is the expectation and birth of a child. Capturing this special moment is the goal of Apollo Beach photographer Marilin Larken, a wife and mother of five.

“I found my love of photography when my second daughter was born,” said Larken. “My husband gave me an SLR camera when I came home from the hospital, and I began taking photographs of my children.”

She said she still remembers the excitement and anticipation of getting the films back and seeing her memories captured in tangible form.

Her studio, Sweet Rose Photography, at 205 Apollo Beach Blvd., specializes in newborn and maternity portraiture, creating heirloom-quality works that celebrate this special milestone in a family’s life.

Maternity sessions are held in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, and newborns are photographed at 7-10 days old, when they are “still curly and sleepy.”

Larken said she strives to give her clients an “elite” experience, helping to select wardrobe and designing photo collections to match their home décor, and even hanging the finished artwork in their homes.

Baby portrait created at Sweet Rose Studio.

Baby portrait created at Sweet Rose Studio.

“We take care of our clients every step of the way,” she said.

Born in Cuba and growing up in Miami, Larken was immersed in a mixture of American, Cuban and Hispanic cultures. This helped develop another of her favorite subject areas, the Hispanic tradition of quinceañera, which is the celebration of the coming-of-age of a young girl on her 15th birthday.

Quinceañera customs highlight God, family, friends, music, food and dance, and are often celebrated in a lavish party that may include a mariachi band and many guests, much like a wedding. The young woman wears an elaborate ball gown, with her court dressed in gowns and tuxedos.

Planning for a quinceañera can start as early as the birth of a daughter, with the family saving up money for years until the girl is of age.

Quinceañera portrait created by Marilin Larken.

Quinceañera portrait created by Marilin Larken.

Larken not only helps the family plan for the quinceañera  but also assists in selecting and purchasing the young lady’s gown, accessories, photo albums, invitations and framed canvas prints.

“It’s an important part of the family’s history,” said Larken, “and it’s critical that it be documented in a beautiful, professional manner that will be treasured for a lifetime.”

In this age of digital photography and the Internet, a lot of classical lighting and photographic techniques seem to be getting lost, said Larken. It’s a concern that’s being echoed among many educated, trained photographers in a climate where culture and taste seem to be shrinking. Many wonder what will become of this most photographed generation of children in history as the immediacy and impermanence of the Internet replaces traditional photo albums and boxes of treasured old family photos stashed in closets and attics.

“The irony is that kids will actually end up with little visual documentation of their childhood because it will be lost to the cyber world,” wrote David Carson, one of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photography staffers.

Because technology changes so quickly, it renders older, more formal portraits obsolete. Mugging for the camera replaces capturing candid moments in a more artistic and meaningful way.

The paradox is that our children grow up with thousands of digital photos of their childhoods, yet few they will hold or carry with them.

Marilin Larken shoots portraits in her Apollo Beach studio. Lisa Stark photo.

Marilin Larken shoots portraits in her Apollo Beach studio. Lisa Stark photo.

It is estimated that people will snap more than one trillion photos this year, according to InfoTrends’ 2015 Worldwide Image Capture Forecast. More than 740 billion of those images will be taken using smartphones, yet the majority of people will not value a picture enough to print it out.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the photographic legacy we want our children to inherit, said Larken. Preserving the story of a person’s life is about more than just clicking, sharing and gathering “likes.” Larken said she believes that creating prints, books, framed pieces and albums is much more meaningful than storing digital images in a virtual gallery.

Sweet Rose Photography offers a variety of photo packages to fit any budget, as well as custom framing, gallery-wrapped canvases, albums and cards. For more information, visit its website at or call: 813-319-4203.