Professional photographer and U.S. Navy veteran Vanessa Hicks was brainstorming how to mark April as Month of the Military Child in her photography business when her own two daughters provided inspiration.
“I looked at my daughters playing dress-up in their rooms and the idea came to me,” Hicks, 30, of Monterey, California, told ABC News.
Hicks decided to host “Military Tea Time” photography sessions in which military moms and dads in their dress uniforms would have a tea party with their sons and daughters while Hicks captured it all on camera.
“I thought it’d be awesome to have the kids having a tea time with the one person they look up to the most,” she said. “Military members are our nation’s heroes, but at the end of the day, to these little kids, that’s just their hero, their mom or dad.”
Hicks set up the first tea time sessions with her own husband, Lt. Navy Officer Josh Hick, and their daughters, Jasmine, 9, and Tatyana, 7, and a group of friends and photography clients.
The sessions, held in a field in the military-heavy Monterey community, have proven so popular that Hicks has extended the offer. She hopes to photograph her first military mom and son duo soon.
“The dads and daughters just talk about their day, pour ‘tea’ and eat cookies and cupcakes,” Hicks said of the 30-minute photo sessions, which feature water in place of tea. “And I just document it. I don’t pose them.”
Hicks described the military dads as being “not too sure” at first as they sit in too-small chairs with a tea set before them, but they quickly warm up to the idea.
“I take pictures behind the dads' shoulders to capture the girls' faces and if the dads are seeing what I’m seeing, they see their daughters' face light up,” she said.