Mariah Charmayne Latimer ~ Forever Family, February 14, 2011

According to Wikipedia, "Saint Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day, is an annual commemoration held on February 14th, celebrating love and affection between intimate companions." Some might also define it as the day to buy overpriced flowers and chocolate covered strawberries. And some of us might not acknowledge it all. But for 15-year-old Mariah, Valentine's Day has taken on a whole new meaning, and it couldn't be any sweeter. This past Monday, February 14, 2011, Mariah became an official Latimer family member through an adoption proceeding witnessed by a dozen close family members and friends.

Although Dena and Samantha Latimer were married in a March 2009 ceremony in Martha's Vineyard, MA, Missouri law currently allows for only one of them to adopt Mariah now, with an option to complete a second-parent adoption at a later time. Although Dena officially took the stand as the legally adoptive parent, Samantha stood there in spirit and watched from the benches as Mariah was sworn in. The smile on Samantha's face said it all. She didn't have to be standing up there to know that Mariah was just as much hers as Dena's. They were both getting a daughter that day.
At this point I have to interject and say that the following court photos would not have been possible without the kindness of two people: the Latimer's attorney and the Judge. Long story short, camera's are not looked upon lightly in the courthouse. Period. I knew this from my days of newspaper photography and basically using your camera in any governmental building is a challenge. The other kicker, I had no time to research or try to make contacts for permission to photograph since I booked this commission with less than 24-hour notice. Apparently the only photo ever allowed during adoption proceedings is a single cheesy posed shot with the judge afterward. Afterward?!?! What, are you kidding me? As if the most important moment to document during the whole experience is a staged snapshot of the family with an uncomfortable judge who just wants to get on with her morning. I don't think so. Enter super photographer Rebecca Allen here. I just couldn't see how I was going to walk out of that courtroom with only one photo. But, with some persistence (after going through two other "officials"), I was able to plead my case with the Latimer's attorney who agreed to speak to the judge on my behalf for permission to take photos. I don't know what the attorney said, but even the security guard was shocked that the judge permitted me to photograph. The whole thing lasted maybe 15 minutes and then it was over. And so as that chapter closed in Mariah's life, a new one began with a new last name and two proud Moms overwhelmed with joy to finally call her "their daughter".
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The raw emotion shown in this next set of photos is what documentary photography is all about. While editing these photos they reminded me of something Samantha had shared with me via email the night before the adoption. She wrote, "The overwhelming emotion that MJ [Mariah] displayed when she was given the news of our pending date and time was priceless. She laughed and cried, screamed and shook, all while trying to maintain her composure. It was a moment that we will never forget, it still gives me chills just thinking about it."
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  1. The best photography of an event I have ever seen...well done!

  2. Thank you, Anonymous person! :)

  3. Heidi Jolliff2/18/11, 8:43 PM

    Congrats Sam & Dena & MJ! And truly AMAZING pics Rebecca!

  4. Heidi, thanks for the nice words. It was an honor to be the one to document the occassion!