The Image: Nancy Newberry, from the series "Mum"

The person I have photographed most consistently in recent years is the daughter of a friend of mine, named Julia. She is standing in the center of this photograph which is part of my series MUM. While working on this project, she has been the only subject I have known personally prior to starting the series.

In September 2010, when she was a sophomore in high school, I was anxious to make her part of the project. I had been working intermittently on MUM for a few years, and I was convinced she would be a great addition. I thought it would be simple, so I set up a time, packed my gear and went to her house.

My subjects in the series are shot in and around their homes and I had already decided where to photograph her. I imagined her inside her house, in what they call the round-room. This room consists of a smallish 70s curved dining area, with narrow aluminum framed floor-to-ceiling windows that hover over a kidney shaped pool. I set the lights, brought her in, and started shooting. But something wasn't working. Struggling to connect, I decided to change the shot and moved her to the back yard. There was a whitewashed brick wall with blue morning glories, an herb lined fence, and a pool. Endless possibilities, but it still wasn't working. My effort lasted a few hours until my gut told me the shot just wasn't there. I kept silent, said it was great and hoped my instinct was wrong.

I visited the edit many times to retrace my steps in an attempt to learn from it. I decided I was treating Julia differently from the other subjects because I already knew her. The pictures were fine but completely wrong for the series, and I concluded Julia simply couldn't be part of the project.

Over a year later, in January 2011, I changed my mind when she agreed to try again. When I arrived at her house, she was taking a nap. I had a new puppy that I wanted to show her, but I began to set up lights and prepare for the shot while she slept. When I finished lighting, I sat on the floor to play with my pup when the late afternoon winter light began to sweep through the doorway. At that moment, everything changed and I ran to wake her up. We played with the dog for a short time, but as I watched the light move across the floor, suddenly everything was in focus. The shot was there all along. I just had to wait for it.

- Nancy Newberry