An Adoption Story // Aaron Joel Santos



With a big smile on his face, a four-year-old boy runs with open arms into the receiving hands of his father—Giggles and laughter emanate from the child and his mother as she playfully tips him upside-down on her lap—Loving hands embrace the little boy.


These are a few of the precious moments Hanoi-based photographer Aaron Joel Santos captured when Italian couple Isabeau and Paolo adopted their first child, four-year-old Nguyen Van Tien from Vietnam.


The photo shoot was a gift from Isabeau’s brother, a fashion photographer, who wanted to give his sister and her husband an everlasting memory of their journey into parenthood. He felt Aaron could produce such a series.


Happy to be a part of the special day, Aaron began shooting after brief introductions. He traveled along in and around Hanoi for the adoption process and official ceremony, and in a short period of time juggled his artistic and technical choices with maintaining a certain amount of distance to give the family their bonding time.


Technically, even though Aaron often combines color and black & white photography to deliver more depth and complexity to the viewer, he explains, “I think the reason so many ended up in black & white is that I was trying to simplify the backgrounds and get rid of annoying colors, etc. to help the couple and their son pop out of the frames. Plus, it was a lot of traveling to various government buildings and low-rent hotels, neither of which are known for their striking color palettes or general architectural beauty.”


A challenge Aaron speaks of is “gaining the trust of a four-year-old newly-adopted Vietnamese child who’d never been in the presence of that many westerners before, and was legitimately pretty weirded out;” wide-eyed curiosity is apparent, but what ultimately comes across in Aaron’s work is a happy four-year-old contented in the arms of his new family and an elated couple welcoming their new son.


As an editorial and travel photographer Aaron gets all kinds of assignments around the world, yet this piece was quite unique for him and of the experience Aaron remarks, “I still think it’s one of the cooler assignments I’ve been hired to do. It was also this amazing little glimpse into another life, as I was there at this extremely intimate juncture, both for the couple and the child. I’m very grateful to them for allowing me in, and at this point I can only hope they still enjoy the images, and will continue to do so.”


Aaron is a NOI Pictures photographer, discover more of his work through his website and blog.