How This Mom Is Bringing Kids' Imaginary Friends to Life
When Anna Angenend's daughter Mia first told her about her imaginary friend, the photographer knew just what to do. Having had her own imaginary friend as a child, she set to work bringing Zasby — a "monster" who wouldn't brush his teeth because he loved cavities — to life. With the help of artist and illustrator Amy Snyder, they created a priceless image of two friends.
Anna and Amy, who also came of age alongside an imaginary friend, decided to create a series of portraits of kids and their pretend pals, titled My Monster & Me. We spoke with Anna about their unique project and why it's so important for these secret friendships to be seen by all.
POPSUGAR: How do you get children to open up about their imaginary friends?
Anna Angenend: The younger ones usually leak information during their playtime with us. For the older kids, 5 years old and up, I ask them what their favorite superpowers are, what they want to be when they grow up . . . what they like to do with their imaginary friend. They love to talk all about them!
PS: From the looks of your images, they're all so different. Any commonalities among all these "monsters"?
AA: It's not always one consistent imaginary friend. My daughter always says a dragon is chasing us, and we have to hide. Yesterday, she was walking around with a stick she found in the yard, and "casting spells" on trees. And "Melvin" was inspired when she asked me if we could invite the moon to a party.
PS: How were you able to portray their friends accurately?
AA: I ask them to draw what their monster looks like, then we talk about what their skin or fur feels like, what color it is . . . do they have eyes? Spikes? Scales? Some kids are very specific, and others have lots of pretend sidekicks or monsters that change every day. In that case, we would primarily focus on what the child likes to do and find a setting and concept that fits them well. The parents are really helpful with this!
PS: Who was your imaginary friend?
AA: Mine was an adult named Jessica. She was a school teacher. Together, we would line up all of my Beanie Babies in front of the fridge, and we would conduct choir practice together. I'd also vent to Jessica about why I couldn't fly in real life like I did in my dreams, and other important stuff like that!
PS: What's your message to kids with imaginary friends . . . and to parents of such kids?
AA: We want to capture the magic of their uninhibited imaginations. I think it is great to let that run wild, and for them to have a friend of sorts that will stick with them no matter what. Most kids know that their friends are pretend, yet it is very real to them in some ways.
As parents, we strive to hold on to memories of all of their first milestones and what they were like when they were little. Their imaginations are one of the biggest parts of childhood, and we want to turn it into a memorable experience for the kids, and a keepsake for them and their parents.