Sarah Simmons of Charlie Horse Photography in New Zealand captured the image, which mom Cherie Ayrton calls "a powerful photo" of her boys "together forever."

By Maressa Brown
September 18, 2018

There are very few moments in life—especially in parenthood—where your emotions are absolute. One family in New Zealand, for whom extreme grief arrived at the same time as ultimate joy, knows this all too well. A mom named Cherie Ayrton recently took to Love What Matters to share the story of how she learned she was pregnant with twin boys only to, at her five-month mark, learn one of the babies—whose name was Johnny—had passed away. Ayrton had to carry both boys so that baby Tiger could live. 

Alongside her heart-wrenching experience, Ayrton also shared a gasp-worthy image of Tiger and Johnny's ashes side-by-side shot by Sarah Simmons of Charlie Horse Photography. Simmons said in a statement to press that her aim was to "photograph them in the same bowl to represent that they both shared the same womb and twisted the fabric around them both like an umbilical cord to show they will always be connected together."

Simmons actually reached out to Ayrton first. "Sarah ... messaged me with an idea to capture an image of the boys together, and asked whether I was okay to bring Johnny’s ashes," Ayrton wrote Love What Matters. "I couldn’t wait to see what her vision was and I was excited to get a picture of our sons that we could keep forever. When Sarah sent me the photo she created, I was absolutely blown away. It was extremely emotional to see the final product, but I’m so grateful to have such a powerful photo of my two boys together to keep forever."

The photographer understood just how emotional the experience was for Ayrton, who had previously shared a photo of her daughter Charlie holding Johnny's ashes and crying. It was that photo that caught Simmons' attention and inspired her to reach out. "It was pretty emotional at the time, but I was really determined to get the image for Cherie and her family," Simmons told the press. "I knew it would be one of the most important images I would take. I just thought how much I would want that if I was in that position."

The image turned out to be so emotional and powerful, in fact, that it won the prestigious Portrait Masters contest. Simmons told New Zealand publication Stuff, "The judge described it as a beautiful celebration of life."