A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to document Mary’s 90th birthday celebration. Think about that number for a minute. 90. Ninety! How awesome is that? And on that day, she was surrounded by family and loved ones. Multiple generations: young children, and adults who were older in years, but young at heart. To make the event even more fun to capture, Mary was a hoot! When she saw me, she state (with a laugh), “I’ve had a few glasses of wine! I’m going to have to sit before picture time!”.
One of my favorite parts about the time I spent with Mary and her family, was watching them go through a suitcase full of old photos. Sure, as a photographer you enjoy seeing printed photos, but my emotional connection to this was about watching family members reminisce about days gone by. It was about experiencing them revel in how young they were in those precious keepsakes. They laughed, they smiled, they recalled families stories that they were reminded of. It was a beautiful thing to see all those family members- siblings, mothers, fathers, children-gathered around the table enjoying the same exact thing- memories.
I would like to thank the Alai family for inviting me to this wonderful celebration, and to congratulate Mary on her Milestone Birthday! And I must say, you make 90 look good!
A Personal Note
The day before I joined Mary and her family, I had attended the funeral for my aunt who had just passed. While the sadness was still fresh from the previous day, the few hours I spent with the Alai family was all about joy. I had just come from seeing my extended family (which is always nice, albeit for an unfortunate reason), and then I got to document theirs. I think this was a very healing session for me. Having just dealt with loss, made documenting this family gathering so much more meaningful. I have always touted that the most important thing to my photography, was connection. I can’t imagine feeling more connected than I did that day. I walked away that afternoon with a full heart.
The last thought (or maybe it is more of a strong suggestion) I will leave you with is to please, please, print your photos. I am kind of a broken record with this request, but it is only because I feel it is such an important thing to do. These prints are ultimately not for you now, but for your family, and for you in your later years. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Some 4×6’s in a box, or even better, and old suitcase. This is a gift you will be giving your family, and they will surely appreciate it.
When I first reached out to the Shenouda Family for their Slice of Life Session, I had not intended it to be a blog post for Autism Awareness Month. We were originally scheduled to do the shoot in February, but due to sick kiddos, we postponed it till the end of March. I hadn’t even realized that April was Autism Awareness Month. Once I came to that realization, I asked Kelly, the mother, if she would be inclined to tell her personal story about how autism has touched their lives. She was more than willing to do so, I was happy to be able to pair that with the images from our time together. Here is what Kelly shared with me:
There are pivotal moments in your life, and the day that Alex (just shy of 3 years old) was diagnosed with autism, was one of them for me. I could let the fear that my son would be stuck in this world, where I could not reach him, consume me, or I could take the even scarier road of putting my emotions aside, and learn everything I could to be the very best advocate for him. I chose the latter. I must admit, the diagnosis gave me a sense of relief. We now knew what we were dealing with and it would open many doors for help and support. Raising a child with autism is like you’re flying blind. There are no guides to follow, no outline. A lot of it is trial and error. The spectrum is large and no two children are the same.
Four and a half years ago we picked up and moved because Alex NEEDED to be in a good school district, I needed to be in a good district. I can tell you now that this was the absolute best decision we ever made. We have been surrounded by wonderful teachers, fantastic therapists, great friends, and a great support system. Milestones with autism are much slower then the typical child. Alex has come a long way since that October day. He is now 7 and has gone from not being able to walk up a curb by himself, to happily playing on the slides at the playground. From not being able to go out to eat, to sitting and eating a whole meal in a noisy restaurant. We can thank the trusty iPad for this! Alex went from eating only 3-4 foods, to consuming an array of foods, which now include fruits and veggies. This is HUGE! Alex is non-verbal so we rely on his iPad to help him communicate, but even when it isn’t available, he definitely gets his point across as to what he wants, and what he doesn’t. Emotionally, I think this is one of the hardest things for me to deal with. Imagine your child is up at night, crying, and is obviously uncomfortable, but he cannot communicate to you what hurts. We have had many nights like this and they do not get any easier. As a mother my job is to figure out what is wrong, and fix it. Often times I cannot, so I just sit and hold him. It hurts my heart. This is just a small glimpse at how autism is part of our lives. I cannot be more proud of my son and his accomplishments. I will be with him every step of the way so that I can celebrate him as he soars through life.
A warm thank you to Kelly + Nader + Nicholas and of course, Alex for allowing me to join them in their home. Slice of Life Sessions are a very intimate way to photograph your family life. I embrace any opportunity I have to be a part of this type of documentation. It can be difficult letting down your guard, and allowing someone to photograph you and your family in such a candid and honest way. I don’t take this kind of trust in me for granted. The Shenouda family was so kind, and so open with me. It made my “job” easy. I did my very best to depict their life just as I saw it. It was not hard to show their love and happiness in the images, because it was shinning through in their personalities. I just hope you can also see the strength, patience, positive energy, and unwavering support that was so very present in my time spent with them. That is what I really wanted to capture.
Thank you for joining me on the blog this morning. I am so happy to share their story, and I hope you enjoy it. I welcome you to share it so we can shed a light on autism.
Please visit autismspeaks.org to learn more about autism, donate to the cause, or see how you can get involved.
Tiny toes. Tiny fingers. Tiny smiles. Big, Big, Love. Newborn Sessions are chock full of these wonderful things. The hugging, the crying, the cooing- it is all wonderful! Every beautiful, messy, moment that sums up life with a newborn! Nothing is sweeter than watching two new parents adoring their little bundle of joy. And me. ME?! I get to be there. I get invited into these homes to share in these moments. I am so honored- so lucky. So happy that I get to do this. Today I am sharing with you some of my favorite images from my Newborn Session with little Caroline. Do you remember those early days with your little ones? It’s hard to sometimes. It’s such a whirlwind- so much new stuff. So much uncharted territory. This is why I think documenting Newborn Sessions are so important. Because it is too hard to remember everything- I mean I can barely remember what happened last week, let alone when my kiddos where infants. We need to capture these times, these images, so that when life does slows down, and we can look back, the images will be there as reminders of what it was like. How our lives were. Always make sure to capture your life now, so one day you can remember how life was.
Thank you & Enjoy
You will only need to scroll through a few pictures to realize why I titled this post “Laughter & Love”. I photographed this family last Fall, and I am finally finding myself with some time to be able to sit down and share these images with you all. What I remember the most is the colorful personalities, and the amazingly bright smiles that those happy girls shared with me. We had a great November day, a simply lovely location, and the rest just fell into place. When you (literally) give the kids some space, they have room to run and be themselves. And when they get to be themselves, I get to see those smiles and silly personalities- and that is what I love. Give me the great outdoors over a studio, any day! That’s my feeling at least, and I’m pretty sure the kiddos would agree.
As I watch February wind down, and see March around the corner, I become more and more excited to get out there with all of you wonderful families! Here’s to hoping that the groundhog was right, and Spring will be on our doorstep sooner than later.
Till then, stay warm!
Good Morning, Everyone! Today I wanted to share with you a post I made to my personal Facebook Page last week:
I took this portrait a few years ago, and it has always been one of my all time favorites, so I wanted to share it with you all again. Today I said goodbye to this beautiful woman. For 7 years Ingrid fought the battle against Ovarian Cancer courageously. It was heartwarming tonight to see her legacy through photographs. I was honored that I had been able to contribute to that documentation of her life. So tonight I ask you all to PLEASE- Get. In. The. Picture. It’s so important. Take photos WITH your kids. WITH your family. WITH your friends. These images will mean so much to people for years to come. They will bring comfort to those you loved. They will be your legacy. Don’t wait. Start doing it now.
It was my personal “PSA” if you will, about how we all need to get in the picture more. I am sharing it here in hopes that it may reach a wider audience. It is something that I truly believe in, and something that I too need to work at being better with. And let me clarify- I’m not just talking about your annual Family Photo Session, I am also talking about everyday life. Documenting you with your children, family, and friends doing everyday things. You know, all those little things that will be the things you miss when they get older. Capture them now to preserve those memories! After I posted the status above, I was touched by what some people were saying when they reached out to me. I’d like to share one of the messages here:
“Thought you would like to know that your recent post has really changed my outlook. I don’t get in the picture much because I’m not very photogenic. But you gave me a whole new perspective. It’s not about my looks or my opinion about it. My kids love me regardless. And when I’m gone, my kids would really love to see photos of their mother. Thank you for the perspective. ”
That note above made my day! Even reaching one person who might think about things differently is a success in my book. And what she said is so true- Your kids (or family and friends) won’t care what you look like in those photos- they will just be happy that you are in them. With them. When I was watching that slide show that Ingrid’s family prepared with such love, I was so amazed that she was really represented in all stages of her life. When she was sick, as well as when she was healthy. It didn’t matter that her head was wrapped in a scarf, that beautiful smile and glow she had while holding her children in those pictures are what I saw, and I am pretty sure that is what everyone else saw, too.
I have a little request of everyone who reads this- This week make an effort to get at least one photo with yourself and people you care about. I’m just asking for one. Then next week, go for another. Soon it will become second nature. Hand your camera to your significant other and have them take it. Have your kids take the pictures, too. Set up a tripod and use the timer if you need to. There’s always a way. And just to show you that I am not all preach and no practice, I did it this past weekend. I set up my tripod and captured some shots with my sons. And I am so happy I did.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this post on a subject that means so much to me. If you feel so inclined, I ask that you share it with others so that we can get as many people as possible getting in the pictures. Future generations will thank you. I promise.
Joanne Alai - How do I get/purchase copies of these so I can print some for myself?
admin - Hello Joanne, Traci has all that information. Please reach out to her. Thank you!