Outlook – a story of bowel cancer and survival.
More and more, with every client I meet, I seem to be presented with remarkable stories that need to be told. I no longer seem to have “average” connections with my clients, and I just adore this. Lisa and Alan are a perfect example. Lisa contacted me saying that they were going to drive all the way from Roma just for a family portrait session with me. A 5 and a half hour drive just for me?! Needless to say, I thought I’d better bring my A-game with this one and create something wonderful for them!
Like many of my concepts, this one had been in my head for a long time. Well over a year in fact. I thought about it regularly, and knew that I was just waiting for the right family to bring it to life.
Aside from our direct communications, probably the most crucial part of developing a shoot for my clients, is my questionnaire. I have formulated a very specific, and sometimes confronting set of questions that I have each client answer for me, in a bid to get to know their family at an intimate level. In the images that I create, the stories are real and develop through a very organic process as I learn about my clients.
Every completed questionnaire that I receive is unique, not just in the answers themselves but even in the way the answers are written. It really helps me to “see” my clients, their family dynamic and more. There is always one thing in every questionnaire that jumps out at me – like a lightbulb moment where I read it and think “oh, I know exactly what to do for these guys”. Lisa and Alan were no different and when the moment hit, I knew that they were the family I had been waiting for to bring this concept to life.
There was this:
“We are so proud of Allan and so lucky to have him. He is a bowel cancer survivor (we spent last year doing the cancer thing) and apart from that he is the sunshine in my life. Al says it makes him smile to see me (Lisa) enjoying life.”
“Christian is just SO CUTE and cuddly and chatty that you can’t help but smile. He was a very unexpected miracle- we found out about him the same day we got Al’s cancer diagnosis and were lucky to hang on to him. We had many trips to fetal medicine specialists for him, and there were all sorts of dire fears for him, so now we look at him- huge, happy and healthy- and feel pretty dang blessed.”
“We are ‘that family’ that watch the sun set every chance we get, and the sun rise when we are crazy enough.”
As the time for our session drew near, I telephoned Lisa for some more details and clarity. I was just totally swept up in our conversation and the love that burst forth from every word she said to me. This lady ADORES her husband. This is a family that just oozes love from every pore of their being. I had to show this in their images – that was my top priority. I learned too, that whilst the bowel cancer struggle they had endured this past 18 months had taken it’s toll on them, this family was stoic and embraced life with both hands and humor and joy.
Some additional facts that will explain our concept to you further:
Lisa – Mum – a teacher with a passion for teaching children to read.
Alan – Dad – an engineer who loves sport.
Alexander – 5 yo – serious and introverted. Loves to read and tell stories.
Gracie – 3yo – lots of fun with an exuberant and affectionate personality. Completely cheeky and loves to give her big brother cuddles.
Christian – 8 months – a BIG boy at 13kg and with the nickname “Fat Baby” – adores his mummy and is the cuddliest little man you will ever meet. Lisa and Alan discovered that they were expecting Christian on the very same day that they received Alan’s bowel cancer diagnosis. A lot to take in for one family.
So, my concept was simple – a family dressed in newspaper, in a newspaper boat to show the link to Lisa’s passion for reading – plus it would help to appease my need to be creative. The parents would be watching on as the kids paddled their boat out to see off to find adventure. Alexander would be looking out through a spy glass, quietly taking in the scene before them, and Grace would be excited and giggling at what lay ahead.
One evening, I was excitedly chatting to Hemi, from PXMX Productions about my concept. I am like a kid at Christmas when I am developing these shoots – my friend Sara says I am like a nutty professor as the chaos in my head spills over. I bounce around like a puppy with nervous energy and anticipation. Apparently, my excitement is contagious.
Hemi decided that he wanted to be involved and so together, we developed the concept even further. We decided that the family needed to be looking out toward a brighter future, with a dark stormy sky behind them. Rays of light would be reaching down to them to signify their Christian beliefs that have helped them through such a difficult time. Baby Christian needed to be with Mummy and Daddy – as he has managed to beat the odds too. There would be a message in a bottle in the foreground – their message of hope. Gracie would be “driving” with her positivity and cheekiness creating an uplifting feel to the final image. Introvert Alexander would be looking ahead through a spy glass, in his own quiet, observant way.
Hemi also went a step further, and offered for the team at PXMX Productions to create an amazing video to document the family’s story and their experience during our time together. This really got the creative juices flowing for me and increased my usual excitement even more. I have wanted for so long to collaborate with other creatives and just knew the result would be amazing. And it was!
My original vision was to have a boat that looked exactly as though it had been folded from newspaper in origami style. It soon became apparent that it wouldn’t work though, and I had to let it evolve into something a bit different. So just how do you make a newspaper boat anyways? It took a bit of working out, but after some brainstorming with Hemi, many hours, 35 newspapers and 7 rolls of sticky tape, and clear contact, I managed to pull it together…
By 4am on shoot day, I had finally finished covering everything in newspaper…
I had hoped for an overcast day to help me achieve the atmospheric feel that I wanted for the session. Mother nature kindly obliged. 🙂 We even had storm clouds, alleviating the need for me to composite them in. Here, you see my big girl Molly-Rose helping me with initial lighting tests…
Despite the perfect lighting conditions, we did have to work with a bit of wind and rain, which wasn’t ideal, and made for some wardrobe adjustments along the way…
We decided it would be fun to warn passers by just what was going on on this very public beach in Caloundra. Thanks so much to Molly-Rose for snapping these for us. That’s me on the left, working with the family, and the PXMX Production team on the right looking on.
It was great to work with Hemi and Laszlo, and to see the story come to life…
We are so excited to share the final two images that I created for Lisa and Alan.
Firstly, we have the entire family, just as I saw the image in my own imagination many months ago…
And finally, we have Gracie and Alexander, as they head towards a bright future and many adventures to come…
And for Part II, which showcases the beautiful video that PXMX Productions have created as well as the candid family portraits we captured during our time together, head over to the second post that is right here.
We hope that what we have created will be enjoyed by Lisa and Alan and family for many generations to come, and wish them a beautiful vibrant future together.