The Swansons are one of my favorite families to photograph. I met them a few years ago when we did their session near their home. It was beautiful. I wanted to share it but because they were in the process of adopting their boys, Saivion and Sy. I was over the moon when Stacy let me know they wanted me to photograph the adoption. Since the session they have also adopted Tallulah. The love and commitment Jack and Stacy have for their family makes my heart swell. What amazing people!
Kendall was a doll for her session. She is such a sweet girl and you can tell how loving she is by spending 5 minutes with her. She adores electronics and is a pro at being able to pull up and watch her favorite shows. It was sure a hot day for their session but the whole family was all smiles!
(Photo shared with permission from Lorie Kesl)
In 2006 I heard my very favorite photographer, Sandy Puc, speak at a convention. At the end she told us about a nonprofit she had formed with Cheryl Haggard called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) They needed photographers to volunteer to take the only professional portraits of babies that never get to go home from the hospital.
I thought that sounded like such a beautiful service as the tears slid down my cheeks. Certainly not something I could ever do though. I wear my emotions on my sleeve.
The following year I heard Sandy speak again. At the end, she again talked about the need for NILMDTS photographers. I decided to sign up in my area and hoped I would never get a call. I signed up and no calls. I was relieved that that sort of thing apparently wasn't happening in Waterloo, Iowa.
At a session a few months later I was telling one of my favorite clients, Lorie Kesl about how I had signed up. We were doing Kamden's 2-year portraits. Since Lorie was pregnant we did some pregnancy photos too.
A couple months later I got a call late at night from Lorie's sister in law, Jamie. Jamie was also one of my favorite clients and I wasn't sure why she would be calling so late. She told me that Lorie had delivered Maggie and she was stillborn and Lorie wanted pictures like I had told her about.
My heart sank. We already had scheduled Maggie's newborn session and this could not be happening. Not to someone I knew! I did Lorie's session that night and meeting Maggie changed me. She was so perfect and beautiful.
After the session, I saw how the portraits I took were so important in the healing of their family. I started to visit and educate the hospitals in my area about NILMDTS. I found out that those kinds of tragedies occur and they didn't know about us. After that, I got calls on a pretty regular basis. Before I moved to Peoria in 2009 I had 3 consecutive Fridays I had a session. It was heartbreaking.
It's hard work but I know it's why I am meant to be a photographer. I can give families a priceless gift that they can never repay. But they do repay it and never know. In seeing how they heal, in their lifelong friendship and in seeing the things they do to honor their babies. I have gotten so much from my volunteer work. I feel like meeting these families and these angels has been such a gift.
Our organization has really grown. From just photographers to now having roles for non-photographers. Positions like session dispatcher to take calls and line up a photographer and assistant to positions raising community awareness so no family goes home without our gift to recruiting volunteers to help us find more photographers willing to help. We need more volunteers in the Peoria area. I bet every area feel the same so if you aren't in Peoria you can help in your area. Please feel free to check out the positions online and see if one might be a good fit for you. Contact me with any questions.
Please, share my post so we can make everyone aware of our services! I hear every day from people who have never heard of us and I wish for everyone to know we are here for families who need us.
Brenda has been Arianna's bus driver for the past 2 years and she and I have gotten to know each other so when she asked me to take these portraits I was over the moon! We did an engagement session but in their full wedding attire as they eloped soon after and were planning a reception and wanted these portraits for decorations at the party. They went to SO much work to set it all up with the Harley and the antiques and I was so happy with how they came out! Brenda didn't mention to me but she was having a lot of pain during the session (you wouldn't know by her glow and smiles!) and spent the rest of the weekend under observation at the hospital! Congratulations to the Schaefers!!!
Deena, Walter and Maya were a delightful family to photograph. They live in a beautiful and picturesque location near Morton and driving to their home was so beautiful. They have a lake and the most amazing landscaping that there was no other place more appealing to all of us for their session.
We used their yard as well as their neighbor's yard and the three of them did so great! From clothing to posing and smiles it was a real joy. Even their 2 dogs got in a couple portraits. I know they will treasure these portraits forever and I was honored to be a part of that.
One of my very favorite local organizations to be the volunteer photographer for is EP!C and yesterday I got to photograph the annual cookout for the individuals served by EP!C and their families. Since I was in about 2nd grade I have had a close friend with disabilities and we keep in contact to this date. Every time I serve EP!C as their volunteer photographer I think of my good friend Tim!
EP!C has been serving individuals with developmental disabilities and their families since 1950.
It began as a group of Peoria-area parents wanting to provide their children with education and opportunity, an unprecedented service for individuals with disabilities at the time. This founding group of parents established a school for their children.
They grew and added new programs and services, and in 2013, they changed our name from PARC (Peoria Association of Retarded Citizens) to EP!C, which stands for Empower People, Inspiring Capabilities.
What began as a service for ten has served over 600, enriching the lives of adults with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, and other intellectual or developmental disabilities. They are also a resource for our participant’s families, offering support through care, information, and encouragement.
The following letter is shared with permission from a fellow photographer:
July 2nd, 2011Jeanine –
Today I am writing for a couple of reasons. I have some quiet time at the moment and need to get a couple of things off my mind. I will leave this for my husband to deliver to you when he is ready.
You photographed my wedding, you photographed my first pregnancy and my first baby. I contacted you awhile back to photograph my 2nd child and family. After getting prices and realizing I would want all of the pictures as we love your work – I decided against spending $500+ – which is what I normally spend for portraits and prints with you.. Please know it is not because I don’t value your amazing eye, or how much we love the experience.
That week that I decided to NOT do a session with you, this is how I spent some money.
On Sunday I called and cancelled our session. Monday I went out and got my hair cut ($39+tip), and colored ($65), Thursday I had my nails done ($24), my family went out to dinner at a somewhat expensive restaurant for no particular reason costing us $79 + tip. This was just 4 days since canceling our session, already totaling over $200 for un necessary things. My nails only lasted about 2 weeks, my hair is gone, and seven weeks passed when I got the phone call from our doctor. It was not something I expected and the cancer has spread very quickly. I will be leaving my husband, my 6 year old girl and my now 2 year old – not by choice. It is very hard for me to talk about it which is why I need to write you.
I watch your Facebook page and your posts about the value of a photo and if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well… I would do it in a heartbeat.
Now my time is done and there are no more chances for me. The next time someone cancels a session – my wish is that you forward this letter to them. Time is fragile, it is gone before you know you had it. If you charged $200 for one print it wouldn’t be enough for what it is actually worth. I cringe to think that my priorities were a manicure over a memory to pass onto my babies and husband.
My love and thanks for what you have given us from past photos. I am so sorry that I did not see it as more than paper until now.
Blissful Images is a Certified Professional Family Portrait Photographer in Peoria, Illinois specializing in preserving your family's memories in photographic prints and wall art.
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