The Field with the Wildflowers

This article was recently featured in a local magazine, The Heart of Oro Valley. I’m so grateful to have my story shared in my community!

Looking back on my childhood, I have a camera in my hand in even my earliest memories. I remember the first time I stood on my tip-toes to reach up and put a roll of film on the pharmacy counter and the day that my camp roommate told me my photos were “artsy and cool.” I cried happy tears when I invested in my first lens and it arrived on my doorstep just in time to leave for our family vacation. And I’ll never forget when my mom had enough faith in my artwork to commission me for a family portrait to go above the piano. All are sweet moments that I remember vividly and fondly.

But to be honest, the moment I made up my mind about photographing people professionally was actually a time when I was in front of the camera, rather than behind it. I was passionate, talented, and tirelessly creative, but on this day, none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was the meeting I’d had with my doctor the week before.

“Small, blue, cancerous cells,” he said. “They’re in your bone marrow.”

I didn’t know it yet, but those small, blue, cancerous cells would dominate the next three and a half years of my life. I’d endure countless days and nights in the hospital, I’d allow all kinds of poison to drip into my veins, and I’d lose my hair over and over and over again. I’d suffer through surgeries, infections, isolation, fear, and worst of all, funerals. Children’s funerals. I’d attend more children’s funerals in the next three and a half years than I had attended adults’ funerals in my whole life to that point. But like I said, I didn’t know it yet.

What I knew was that I had cancer, and there was a photographer, Krystie Shirah, who wanted to give my family a gift. She told us what to wear, gathered us on a Tuesday afternoon in a field with wildflowers, and captured the one thing we had at that moment to hold us steady: love. She framed the portrait and delivered it right to our door. We hung it on the wall, and we looked at it everyday.

 
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That portrait is still on display in my parents’ home. When I look at it, I don’t see fear. I don’t see sadness or sickness. I don’t see pain or stress or fatigue. When I look at that family portrait, I only see a moment. Just one sweet moment of perfection. A moment when all that mattered was the love we shared, and that love gave us strength. The gift that Krystie gave us was so much more than a picture in a frame.

It was a story. A memory. It was a legacy.

I wasn’t thinking about my career on that day in the field with the wildflowers, but the moment that Krystie captured and the portrait hanging on my parents’ wall propelled me down the path to portrait artistry. I desire for every single family I work with to have one of those moments for themselves. I want my clients to look at their portraits for decades to come and forget their heartaches as they remember the love they share, the story they get to tell, and the legacy they will leave.

I’m thankful for the gift of portraiture, I’m thankful to be alive and able to tell my story, and I’m even more thankful to be able to tell yours.

 

Thank you, Krystie, for your gift to my family. Thank you, The Heart of Oro Valley, for sharing my story with your readers. And thank you, sweet clients, for trusting me to capture your memories and create heirloom artwork for you. I will never take this career for granted.

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