Sometimes in life there are pivotal moments and events that change us. They sculpt who we are as people, how we look at the world, what we think is important. For me, one of these events happened just after I turned 4. Around the time I have some of my earliest memories. My little sister Katie died suddenly, and despite her illness, unexpectedly.
She was born with a congenital heart defect – Tetraology of Fallot. She was a blue baby, and struggled to put on weight and grow because she was so tired all the time. “Failure to Thrive” so they call it. Just after her first birthday she had open heart surgery to correct the holes in her heart. My parents were told that the risks of surgery were minimal. The thought that they could lose her never even entered their minds.
Thirty years on, my Mum still tells a story which is probably part of the reason I am so passionate about photography. The week before her surgery, my sister had some photographs taken at our local shopping centre. I vividly remember standing next to the photographer and pulling funny faces to make her smile. Of all the images they were offered from her session they chose a couple of their favourite ones. The next week, she was gone…
Reeling from the shock of her loss, my parents contacted the photography company wanting to buy every photo they had taken of her that day. Sadly, they had already been destroyed. The sad part about it is that in those days before digital photography, there really aren’t that many photos of my sister’s short life. The ones we do have are so very important. Priceless. The only things that will be a testament to her existence once those of us who remember her are gone.
Having this happen to my family when I was so young has definitely shaped me as a person. I am so sentimental. I hold on to pretty much all of my children’s things and find it so hard to part with things. But most of all, it has made me love photography. None of us are here forever, but photography can capture these moments in time. We can look make on these moments for the rest of our lives. You really can’t put a price tag on that.
So please know that every time I pick up my camera to photograph my clients I take my job very seriously. This is not just a job to me. I know just how important these photographs are. Not only to you right now, but to your children, and your children’s children.