This is my beautiful friend and longtime client Riarna with her husband Troy and son Hunter. At first look, this could be a regular family photography session with me. A beautiful little family having fun together, being in the moment. And you’d be right- that’s exactly what it is. However like so many situations in life, there is a deeper meaning and significance behind these images for this family.
Photographing people honestly is what I love. If you’re familiar with my work, then you’ll know my images are a true representation of that moment in time. There’s no expectations, no script, no styling. I hope my approach will encourage more families to have me document their lives, realising ‘perfect’ is not necessary- there is after all, no such thing. Just do it. None of us know what this life holds for us, the time is now.
Way back when I launched my business, and while I was still completing my training as a photographer, Riarna became my first- ever client. She approached me after another dear friend referred her, wanting ongoing pregnancy photography which would document her journey. If possible, she also wanted birth photography, and then a newborn session. We did indeed photograph her pregnancy in intervals from 20 weeks gestation onward. Birth photography, a service I don’t normally offer because I cannot guarantee my availability, was something she was flexible about. As luck would have it, the day Riarna went into labour, I was already at work in my other role as a Midwife. I tend to be helping mothers birth in a hands- on sense, rather than working behind my camera! Master Hunter Thomas duly arrived, and I was then able to capture some images of them settling in at home as a new family of three.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of being asked to capture Hunter’s first birthday cake smash and more recently this family session.
Following the birth of Hunter, Riarna embarked on a fitness and wellness journey which saw her bounce back from pregnancy and birth, to emerge in the best shape of her life. She became incredibly knowledgable about nutrition and exercise, began studying and launched her own business ‘Coconut Chaos’, making protein balls for the masses. Life was fabulous. I’m sure it was Riarna and Troy’s full intention to have more children when the time was right for them, and they must have felt, like all of us that this was a given.
And this is where their story abruptly changes direction.
Riarna is the person to tell her own story best. Suffice to say that everything they thought was to be in their future changed forever with the diagnosis of stage 3 cervical cancer. There would be no more babies, and she was to embark on the fight of her life. None of us can ever truly know what this journey has been like for her and her family, but suffice to say she has beaten this cancer and is kicking butt once more. An amazing lady. She documents her journey and recovery on her FACEBOOK PAGE and BLOG. She has also become a fabulous ambassador for promoting and raising awareness regarding CERVICAL CANCER . Indeed, following this family session, she sat and filmed a short video of herself for submission to have her story featured, which did indeed occur. She recently spoke publicly and details may be found on her Facebook page.
Imagine if, like so many people, Riarna had decided not to photograph the special events in her life such as her pregnancy, because “it was too expensive”, “I’ll do it next time”, “I don’t really like photos”, “I just didn’t get around to it”. I want to emphasise that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Life is happening right now. Instead of finding a million excuses not to, make documenting your lives professionally a priority. Of course your family happy- snaps are important and wonderful too, but you can’t be in the images if you’re taking them. Create high- quality, heirloom photography for you and ongoing generations of your family to enjoy. One day it may be all you have.
I include here, Riarna’s own words to describe what her photographs mean to her;
“For us, what Michelle captured was so much more than photos. These were images of a family that had been through an extremely tough year, and were at a time of great uncertainty of the future and what it would hold for them. These photos reflected that through this all, we still loved, we still smiled, we still had fun. We were happy, positive and strong. A memory- making moment in our families’ timeline that we will be able to cherish forever.”