It has only been a week since we rang in the new year. How much can really happen in a week? A few days ago I posted a few of my images on a popular website for exposure called Bored Panda. My post was then picked up by another popular page on Facebook which gave my little images a boost. I woke up the next day to over a hundred new likes. As of today the post had been shared over 1,100 times and liked over 4,500 times. This little Traverse City, Michigan photographer was starting to be noticed around the world. I woke to messages from France, Germany, and Sweden. I then was contacted by National Geographic of Poland who wants to feature my photography. I was blown away. Later that evening I received a notification that one of my images was selected in the Fantasy World contest as a finalist on ViewBug. I had no idea when I started my business three year ago that it would turn into what it is today. I am grateful for the support and love I have received. It has been astounding. I now have over 350 new followers on my page. I want to send out a friendly welcome to all new followers. I am thrilled you have found me and taken an interest in my work. Today I had my first newborn in the studio and a fine art session out in a winter wonderland. Right now, life is wonderful. I am thankful for it. I know life can change in the blink of an eye so I am going to enjoy the here and now. Not a bad start to 2017, not bad at all. It is only the beginning to a magical year.
Well, it has almost been a half a year since my last blog post. Blogging has always been put on the back burner for me. I am no writer, my grammar is subpar, and my language is sometimes made up. However, what I convey through my writing (when I have a moment to write) is from the heart. 2016 has been one of the best years of my life. My business continued to grow, I met some amazing people, and travelled around the country for my photography. When I started this business 2 years ago I never imagined it would take me to the places I have gone and do the things that I have done. My husband and I recently finished up a photography retreat in Mexico where we learned more about the business, we participated in some social networking, and were able to manage a little vacation time in there as well. We even were able to zip-line through the jungle which was on my bucket list since a child. Being scared of heights I can tell you, it wasn't easy but one of the most amazing experiences. If you ever have a chance to do it, don't say no.
Being in the small town of Traverse City Michigan there are countless photo opportunities. I live in one of most beautiful places on earth. Finding the time to shoot is the hardest part for me. When I am not at one of my sessions, keeping up with my business management, or keeping up with all of the social media outlets there are for photographers, I am spending my hours of the day being a full time stay at home Mom to our three little ones. They require so much attention being at the ages of 4 (twins) and 2 that it is difficult to find the time to shoot let alone edit those image. Blogging?? Forget it! My days are filled with booboo'sBack about a year ago it gave me horrible anxiety to think that I wasn't perfect at them all. I wanted to be the best wife, the best mom, the best photographer, the best business owner, the best pet owner (ohh did I forget to mention out chickens, bunnies, dogs, and cat who also needs attention?) I could possibly be. There are days that I still struggle with the need to be perfect but I can tell you that this year has grown me as a photographer and a mother substantially. I realize that my children don't necessarily need a perfect mother, they need me. My clients don't need a perfect photographer, they need my creative skills, the skills that only I have in my weird little twisted creative mind.
In 2017 my wish for all of you is please don't put too much pressure on yourself. Be who you are, and your loved ones who appreciate you and your business will follow. My work this year might reflect more of a relaxed approach which I am looking forward to. In our busy lives we need more relaxation and appreciating each day as it comes. Balancing life is a day to day struggle and this year I have made it a personal goal to be better about balancing it all. Thank you everyone for your continued support, kindness, and love.
As a photographer in Northern Michigan, I have photographed some of my friends, families, and clients most precious moments. There are times when images sing a song of their own and require no words. Then there are others that are deserving of a book. This image is one of those. This is the story of a courageous mother's journey. It is a story of sadness, happiness, and bittersweet moments that have led to this beautiful image. Close to two years ago my brother in law fell in love with a cute blonde girl named Chelsea from Lake Ann Michigan. Chelsea was hard to understand at first but is now someone who I can call my sister. Prior to the two of them meeting, Chelsea had a beautiful boy named Oliver born on May 9th, 2013. Oliver was born with a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or HLHS for short. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is one type of congenital heart defect. The doctors discussed surgery and a possible prognosis for Oliver. On June 1st, 2013 Oliver's life was cut short as he breathed his last breath, however his story and impact on the world was just beginning. As a mother I have a hard time understanding the level of grief and pain Chelsea must have felt, and continues to feel. There are just no words that can ease a grieving mother's pain. I have had my losses as well, but nothing like Chelsea's story. No words could ever give the comfort that is needed during such a time. I wish I would have known Oliver, I would have loved to have met my nephew but I know his presence is always here. The pain is still very real for Chelsea but so is a mother's love. A mother's love is a special bond that is never ending, a bond that death cannot break. When Chelsea asked me to do a silhouette image of her and her boys, my heart sank and sang at the same time. I didn't need the words now, to make her feel a certain level of peace, I was able to give it to her through photography. I could see how this image would be a wonderful healing moment for her. I also thought about how emotional of an image this would be for her and for me as well. It was a chance to give her something that could not be given in any other way. After a family gathering we talked it over and decided that it needed to be done. I grabbed my camera and after tears and talking I managed to get the shot I needed to make Chelsea's vision come to life. My daughter stood in as Oliver as they are about the same age, and I edited her to look more boy-like in photoshop. The image took on wings of its own and gave Chelsea an image that she would be able to love and cherish for a lifetime. She has a sweet little boy named Levi now who was born in October of 2015, he was born perfectly healthy and continues to fill our hearts with joy and love. Levi's presence however does not change Oliver's absence but the fact that she now has an image of her and her boys together changes the limitations of this world and proves that death has no bounds on love. Love will always win. If you know of someone suffering the loss of a infant, child, or infertility, I am offering this precious service as a gift to all those who grieve. Please have them contact me at Annelisenicolephotography@gmail.com and share with them Chelsea and Oliver's story. Thank you.
"If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever" ~Winnie the Pooh
A special message from Oliver and Levi's mother, Chelsea:
Oliver is the boy who made me a mom. I was his biggest advocate, he was my biggest love. He gave me a purpose bigger than anything I had known before. Becoming a mom and instantly have to start fighting for your child’s life wasn’t an easy task. I think that’s why those 22 days have been embedded into my brain so vividly, like it was yesterday. As you can imagine, losing a child has no ups- only downs. Grief can be a beast to tackle, although I don’t think I will ever tackle it completely. It’s like the ocean.. sometimes the waves are high, sometimes they are low, but there is always movement. Grief never stops, it never ends, it may get a little easier to navigate after a while, but the sting never, ever, goes away.
When I found out I was pregnant with Levi, anxiety spiked in many different ways… What do I say when people ask me how many kids I have? How do I share happy moments with this son while at the same time be sad I won’t get to experience them with Oliver? What will family pictures look like? Will I ever be able to fully appreciate any family photos with one person missing?
One day Annie posted a silhouette photo she composed of my pregnant friend… and it hit me. This was my only chance at getting a picture of me and my boys. It could happen. I know that Oliver is in Heaven and I will see him again, and I know the reality of him actually being in a family photo are nil. But, there was potential for me to have a picture to show that I have TWO boys. TWO! I shared my idea with her, we had an emotionally charged conversation about how to do it and how amazing it would be.
This type of photo isn’t for everyone. People walk (actually more like crawl, very, very slowly with the help of others) through grief totally differently. Everyone’s story and situation is unique. For me, having a picture to symbolize who I am as a Mom to two beautiful boys was something I desired whole- heartedly. Even though I know that “Oliver” isn’t really Oliver in the photo, it doesn’t change the beauty of it for me. I look at this photo and I finally can visualize what I’d look like holding onto both my children. I see so much happiness, sadness, strength and courage in the mom in this photo. All from a silhouette… never underestimate the out-of-this-world dreams that photographers are capable of creating in such artistic, meaningful ways.
I am eternally grateful for Annie being able to create something so meaningful. This is a picture that I will treasure for the rest of my life. It has given me some peace that I no longer have to fret and have anxiety about including Oliver in family portraits. I have this one, perfect photograph and all is well with my soul.