Everything we do, we do it for a reason. Little pieces of my story leak out over time with those clients I form friendships with, but never have I really talked about the whole picture for me. Photography was never my first passion, but has become such a large part of my life as a tool to help me cope with PTSD.
I grew up loving animals and wanting to help. At 15, I would volunteer at local Veterinary clinics. Part way through my BSc I took a break to complete a diploma as a Veterinary Assistant. I volunteered and worked for the SPCA, Animal Control, various clinics, and wildlife rehabilitation shelters. I loved working with animals, and helping the sick and injured. Several years passed and I wanted to do more, so I pursued my certification as an Emergency Medical Responder. I was so thrilled to be helping people. I started patient transfers between hospitals in the Vancouver area, performing first aid at the local stock car racing track and various construction sites, and eventually running industrial ambulances and emergency transportation vehicles up forest service roads on a large scale BC Hydro Project.
It's an amazing feeling to help people, but sometimes there's nothing you can do. Given the industry I was in, I quickly specialized in high impact trauma. I wasn't getting calls to take the ill and elderly in for assessment. I was getting calls for cars slamming into walls, men being hit by large pieces of steel, and people getting very hurt. I saw a lot, and there was very little emotional and psychological support for someone in my industry at that time (and very possibly still). That was my work life, but within my personal life, I watched as my father in law and my mother in law passed away at incredibly young ages all in the span of a couple short years. Life changed quickly for the people I loved, and the people I worked with. It was sobering to think that it could quickly change for me too. In your twenties you still have this idea that you're invincible, untouchable, and that these things won't happen to you. But that's just not true. It happens everyday.
The sacrifices I made for my job had damaging and lasting effects on me and my family for many years. My work took me away physically for long periods of time, and it took me away emotionally from my family for even longer as I unpacked the trauma of what I was witness to. It was time to stop helping other people, and help myself and my family. Knowing how quickly our time can be cut short, I needed to be with my kids. I wanted to soak up every second, and never miss another holiday or birthday celebration. I wanted to be there for every school concert, and kiss my kids goodnight each and every night. And that's just what I did.
It eventually came time to sort through boxes of my in-laws belongings and my own, and all that there was, were photographs of smiles and memories of lives that were no longer with us. It was all we had left.
We sold everything on the West Coast, looking for a quieter, simpler, slower life on the East Coast. A life where I didn't have to get up and leave at 3am each morning for work. One with less stress and more quality time with my kids. In the process of this transition in my life and dealing with my grief (which I'm sure will never be completely gone) I picked up a camera again. If memories and photos were all I had left, I need to be present to make those memories, and I had my camera to capture them, to ensure that they lived on long after those memories had faded.
When I was contacted by this beautiful family two years ago, to do their family photos, I had no idea how much this particular session would resonate with me. They too know loss. The loss of a partner, a father, and a friend. My eyes were filled with tears as I snapped the camera, and was reminded of why I do what I do. You never know how much time you have and there may come a day when all that's left for your family is the memories and the photos they hold on to.