when we scheduled this photo session, i knew it was going to be a blast. our families spend most of the summer together at baseball tournaments, and our boys are so similar. it is nice having a friend who understands my kids’ quirks. 😉 anyway, i knew we were going to be cracking up this entire photo session, and i was absolutely right. the youngest boy is an athlete and very used to being coached, so he did everything i asked in perfect form. his older brother is brilliant and also made for a stage, so he interpreted everything i asked and adapted it with his own flair. i love this session so much because it shows the boys’ personalities, and it also shows that our photo sessions don’t have to be “social media perfect” to be absolutely perfect. every time i look at these images i smile because they are real and true.
I have put off writing this post because it’s going to be a sad one. The ending of the story hurts my heart, but I really want to tell it. In December, I was asked by Parenting Children with Special Needs magazine if I would be able to photograph a family for an upcoming
cover story. I am always super happy when I am asked to do these photo sessions, so of course I said yes. When I found out who the family was, I was even more excited than usual. The family was the Williams family, and the special little girl was Miranda.
I have known the Williams family since before they were even a family as I have known the mom, Michelle, since we were on the younger end of being teenagers. I knew Michelle when we played violin together in the Raytown High School orchestra, and she was “my ride” to school for several years until I learned to drive. I remember sitting on my deck with her when she told me she was having her first baby, Trent, and I remember thinking she was the strongest friend I had because she went to school, worked, and was a mom all at the same time.
As time does, we drifted into our own worlds, but we crossed paths a lot through the years. Michelle married Randy and they had a daughter, Miranda. I even started seeing them at my kids’ school because Miranda and my boys went to the same school. I remember seeing Michelle and Miranda at the school carnival one year, and Miranda looked so cute in pigtails with little bows on them. Shortly after that carnival, I found out that Miranda had been diagnosed with a disease. I am not going to pretend I know what the disease is all about, but it’s a mitochondrial disorder called MERRF, and there is no cure.
Fast forward several years, and here we are with me being asked to photograph Miranda and her family for the magazine. We had initially thought we would do the photo session in December, but Miranda had a bought with pneumonia and the poor girl was in the hospital for weeks. She finally made it home in January, and I drove to their house on a super cold and rainy Sunday to set up my traveling studio at her house.
I brought a couple backdrops with me, my lights, and an assistant, Amy. Miranda has quite the teen-ager pad set up in the basement. She has two brightly colored rooms to herself, and they are both covered in posters and pictures. Amy and I got all set up while Miranda hung out with her cousins and two aides. These two aides must be angels sent directly to Miranda. Both of them doted on her, and never lost focus of keeping Miranda happy and safe.
Miranda was just a few days shy of 15 years old on this day. Even though she spends a lot of time in a wheelchair and isn’t super verbal anymore, Miranda is still as sassy and spunky as every teenage girl i have ever met!
This girl has bright red hair and loves her make up! She was wearing the prettiest lip color ever that day, and I learned all about her LipSense addiction. The funniest thing happened when Michelle walked in and Miranda saw her lip color. Miranda started pointing to Michelle and seemed somewhat agitated. As it turns out, Michelle was wearing Miranda’s LipSense, and Miranda totally knew! I was cracking up!
For our first set of photos,Miranda sat in her wheelchair, and I posed her Mom, Dad, and Trent around her. After some family shots, I asked Trent to sit on the arm of the wheelchair next to Miranda. I should have done this pose earlier because Miranda lit up. Her entire face was smiling – this girl loves her brother. I found outthat Trent has been helping take care of Miranda, and it was clear to me that she loves it. How special is it that these two siblings get to spend so much time together?
Miranda was only able to whisper on the day of our photos. Her disorder has weakened her vocal chords, so it’s a huge struggle for her to speak. She does a lot of communication with her eyes and with her smile. I definitely picked up on her language by the end of our session.
I also quickly found out that Miranda is a daddy’s girl – she loved when we sat her on the floor for some shots of her leaning on her d
addy. We added in her mom and brother as well, and we were able to get a series of family images sitting on the floor. Most of Miranda’s smiles happened when her two awesome aides were behind me squishing slime into a small canister so it made farting sound. We were all laughing!
I guess I should mention that Miranda has a cart of machines that follows her bright pink wheelchair everywhere she goes. At one point during the photo session, somebody mis-stepped and landed on part of her ventilator and broke it. I was completely impressed when Michelle immediately took control and explained to Miranda’s nurse where the spare parts were. The two of them got the machine fixed fairly swiftly, but I was honestly pretty panicked that Miranda would have no air. The girl just sat there calmly and waited for them to fix her vent. That’s how you know when a person completely trusts another – Miranda never panicked because she knew her mom had the situation under control.
After about 90 minutes, we finished up the photo session. I came home and got to work prettying up the images we had made. I loved working on them, and was sending sneaks over to Michelle on facebook. I was literally so happy that I was able to make these images for her. I think Miranda had a good time too, and that is always important to me as well.
The magazine came out about a month or so later, and as usual, I was completely proud to see my photograph on the cover. I was extra happy that it was a photograph of my friend and her family. A couple weeks after the article debuted, Miranda’s doctors told her family that it was time for hospice care. Miranda’s body was too tired to fight any more. When I heard the news, I was just so sad. I have seen hundreds of photos on facebook showing friends and family coming to see Miranda and say good-bye. It seems like all day long during this week, a stream of photos of friends and family with Miranda takes over my feed. I love it.
I started writing this blog last week, but I could never finish it because I would just get sad. Last night, though, I read the news that made me even sadder. Yesterday, on Easter morning, Miranda smiled her last good-bye. I will never understand why little children have to take on these massive diseases, and I will never understand why a parent has to say to good-bye to their baby. Like I said at the beginning, there is no happy ending to this story. I am happy, though, I was able to make these photos for Michelle and Randy and Trent and all the family and friends who love Miranda. She will be missed by so many people, and I hope her photos can bring a peace to those who love her.
i am always trying to choose the perfect location for our photo sessions. i want to make sure the location fits the personality of the person, and also that it matches the vision the family has in mind for their images. i am hoping this little location guide will help us all make sure we are in the perfect spot!
CROSSROADS ART DISTRICT
i love love love the crossroads district! it has a little bit of everything. there is graffiti…brick walls…garage doors…vines and leaves….alleys …and TONS of color!
railroad park is a great park in blue springs. it is exactly what you think of when you think of a park – lots of green, trees, a lake, and (bonus!) a gazebo.
DOWNTOWN KANSAS CITY
now that we are growing a cool downtown area, it is fun to head down there for some adventures in photography.
UNITY VILLAGE – THE WOODS
my favorite secret spot is the back woods at unity. i love going back here! normally there aren’t any other people back there, and there are un-mowed fields and quite possibly the coolest bathroom structure i have ever seen.
THE WEST BOTTOMS
this is a great spot for graffiti. the colors are super bright, so it makes for super happy photos. there is also a lot of grunge down there – plenty of old doors and ramps and metal stairs. definitely plan to come home dirty, but it is such a fun experience!
BURR OAK WOODS
Burr Oak Woods is a true treasure in Blue Springs. it is beautiful at all times of the year with lots of trees and fields and trails. there is a gorgeous area of woods that is perfect for so many different ideas.
so many of us are royals fans, and what better place than to show of that love than kauffman stadium?
if you wanting a raw, outdoorsy style of photo, this is the place. there are so many little spots at lake jacomo that i haven’t even begun to discover them all. the lake is huge, and there are tons of trees and coves, and a lot of sailboats!
i kind of made up the name “liggett park” because it really isn’t exactly park. it’s more of a parking lot with some cool surroundings. that said, i LOVE this little bit of beauty. it’s a great location for boys (little boys, senior boys, and especially daddy boys) because it is small enough that they know it will be a quick session, but it has a lot of nooks for tons of variety.
loose park is kansas city’s version of central park…wowzas. it’s always gorgeous. it’s full of trees, a lake, a rose garden, fields, bridges….sigh, it’s just all around lovely.
DOWNTOWN BLUE SPRINGS
downtown blue springs is a great location for a mini session. it’s not gigantic and overwhelming, and yet it is super charming.
DOWNTOWN LEE’S SUMMIT
if you want a mini downtown, lee’s summit has it! there is an urban feel to it, but there are also bits of small town. it has so much to offer, and something different around every corner.
JAMES A REED WILDLIFE RESERVE
this is one of kansas city’s most beautiful, serene locations. there are lakes, docks, trails, fields, flowers, bridges – everything you want from a nature location. depending on the time of year, you can find sunflowers, wildflowers, berries, field grass, but it is always gorgeous.
this is the place if you want our city skyline in the background. they have a huge yard to play in as well as lots of stone and tile textures. there is also a huge stairway that looks great too!
PINK HILL PARK
pink hill park is located in blue springs. it is a small little park with lots of grassy area and trees – it is gorgeous in the fall and spring. there are lots of huge trees too that make for great climbing.
Powell Gardens is just outside of Kansas City, and it has a million beautiful little spots for photos. there are bridges, pergolas, water, and obviously, TONS of flowers. There is a small fee to enter the gardens, but it’s worth it.
simply|moore STUDIO “PARK”
i wish it was as big as a park, but the yard at my studio is quite nice for photos. it works best for small families and kids or seniors. i have some huge boulders, a wildflower garden (in the summer), a koi pond with waterfall, and trees. it’s perfect when you want outdoor images, but want to keep it simple.
in September, I had back to school mini sessions, and these kiddos came by and took advantage of the offer. I was so happy they did! these three are always laughing, and I was laughing right along with them. last time I saw the little guy in the group, he was a bit shy with me, but this time, he was in full performance mode. I loved every second of it! his two sisters never stop smiling – I could have hung out with them all afternoon. maybe that is because they remind me of my little sister and I when we were little girls. 🙂 I hope you enjoy a few of their images here!