At the Heart of my Photography

If I had to tell my photographer's origin story. This would be it. And it's probably nothing like you expected.


I was truly starting to recognize the value of a photograph when my daughter Harper was born. I wanted to hold onto the memories and cling to the first moments of motherhood and I didn't trust my bleary eyes and mommy brain to do it for me. There was a spark—a strong desire to document beyond the big moments.



But then my son Isaac came along a year and a half after Harper, three weeks early due to complications we didn't know he had; our world shifted from blissful to terrifying. I had a lot of time to think while I sat beside his crib at the NICU in CHEO. He had so many tubes coming out of him to keep him alive while they tried to diagnose what was happening. I could not hold him without the nurses' assistance because I didn't know how to move him with so many attachments. He was in pain, and I suffered silently alongside him. I felt powerless because I couldn't give him the care he needed.


I was in a perpetual cycle of things being out of my control. All I had power over was how I chose to show up for him. So I went there each day with gratitude for having him for as long as I was gifted his existence in our lives, and it was hard to remain so optimistic, but I couldn't wrap my head around any other outcome. I couldn't think past the present moment. I clung to every piece of good news, every step forward in a positive direction. I held hope that the world had bigger plans for him. Thankfully, he fully recovered after 6.5 weeks into his stay and surgery later to remove a large mass from his liver. We took him home, and a flame roared to life inside me to appreciate the life we've been given, even the mundane, seemingly ordinary days. I revelled in those days after he came home from the hospital. I was so relieved to be back in a state of ordinary.



You'd think that would be it for the story, that's enough of a kickstart into recognizing the fragility of life, but we experienced a different kind of struggle a few years later—toddlerhood paired with undiagnosed ASD. Then we were faced with the daily battle of trying to create joy amongst so much chaos, confusion and exhaustion. My camera was my guiding light of positivity, of appreciating and recognizing the fleeting moments of happiness that could be found daily even while struggling to understand him and support him in the way he needed.



All of these combined experiences set me on a path of creativity. My camera has become a tool that I use to interpret the world, appreciate it, and survive it when the days are hard and long. So why am I telling you all of this? For a long time, I've been brainstorming how I could contribute to the community in a way that lights me up. And what better way than something that directly correlates to my journey.



Isaac has taught me to grow and expand farther than I ever could have without going through this journey together. He has taught me bravery and perseverance. I surpassed the self-imposed limitations I put on myself simply because he needed me to. He needed me to grow, so I did. I've watched him in awe as he met milestones and kept repeatedly trying, even when it was difficult, even when he had to work harder than other kids his age. He sees the world in wonder and has an unmatched enthusiasm that has me constantly revelling in how amazing he is. He has inspired me in many ways that I don't know if I'll ever adequately be able to communicate it. But, maybe what I can't express in words, I can in action.



As an early childhood educator, combined with my personal experiences, my heart is centred around giving children and families opportunities for positive experiences and documented memories. Inspired by Isaac's ASD diagnosis and the understanding of the additional financial challenges families face due to costs of therapies, adaptive toys and equipment, respite or support worker wages, etc. And many, many other aspects not mentioned that impact both family and child; starting in May, I will be offering one free session per month to a family with a child that has a formally diagnosed developmental need.


My goal is to provide community awareness and create a fun experience for your family to connect and create treasured, tangible memories. I hope to inspire my children through this initiative, while also empowering each unique child that I am fortunate to meet.


You can find out more information at www.vanveitcreative.com/uniquelyyousessions


Please share if you know of a family that may benefit from this opportunity.


Much Love,

Charlene