Many photographers take pride most in the connection they are able to form with their clients. Whether it be someone they’ve just met looking to have a steamy boudoir session done in hopes of igniting that spark within themselves again or a couple who’ve you've grown to know and love who have scheduled their newborn session with you celebrating the birth of their rainbow baby. It is our job as photographers to make sure that session is all that they are hoping for, and if you’re one of the great photographers… even more.
We have to remember that the people who are scheduling with us, who are taking time out of their busy lives and money out of their wallets, are doing so for a reason. They have a vision....something they’re looking for. An emotion they’re after. And it is our job to dig deeper and figure out what that is and to capture it for them to hold onto forever. To deliver a moment to them, not just a photograph.
Each person that gets behind our lens for whatever reason comes with a story. A story that we as photographers can try to tell as best we can through our work, but no matter how great that connection and how beautiful our delivered photographs are, they only tell half the story. With ‘Something More’ that’s what I would like to do. In so many articles you read you get to go ‘beyond the lens’ if you will, and hear about a photographer's story and their journey. I would like to delve deeper into the essence of a photograph by getting personal with the subject. Asking the questions that evoke real emotion and get to the core of who they are as individuals.
Today's model is Kimberley Morgan. Kimberley, who goes by Kim, I have known for years. I had some Fall mini sessions going on one beautiful August day and had a slot open up last minute so I reached out to her and her husband. You see, because I knew Kim personally, I knew that she’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 Brain and Lung Cancer a few months prior. I knew that she had just had to shave her head which I knew was a very difficult thing for her, and I thought maybe if I could get her to come down for a quick impromptu session I could remind her, in a small way, just how beautiful she was. And I want you all to see as well. While I can easily just show you a photo, it won’t tell the whole story. Pieces will be missing, assumptions will be made, important details left out. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to know more? To see what's underneath it all? So that's exactly what I did. I called up Kim and told her I was thinking of writing a piece about a session and was wondering if she’d be interested in doing an interview with me. I warned her there would be some emotionally difficult questions and that I wouldn’t hold back, but to my surprise, she said yes.
Kim was actually excited to be able to share her story in hopes of helping out someone else. Be it someone who recently received a hard diagnosis, a family member whose loved one is battling cancer, or even a photographer who may find themselves someday with a client like this so they may have better understanding. Was it uncomfortable at times? Sure. Were some of these things difficult to talk about? Yes. Were there tears? Of course there were. But was it needed and dare I even say therapeutic? Absolutely. So enjoy, learn, and I hope that all of you reading find something of value in Kim’s words. I know that I did, and I was honored to get the opportunity to share a piece of her story.
I walk into Kim’s home and pop a seat on the couch next to her. Kim’s watching Criminal Minds with her cozy blanket and her sweet little blind dog Moose snuggled up in her lap. I ask her if she’s ready to get down and dirty and she giggles, grabs her box of tissues, and we’re off.
Photog: Let’s start with the really heavy stuff. What's your favorite season?
Kim: Toss up between Summer and Fall because I love the warm weather, but I also love Halloween.
Photog: What’s your Astrological sign?
[I’ll leave out the part where we just couldn’t believe we were both Cancers, and how could I have not known that already, and how it explained so much. Blah, Blah, Blah. You know… Just your typical Cancer/Cancer convo.]
Photog: Favorite Movie? TV Shows?
Kim: Alien & Halloween (the 1st ones.) Anything crime. Criminal Minds, Chicago PD, Law & Order SVU
Photog: Name something you cherish.
Kim: My husband. And my life at this moment.
[At this moment, I pull out photos from our session and we reminisce together and talk about our individual favorites]
Photog: How did you feel when you first saw your photos from this shoot?
Kim: I loved them. I just loved them.
Photog: What does this man mean to you? [Pointing her her husband]
Kim: He means everything. He’s my heart. My whole world.
Photog: If you wanted him to know one thing, what would it be?
Kim: That I truly love him. And that I’m so glad and thankful that before I was diagnosed and I was struggling so much and we didn’t know why, he still stood by me and stayed. And that no matter what I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
Photog: Okay, I want you to close your eyes for just a moment and think back to the day you received your diagnosis. Try and describe to me what you felt at that moment.
Kim: Shocked. I was in disbelief. I remember feeling nauseous and just wanting to go outside when they told me. I was angry. I thought to myself, I’m a good person, I help people when I can, I love my family, I pay my taxes… Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this.
Photog: What is one thing you needed to hear from your family and friends?
Kim: That they loved me. That's all they could say. I didn’t want to hear ‘it will be okay’ because we both knew they couldn’t tell me that.
Photog: Hardest moment so far?
Kim: Well, there were three. Losing my hair was very difficult for me. (Kim has always had very long dark hair) Losing some of my cats. (All those who know Kim know she’s an animal rescuer. Particularly cats. They are her family and they mean the world to her. Shortly after her diagnosis, Kim made the hard decision of re-homing 4 of her 8 cats.) And the hardest moment of all was seeing my husband's face when I received my diagnosis.
Photog: Best day since your diagnosis?
Kim: The day of my benefit. (Kim had a benefit where our community pulled together and raised over $20,000 to help Kim with her medical expenses and to help relieve daily financial burdens on her and her husband. Having attended this benefit myself, I can tell you it was a seriously moving and beautiful day.) And the day of the photo shoot. I was able to sit outside that day which I hadn’t been able to do for a while, and then we went and had the photo shoot together and it was so nice. (Cue ugly tears from me. I never would have imagined that little 15 minute impromptu shoot we shared meant so much to her.)
Photog: Tell me something the last six months has taught you.
Kim: That even though I get aggravated at things, I try and always remember that time isn’t promised to me. It’s best to try and go with the flow and make the best of things no matter the situation.
Photog: What is your biggest fear?
Kim: That something will change and I die. I’m not ready to go. (Both proceed to cry together)
Photog: Greatest hope?
Kim: That I'll beat this. And without having to have surgery on my brain.
Photog: First thing you’re going to do when you beat this?
Kim: DRIVE. People just don't understand how much we take for granted the ability to just pop on your shoes and go. I want to be able to do that again. I know if I call someone they’ll come get me, but it’s just not the same. I just want to be able to go. And the second thing I'm doing is taking a ride on the bike. (Her husband’s Harley)
Photog: What would you tell someone who received a cancer diagnosis today?
Kim: If you don't agree with your doctors and the way they’re treating you, don't be afraid to get a second opinion. Let your doctors know any concerns or questions you have and try to listen to them and do what they say. Most importantly, try and live your life the way you want for as long as you can.
Photog: If you wanted the world to know one thing about Kimberley Morgan, what would you want them to know?
Kim: That I loved my family.
I sat with her a bit longer, thanked her, hugged her, and packed up my things to head home. Thinking to myself as I got into my car, she’s absolutely right. This isn’t fair. But in the midst of the heartache and injustice that is cancer, there was a simple photo shoot. A fleeting moment of beauty and light brought into the mundane everyday battle she’s fighting. A moment caught forever showing her and reminding her everyday the love and beauty within herself and within her marriage. Kim is so much more than her diagnosis. And this photo is so much more than just a photo.
Written by Chelsea Halcomb
Sunshiny Daze Photography