May 20th, 2009 (five years ago tomorrow)
It started out like any other day, but by the end of it, it was a game changer.
I've always had a love and admiration for photography. When I was about 5 or 6 years of age I asked my mom if I could take a photo on her camera. (Mind you this was before the digital age.) She told me, "Yes, but only take one." When my mom had that role of film developed, she found not just "one" but 15-20 photographs of my two favorite stuffed animal CATS. I had posed them on her bed as well as next to the house plants… So it's easy to say, I've always loved creating photoshoots!!
When I was in 4th grade there was a competition held through the Texas PTA called Reflections where students of all ages could submit their art in a number of different categories. Along with the categories of Dance and Choreography, both things I had expressed interest in already at my dance studio, it was Photography that I decided I wanted to try. Low and behold, I really had an eye for it, and my photograph received Honorable Mention in State.
As my school years went by, I focused all of my attention on dance and theatre. I lived and breathed it. I continued to love photography and became big admirer of dance photographers such as Richard Calmes and The Ballerina Project.
During high school, I developed a strong group of friends at my dance studio, one of which was Makenzie Stocker. Her family had moved in across the street from my childhood home, and we became attached at the hip. She drove me to and from the dance studio most every day of the week. Our friendship blossomed, and we became each others family. And then May 20th, 2009 occurred. We were sitting in Kenzie's bedroom (as she was avoiding spanish homework) and scrolling through dance images online. I said, "We should go do this." And that was that! I went across the street and grabbed my mom's nice new Canon Rebel T1i and Kenzie drove us to one of my favorite neighborhood places, what my family refers to as the Hill Park. We ran around the park, giggling as such silly teenage girls do, loving life, each other, and the joy of dance. I had no idea how to use that camera but I got more hooked with every click of the shutter. I took about 75 frames, which at the time seemed like A LOT! Kenzie's cute little pixie face was a joy to photograph and her energy was completely infectious... That was the start of it all.
In the next days three days I had done four more photoshoots. I was grabbing all of my dance friends and just clicking away. I had been bit by the photo bug. I started to see life differently and LOVED it! Photos surrounded me everywhere I went and I took every opportunity to create through my (mom's) lens.
On May 25, 2009 Makenzie and I had plans with our good friend Aaron for my first duet photoshoot. Aaron ended up not being able to come, but Kenz and I went ahead and had her 2nd solo shoot! We covered a little more ground this time and had a ball. We lovingly referred to this shoot as the White Dress Shoot.
Then on June 3, 2009 we finally were able to have all of our schedule's work out so that we could have the duet shoot with Aaron and Makenzie. As for location we went to Makenzie's grandparents home in Pasadena. They had a beautiful property on the water and we soaked up the sunlight as I clicked and they danced. Little did we know that it would be the last moments of dear Makenzie's life.
On our way home, we were hit in an accident and Makenzie's life was taken instantly. Aaron and I have no memories of the ride home but only know what we were told happened. What we do remember is having the time of our lives dancing around and doing what we LOVED on that warm summer's evening. The car and most everything in it was totaled including my mom's camera, however the silver lining was that the memory card remained untouched. All of the photos that we took that day were salvaged! Those photos are an extreme blessing to all of our families and it brought us much comfort.
From that moment on, my love for photography took on a whole new meaning. Photos aren't just beautiful things to look at but so, so much more… They are OUR MEMORIES. They are OUR STORIES. After all is said and done, they are all we have (along with videos.) And that is why I continue to photograph. Moments are fleeting and if we just take a second to capture and remember, we'll have those moments/feelings/relationships forever. Kenzie was such light in my life and EVERYONE that knew her loved her. She helped me find the pure joy in each photo and she will always be my biggest muse and inspiration. I'm so glad I have all of these photos of her so that I can remember the exact hue of her gorgeous green eyes and her perfect little smile. I'll always be able to remember her complete love for dance in the way that she jumped and kicked and twirled. With every look that she gave Aaron, I can remember her Christlike love and how she always cared for every single person she met. I'm honored to have been a part of her story and to share it with everyone I meet. I thank God for helping me realize this talent of mine and giving me her as such a beautiful subject to capture and remember.
The photo below was taken just moments before we were hit in the accident. I do not have any memory of taking it, but knowing me, I looked up, saw those breathtaking clouds, and snapped a quick photo. Weeks after the accident when I had posted the photos from the shoot online I included this one. Many friends commented saying how beautiful it was and that the clouds looked like a little window into heaven. After several comments were made, another friend pointed out that the cloud on the right looked like a hand stretched out. She remarked that it was as if God was saying, "Makenzie, take my hand. I'm taking you home." The feeling that that statement and the photo gives me is indescribable. It's moves me and encourages me more than I could ever say.
I try to treat every photoshoot as if it were my last, because I know every day is another gift to keep living. As I photograph each client, I try to capture their truest self so that they can ALWAYS remember that exact moment in their lives with clarity and fondness. When anyone looks at my work, I want them to not only get a glimpse of me, but of Kenzie. It is through her love and HIS that I see this beautiful world.
So in closing, I just want to say… Take more photos! If you don't, you'll wish you did.
Tomorrow 's the day! Come back tomorrow to celebrate Caitlin Cannon Photography's 6 Year Anniversary with me! I'll be posting the incredible photoshoot I shot recently that wrapped up these last 6 years.
Caitlin Cannon Photography provides photo services in NYC and NJ. I specialize in natural light custom portraits which include dance, family, headshots, maternity, seniors, baby, and children. If you feel that my style is a good fit for you and your photography needs, please don't hesitate to contact me via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to meeting you!
Currently booking Spring and Summer 2015.
Loves: my husband, golden age movie musicals, red lipstick, fall leaves, rainy mornings, dressing up, jazz music, yellow tulips, tap dancing, and taking your photos (yes YOU!)