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Perfect Imperfections

Perfect Imperfections | Ker-Fox Photography | Columbus, GA | Kendall: Spina Bifida Awareness Month

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Perfect Imperfections | Ker-Fox Photography | Columbus, GA | Kendall: Spina Bifida Awareness Month

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This precious little firecracker came roaring into my life at a local coffee shop when we did our meet and greet for the rest of the Perfect Imperfections participants. Her mom reached out to me and asked if Kendall could participate, as most of the others taking part were women. Of course I said yes immediately, but was so excited to include Kendall in this project when I heard why her mom wanted her to join us. She wanted to show her daughter's beauty and strength in spite of her scars and limitations as a result of spina bifida.

You would never know that Kendall has any so called "limitations", sweet pea was rockin' and rollin' through my studio... leg braces or not, I could barely keep up with her. She is a woman on the move! And personality, geez, don't get me started. I don't think her small frame can contain all of that spunk!

I say it every time, but I don't think these sweet souls that trusted me with this project quite know how they inspired me, or blessed my heart in countless ways. I am a better person for meeting her. I am a better person for hearing her mom speak of their journey, their faith, and their hope. David Crowder Band's - You Never Let Go, comes to mind when I think of all they have gone through and all that is to come.

Here is a little something from her Mom, Danielle, her hopes and desires for her daughter, and for others facing this same journey:

When I was pregnant with Kendall we found out that she would come into this world with the number 1 permanently disabling birth defect. Her diagnosis’ are lengthy, but they are all connected to Spina Bifida.  In short, Spina Bifida is a defect of the spine and most of the time effecting nerves which cause paralysis and other nerve damage. The months leading up to having my first child were stressful, but peaceful, moments filled with uncertainties from doctors and the promises of God.

On the day that Kendall was born we were all so excited to finally meet the little boy or girl we would get to carry through this journey of unknowns. In the operating room I heard her cry and the doctor say “It’s a girl”.  Everything seemed so normal I don’t remember even feeling concerned about the Spina Bifida at the time.  From day one Kendall has been a conqueror! She had her first two surgeries before she was a week old and the third right before she turned 1.  None of those slowed her down or put a damper on her smile.

Our goal for Kendall has always been to meet her full potential and be who she was created to be. It has been really hard to remember situations and capture things for her to see how far she has come and the strength that she has.  When Neely posted her blog talking about “Perfect Imperfection” my heart jumped.  I knew that this project was what I have been looking for to hold on to Kendall now, the scars, braces, skinny little legs and a the contagious smile.  Kendall today doesn’t know that those things show a disability. She doesn’t see that she is different.  Her strength now will hopefully help her weaknesses in the future when those scars embarrass, the braces want to be hidden, and the smile isn’t shining as bright.  I want Kendall to know that she isn’t defined by her disability, but that through her disability she is able to do great things.

Being at a photo shoot for an almost 4 year old is very stressful.  She wasn’t still, she faced the wrong way, and she hit and kicked the back drop just to name a few.  Neely handled her like it was a walk in the park and kept shooting through any hiccup Kendall threw at us. Before leaving I knew that Neely had gotten the shots that my heart longed to have and keep forever. She listened to my ideas as well as thinking of things I wouldn’t have. Now seeing some of the photos I am so glad that we chose to be a part of this project. My hope is that through Kendall’s story the mentality that doctors have of Spina Bifida will change, so that parents have hope for a beautiful child that will bring them so many blessings.

Kendall is redefining Spina Bifida one milestone at a time! 

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Perfect Imperfections | Childhood Cancer Awareness Month | Ker-Fox Photography | Columbus, GA | Carly

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Perfect Imperfections | Childhood Cancer Awareness Month | Ker-Fox Photography | Columbus, GA | Carly

I first had the privilege of photographing Carly and part of her journey back in 2009. She was about to face another tough round of treatment and a double lung surgery to remove where her cancer had spread. This young lady is a walking, talking, dancing, fireball of a MIRACLE. I am SO grateful to know her, to know her story, to witness her strength, her testimony, her love of life and impeccable sense of humor. I asked her mom to write about Carly's journey. It has been a long one, and one that still isn't over. But, honestly all of our journeys are ongoing aren't they? We are all on a path of constant changes, ups and downs, trials and triumphs. Carly's tests keep coming back stable and we will keep rejoicing with her. From her mom and dad: Carly was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of sarcoma when she was 7 ½ years old. The name of this cancer diagnosis is a mouth-full…mesenchymal chondrosarcoma. There is no known cure, so she will live with it like a chronic disease, and there is no “roadmap” (or a structured plan) to treat this cancer. In Carly’s case, her tumor was resistant to traditional chemotherapy treatments so we had to think outside the box for her treatments. She now takes biological agents, which is a new alternative to traditional chemotherapy, to keep her cancer from growing or returning. Because she has microscopic disease, she will never be in standard remission; but we like to say she is a fighter even though she will never “beat” this cancer. The biological agents are working and I am happy to say she has been stable now for 2 years and 4 months, which is a HUGE blessing!

Carly has had a rough road, to put it lightly. She has had over 16 surgeries, 5 relapses, and 3 radiation treatments and has spent more time in hospitals than can be imagined. With every treatment and relapse, we had to come to the realization that the odds could be building against her. Some occasions we had to think about the inevitable and thought “was this it, are we were going to lose her?” But, of course, God had different plans! It does not matter what we thought. Through it all, Carly has handled every situation with strength, grace, dignity, and an amazing smile that lights up the room! We truly believe her spirit through this is God’s light. He lives in her and carried her through some of the hardest days anyone can experience.

The day she was diagnosed will always be etched in our being. To this day, I still remember hearing the words “Carly has a fairly large tumor in her sinus cavity”, and how these words knocked the breath out of me. Carly’s dad says he still remembers the blood curdling scream I let out when my worst fears had been realized by these words. Carly would tell you the worst surgery ever was the gruesome lung surgeries called thoracotomies. According to Carly, the pain is absolutely unbearable. After one of her procedures, a double thoracotomy (both lungs at once), she was lying in her bed in the ICU in pain. Our tough 9 year old child was standing strong, but I could see a tear rolling down her cheek. The pain from the procedure was so bad, and the chest tube took up so much of her lung capacity that she couldn’t even get a deep breath to scream. All she could do is lie there and let tears roll down her cheeks. So I held her hand and I told her how I wished I could take her place and that she didn’t deserve this. I told her I would do it for her in a heartbeat if I could. She looked me right in the eye and whispered, “No, Mommy, you aren’t strong enough. I can do this”.

Carly has always had an optimistic outlook of her illness and treatment. In the beginning of our journey, the song “Stand” by Rascal Flatts was the song that inspired her to fight every day! Carly’s journey has taught us how to appreciate every single day we have together. She lives her life like any normal teenager (15) and expects to live her life to the fullest for a very long time. Because of her positive spirit and her faith in God, she has taught us to be the same way. We are thankful for every single day we have with her, and we are even thankful for the emotional, teenage outbursts that occur more frequently these days! It’s all worth it because God has chosen to allow us to keep her here with us! And for that we are blessed and thankful!

All the procedures have given Carly many scars on her body. She never complains about them, seeing them as her battle scars. She maintains a positive outlook and is quite light-hearted about them. There is a large scar on her leg from a surgery where they used muscle in her leg to create reconstruction in her head. She tells people she was bitten by a shark. She will also be glad to show you the hole in the soft palette in her mouth that causes her speaks differently, but if someone comments on the way she talks she will just say that she speaks differently because she was born in Australia. Carly tries to find humor in many difficult situations, and is very open and honest with anyone that wants to know her story. To us, she is perfectly formed in the eyes of the Lord with surgical imperfections that only tell her amazing story. She is and always will be our Hero! She is proud to be a part of such a wonderful blog, Perfect Imperfections.

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Perfect Imperfections | Embracing and Empowering Positive Body Image | Ker-Fox Photography | Kristi

It's taken 6 years of me being a professional photographer to finally figure out why the good Lord gave me the gifts of photography/creativity/compassion: I truly love people... and the human condition. At my core I love deeply, feel deeply, I give deeply. I think that is why birth photography suited me so well. I've wanted to hang up my camera more times than I can count and just be a mom to my kids. But then someone tells me that God gave me "this gift", or "the Lord has truly blessed you with a talent", etc. If I had a dollar for everytime someone said that to me I genuinely could probably pack my camera away. The penny finally dropped. I can be a wife, a mom, and a photographer... and this gift the Lord has blessed me with is an outlet to glorify Him. He's moulded me through the years to get to this point, to use my photographer FOR something: For Him, for women, for mothers, for healing, for education, for awareness, for giving testimonies, for normalizing birth/postpartum, for redefining beauty... showing beauty in weakness, showing beauty in strength. The Lord has given me this platform, and always to my humble amazement, He's given me an audience that listens, and keeps coming back. So aside from capturing these pure, real, and stunning moments in your lives... know that with each session, in my heart there is greater meaning. I hope that the photos and the experience add something more to your lives than just a few photos hung on your walls. All of this leads me to the reason for this post. The kick off if you will, of these posts with purpose. A few weeks ago, just before Mother's Day I shared a blog post with a project I had been putting together for the last few months. You can see that post HERE. The cliff notes being, it is a project aimed at empowering women to embrace, love, and accept their imperfections, to realize that each scar, each line, each blemish on their body or their heart has made them exactly who they are. It's a bold idea, but I want to be a part of a dialog that is aimed at redefining the cultural norm of what is considered BEAUTIFUL. STRONG. FEMININE.

Not all of these imperfections are made equal and not all of these imperfections are of the physical nature. Kristi participated in this photography project more from emotional scars, unplanned pregnancy, postpartum difficulties, a baby battling horrible colic, all while being a single mom. After participating I wanted each person to write a small excerpt of how the experience of being stripped down to expose their insecurities effected them. Kristi wrote a few great sentences about her experience and the post went live. With resounding positive response the first post in this series was a huge success. Afterwards, Kristi approached me and said she wanted to tell more of her story. The parts that she's never told anyone, the parts that aren't pretty. Each story my clients are brave enough to share could encourage just one woman sitting quietly in her struggles. This is somewhat my mission if you will, my ministry. I feel the Lord has given me a gift of photography and the platform to bring Glory to Him and empower/encourage/support women.

Here is Kristi's story, make sure to scroll down to the bottom to see all of her images:

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April 29, 2011, I gave birth to a red haired 7 lb. angel. After twenty four (literally) hours of labor, the doctor came in. Placing his hand on my forehead, with tears in his eyes, he said “her oxygen levels are low, we will need to do a C-section instead.” I crumbled with exhaustion and disappointment. I had wanted so badly for it to happen naturally. Four years later, looking back on that moment, I realize it was foreshadowing of how my life would be as a parent. They are their own little people and things happen you don’t have control over. Before having my daughter, I was caught up in an unhealthy relationship, which involved drugs and alcohol. I had lost my way for a long time. My daily routine consisted of sleeping in, working at night as a server and then partying until the early morning hours. I became pregnant with my daughter and things changed. They had to. I stopped everything. I didn’t drink caffeine, I ate healthy, took my vitamins, went to my doctor appointments, and exercised as often as I could. I thought I was doing everything I needed to do to create a happy, healthy baby. I breastfed for about two months, but she had such bad congestion that it was very hard for her to nurse without having to gasp for air. She was colicky and coughed and cried so much, all of the time. Needless to say, I felt like I had failed. This was my fault. She was sick because I did something wrong. Elevate, humidifier, Vicks baby rub. I did everything the doctor told me to do to help alleviate the congestion. I even had her wrapped up in a blanket on top of the running dryer in the middle of many nights to soothe her. There was not any piece of clothing that I owned that did not have spit up on it. We existed in baby vomit. There wasn’t much point sometimes in changing my clothes when I was never safe from getting thrown up on so I walked around, shopped, and ran errands, smelling pukey. The doctor reassured me that she would grow out of it. I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “When? How does he know? He isn’t with her like me, something else must be wrong” were thoughts that constantly plagued my mind. At five months, she ended up in the hospital from not being able to breathe properly. We were there for 2 days, receiving breathing treatments and medicine. No one had an answer. I still heard she will grow out of it. I was worn out and frustrated. No one had an answer and I couldn’t do anything. It was my job to protect this tiny human being and my responsibility to make the right decisions for her.

In those moments, I had no idea what I could do for her besides just be there to comfort her. Gratefully, the doctor was right. She did grow out of it. She is a very healthy, thriving, loving four year old. She is loud, stubborn, curious, independent, funny, and gives the best hugs and kisses. I will tell you that going through all of that and still what comes unexpectedly now, I would do it all over again. Saying that, it still took its toll on me and honestly, it came out of nowhere. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Looking back, I did what I needed to do but I had no release, no outlet. I was like a gerbil in its cage, going round and round, no time to think about what I was doing, no time for self-reflection.

About two years ago, it got to be too much for me. I had just gotten a good paying job and we were doing alright, I thought. I was marketing for an imaging center, calling on doctors. I would be in the field all day long. I found myself losing track of what I was doing, headed in the wrong direction and not remembering where I was supposed to be. I would start to cry for absolutely no reason and not be able to visit my offices, as I sat sobbing in my car. I would call my sister and I could never tell her the reason of my outbursts because I had no idea why I was crying. I wanted to sleep. I had no motivation to do anything. I had to use all of my energy to get up on the weekends and take my daughter out to do something fun. I was exhausted. I lost more weight than I should have. My temper was quick and I started arguments with loved ones blaming them for things when in reality, it was me that felt inadequate. My self-esteem was at an all -time low. When my daughter went to spend the weekend with my parents, I took this as an opportunity to find my release in going out and drinking. Needless to say, this never made me feel any better. I never wanted to harm myself. However, I did start to daydream about what would happen if something tragic happened to me. I became obsessed with thinking too much about what would happen to my child if I wasn’t here anymore. My head took over and I was consumed with negative energy I couldn’t shake.

A friend of mine suggested I go and see my family physician. He put me on a mild anti-depressant. I was apprehensive about being put on medicine. He understood my concern but thought that this would help. I knew that, for me, there was another way of handling what was going on. The same friend suggested that maybe I should go and talk to a professional. This woman came to be one of the most influential people in my life. She doesn’t like me giving her too much credit and I am aware there are many factors involved. However, the whole experience and me allowing it to be effective, brought me to a place I had never been before, both spiritually and emotionally. Allowing myself to give in and be vulnerable and using the tools that I was given has been beneficial in my healing. I now am confident in myself as a mother and as a woman. There are still bad days, of course. There are days when I just want to lock myself in my bathroom and have a moment(s) of silence.

There are days when I am overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of this beautiful child. My daughter’s eyes are always on me. I am her greatest influence. It scares the crap out of me but at the same time, it is a great honor that I have been blessed with. My life is only better because she came into it. She wasn’t a planned baby in the conventional way but she wasn’t a surprise to God. He knew what he was doing when he placed her in my anxious arms. I did this project for the reason that the past four years have been a great learning experience for me. Now, I have never felt more confident in myself or been at ease with my responsibilities as a mom. There are tougher days ahead but I have been given the tools to handle them and I know that we will be just fine. I want my child to see that I am trying to be the best for myself so that I can be the best for her. This was an amazing opportunity, for me, to celebrate how far I have come. I also wanted to share my story to mothers who may be struggling more emotionally than physically, post children. I want mothers to not be ashamed to seek outside guidance. It shouldn’t be a taboo thing and no mom should feel embarrassed of it. It is not an admittance of defeat, only an acceptance that you are courageous and want only the best for yourself and your children.

Kristi, your willingness to not only want to share this, but your transparency and honesty is so so brave. I commend you for acting, for listening to your heart and sharing your testimony. I pray it encourages someone out there, silently in need of these words!

 

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Perfect Imperfections: A Positive Body Image Photo Series | Ker-Fox Photography | OBGYN Associates Midwives | BirthSource

Ker-Fox Photography is teaming up in partnership with the  OBGYN Associates Midwives of St. Francis and BirthSource for a photo project aimed at reclaiming and redefining the beauty of the female body. WHY another project like this, with others already in the works? Let me start off by saying this is not an original idea and in no way am I even attempting to take credit for this concept. I've been inspired by fellow photographers doing amazing things both nationally and in their own communities. I simply want to facilitate an event for women locally in our own community to have the chance to experience this empowering opportunity. What I see happening is a beautiful thing, and I want to be a part of it. I want to do my part.

Some amazing projects that have brought me inspiration as a mother and a photographer that are worth checking out are: • Birth Without Fear's hashtag campaign #TakeBackPostpartum4th Trimester BodiesJade Beall's A Beautiful Body Project (INCLUDES NUDITY)

There is a movement going on, I'm witnessing it daily in the media. Stereotypes of what women's bodies are supposed to look like are being shattered thanks to national media sources picking up the stories. Whether it be Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, The TODAY Show, etc. Every day I see stories of women coming forward to show how proud they are of their bodies. Just recently a story of a mother proudly defending her choice to wear a two piece bathing suit, showing her stretched tummy. Everyday women aren't the only victims of body shaming, even celebrities get ridiculed and judged harshly if they are deemed less than perfect...  PINK and  Kelly Clarkson immediately come to mind recently. There is also an anti-photoshop movement amongst us clients and celebrities.  Keira Knightly and Jamie Lee Curtis refuse to let publications photoshop them, pushing to help normalize what is REAL! National advertising campaigns are joining suit. I love seeing the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty videos HEREHERE, and HERE. They are encouraging women to rethink how they view themselves. It's all about self love. And if we as a society can change the definition of beautiful, our relationships with our spouses, the future environment of self worth for our daughters and sons, will be a much healthier and happier place for us all.

As a photographer, a woman, and a mother living in a postpartum body... I am acutely aware of clients' desires to be photoshopped. "My arms are fat... I have a double chin when I smile... My thighs are huge... Can you make my tummy smaller (even though you just gave birth 5 days ago!), etc. Can you photoshop that?!" I wish these women could see themselves how I see them, how I'm sure their children see them. I promise you, no one is sizing you up like you do, I promise you your child isn't thinking, "My mommy needs to go run 5 miles because her belly is squishy", your child is thinking... "I love laying my head on my mommy's tummy and watching cartoons, her belly is so soft and comfy."

Aside from being passionate about this movement to normalize and redefine true beauty, I find myself personally invested, again as a Mother and a Photographer. I came out of my first pregnancy obnoxiously unscathed from the rigors of growing and birthing a child. I would still rock a bikini, boasting my no-stretch mark anthem. I actually liked my body better, I FINALLY had hips! I quickly went not only back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but actually went 5 pounds below. I remember thinking, "Dang, I've got some epic genes." Fast forward 3 years... my body now tells a totally different story: stretch marks, umbilical hernia, diastasis recti (abdominal separation) which can truly only be fixed permanently with a tummy tuck, because of this I will always look like I'm 4 months pregnant, due to my abdominal separation I also now have to go to physical therapy for back issues stemming from a weak core. My boobs.! Oh good grief, my boobs... They are no longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Lastly, even though I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my body has irrevocably been changed. Forever. I will not lie and say it has been easy, or even that I truly LOVE this new body. But dang it, every day I am working on it. And every day I make sure my daughter and son know that my body, and what it has done is BEAUTIFUL. I grew and birthed a human. Twice. Let that sink in.

So, not only am I wanting to do this photo series for other women, I am wanting to do this for me. For my children. For my husband, so I can believe him when he tells me I'm beautiful.

I'll be stepping in front of the camera myself. I'm nervous, but I'm ready. Won't you join me?

When & Where: There will be two days of shooting that you can sign up for. The session will last approximately 30-45 minutes. Day 1: Saturday May 2, 2015 Day 2: Sunday May 3, 2015

Ker-Fox Photography 1300 6th Ave Suite 1 Columbus, GA 31907

Who can participate?: You do not have to be a mother to participate (and if you are a mother, that includes mother's of adoption). Women, all of us, have lines, scars, and stripes on our bodies that cause us insecurities. But they also tell our stories, and show our strength. Cancer? Childbirth? Car Accident? Hysterectomy? Currently pregnant? Anyway that your body has been modified that causes you insecurities is a reason to sign up and participate in this project. Mothers please feel free to have your children join you for a few frames. MOST IMPORTANTLY: You don't have to currently see these issues in a negative light. If you want to shout from a mountain top how much you love your body as is, BRING IT! You are perfect for this series.

Limited availabilities: I will only be taking on a maximum of 16 participants. 8 availabilities each of the two days of shooting.

Proceeds and Donations: Along with creating awareness and being part of a movement to normalize women's bodies, we would love for local charities to benefit from this project. Since Mother's Day is coming up, the money raised will be divided equally between Sound Choices Pregnancy Clinic and Clements Arts for families wishing to adopt. The session fee as well as any additional photos/prints or donations will all go directly to these organizations.

What to wear: Photo will be taken in my private studio, on a cream colored backdrop. I ask that you wear bra and panties that closely match your skin tone. Simple cotton underwear, no lace or embellishments. You are free to go topless or nude even, I will photograph you however you are comfortable, but images I choose to publish publicly will not show nudity. If children are the be included: a simple diaper cover for babies, plain white undies and tanks for older kiddos.

Model Release: In order to participate you have to agree to and sign a release understanding that your images will be used online, whether it be my website, social media, or in public art galleries. These images will be part of a solo photographic exhibit later this year to be housed temporarily in a local gallery.

Meet and Greet: Should you decide to participate, we will be having a meet and greet at Midtown Coffee, sponsored by the OBGYN Associates Midwives of St. Francis . This is an opportunity to get to know you, break the ice, and for you to share a bit more of your stories with me. (Date to be decided)

Upon Completion: These images initially will be completed and posted on my blog here in time to celebrate Mother's Day. Since motherhood is what has inspired me and given me reason to seek to love my new body.

Future Gallery Exhibition: I will be having a solo photography exhibit later in the year that will feature imagery focused on "Motherhood". It will include my birth photography images, some of my documentary sessions on motherhood, as well as selected images from this photo series. Should I choose your image, it will be accompanied with your words to be hung at the gallery. We will welcome you and honor you at the opening night gala.

Questions/Inquiries: Please do not hesitate at all to contact me if you have any questions or apprehensions. There is a contact button at the top of my website.

 

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