rideTZ | day nine

day nine took us to the village of manyoni. we passed through lots of villages this day -- some we stopped at, others we just drove though. and to be completely honest, i was pretty ready to be done taking photos of bicycles by this point. but i kept shooting bicycles. :-) nothing like seeing an intanet' hotel as we depart mashewa.

another village that welcomed us to eat chapatis and drink tea. i don't really even like tea, but their tea was awesome. and things that are served hot in TZ are served really hot, which i love.  i have a thing about my hot stuff being really hot and my cold stuff really cold.

the women in the building thought i was pretty darn funny. the chapatis were actually cooked in that side little room.

and off we went.

AEIOU. at our lunch stop.

i loved all the footprints all over the front of this house.

you don't see all that many brick homes in TZ.

my driver, hamisi, waiting with some of the local villagers.

looking down from a bridge. washing clothes.

right after this shot, these two boys ran and hid.

crossing the bridge, where i took the two photos above from.

there were so many children around our campsite. i loved how they welcomed the riders.

mike played with the kids for hours. they loved him.

and kaitlin and marc taught the kids the macarena.

it was such a joy watching the kids have fun and play together -- kids just being kids!

they loved the beach balls we gave them.

and as we headed into camp, they crawled up as close as they were allowed and just watched and waited.

rideTZ | day eight

day eight was an exciting, bit scary, interesting, picturesque, educational, fun-filled day -- taking us from mkuzu creek to mashewa via some uphill and lots of downhill riding. WARNING:  if you are an animal lover or your children are around your computer, you might not want to proceed past the goat photo below.

leaving mkuzu creek resort, it was cloudy and drizzling, but so beautiful.

a break at one of the villages.

the boys were so interested in the changing of the flat tire.

i learned that a hotel in TZ is not the same as a hotel in america.

so often, the children carry the babies.

barry celebrated his 50th.

i think i'm going to hang this in the entryway of my house.


we had lunch at this village. and this group of kids stayed very shy and stand offish the entire time.

this amazing group of children sang to us, for quite a while. i took some video, which i'm hoping to share later (still need to download it off another drive). i can't even begin to describe how beautiful their voices were.

playing with one of the balls we left them, as we departed.

poor simon!! a cow, crossing the path, ran right into simon, knocking him hard to the ground. thankfully, he wasn't seriously injured, but he did hit his head and the doc watched him closely.  he ended up riding in the truck with me for the following two days.

heading into mashewa.

barry's first surprise.

we headed into the nearby village of mashewa to shop for food, to accompany our main dish.

marc stopped to play football with the kids for a bit.

maji is water, which this village obtained in 1972.

in TZ, they burn their garbage pretty much anywhere.


three of the riders decided to get their heads shaved.


THE goat!

the goat, which ended up being our dinner. he was killed by the village elder / councilman (isa).  it was super quick and humane -- as humane as killing a goat can get.

and last but not least, barry's 50h birthday celebration. he had no idea this was coming and it was such a wonderful surprise.  once i knew the cake was coming, i told the group that i wanted to see if i could take some photos in the dark with some of their head lamps on. :-) i can't imagine a more incredible way to celebrate a 50th birthday!


rideTZ | day seven

day seven began with a visit to an incredible orphanage, irente children's home, which is run by simon's grandmother, sister enna (simon is the 16-year-old TFFT student, who was selected to ride this year).  irente children's home is not only a most-beautiful, loving orphanage, it also manages an incredible training program for young women, who are interested in becoming matrons of orphanages. the orphanage was followed by a visit to simon's grandfather's house. simon's grandfather was a tanzania hospital administrator for over 30 years.  he's now almost blind and sadly, battling cancer. before we left, simon's grandfather gave such a moving speech about the gift that TFFT has given to his grandson.

the riders experienced lots of ups and downs this day, as they cycled through the heart of the mountain -- ending the day's ride at mkuzu creek resort.

sister enna not only provided us with a tour of her orphanage, she also served us a delicious mid-morning snack (samosas, popcorn, banana, water and tea).

we then proceeded on to visit simon's grandfather's house, where we had lunch.

the guys preparing our lunch.

most of the rest of the ride was beautiful, lush and green -- down the mountain.


our campsite at mkuzu creek resort.



win a workshop seat at LAUNCH

i'm super excited to share another raffle in conjunction with my fundraising for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). RAFFLE [a $995.00 value]: a seat in stacy larsen's next LAUNCH photography workshop held april 21st and 22nd in tampa, florida

HOW TO ENTER: donate $10 HERE submit your first and last name when donating email stacy that you donated and would like to be entered into the LAUNCH raffle for every $10 donation, you will receive one raffle entry you can enter as many times as you wish

the winner will be announced on stacy's blog on monday, april 9th.  GOOD LUCK!

win a photo session AND digital files

i'm super excited to share a raffle that i've launched in conjunction with my fundraising for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). RAFFLE [a $3,450.00 value]: a one-hour photo session in the tampa bay area one 11x14 print 30 high-resolution digital files on CD

HOW TO ENTER: donate $20 HERE for every $20 donation, you will receive one raffle entry you can enter as many times as you wish submit your first and last name when donating email me that you would like to be entered into the raffle

PLEASE NOTE: eligible for raffle if you live in the tampa area or are willing to drive / fly to the tampa area session must take place september 1st through november 15th, 2012 session location is limited to 30-miles of 33629 tampa zip code session is for immediate family members only [parents & children]

if you're in the the tampa area, please spread the word. you can read more about my upcoming trip to tanzania here.



if you would like to join this effort by offering a similar raffle to your clients, email me for more details. also, i have some exciting raffles for photographers coming SOON!

closing with some photos from my family session this past saturday...

kirsten's legacy

kirsten sandstrom endured a 21-month battle with adrenocortical carcinoma [acc], a rare and aggressive cancer of the adrenal glands. kirsten was only 37 when she passed away on march 25th, 2010, leaving behind a husband and three young boys. kirsten was such a kind, caring, incredible woman, whose beauty radiated through and through -- no matter how much pain she was in. a few months ago, i was contacted by translational genomics research institute [tgen] about possibly using some photos of kirsten, in an upcoming issue of tgen today. i had already known that her family approved because they were the ones that referred tgen to me. and there was no question on my part. i immediately went through all of kirsten's images and shared every photo that i thought might possibly work for the article.  i knew tgen was happy with the photographs but i didn't know which image[s] they had selected for kirsten's article.

a few days ago, i received tgen today in the mail.

the article -- the power of one: pasquinelli-sandstrom family establishes kirsten's legacy to focus on ACC resarch -- is so beautifully written. they included bailey's (one of kirsten's three sons) school essay:

I asked in a cautious voice, 'What's wrong, Dad?' He told us to sit down with him and said, 'Mom is really sick, and the doctors say she has cancer.' My heart skipped a beat. I was still wondering if he said this right. Could that even be possible? When I looked around the room, everything was fuzzy and I could not see anything. It was then that I hear my innocent little brother, Jake, ask, 'What's cancer?' At that moment, I knew he would feel unimaginable pain far worse than Holden, [Bailey's twin] and I were currently feeling. I knew that we all wanted to hug our mom and never let go.

and the closing paragraph quotes kirsten's dad...

What we hope to do at TGen through Kirsten's Legacy is this: She doesn't have to be physically alive for her faith and courage to be contagious, to give others hope. By funding this research, her faith and courage lie on through the successes I know TGen will achieve. And in turn, those successes will give others with ACC a chance.

the entire article can be read here.

without a doubt, kirsten's faith and courage are contagious!!  i truly am so blessed to have met kirsten. and her entire family.

you can see more photos of kirsten and her family here on my is there a perfect time? post.

max's angels

the first time i photographed max and his siblings (april 2008), i saw this angel in the clouds, immediately after our session together.

yesterday, max's dad emailed me about how their family saw this angel in the clouds, while on a vacation in mammoth a couple weeks ago.  andy wrote about it all here.

chills.  serious chills.


i also wanted to share this post written yesterday by my friend, amy boring -- if i could turn back time.

i hope you'll take a few minutes to not only read a bit about max and all that his parents are currently doing to raise money for neuroblastoma research, but also amy's blog post.  i promise...it will be time well spent.

are you my mother?

sweet baby bird so innocentso beautiful and wise the future rests within your sights hope fills your tiny eyes your body warmed by fluffy down shields your heart from the rain rest softly on the leaves of brown your life has much to gain. - jill eisnaugle

before i photographed the fischer family in wisconsin, i really wanted to meet tom and the kids. so sunday morning, we met at a park playground. i wasn't sure if i should, but decided to bring my camera with me to the playground. little did i know that there would be a couple of children there, with a sweet little baby bird.

while baby bird might have thought this fabulous nest of brown was the perfect fit, sadly it just couldn't be so. i'm not sure what happened to the baby bird but i sure hope he was able to make it to rest softly on leaves of brown.

more tomorrow on the fischer family and my special days shared with them.

i ♥ mr. fischer!!

my print | life support japan

i think this might be the last launching of photographs on wall space gallery's life support japan and i feel so honored to have my photograph including in life support japan 5. you can purchase my print (shown below) here.  8x8 print. edition of 10. all prints on the site are available for $50 each.  pretty amazing opportunity to get some awesome art.  i've already purchased two prints myself.  would have purchased a few others, if they hadn't sold out so quickly.

direct relief international (for medical) and habitat for humanity (for rebuilding) are the organizations that will benefit from the life support japanprint sales. the goal is 100% donation (as long as they can get donation of shipping supplies and  financial help towards shipping costs).

life support japan

such an amazing endeavor is taking place right now... crista dix, from wall space gallery, recently launched life support japan -- where photographers from around the world have donated prints (no larger than 8.5 x 11, edition of 10) for (set-price) auction.

these prints can be purchased online at wall space gallery for $50 each!!

direct relief international (for medical) and habitat for humanity (for rebuilding) are the organizations that will benefit from the life support japan print sales. the goal is 100% donation (as long as they can get donation of shipping supplies and  financial help towards shipping costs).  so far, the auction has raised $10,000...in two days!!

it's incredible the number of photographers, who have stepped forward and donated. new photographs are being added daily, so if you don't see an image you love and want to purchase, please keep checking back.

seriously...such an awesome opportunity to purchase a some art, while also helping the relief efforts in japan. and a special thanks to aline smithson for all her hard work and coordination efforts.

i've offered this 8x8 print for auction...

copyright deb schwedhelm photography | one

ETA: i just read this article.  and the pictures. OMG...my heart aches for the people of japan.

and a recent note from crista dix:

Life Support Japan + online print sale benefit information. Natural disasters happen all the time, like landslides, floods, earthquakes. We live on a planet that isn't static. Friday, March 11th, we witnessed a natural disaster with a very human toll. The earthquake in Japan was of such magnitude that even the most prepared nation in the world to handle a disaster of this type was overwhelmed. It wasn't the earthquake alone, which was devastating enough but watching a 30 foot high wall of mud and debris wipe entire communities away was beyond any ability I personally had to comprehend.

I had to do something. Aline Smithson, one of our gallery artists wanted to do something too. Ryan Nabulsi and Jennifer Schwartz joined the effort. Soon I was hearing from every part of our creative community that we wanted to reach out to help the people of Japan. Life Support Japan was created to bring assistance to those in Japan who need it.

We have selected two charities to benefit from the sales of these limited edition prints.

Direct Relief International, for help with medical supplies. Direct Relief works closely with the United Nations (U.N.) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), which has activated to assemble the international response. Direct Relief has mobilized and staged materials at our headquarters, which are standing by ready for airlift to Japan.

Habitat for Humanity Japan, to help in the rebuilding of communities in and around Sendai and northern Japan.

Artists from around the globe have donated limited editions, over 300 to date, and we will be consistently updating the images available.

Galleries from around the US are banding together for a series of benefits, for these two and other charities to benefit relief efforts in Japan. We will be posting information as it becomes available.

Thank you for your support and for being part of a global community.

Crista Dix + wall space gallery.

missing sam

thinking about the hutchison family!! their oldest boy, sam, lost his battle against the terrible beast, neuroblastomaa year ago today. i visited sam's blog this morning and margot shared...

go out and “get in the game” today in honor of sam.

remembering sam and his fun-loving, soccer-playing, heelie-wearing, taco-eating, video game-playing, bike-riding, magic treehouse book-reading, bionicle-building, transformer-transforming, brother-loving, baby brother-kissing, speed-loving self!!

hutchison family -- love you guys. thinking about you guys.

photos from mar, sep and nov 2009

now go love and hold your family tight!!

beyond the assignment | forever seven

max mikulak...

forever seven.

this morning, i received an email from jason houston that max's series, forever seven, has been published in issue 3 of fraction J magazine. and i couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect theme to have max's photographs be a part of -- beyond the assignment.

For this issue of Fraction J we were looking for projects with several specific traits. The work, first had to be journalistic, at least in the sense that it was a reaction made in real time to real events and a subject's story truthfully told. But the more important distinction was that the photographer stuck with the work, not from any attempt to create something sellable for some specific market, but because it meant something to them—and where. The photography also has to be a functional element of the concerned involvement, but not the reason for it. In the end it was very difficult to draw these lines and find that balance, especially when it came to the personal documentary projects, many of which were reflecting on external situations. But in the end, the portfolios we ended up with span an appropriately broad and inspiring range of responses.

i hope you'll take a look.

thank you fraction J for this incredible opportunity to share. i am so, so grateful!!

photography journey

i was just going through my website, checking how everything looked and flowed, after making some recent changes and updates. and as i went through my portfolio images, tears filled my eyes. i just feel so blessed to have met all the people i've met, while on this photography journey. the clients, who have trusted me to photograph their families and/or their children -- some of them, over and over again.  many of my friends, who i so cherish and would most likely have never met if i hadn't pursued photography. and to be a military family, which has given me so many opportunities to meet new people and explore new areas. i really hope that my photography journey has only just begun...but no matter what, i am grateful for all that i have experienced, which has truly filled my heart and soul. and to think, i may never have started down this photography path without going through those three months of hell in 2005, living in the rat, maggot and fly infested house, in san diego. some things are just meant to happen...even though we may not realize the gift they will one day bring us, at the time.

from san diego, where i first started learning photography, to kansas, which i never imagined i would enjoy as much as i did, to tampa, where i hope, dream and wish my journey to continue and paths to expand.

the power of giving

while i was on vacation, in nevada, i got an email from margot.  she was emailing to make sure it was okay that they used one of my photos of sam in their 2010 family photos, which she wanted to post on  her blog. the first thought that came to mind, along with the tears, was, are you KIDDING me? you NEVER have to ask me about using the photos i took of sam. but instead, i replied,

absolutely. and please don't ever feel you need to ask me about using sam's photos at anytime, for anything. please just use them.

for those who didn't follow my journey with sam and his family, let me share a bit. sam went to the same elementary school in san diego, as kiele. i had learned of sam from kiele's deaf itinerant teacher, diane (sam was hearing impaired due to chemo). i asked diane to share with sam's parents that i was available to them any time at all, to photograph sam and their family. time went on. life was busy. and i hadn't heard from sam's parents.

then one day in late 2006, while photographing kiele's classmates, i ran to sam's class and asked the teacher if i could pull sam out of class for a few photos. i knew sam's teacher because kiele had had her for 2nd grade. so i pulled sam out of class and took a few photos. once the prints arrived, i boxed them up, brought them to sam's teacher and asked that she give them to the parents and tell them that they are a gift from me.

one of those photos, from the very first time i photographed sam, is the framed photo below.

© meredith brunette

i share this for a couple of reasons: first, the power of giving back is beyond words. if you haven't given back in some way (and i'm not talking monetarily; we all have our gifts, talents, information, etc.), i beg you to. give when and however you can. it can be as simple as giving a helping hand to someone in need. second, don't be discouraged whenever attempting to give and it's not working out exactly as planned. if i've made an honest, whole-hearted attempt and it doesn't work out, that's all i can do (except with sam, i was able to find a workaround). the reason i say this is because i have received quite a few emails sharing that they are trying to give their photography services but the person / parent isn't responding and they're wondering how to proceed.

it amazing how when  you give and expect absolutely nothing in return, they fill your heart so greatly. these families that i have photographed over the years have touched my heart and soul and given me so much...more than words could ever describe.

after those initial photos of sam at school, i continued to photograph sam and his family for the next three years...until sam, after so much strength and fighting, sadly lost his battle to neuroblastoma on march 12th, 2010.

in memory of sam, here are some of my favorite photos from the years i photographed him. miss you buddy!

if you haven't already, i hope this will help inspire you to incorporate giving into your 2011.

the joy of giving

i am just a human being.for me, everyone is the same... what is the ultimate purpose of life? it's to give. start giving. feel the joy of giving. - narayanan krishnan

i saw this on someone's blog (can't remember where) earlier in the week and didn't have time to watch.  today, i saw it again on my friend, crystalyn's, FB stream.  and watched.  let me just say that i was moved to tears.

a former professional chef in a five-star restaurant in india. now feeding the homeless, mentally ill destitute and old people, who have been left, uncared for. but not only caring for their nutritional needs, he goes further...

this man is so much more than a kind and decent man. he is an absolutely amazing and inspiring man.  he could have stopped at nutritionally feeding these people in need, but he didn't.  i would love to give so incredibly, so selflessly -- one day.

for the moment, it really has me thinking about how i can give more. give greater. right here. right now. i know i can be doing more.

pay it forward

i'm seeing pay if forward all over facebook and twitter today.  what a cool thing to go viral.  i hope it does. i have no idea who david mundo is but apparently, he started this annual pay it forward day on december 1st.  so i googled "pay it forward day' and found that there's an official pay it forward day on april 28th...but who cares.  i'm in for paying it forward on december 1st and doing my part to help it go viral.

this is what it's all about...

Pay It Forward Day December 1st, 2010

‘Tis the Season! A random act of kindness goes a long way so…


What can you do? On December 1st... • Pay for someone’s cup of coffee… • Buy someone some groceries… • Get the next person’s gas… • Help someone out… • Donate something… • Be creative!

When you do something for someone there’s a good chance they’ll do something for someone else. If not, at least you’ve done a good deed for someone.

So on December 1st share some kindness and spread some joy! It can be as little as a few dollars or as much as you want. No one needs to know!

are you in? hope so!!

if you do participate, i'd love to know what your random act of kindness was; please share in the comments.  i'll ETA mine later today.  hmmm...maybe i'll go through the starbucks drive-thru simply to purchase the next person's cup of coffee.

ETA: after my workout this morning, i stopped at xtreme juice for a shot of wheat grass and a smoothie.  got my stuff. walked out. and then back in...thinking it was the perfect place to pay it forward.  purchased the next person's smoothie and asked the girl to just tell the person that it was simply a random act of kindness.  :-))

love, hope & a little kindness

this was my fifth time photographing the mcnulty family, in san diego (and i adore them).

but this time, things were a bit different. danielle asked if i was willing to also photograph her mother-in-law, her sons and her grandsons. all boys in the mcnulty family thus far.

of course!

she requested pacific beach pier as they are a big surfing family. so the session went on, as most family session do  -- photographing the extended family, the individual families, the kids, etc. we were almost done with the session, when i went to grandma mary to ask her if i could get a picture of her by herself. i thought she was just picking something up, but learned that as she went to reach for one of her grandkids, her wedding band flew off and she was trying to find it -- somewhere in the sand.

OH. MY. GOSH. how in the world are we going to find a wedding band in all this sand...on the beach??

soon, we were all looking for grandma mary's wedding band -- mary. myself. danielle. the sons. the grandsons.

then, as if sent from Heaven, i see a guy walking down the beach, with one of those metal-finding-contraptions. i ran to him and begged him to help us, although it really didn't take much begging. and so he joined us in the search.

as we were sifting through the sand, i learned that this ring was even more special than i could have imagined.

mary and patrick were married in 1960 and had five boys. when mary was 33 and patrick was 45 (in 1972), he died suddenly of a massive heart attack -- leaving behind mary and the five boys, ranging in age, from 3 to 12 at the time. mary never remarried and raised the boys on her own. inscribed in mary's wedding, by patrick, is "The sun and the moon", from shakespeare.

OH. MY. GOSH. we HAVE to find this wedding ring. we HAVE to find this ring!!!!!

from the moment the boys started looking for their mom's ring, all i heard was...

don't worry mom, we'll find it. we'll find your ring mom. keep looking...we'll find it.

there was so much hope. belief. support. and encouragement.  it was pretty magical to see and hear. and be a part of.

and i have to share that if it wasn't for the kindness of the man with metal-finding-contraption, i don't think we would have ever found mary's wedding ring. he was the one who eventually found the band...buried in the sand.

money was offered to him for helping us.  but he didn't take it.  he said he was just happy to help.

of course, i had to get a picture of mary and the ever-so-kind good samaritan.

the perfect time | part II

i returned a few days ago from an amazing weekend at the sundance resort, with new friends -- wallflower friends.  as part of the retreat, leah and i photographed jon canlas' family.  he's a photographer with a beautiful wife and five incredible children and...they have never had a family photo done. really?  not one family photo?  but you're a photographer; you should know better.  really?

here's the first couple photographs i've edited. hoping he and his wife love the photos as much as i do.  (jon's little guy had open heart surgery not long ago...he's doing awesome.)

and yesterday, i received an email from team charisse.  who is charisse?  charisse is an amazing photographer in connecticut.  she is a beautiful, kind, loving young woman. a wife.  a mother to three young boys.  and she is battling cancer (lymphoma) for the third time!! and because of the cancer and aggressive chemotherapy, charisse recently had to close her photography business for the remainder of the year (income that they depended on and during the busiest time of year), which in turn, is causing a significant financial hardship on their family.

image courtesy of julia arstop photography

can you imagine the pain, stress and agony of battling cancer once?  how about three times?  can you imagine watching your spouse battle cancer three times? can you imagine watching your children deal with their mommy battling cancer...again? it's just wrong! and i am going to do my best to help this amazing family. i hope that you will too.

please, if you have it in your heart to give, please consider giving to team charisse. $5, $20, $100...every little bit will help charisse and her family!!

the money raised will go towards caring for charisse and her family during these difficult times (living expenses, school expenses, medical expenses, etc.)

checks can be mailed to: Team Charisse 71 Sedgwick Avenue Darien, CT 06820

or you can contribute to team charisse via paypal here

no matter how hard i try, i can't get the donate button any smaller...but i guess you definitely get the idea this way. lol. (hoping to get new paypal button shortly. im not sure what happened to this one.)

lastly, i want to scream it to the world...

please don't wait to have photos taken.  honestly, please don't wait to document your family in whatever way you choose.  your kids will not care if you have the perfect haircut or if you are thin enough or whatever your hang-up might be.  your kids will simply love and appreciate YOU...just the way you are!

there really is no perfect time!

and in case you need any more convincing, read this.

be a dreamer

my heart is so happy...and full!

thursday afternoon, i got a voicemail from michelle, the no limits [deaf / hard-of-hearing theatre group] dreamer | owner | director. ABC was auditioning for a blonde-haired, blue-eyed oral-deaf teen, for their upcoming series pilot -- switched at birth. and michelle thought kiele would be perfect for the part.  the only problem...the audition was the following morning in los angeles.  after she chatted with the director, we decided to head to LA so kiele could audition in person. it was a chance of a lifetime and in my opinion...how could we NOT go. i purchased last minute tickets, threw what i could into a suitcase, and 30-minutes later, kiele and i were headed to LA.

kiele ended up not getting the part of daphne because they thought she was too young (the role is a 15-year-old, but apparently they're hoping to find someone 18-20s; kiele is 13). i can honestly say that kiele and i had the most amazing 24 hours, while there.  i'm so grateful for the opportunity. and i'm beyond proud of kiele.  not every child would do what kiele just did.

simply getting to audition for the part was an awesome experience. but beyond that, we got to hang out with some of the most incredible, inspirational people i have ever met -- one of them being michelle.

every time i see michelle, i'm beyond inspired!  she had a dream and she made her dream a reality. and every time i talk to her, i think i should go pursue being a deaf | hard-of-hearing (DHH) educational advocate.  when i'm with her, i feel that i really could make a difference, not only for the local DHH children, but across the nation!!

michelle, with her son, jack. captured yesterday.

kiele also got to hang out a bit with john autry.  at age seven, john was one of the first children to attend 'no limits' (he's now 21) and he had just returned from being a presenter at the 2010 media access awards (GLEE won the CSA award for diverse casting of actors with disabilities).  from what michelle shared, john was a superstar at the award ceremony!!

kiele had acted with john a few years ago in san diego, at a 'no limits' theatre play BUT we so hadn't put two and two together to realize that...

THIS IS JOHN -- the actor who played this most amazing, inspirational role on GLEE. OH MY GOSH!!

john talked to kiele about how important education is and how these acting parts are a bonus; he will never stop going to school and learning. oh my gosh!! seriously <lump in my throat>...so inspirational.  john is one of those people who smiles and the entire room lights up.  he just has one of those spirits and i have no doubt that his acting career will continue to grow!!

we also got to meet one of the most amazing women i have ever met -- enid wizig.  being in the presence of enid (87) and her husband, bernard (92), made me so happy.  they are so full of life. amazing. and so in love.  i could kick myself for not getting my camera out of the car and taking a photo of them.

enid contracted whooping cough at six months old, which resulted in her being profoundly deaf. back then, they didn't have hearing aids and her parents would use an ear trumpet to talk to her. later in school, she wore a large hearing-aid device, with the battery attached to her thigh. as a very young child, she had little to no language.  her mother insisted that she speak and hired a speech therapist, who charged $100 / hour (a very controversial choice, especially back then).  this woman believed in enid and ended up working with her twice every day for five years...for free.  and she taught enid how to speak.  enid mostly reads lips and has an unbelievable speaking voice.  to this day, enid proudly displays her speech therapist's 8x10 photograph, front and center in her living room.

enid was also the first woman to work for merrie melodies. she sat down and drew kiele this bugs bunny in about two minutes!  i asked her if she had any of her drawings in her house and she shared with me that she gave some to her children and sold the others for $10,000 each.

and i can't thank michelle's dad, nugent, enough. i know that he is michelle's mentor and from talking to him, i can 100% say that he is a dreamer. yet, he shared with me how michelle is the one who inspires him. their support and encouragement for one another is so heartening. nugent picked kiele and i up from the airport at 12:30 AM. he took us to the audition the next morning. and then took us back to the airport at 10:30 PM that night. he was willing to help in any way he could...and so encouraging and kind. thank you nugent; we couldn't have done it without you!!

lastly, happy 70th birthday john lennon. your wisdom and inspiration continue today!


auction projects

i get asked a lot of questions regarding the school auction projects i've done over the years, so i thought it would be good to just share here... every year, i offer my photography services for my kids' school auction projects. some years it's been framed portraits of each child. other years a book. and sometimes both.

and through the years, i've learned a ton!!  typically, it goes something like this...

i take a few photos of each student in the class. i do this somewhere on the school grounds. somewhere with great light. and a good background.  i try to get the child as comfortable (and natural) as possible. for me, this is an extremely important step.  i usually only have a minute or two with each child, so i have to work fast.

while i'm taking photos, the students are doing something nearby (reading books, being read a story, etc.).  i take the children one by one and do my best so it's just me and the child, with no others watching.

i also take a few photos of the group of students together. sitting. standing. whatever works with the location.

last year, i also took some photos of the children within the classroom but it doesn't always happen that way.  but, last year wasn't an auction book; it was an end of year gift from me.

after the photos, i work with the teacher in getting the children to write about a topic or a question and draw a picture. this varies from year to year, depending on the school, the teacher, the child's age, etc. for me, it has greatly varied because the past three years have been three completely different schools (in three different states). one year, at a lutheran preschool, the children drew a picture of what they thought Heaven looked like and then the teachers asked them the question, "what does Heaven look like and what do they think is in Heaven?" this year, the question is, "what do you want to be when you grow up and why?" with the younger kids, it's necessary to transcribe what they say. if this is the case, i stress the importance of capturing every single word because it adds as much of the child's personality as possible to the project.

i then design the book, however i see fit for the photographs, drawing, writing, etc. i do this through blurb because it would be too expensive to use the book company i use for my photography business.

the auction itself can be run in many different ways.  i'm sure there are other ideas out there but these are how the auctions, which i have been involved with in the past years, have run: - you can print one or two books and auction off the books. this year, i am adding an 11x14 print to the auction so the highest bidder will get the book and a print. - you can have the books available via a blurb store. with the store, you can set the price so the book price can be set for xx dollars over the printing cost and then all the profit can be donated to the school. - you can auction off one book. and then you could ask the parent winner if they would be okay with selling the book to other parents for the same auction price. again, all the money (after paying printing cost) is donated to the school. - i even worked with a school, where the teacher loved the book so much, she just wanted every parent possible to have it and so we sold the book at cost.

one of the tricky parts is getting reimbursed by the school.  this year, the room parent is getting pre-auction donations from the parents, which will cover the cost of printing.  this is a huge treat because in the previous years, i've donated my time and the printing of the book | prints.  just something to think about.

with the framed portraits, a parent or parents donated the frames. the framed prints were then auctioned for a set price (in my case, $50 each). so the parents didn't really bid on one item; they bid the set price for their child's framed portrait.  if there are 20 children in the class, this style of auction makes the school $1000.

all my time and prints (when offered) are donated. i absolutely love doing the books and being able to give back to the school.  and the parents and teachers have always loved the books too.  i have my (coffee table) books proudly displayed on my entryway credenza.  and i cherish them so.

i hope this helps. if there's any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section and i will edit the post and answer.

ETA: What was your price point (or profit) per book? the price point (profit) all depends on how high the auction goes, for the standard style auction. i've never sold my books (via a blurb store) to the parents for profit. i think it's best to talk to the teacher, room parent and possibly other parents, to see how many might be interested in purchasing the book. then you can decide how much profit you'd like to make off of each book.

our auction happens very early in the year - is this the case for you? this year, the auction is october 23rd (way early, in my opinion). and with my teaching a workshop oct 1-3 and shooting in san diego oct 13-18, i'm trying really hard to have the book completed by sep 29th.

also, do you advertise your business at all in the books themselves? logo or link to site? i have a page where i have a photograph and then under the photograph, i have -- all photographs taken by deb schwedhelm photography www.debsphotographs.com

for the framed prints of each child...our auction provides a tiny table space for your donated item. did you display all 20 or so prints for bidding? also, what happened to the ones that were not bid on? : / (or were they all bid on?) yes, all the framed 5x7 prints were displayed. and all have been purchased in the previous years, except maybe one and it wasn't at my children's school. i'm not sure what they did with the portrait that didn't sell.

Do you have suggestions for tips on the artwork of students you are going to scan, in terms of size and what they use to draw? i just have them draw on white copy paper and i prefer the kids draw with markers but colored pencils and crayons work too. it's just that the marker shows better, when the papers are scanned. a few other tips -- i like to have the kids sign their artwork or their writing and include their age. also, have them stay away from writing / drawing close to the edge of the paper. don't let them draw on the other side of the paper, as it will show through when scanned.

here's a few screen captures of auction book page spreads (of my kids) that i've done in the past years.