Making a life by what we give

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” –e.e. Cummings

Each week we share a piece of us on our photographic journey. We have titled this series, “Courage to Grow”. We hope that our own soul-searching will inspire similar introspection in our readers and that together we can make our best art and live our best lives.

I buried my face in my hands. I was overwhelmed with sadness and a sense of failure. I am normally an optimistic, and grateful person. In that moment, well I wasn’t feeling it. Why? The business side of my photography. We moved to Sydney almost 18 months ago, and I had huge hopes and plans. I wrote out the marketing plan, set my price list, updated my website, and tried to get my name out in the market. The full story is a whole other post, one that I don’t have the “courage” to write at the moment. Yes, it is still a work in progress.

On this day, as I sat at my desk enjoying a moment of self-pity, well I didn’t know how to move forward. The best escape was to scroll through Facebook, and avoid these feelings. At that moment, this popped on to my feed in a local Mothers Group:

I’ve done an interview with a magazine on our family (we have two kids with dwarfism, and one without) and they want us to provide photos. They’ve specifically asked for one of me and my three kids looking at the camera and would you believe it, I don’t have any. And my hubby is away on a business trip. They want a photo asap so it can go in the next issue. Can I ask if anyone is available tomorrow afternoon?

My instant reaction was to volunteer. I replied, and said  I could help. I suggested she email me, and over the next hour we made a date to meet the next day. She offered to pay, and I said “no”. I said that  I was working on a “Beauty of Motherhood” project, and would love to include her family. She agreed, and it felt like a win/win. I felt the bubble of sadness burst.  I may not know what to do with my  business, but I can take a photo, and I can capture a Mother and her 3 daughters looking at the camera. This I can do!

I felt nervous on the way to the session. I always have this nervousness before a session, but I had no time to get to know this family. I knew only the basic details.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with their dwarfism and how to capture this family in a natural way. As I jumped out of the car, I saw wheel chairs, hearing aids, and legs in casts. I swallowed to hide the anxiety I was feeling.

We moved to a grassy spot, and put down a blanket. I spent time talking to the girls, and as we chatted my anxiety subsided. This was no different to any other portrait session, and I didn’t need to make any changes for this family. Over the next 90 minutes, I can tell you that I feel in love with this family. They captured my heart. Their personalities smiled, and we all enjoyed this session. We had planned on 30 minutes but in-between trying to get the image they needed for the magazine, we played. The girls took photos with my camera. They twirled. They ran. They laughed. I laughed. We left when the sun was gone, and we started to feel the winter’s night air.

I drove home, and felt inspired. I was buzzing. Every cell in my body was jumping with  joy. My husband asked me how the session went as I walked in the door. I was overwhelmed with happiness. I told him about the family, and the challenges they face. The $12,000 wheel chair they need to buy, the surgeries they need to endure, and the joy that filled this family.  I told him that I loved every second of this session, and that the light was beautiful. I said it was a real pleasure to help this family. He smiled, and said “maybe you need to do more sessions like this”. I agreed.

As I set about organizing dinner, I realized the difference in my mood. Just 24 hours ago, I had felt overwhelmed. By saying “yes” with a genuine heart, I had received the best gift. I thought I was helping this family. It turns out they helped me more than they will ever know.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill


Cindy Cavanagh is a Sydney Lifestyle photographer who loves to capture the ordinary moments in our family life. This is family photography that is unposed, relaxed, and in the moment. She is an adventurous person who takes he camera with her everywhere. She embraces colour, light, and details. She enjoys baking, and coloring-in with her daughters, and escaping with a good historical fiction novel.

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