“How others see you is not important, how you see yourself means everything”
This image, which received a bronze award in the Guild of Photographers Monthly Competition, is of my friend’s little girl, Caitlin. She was my inspiration for this image, but to be honest, she inspires me every day.
Caitlin has complex congenital heart disease, which is a life threatening condition. She has had 6 heart surgeries and when she was 4 years old, she suffered 2 stokes, leaving her with a brain injury, resulting in hemiplegia, which means she cannot control the right hand side of her body. She manages to walk short distances, but also has use of her wheelchair.
I first met Caitlin shortly after she had her strokes and I have been photographing her for a while now, and she loves, and I mean LOVES, being in the studio. We always have a laugh and a lot of fun, and she usually wants to try on every hat and outfit I have and she knows how to pose for me.
When I saw the saying “How others see you is not important, how you see yourself means everything’ I immediately thought of Caitlin, who never lets her disability stand in her way.
She is one brave little girl, who knows how to live life, and is an example to us all. I was at the swimming pool once with her mum watching her have a swimming lesson, and her approach to that was amazing. She just threw herself into the water with such enthusiasm (and not an ounce of fear) and off she went. She now has achieved her 50m swimming badge using only the left side of her body. That enthusiasm extends throughout Caitlin’s life. She has the biggest smile and loves to try everything. She’s danced on the stage with her brother at a concert to raise funds for Debra, a charity for “people who’s skin doesn’t work” where her dad was singing with a group, and she was also on “Surprise, Surprise” a few years back, where she was delighted to meet, not only Marvin from JLS, but also Holly Willoughby and her now friend, Ross King. She has also raised funds, with her big brother for Demelza House Children’s Hospice, where she goes from time to time. She has made a lot of friends here, and they are a big support to the entire family.
For the image in the woods, we went along the path with her wheelchair and I positioned her and asked her to imagine she was doing ballet. The idea of shadows being different to the person or object is not new, but I wanted something less structured than in the studio and with a sense of freedom. So I decided on a style that is more suited to the style I use in my digital art children’s portraits. We are lucky enough to live next to the woods, so we had the ideal location for this, and I knew I wanted the shadow to fall on a large tree. That was where I had to plan it, as the trees are not that size in those woods. I used 2 images which I combined and blended in photoshop to create the scene with Caitlin and the big tree. The base images can be seen below:
As you can see straight away, I changed the green tones on the trees, grass, moss, etc. Partly because they were pulling the attention away from Caitlin, but also because I wanted to create a slightly enchanted, unreal feeling in the image. I also dulled down the blue of the wheelchair, as it was too bright and colourful for the scene. I then had a lot of cloning to do to get rid of the distractions, as I wanted a clean image with the focus on the story in the centre. I added some light beams, blur on some areas, and played with it until I arrived at my final image.
Caitlin enjoys life to the full and as well as swimming, she also has singing lessons and goes riding. She loves nothing better than being on her pony at the riding school, and she can now canter on a lead rein with her “obviously much fitter than I am” (not that that us very hard) riding instructors running alongside her. She has also done her dressage test in the in-house riding school competition and received a special achievement rosette. Because of her love of horses and riding, her mum asked if I could do something similar to the ballerina image, but include a horse, so we did another session in my studio. Below is the image I created.
I wanted a quote to go with it, but couldn’t find a suitable one, so I wrote my own (I’m sure someone must have said something similar at some point, so apologies if anyone has). Caitlin certainly dreams big, and she believes in her dreams, and I look forward to one day seeing her in the Paralympics. Hope she remembers to get me tickets 😉
If you want to get to know more about Caitlin and see her latest accomplishment you must watch this video
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