Shoot for Charity {Charity Family Photoshoots}

 A charity photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur by family photographer Erica Knecht.

It’s that time of year again! My birthday month, and time for Shoot for Charity. From now till September 26, I am offering family photoshoots in exchange for a donation to Orbis. Sessions are offered on a pay-what-you-can basis, and 100 percent of the money goes directly to charity. 


While we were on holiday in Switzerland, Lyra got sick. What at first seemed like a innocuous virus took a nasty turn and became a really dangerous infection. Long story short, I took her to the children’s hospital in Bern, probably the best Children’s Hospital in Switzerland, and she got thorough and careful medical care, a quick diagnosis, and a very full recovery. 

For days I lay with my sick little girl in hospital, our world expanding not much further than the foot of our bed, and I watched helicopters come and go, knowing that the children in them were likely much sicker than my little one. I felt gratitude swell beneath my ribs, immense thankfulness that I could just take my kid to the hospital, without a second thought to the expense, the competency or honesty of the doctors, or my ability to access and understand the system. I felt in my knees and my guts how lucky we are, how unjust it is that we have access to this, where  most other’s don’t.

I thought more about her eyes, her condition, the many surgeries she’s had, how much she’s gone through, how much we’ve gone through together. I thought about how at our list visit to the opthamologist, right before we left to Europe, he had told us that one eye the optical nerve had regenerated. Which is not something that is supposed to happen. But did. And it’s like a miracle bestowed upon us by top ranked specialists and  world class medical care. Again, a train of gratitude, and a deep sorrowful knowing that most kids who are born with eye disease can not even dream of such miracles.

And so, like I do every year, I’m donating my time and skill to raise money to help stop preventable blindness in people, just like my little girl, who have eye disease. 

I’m running a charity drive in support of Orbis, a global organization that brings sight-saving treatment to people in the developing world while also training local doctors to provide better care. They have this really cool flying hospital, aka an airplane with an operating theater inside, in which they preform sight saving surgeries in parts of the world where people need it most.

 

THE DETAILS

I’m offering family photography charity sessions between now and 23 September. Make a donation to Orbis, pay what you can (my suggestion is my usual rate for a family session 1680 MYR, but I’m happy for any reasonable donation! Really. No pressure. If you want to participate but can’t afford that, pay what you can.) And I’ll do a full family shoot for you.

If you’re interested, get in touch and we’ll work out a date. I’m asking that clients make a donation directly to Orbis, so that it’s 100 percent transparent and clear where the money goes. You can donate here on this page. Then, you just send me the email receipt, and you’re booked! 

For examples of my work, please go here to my portfolio, and for some recent sessions, here, and for some charity sessions see here and here

 

A BIT MORE ABOUT BLINDNESS AND WHY IT MATTERS

Imagine if you were living in an isolated, rural community in Malaysia, without many means, and with little political capital. Imagine if the joy of welcoming a new baby was then dampened by fear and worry as you noticed something not quite right with your child’s eyes. Imagine where you’d be able to find good help (nowhere?) Imagine what prospects that child would have for schooling (few?) and what their life might look like as an adult (pretty limited?) Now, imagine you were that mother or that father, really think, how would that feel? And what would it feel like to know that a medical intervention could save your child’s sight? 

I can tell you about the last part. It feels like your heart chest bursting wide open and your heart swelling with gratitude, hope, and your eyes stinging with tears every time you thought about it. 

Do you know that 40 or 45 million people in the world are blind (as defined by being unable to walk unassisted?) And most of those people live in sub-saharan Africa, India, and China. That’s 45 million people, mothers, fathers, children, lovers, friends, neighbors, people with stories and dreams and families and sorrows and hopes and love in their hearts. And that for most of these people, their dreams and ambitions are not releasable, snuffed out as their field of vision begins to close. Their lives are shrunk down to the circumference of the care and support they receive from their family and community.

What’s amazing though, is that about 80 percent of blindness is avoidable. Eighty percent! That means that so much can be done! And so many of these stories could go on to have a wider, and more fulfilling arc.

That’s why, out of all the amazing causes out there, I love to support Orbis. I know what good work they can do, and how much of an impact they can have on an individual, on a family, even a community. And I invite you to join me in giving the gift of sight to people who deserve it every bit as much as my little one does. 

Eight

 A portrait of a happy red head girl smiling by Kuala Lumpur based photographer, Erica Knecht

She turned eight yesterday, my baby girl. This unknowable force of life who I did knew even before she was born is eight years here. I'm eight years a mother. We're eight years a family.

 She’s tender, my girl; the underside of a dove, but tucks it away, cloaks it in iron, in fire. She’s steadfast in her wants, wild like the ocean. She wants to be a fashion designer, and artist, a singer. She has perfect pitch, and she sings at the top of her voice. She moves with the grace of a dancer, but prefers kung fu lessons. She comes alive in the water. She’s sure and unwavering. She’s a deep feeler. She has the best social radar I’ve ever known. 

This past year has been one of bloom. The more space I give her, the more she shows she’s capable. She gets up on weekend mornings and listens for Lyra to cry out. She lifts her out of the crib, and carriers her into the living room. She changes Hugo out of his pull up. She fixes them breakfast and entertains them till the grownups rise. She apologizes unprompted. She offers to read to her brother. She looks for Hugo over the gate at school, and gives him her snack when she sees him at recess. 

She’s weathered this move mostly effortlessly. She has been braver than I know how to be. She went to school, gulped back tears, and entered the classroom without me. She came home with two new friends, and about three centimeters of hight.

I dreamt this child before she was born, hair flames of curl and swirling with energy. She came into the world an enigma, and has puzzled me ever since. Of all my children, she’s the one over whom I’ve fretted most, never sure what was going on inside her mind, always worried I was failing her in some capacity. It was this girl, her fire and intensity that pushed me as a parent, forced me to begin thinking outside existing paradigms of childrearing. She drew me to question and wonder and consider and think deeply about what she needed, and what I needed to parent well.  She taught me patience. She taught me stillness. She taught me curiosity. She taught me and is teaching me non-judgment. She brought healing of old wounds because she more than my others has needed a whole and present parent. 

The older she gets the more interesting she becomes. And I look forward with my ribs wide open to who she'll grow into.

 A red head baby on a white bed in Fukuoka, Japan, by Kuala Lumpur family photographer, Erica Knecht.
 A young girl with red hair swims at the W hotel Nusa Dua by Kuala Lumpur Photographer Erica Knecht.
 A young girl in at the pool at Grand Hyatt Jakarta by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht.
 A little girl runs on the beach near Lovina, North Bali. Photograph on Portra 400 film by Erica Knecht, a Kuala Lumpur based Photographer.   
 A little girl stares out at the ocean in Lovina, Bali by Kuala Lumpur photographer Erica Knecht
 A girl wades into the ocean near Byron Bay, Australia by Kuala Lumpur photographer Erica Knecht
 A reflection of a girl running on the beach at twilight near Byron Bay, Australia by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht.
 An artistic black and white portrait of a little girl by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht

This Liminal Time

 an out of focus image of a city street in london by kuala lumpur based photographer
 kuala lumpur based photographer holds a rose in her hand
 cherry blossoms in london by Erica Knecht, kuala lumpur based photographer
 flower petals in a dirty puddle, taken by kuala lumpur based photographer

In dreamlike flashes, I begin to feel the finality of our time in Shanghai. Winter, which when we lived it, we all thought it was certain and solid in it’s grasp, forever catching at us, is gone. Magnolia trees have blossomed and faded. Cherry trees are leafing out and I’m no longer afraid of the chill.

In a week we’re gone. We leave our home as we have so many times before. But this time it's forever.

 Lyra and I will fly first to London where she’ll have another surgery. I’ll stay with her, cocooned in our hotel room through long nights of jet lag. And when we can’t be inside any longer, we’ll walk the empty streets, it will be sharp in the cool not morning, and everything will be soft, magenta and lilac at the edges. We’ll go for miles following the story of the streets, walking and walking and walking until the city is awake again. 

We’ll be together her and me, and that familiar boredom, winsome and worthy, will again expand to the border of our days. But finally the heaviness of these past weeks will clear, and we’ll rest in the restlessness of waiting rooms and hospitals. We’ll rest in the restlessness of embassy lines. We’ll rest in the restlessness of waiting for our new lives to begin.

And when it’s time, we’ll pack our bags (eccles cakes; baby formula; rare and prized spices; favorite pens; summer clothes; shoes in size 47; objects that are treasured by those among us who live away), and we’ll fly a new path, London to Kuala Lumpur, we’ll look out the window and feel in our hearts this new home is already good and waiting. We’ll join our people, ready for this new and precious life. 

 

 

Ten on Ten {December}

I think I may actually be making some progress in catching up with this project! Two posts in a week! Hold me back! (Never mind that I neither have ten images, nor have I taken them hourly; don't let the finished be the enemy of the good? Or something?)

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06:22 // I'm not sure what is happening here, but I guess the moral of this story is we have spent a lot of money on instant film.

06:46// Also not entirely sure about this one? But I do know that Hugo feels it a great injustice that Lyra gets baby food pouches (which cost about an hour's worth of hard labour each) and he does not.

07:03 // On the way to the school bus on a rare morning when I have to do the school run with all three kids by myself. Mr. Chef must have been out of town. (Had I posted these in a timely manor I would actually remember this sort of thing!!) It is actually a bit of a miracle that my child actually made it to the bus, considering it typically arrives exactly at this time.

07:13 // Those towers. They say something about humanity and our place in the cosmos I think.

08:01 // This images sums up about half of Lyra and Hugo's relationship.

08:06 // And this the other half.

12:03 // Sunspots outside my office.

15:04 // The weather was really beautiful this day. I kinda even remember that now.

15:06 // My favourite street art.

15:37 // In a taxi on the way home from school. Our family rule is that he is only to have his "paci and blank" in his bed. We are very good at enforcing that.

Yeah Field Trip + In and Out of My Head

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All images shot on Portra 400 120 film with a Hassleblad 500 CM

 

Where have I even been? Around the world a few times and in and out of my head. 

 

Here’s the Pacific, from the other vantage point, a world away, two weeks ago when I went to the very last ever @yeahfieldtrip. I spent a week in El Capitan Canon with a feeling of expansive openness, rooted in my certainty that there exists at the center of us all an ember of the same matter that is the universe. For a solid week, I existed in a quiet that we hardly ever experience; I looked up at the trees, I watched the sky, I followed the creak with my eyes. There were no podcasts to distract me; no WeChat notifications to pull my attention; no instagram likes to give me a serotonin boost; no sibling spats to navigate. There was quiet, and time, and awareness.

Every person in that valley was trying to make something out of this wildly improbably gift of being a human on this planet with these other humans who we are so lucky to get to love and grow with. I had conversations all week with people who looked in my eyes, where I remember every word, and every feeling, where we said thank you, and you’re lovely, and I’m so glad I get to know you, and meant it all. Those few days I felt as though my ribs would crack open and my heart would manifest out in the open air, expanding ever outward, ruled by creativity, growth, and that human light. It was as real as the tension in my shoulders now.

Then I got back to Shanghai and took the kids to a birthday party at a Soft Play and had conversations that I can’t even remember about who cares what. I’m making list of things I need to do, fretting over doctors’ appointments (I live at the doctor), school drama, about big changes coming up. I’m back here, bombarded by the forces of the capitalist machine and very sure that a new pair of jean shorts and just the right sunglasses will fill that human sized ache in my heart. 

I’m trying to remember that feeling, to make small changes in my life that get me back there. I’m trying to breathe a little slower, to look a little longer in my kids’ eyes, to to find a flashing second to tell the one I love thank you, you’re lovely, I’m glad I know you. Because I’m pretty sure that’s all that really matters in this life.