At home with The Cheoks {A Charity Photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur}

A little boy looks at his parents embracing during an at home photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur.
Grandparents embrace a young boy who looks up into his grandmother’s eyes during a family photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur.
A little boy looks out a window during a family photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur.
A tired little boy sits on his father’s belly and rubs his eyes during a family photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur.
An asian family with a little boy at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A candid image of a mother looking at her son, while he cuddles his father by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht.
A little boy stands before a window with his arms raised up above his head in victory.
A mother feeds her son while he stands on the counter during a family photoshoot in Kuala Lumpur.
A father and his son make coffee with a french press during an in home family photoshoot.
A black and white images of a father crawling with his son at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A father and his toddler son play in reflective light at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A lifestyle family photoshoot featuring a young family and their toddler son lounging in a window seat, at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A young family enjoy each other’s company at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A mother plays with her toddler son by lifting him overhead while a father looks on and smiles by family photographer Erica Knecht.
A black and white image of a mother, a father, and their toddler boy in a window seat by kuala lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht
A little boy reaches out and places his finger in his father’s mouth.
A grandmother offers a taste of her cooking to her husband during a family photoshoot at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A documentary style images in black and white showing a large family gathering around a kitchen island at home in Kuala Lumpur.
A black and white images of a boy looking at the camera while his parents embrace by family photographer Erica Knecht.
A family photoshoot at home in Kuala Lumpur featuring a little boy giving an impish smile.

It’s always sort of terrifying starting to shoot again after a long absence. The mind rattles with doubt, as you wonder have you forgotten all you knew? Will you be able to run the shoot? Will you remember you set list? Will you be able to quite that doubt to see a family, the bonds, the quirks, the joy and above all the love that bathes them like light flooding through a kitchen window?

Making these images for the Cheoks was my first shoot in Kuala Lumpur. It was also my first Shoot For Charity session in 2018. And I couldn’t have asked for a better family to welcome me back to shooting, calm my nerves, and make me feel like I was coming home for a big, wild, noisy and love-filled Thanksgiving.

As with all my Charity shoots, the Cheoks made a generous donation to Orbis International in lieu of paying my session fees. Orbis International is a wonderful humanitarian organisation that brings sight-saving medical care to people who risk preventable blindness all throughout the developing world. My youngest child has a rare disease which might rob her of her sight. But we’ve had the incredible good fortune of being able to seek treatment from some of the leading specialists in the world, and after about five surgeries, she is now, for the time being, stable, and her sight is totally normal. But so many other children are not so lucky. In fact, most born with this condition would slowly watch as their field of vision shrank and shrank until they could no longer see that light soaked kitchen window, and they could only feel the tenderness of an embrace, but not see the love that floods their mother’s face as she regards her child.

I run these charity shoots once a year at the end of summer as a way of celebrating all the good that we have in our lives, and spreading some of that good out to others who need it. If you’re interested in joining me, get in touch! You can find me on Facebook, Instagram or by email. I’ll be taking bookings for August / September 2019.

Last Year, a Lifetime Ago

shanghai family photographer_family travel blog_last year
shanghai family photographer_family travel blog_last year_2
17-04-24__14-06-39.jpg
shanghai family photographer_family travel blog_last year_4
shanghai family photographer_family travel blog_last year_6
shanghai family photographer_family travel blog_last year_6
portra 400 on Nikon 35Ti

portra 400 on Nikon 35Ti

I was drifting through my photo archives the other day and came across this picture of Lyra. She was tiny, maybe four or five months, and we were in the thickets and brambles of her disease. We were between doctors’ appointments, and had time to head up to the North of England to see friends in Harrogate. 

That time feels vague and remote, shrouded with uncertainty, pain, grief. So different from now. But I can time travel back with the flash of an image, a deep breath, closed eyes.

 

Here, I can’t believe I ever worried. There, I didn’t know anything but. 

 

I was recovering the the shock of discovering this disease, the trauma of doctors with grim faces, a parade of them delivering despairing prognoses. Doctors in clinics and hospitals various and sundry acting as though darkness and sadness were foregone conclusions. We wondered would she still see? Would she develop? What of this heart problem? And then, when we came upon doctors who were buoyant, bright, experts in this, doctors who could see me, a mother scared out of her mind, a baby whole and perfect as she is, well I couldn’t believe them. 

And now, this little light, my tiny bird with eyes like a cat, shows me day after day, the glow of her of her perfect wholeness. And now I have this little wonder, who scoots around on her bottom, and crawls with one leg up and one leg dow. My little Birdie who loves cars and stacks them small ones inside big ones and drives the whole lot around brrrrrrruuuuum, brrrrrrruuuuum, who rocks her dolly back and forth, who scoots on top of her brother’s train tracks and topples them as she passes, who eats spaghetti with great love and demands chocolate from whomever she can, who cuddles the dog, blows kisses to me, swats me on the head and says “ow!” My little love who loves her brother maybe most of all. She says “hi” to everyone on the train. She says, bye, outside, hat, and Ed (for the dog) and hot? when we serve her food,  down, ice, eyes, feet, and so many more words than I can think of now. How could I ever have worried about her development? I wish I could just trusted. I wish I could have told myself you will handle it, and you will keep handling it, hard as it may be, you’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll keep striving to be a human.

But of course, back then we didn’t know. And now, we still don’t know. Nothing is promised us. Nothing is promised anyone in this life. Her condition is chronic. Things may be stable for now, and they may continue so for 30 years, or longer. And they also might now. I don’t know. But I know more that I’ll handle it. She’ll handle it. 

In each of my pregnancies, I’ve had a dream at about seven or eight weeks gestation. I’ve dreamt my babies. Each time I’ve seen the baby, known their sex, their hair color, even a hit of their personality. Each time it’s been just one dream, though I’d got to sleep every night wishing for just one more glimpse of the baby. And I had just this dream with Lyra. But I also had two others.  At about six weeks, a dream of a kitten trying to keep it’s head above swirling water. At 20 weeks. A baby having tests and checks, having an operation or an MRI. We were all so worried, huddled and frightened. And then she came out, and white coats said, she’s fine. And she was. 

That’s what I try to hold in my mind. 

In London

17-11-03_X100T_13-55-47.jpg
shanghai family photographer_family travel_blogger_in london
shanghai family photographer_family travel_blogger_in london_2
shanghai family photographer_family travel_blogger_in london_3
17-11-03_X100T_14-01-58.jpgshanghai family photographer_family travel_blogger_in london_4

We’re in London again for Lyra’s eyes. Three weeks away from home and my big kids, and the family that is my heart. But also, three weeks of quiet time with my baby who now has the face of a toddler and will be one in seven days. Three weeks of quiet wandering, of yoga and cups of tea, or museums and old friends and early bedtimes and books and white hotel sheets.

The morning of Lyra’s surgery, we woke well before dawn, our bodies still somewhere between here and home. With hours before our early morning check-in time, we dress and leave the hotel, into the dark of the morning that still feels like night. We walk the length of Oxford street until it changed its name three times and the city neighborhoods shifted, unfolding the story of the city, of class and culture and the  people who live here. It’s quiet and pink, my breath fogs, and Lyra falls asleep. The city’s not yet awake and I like it. I always forget to remember that dawn is the best time to get out into the world.

This time feels different from the trips before. The city doesn’t feel so strange, and the ache of this disease doesn’t sting and stab quite so hard. I don’t feel that gratitude so deep that I believe I can feel the center of the universe and the meaning of all things. We’re easing into this, the swells and swings are normalizing. Anxiety and worries still lurk and wait, seeping out when I'm tired and the baby won't sleep.

 

I’m here in London for a few more days. Then we’re off to Belgium to visit some old friends who we’ve known since we were just two couples, newly married with baby faces. Now we’re parents to three babies each, and how times change and all that.

Life's funny, isn't it. It's nice to be here, but also it's not. I'm excited to be away, but I ache for my home and my family. I'm getting to see old friends and make new ones, travel and see people who feel like family. But my big kids are at home, and not here with me. 

Down to The River {Shoot for Charity}

My first shoot for my charity project in partnership with Orbis International took place right in own neighbourhood. Each year I donate one month of work to a Charity project. And this year I'm working with Orbis, International, an organisation that brings sight-saving treatment to people in the developing world.

I connected with some neighbours, the kind you chat with on playground; the kind you admire but don't yet know why; the kind you wish you knew better. The brief was the kind I like best: capture us here in our home and in our neighbourhood and help us remember this time and this place, our boy's first home as we prepare to leave China behind.

We met at home, while Baby O was waiting for Daddy to come home. We chatted and played as we waited. I learned to say a few words in Czech. We talked about life, our families, our difficulties, and the the beautiful ways that living outside your passport country can stretch and change you. We talked about Lyra and how she's doing, and how lucky we are to get the treatment we do. We got to see each other and realize that it would have been better to know each other like this months earlier. 

And then Daddy came home. And it was all tickles and cuddles and jumping on the sofa. We got ready to go outside, the heat of the day was starting to soften. We walked down past the river, to their favourite bakery and got ice cream. Then we ran up the pathway and watched the boats. We saw a man playing the flute, and remarked that in China there is so much life in public spaces, and yes, we'll miss that. We did what is normal on a Friday evening, we became part of our neighbourhood and participated in the act of living. 

Thanks lovely people, thanks so much for participating in this project with me. Thanks for donating to Orbis, and giving the gift of sight. Thanks for giving the gift of sight. Thanks for helping another beautiful soul to be able to see their neighbours and be able to walk down to their river and watch their boats and participate in their own community. This is a gift that changes lives.

shanghai family photographer_down to the river_04
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_01
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_02
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_06
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_06
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_02
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_07
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_09
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_08
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_10
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_11
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_12
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_14
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_16
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_15
 
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_17
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_22
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_18
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_19
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_23
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_24
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_21
shanghai family photographer_down to the river_20

This Time Like Lightening

shanghai family photographer_shanghai expat blog_time like lightening_2
shanghai family photographer_shanghai expat blog_time like lightening_4
17-09-13_Canon EOS 6D_11-49-58-3.jpg

This day has crept up on me without warning. No slow build, no anticipation. I looked at my watch and realized we’re the 14th. Another month has turned. My tiny baby who, in the calendar of my mind is still a floppy mewing thing, is now ten months old.

Time glides along, then skims, then skates, and then gushes and leaks, and we can’t hold it in while also chasing deadlines, making dinner, and meeting the school bus. 

My first baby’s infancy passed at a trickle’s pace. The second was quicker, but still with undisturbed stretches of waveless time. But this is some sort of lighting that I can’t hold onto. I haven’t kept up with her monthly updates. I’ve not managed even a picture a day, not even in my mind. Some days I close my day with just the barest moments of connection: ten seconds of locked eyes and time slows, but then it’s off to stop a fight or worry about dinner or meet someone else’s need.

Even now, I want to stop here, linger over these words, revisit them with a fresh mind. But there’s not a way to march backwards and then come again at this day with a mindfulness I don’t have today. So, I’ll post this. And rush through this day, and this evening. And maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow and meditate. Maybe I’ll slow things down. Or maybe I’ll accept the pace this season demands. Or maybe, most likely, I won’t do any of those things. I’ll chase time, at the behest of modern late-stage capitalism, I’ll build my tiny empire, I’ll put on lipstick and take my kids to school, and run to the grocery store and make dinner. But in a tiny corner of my mind, there’s knowing that this isn’t the way. There’s resisitence.