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. 

A TV Fast

On Saturday morning, guys, I kind of lost it. 

 

Stella had been asking and asking and asking and asking and asking for her screen time. She was unable to focus on anything other than when exactly the next dose of blue light would stream into her eyeballs. She wouldn’t play, or read, or do anything. She glued herself to my side, whined and whined and whined and whined for TV. 

 

This went on for about, uuuuuuhhh, forever, until the top blew off my head. 

 

I did the unthinkable. I canceled TV for that morning. Like, I followed through with what is usually an empty threat. No TV. None at all. Not even while I put Hugo down for a nap. And holy smokes, you guys, you should have seen the tantrum.

 

I thought to myself, this can not be. This is not the normal response to a loss of privilege. This is like the erratic yo-yo-ing of a a cocaine addict locked in some cabin on a lake without access to stimulants any stronger than, like, camomile tea or something. 

 

 

I was so concerned about my kid’s reaction that I decided we needed to act. 

 

So. We are on a screen detox. 

 

Which, ahahahahah, right? I’m writing a blog post, so how detoxifying can this detox really be? But, I’m actually not at home, so the rules don’t apply, right? And also I’ m the mum, so am toooootally above the law. ;) 

 

But really, when I am at home, the phone is away, used solely for important text messages, the odd phone call, and perhaps for goggling a recipe at dinner. The other day I went to the playground for like three hours and left my phone at home. I didn’t even miss it. I know, right????

 

Without the constant pings of social media and the little swoosh of email, I’m less distracted. It’s freeing, really. I am finding myself more centred and more present with my children. My patience has been extended by a few stops.

 

But the real benefits have been for Stella. The difference was almost immediate. 

 

For as long as we’ve known her, she’s been an intense kid, needing constant attention and entertainment. She’s never been willing to play by herself. She has a wonderfully rich imagination, and adores pretend play. But, she’ll only weave stories and act out parts if another person is engaging with her. The moment there is a lull in the day’s stimulation, she’s lost, circling me whining about boredom, and hunger, and when her next fix of TV will come. 

 

Almost immediately after she understood that we would not waver about the TV ban, she got out her Peppa Pig set, and started acting out little mini narratives with George and Peppa. And then she got some books, and, uuuuuhhhhh, just looked at pictures. Guys, I have never, like, NEVER seen her do this before. Just get some books down, sit cross-legged and read. Never. 

 

Things have contented along this vein in the days since we’ve banned TV. She’s been playing by herself. She’s been looking at books. She’s been painting. She’s been colouring. She’s been building lego castles. She doesn’t ask for TV. And she hardly complains of being bored.

 

And as for me, since limiting my screen time at home, I’ve read a book. Like, an actual book, one with pages. I read an entire article in the New Yorker. I held the magazine in my hands and read. I’ve started having daily tea time with my kids. I’ve been thinking about big questions, journaling about my business, digging into things that I’ve been putting off. The more time I spend away from my little glowing screens, the more my attention expands, my mind settles, and things feel better. I miss my Facebook breaks, and I do wonder what’s going on with my Instagram friends. But life has felt a little calmer without the pull of Social Media. 

 

For a long time I was of in denial about the impact screens were having on our lives. I didn’t want to look at the idea that Stella was watching too much TV, or that I was too attached to my phone. I mean, a Facebook notification gives a nice little hit of serotonin when you’re tired and bored and stuck in a tiny apartment with two kids. And it’s easier to turn on the TV than deal with a whiny kid when you’re trying to get dinner on the table. 

 

But. Reality came flying at me as I watched my child panic at the thought of being denied her hit of screen time. 

 

Screens are disconnecting. They are distracting. They kind of make you forget how to be a human who exists in the world. 

 

I’m not saying that I’m ready to embrace a screen-free existence. Because I’m not. It is unrealistic to ban electronic media completely. It’s part of our modern world, and I want my kids to be media literate. Also, we regularly take long haul trips, and there’s noooooo way I’m doing those without and iPad. ;)

 

 

 

I’m not yet sure how and when we will reintroduce screen time. I like watching TV. I think that electronic media can and does have value. It can be art. You know? I want my kids to be able to enjoy and appreciate really wonderful movies and TV shows. Like, Ponyo - Amazing. Toy Story - A masterpiece. AndCharlie and Lola. Have you guys seen that show? It’s totally art. 

 

 

 

My hunch is that when we reintroduce screens, it will have to be in very limited doses, with really clear and unwavering limits. Perhaps we’ll do a Friday night movie night. Or maybe TV on the weekends only. Or maybe one episode of something in the late afternoon. I’m not sure yet. 

 

Have you guys dealt with screen overload? How do you guys deal with limits on TV?

Philippines on Film

 
philippines on film-9.jpg

We were in the Philippines for ten days at the beginning of the month. We visited Manila for a few days, and then went on to Cebu for a wedding. 

I found that Manila reminded me a lot of Jakarta. There are similar visual themes running through both cities. The climate is similar (though Manila is dryer, I think). Little road-side stalls serving simple, hearty dishes brought to mind their equivalent in Jakarta. The traffic. Oh the traffic. Sama-sama. The mall culture was so like that of Jakarta. The urban chaos, the rhythm and strum of the city felt so familiar to me. 

But, at the same time, I kept having this feeling that Manila felt more familiar. And I was wondering, is it the spanish influence? It feels more like central america (i've never been to central america, btw, but i know my way around a good taco, so obviously i'm an expert, riiiiiight?) Or maybe it's that things are just a touch more organized in Manila, so maybe that's why it felt familiar? 

And then it occurred to me, noooope. The reason I understand this place is that, uhhhh, duh, all the signs are in English. Which, as it turns out, results in a far less removed feeling when you're traveling.

One thing that was different, though, is that Manila is entirely more walkable than jakarta. The city is more spread out, though. So taxis etc are still a requirement. (As are hours spent sitting in traffic). But we did take our stroller down to the old city, and we wandered around there with no issue. WHich is basically unthinkable in Jakarta. 

Yeah, so Manila. We liked it. We stayed in a new fancy hotel, which was amaze. Really. And even though there was this great colonial city to explore, new foods to try, and beautiful places to visit, all my kids wanted to do was play at the hotel pool. Typical, right? ;) 

Anyway, Here are a few pictures of our time in The Phils. I took my film camera along. I have to say, I'm not very impressed with or happy about my work here. The exposures are off, I think. I was feeling pretty low energy, thanks to a flu bug and general meh-ness. So, that'll be my excuse, okay? But it's a process, this learning thing. Hopefully my next rolls are a little better!

 

 

 

First Film

 

A few weeks ago my husband surprised me with a new camera. A film camera. A beat up Nikon F80. I didn't know how I'd manage to find film, or find a place that develops film, but I was stoked. It's long been a dream of mine to learn film photography. 

Well, in short order I did find film. In a traditional market nearby, actually. And I DID find a film lab, in a modern, indie market not that nearby!

I got my first rolls back last night. They are by no means amazing, but this is a strat. That I even have anything that is almost properly exposed is actually a miracle.  

And so, herewith I present mooooooooooore pictures of bali. Because obviously that's what's needed here. (And prepare yourselves. There's more where this came from.)

I'm really excited, guys.  

365

In 2014 I undertook about a million photography projects. I did two Project 52s, annnnnnnd two 365s, one for each kids. Against all odds (i.e. a newborn, zero organisational skills, and a personal propensity towards sloth) I've completed these projects. I finally have Stella's 365 up, and I hope to have Hugo's done by the end of February. (Or at least, sometime before he's two.) 

The project is not technically complete. There are some holes (notably from when I was in the hospital and away from Stella), and some pictures taken with my phone, but still. I did it.  

I'm so glad I completed these projects. I'm just so pleased that I have a record of this year in our lives, the year we made an epic trip around the world, the year Hugo was in the hospital twincel the year Stella started kindergarten, the year we spent playing police and princesses, the year we became a foursome.

You can see Stella's 365 here. And the beginnings of this year's project here