2014 has been a busy year already! Thank God. This year has been peppered with travels, new clients, and amazing people. Every person or project I've photographed has challenged my creativity and skills. I've had shoots that have boosted my confidence and shoots that have built my character. When approaching 2014, I wanted a change in the wind with my business. I took a leap of faith to take on less weddings and trade my free time for more commercial and editorial work. It has been amazing! I've been able to fully focus on the couples who's weddings I document and be freed up during the week to partner with businesses to share their story. June is almost over and I have barely put up any of my work from 2014. Yep. I want to be better at keeping up with posting my shoots from throughout the year. I often feel pressure to keep up with the trends in the photography world, like writing beautiful blog posts to pave the way for photos. Since I am not a writer, this is often my hold up to posting my work. So, for the next few weeks I am going to try something new. I am going to try posting more work and freeing myself up from the pressure of writing. I hope the photos can speak for themselves and I look forward to sharing these amazing people and projects with you.
The first time I stepped foot on the soil of Africa, I was 13 years old. I had no idea what I was getting into-I didn't really even know where I was going in the world I just knew I was going. I hopped off the plane, smelled the new air, listened to new native tongues, and learned a new handshake. When visiting a village one day I remember seeing an older boy walk around the village wearing nothing but a rope tied around his neck. A person from the village said not to go close to him because he was demon possessed and the rope was used to tied him up when the demon was making him "crazy." From afar, I believed them and kept my distance. But as he walked closer I realized he wasn't demon possessed at all-he was mentally handicapped. As I've returned to Africa throughout the years I have learned more about this misconception. Special needs is often misunderstood for demon possession. Those with special needs are often left to fend for themselves or some families lock them up because they don't know what else to do. Its heartbreaking for everyone involved. A few weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Uganda. In preparation for the trip I contacted a few organizations to do some photojournalism work. One of which was the media team I worked with for two years in Kenya. They asked me to photograph two schools. One morning I met a woman named Julie. Julie is in charge of a new special needs ministry in Africa, based out of Uganda. As I learned about these schools for children with special needs I kept thinking back to the boy I saw in the village 14 years ago. Finally someone is addressing his needs. Finally someone is addressing all these children's needs. Julie is the most humble woman you will meet. She has the largest heart for these children and for their families. She has a village ministry where she finds children who are tied up and educates their family about special needs. She teaches the child boundaries in the village for their safety and she educates the village how to care for and live with a child with special needs. So much redemption has happened for these children because of Julie's heart.
Julie also overseas two schools in Kampala. One school is a day school for children with autism, down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. It is a smaller school and each child gets one-on-one attention. Because it is a day school, mostly wealthy families can afford to send their children. The second school is a boarding school. Over 80 children with all different levels of special needs stay here. Some of the children have been rescued from villages, some are simply left at the front gates. This is not an easy environment to work. I have been through some uncomfortable experiences throughout my time in Africa, but I will admit, this was one of them. The moment I stepped out of the Land Rover I was licked, scratched, punched, kicked, and spit on. As I found myself tensing up, I looked over at Julie. Her forehead was resting on a little girl's forehead as she explained 'you are beautiful.' Julie's ease and love for these children was overwhelming and humbling. She devotes her entire self, life, and future to these children. She has been kicked and scratched and has the scars to prove it but she always returns. She doesn't ask anyone to hold these children back but she welcomes them with the same love that Christ has for children as they both have said "let the children come." And come they do.
I have traveled to some beautiful places. I've seen sights that have taken my breath away. I've hiked mountains and crossed waters that have caused me to say "I've never seen something so beautiful." But Paris. Paris takes the cake when it comes to cities I've seen. From the moment my friend Stepha and I stepped off the train, my camera was out and it never saw the inside of its pack again. When leaving for Paris I was completely stressed. I even said to Stepha "I just have to get through this trip so I can get home and get work done, pay taxes, etc etc etc etc...." Then Paris happened. It was like the city beckoned us to stop. And so we did. We stopped our schedules and our constant connection with the ever-looming emails. For these days, we stopped trying to figure out whats next in life, therefore, we stopped stressing. We also stopped for what was present in front of us. You should ask Stepha how many times I stopped us mid walk, mid sentence, mid thought to take in the beauty. One moment it was an olive tree in a courtyard, the next, a potted plant cascading down a window. We stopped at a bakery for a warm baguette just because it smelled good. We drank the most expensive cappuccinos because, 'why not.' We stopped to take in the Eiffel tower peaking through alley ways as we got closer. And when we arrived, we were speechless.
In the 3 days we stayed in Paris, we trotted around that city for miles. We never took public transportation because we didn't want to miss anything. There are so many hidden gems around the city and we were glad for every step our sore feet took and every hour we didn't sleep. And this is what made it worth it: Stayed in the 17th Arrondissement | Parc Monceau | Ard de Triomphe | Champs-Elysees | Trocadera | Eiffel Tower | Champ de Mars | Place de Concorde | Tuileries | Louvre | Port du Alexander | St. Germain | Laduree (macaroons) | Montmarte | Walked neighborhoods for hours | Canal St. Martin | Bastille | Place de Vosges | L'le St. Louis | Notre Dame |Eiffel Tower at Midnight | Rode bikes | Breakfast at Buvette
I met Cody when I first moved to Richmond back in 2010. I had met some friends here who also shared a deep love for Africa, Cody being one of them. The four of us would talk about our trips, swap adventure stories and photos. No matter the fact that we all had different experiences, the bond of that continent created an instant friendship between all of us. In 2011 we all decided to finally create a shared memory. We traveled to Kenya together. During that trip, I learned about Megan. Late night stories around the fireplace in a village near the rift valley is where Cody shared his heart for Megan. They dated in college for a few years. The summer after college, they broke up and went separate ways. Megan moved to Nicaragua, Cody joined staff with Hope Church in Richmond. Worlds apart, the odds were against them. Between the stories shared around that fireplace and the singing at the top of our lungs to Adelle (yep, I just called you out on that, Cody), it was obvious Cody had not lost hope. Their story has so many intimate details of God's grace and perfect timing...if you want to hear it sometime, I'm sure they would love to sit with you over a cup of hot chai tea and share-It's worth the listen! But, let me tell you. That girl Cody talked about in Kenya is back in the picture, and back to stay! And she is worth the wait. I feel blessed to be able to capture the next step in their adventure, their wedding. Here's to you two. To sticking to your guns, Megan and learning about God's timing. To you, Cody, for pursuing the one you love no matter the fight.
Stillness. I've been thinking about this word. For me, it is a challenge to be still. Always moving, always doing, never resting. However, I need to practice stillness despite the challenges these days. One thing I realize is that it doesn't mean I need to literally sit and be still but rather that my spirit needs to be still. That could mean something different for everyone, for me it is to live in the moment. To literally treat moments like a still photograph. To be in the moment as if it is the one moment that matters. To rid myself of the worry or angst and business that surrounds me and to be s t i l l . To take a second or two and stop. To know myself well enough to know when pressures are becoming too great and I need stillness. When 2013 wrapped up and 2014 began, I needed stillness more than I ever have. I went out west to find it. I traveled to Montana to see a dear friend I have only met once but feels like we've known each other a lifetime. Now, even more so. We hiked through snowy forests to misty hot springs. We chatted over coffee in the mornings and wine in the evenings. And I found stillness. From there I went to California to be with friends who have become family. We hiked mountains we saw in the distance, picked fruits from orchards, and had a bonfire on the beach. And I found stillness. Finally I went North to Oregon to travel with a fellow photographer and explore Oregon's beauty. We drove miles through pine tree forests till we reached the foggy coast. Twice. We drank more coffee than you could imagine and met the sweetest folks. And there I too found stillness.
These photos are out of order and I did that on purpose... Its about finding stillness no matter where you are. This trip as a whole was one big journey and it doesn't end there. I'm learning as I go that to be still is to savor life. Its to let go of stresses even for a moment. To engage. I won't always be victorious in choosing stillness but I believe its worth the fight.
(Most square photos are from my iphone and seen on instagram. www.instagram.com/katemagee)