Memorial Princess Sessions
You know, sometimes it is hard to believe in Fairy Tales. There are times in life when we want nothing more than a magic wand and a little pixie dust to take us to a happy place! We know that there are some people that you would love to do that for too. Now, where do YOU come in? Let’s be honest; no one loves anything more than hearing the good, fabulous, things people have to say about them or their children. Whether it is that they have triumphed over troubled times, are fighting health issues or that they are just an amazing kid who deserves a little something special, people LOVE to know that other people feel that way about them. So, it is up to YOU to nominate a family that has a little girl(s) between the ages of 18months and 12 years old for fairy portraits, but for family sessions or boys they can be any age.
The Fairyography Memorial Princess Sessions are a yearly event for the community to come together and make unique and special photos for a girl who needs it. These girls are all fighting big battles with a medical diagnosis, genetic condition, or life event. The nominations come from the general community around Athens or Watkinsville, and each girl nominated is invited to participate. Each girl will receive a photo session with Fairyography with the wardrobe provided as well as other photo gifts.
The Memorial Princess Sessions are named after two princesses with medical diagnosis they were fighting. Sabina Hartley-Burke had a brain stem tumor. Ava Jane Gibson had a heart defect.
Ten Years of Special Princesses
Ten years. I can't believe I started this event 10 years ago. Thank you to each and every person who has nominated a family to come be a part of this special place in my heart. Because of you, I've met 52 special girls. That's pretty astounding.. 52 girls facing things regular people can't imagine. 52 families with lives changed forever with a diagnosis. But when you think about it, every family has lives than change forever thanks to their children, diagnosis or no. And that's what the Memorial Princess Sessions are for me.
They're a way to celebrate not only what makes us all different, but what makes us all the same. Each of these girls IS different.. but they all have families who love them, they all have things they like or don't like. They all have a zest for life. And every single one of them is more than their diagnosis. That's why this is so important to me. Each special child that I've met is more than what people see (or don't see). These kids are excluded from so many things just because they're different. I was bullied as a child because I was tall. Imagine what these kids go through with medical tests, surgeries, doctors.. and then add bullying on top of that. It shouldn't happen. This event is my way of not only making these girls feel like the special, wonderful people they are, but also making it NORMAL for everyone else to see that too. The more we show and include the unique, the less different and more approachable they become.
Meet Sabina Hartley-Burke
In the very beginning of my photography business, I decided that a way I could spice up boring sessions was to add props. I’m sure we’ve all been there… bubbles, balloons… even if it didn’t go with the wardrobe or family, I was going to use it anyway! Since I always like fluffy dresses, I bought a pack of dress-up things for girls to wear and went to town.
It was about this same time in 2007 that I heard of an eight-year-old girl named Sabina. She was fighting a malignant and inoperable brain stem tumor. I didn’t know anything about her condition other than that. I figured that she’d be undergoing chemotherapy for treatment, so I decided that I wanted to do a dress-up photo session for her before she lost all of her hair. I wanted to do something to encourage her and to help her feel pretty as she was going through such a tough time. I met with her and her mother on a chilly, overcast November day, got her all dressed up in the fancy clothes I had, and had about an hour photo session with her. It was a blast. She didn’t seem sick at all except that one eye turned inwards because of the pressure on her brain stem. She positively bounced through that session, and I walked away feeling like a million dollars. It didn’t even cross my mind that she was really all that sick. By February, the tumor was so big she couldn’t walk, and in May she was gone. I was utterly crushed. I’d met her only twice, but I felt like something wonderful and bright had been taken from the world. Even now, I get teary thinking about her.
Meet Ava Jane Gibson
So I decided a few years later to have a contest to nominate a deserving girl for a similar session. It originally started as just a one-time thing. The girl who won that year was Ava Jane. She was born with a heart defect and had a few other things going on. She and her two older sisters came out for a session with me and a trio of pink princess dresses, and it was an amazing session. Her sisters loved her to bits, and I ended up with some great photos. Again, it never even crossed my mind that she was in any real danger. Just a few months after that, Ava’s heart gave out suddenly and her family lost her, too. I sobbed all the way through her funeral because on stage next to the flowers was a canvas wrap I’d created for them of the three sisters dressed in princess dresses.
The Memorial Princess Legacy
Both Sabina and Ava Jane’s mothers said to me, “You will never ever know how much those photos mean to our family.” After that, I knew that no matter how much I hurt for them, those girls needed to be happy for a while, and the families needed some peace through photos. Even if the girls weren’t terminal, the families have likely spent so much on medical bills that they haven’t had many photos done. So the Sabina and Ava Jane Memorial Princess sessions were born, and each year I accept nominations for deserving girls to win a big fairy photo session package. I offer sessions and print credits to each of the runner up girls also because I never know when something might happen to one, and it’s important to me that all of those girls have a chance to feel pretty.
Every year the nominations get harder to read, but I feel so lucky to meet the girls I do get to meet. I’ve learned so much about what changes these girls and their families, too. I've had girls with brain tumors, gene deletions, heart defects, spina bifida, Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, Mitochondrial disease, Williams syndrome, Prader-willi syndrome, Leukemia, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, girls born prematurely or born deaf or born blind, with diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome, or abused sisters… I’ve cried more over these girls than I do my own problems, and I think it’s a good perspective to have.
Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org sharing why you think the person you are nominating should be THE ONE for this totally awesome package. Include parents' or guardian's contact information. I speak with each child's caretakers to talk about the event and what they can expect.
Athens, Watkinsville, and into Atlanta - Available for travel to Seattle, Portland, and New Orleans
email@example.com - firstname.lastname@example.org