Today we begin a series of posts about photographers who have chosen to use their talents to give back to those in need. We hope you will join us each Monday throughout December and be inspired by their stories and their charities. Our featured photography charity this week is Another Door Opens, started by one of our favorite people, Hilary Camilleri of One for the Wall Photography.
When I began my photography business late in 2008, I was deeply moved and inspired by the Smiling Eyes Project that was created by a fellow photographer in my area. Christine Kufske, and her Smiling Eyes team, have been photographing children and adults who are terminally ill or in remission for six years. What an incredible gift Christine gives to people.
When I started my own photography business I knew that I wanted to give the gift of photos some how – some way to people. Until now, I just hadn’t found that “thing” I wanted to do. I thought about it often. Had many ideas. And four years later…I have found the way my heart wants to give back.
Another Door Opens came to be with the inspiration of two incredible women that have touched my soul deeply through tragedy in their lives. They have shown me the power of hope and in turn I was able to find the way in which I wanted to give back with my photography.
Marny and Beth both lost their husbands when their children were very young. A situation neither of them ever imagined themselves in. Marny and Beth have taken those experiences and have committed their time, energy and hearts to other young widows by opening the Hummingbird Centre for Hope. An organization that provides continuing bereavement support to men and women after the death of their spouse or partner.
Beth booked me for a photo session with her two children last fall. It was the first session that she had done since her husband died. I remember feeling sadness that day. Knowing there should have been someone else in those photos. I could feel him there. I could feel Beth behind me watching her children be photographed. I could only imagine what was going through her mind. I distinctly remember feeling great hope too. They were building new memories. We had a lot of laughs and we left feeling happy. I left that shoot feeling inspired.
It was a few weeks later that I ran into Marny at Starbucks. It was through a conversation with her that I had one of those (Oprah) AHA! moments. That’s it. I was going to donate my time to photographing families who had lost immediate family members. My work was going to be a stepping stone to rebuilding and creating new memories for families. That is where my energy was best suited and where I knew I could best serve those who were healing their broken hearts.
And with that Another Door Opens came to be. I want to thank Christine, Marny and Beth for being my inspiration. For guiding my soul towards the path in which I was to give back with my photography and my life.
I launched Another Door Opens this fall with the help an incredible team. I reached out for some help with the website, website content, the Facebook page and for assisting with the inquiries. I also set up Another Door Opens to accept other photographers at some point down the road if and when the demand for this type of service increases. I would love to see it roll out on a larger scale as a session like this requires a different approach, deep compassion for these families and a respect for the pain they have experienced.
The Hummingbird Centre for Hope has been an incredible support to me. They are reaching out to families through their services to let them know I am there. I am also hoping that through word of mouth the message and gift will reach more people in my community and beyond.
My hope is that families will take this gift as a sign of hope and healing. My hope is that I can make the experience of having a family photo taken after someone has passed away – a little bit easier. My hope is that families will see that out of these fragile, courageous photographic memories that new beginnings can take shape. In sharing the following words you can see how these photos have helped the families of Another Door Opens:
“We wanted to thank you for giving us such a special gift. I knew it was going to be difficult the first time we had family pictures with Reilly missing, but you made it as easy as it could be. It was really difficult for me emotionally, but your energy and easy acceptance of our situation made it more relaxing and comfortable then I was expecting. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through it without tears but your positive, happy energy helped a lot. Another Door Opens is an incredible gift to people who have experienced such loss and sadness”
“My own family has been deeply touched by the magic of your photographs – I look at them everyday and feel blessed to have had your eye behind the lense. You were able to capture true smiles and the essence of happiness from my children. But what was most meaningful to me was your ability to capture the likeness of their dad. Even though Scott is not with us, your photographs are proof of the fact that, in some way, he still is … through my children. Another Door Opens is a true gift to families as they rebuild their lives, and their definition of “family”. Hilary, you have the biggest heart and I am honored to know you.”
I know that Another Door Opens has sincerely made me whole as a photographer. I always knew I would give back from the day I started One for the Wall and it feels so good to know that I now have an organization that matches my energy and that is affecting people’s lives in a positive way. I take great pride in helping people to build new memories that have experienced such incredible loss in their lives. I know how important it is to respect the people we have all lost. I also know how important it is to re-build and how difficult that can be. I just hope that I can make this a little easier for people and put a smile on their face.
Here’s to remembering. Here’s to new memories.
A portrait and commercial photographer, Hilary lives in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband of ten years, her two beautiful girls and her adorable lasapoodle. You can learn more about Another Door Opens by visiting her website and/or her Facebook page.