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Shoot to Live – What do your photos teach you?

I’m sure everyone by now has read the post about DPS writer Natalie Norton and the tragic event of her little boy’s passing. I am amazed by her faith and strength: what an amazing woman. When I first learned of his illness, I wrote to her to tell her that I know how she feels because my little girl fell ill in November and it was a month before I learned that she wasn’t going to die. For a month, I was heart sick, not knowing what happened to my lively, bubbly, giggly little girl to turn her into a newborn again overnight, unable to lift her head, focus her eyes, use her hands or laugh when tickled.


Now, I have to say that I really don’t know how Natalie feels but my heart goes out to her. My piece of advice to her was: “don’t stop shooting”. Even though they’re not something I want to look at every day, I’m happy I photographed Grace in the hospital. The doctors found it useful and I look back on them with amazement that the adage is true: time heals all wounds.

I’d been thinking for a while about writing a post about how photography has been cathartic in my life, an ever present therapist in the palm of my hand. And now that I know the power of photography to heal the heart, I’m ready to write a bit about it.


Grace was born in November 08. At 5 months, she rolled over and never did anything again. Never sat up, crawled, held her own bottle or waved bye bye as Daddy left for work in the morning. I thought she was just laid back. Then, a couple weeks before her first birthday, she change overnight. She couldn’t hold up her head, roll over, focus on your face or use her hands. We took her to the hospital late one night and that’s when the scary words started: “Did you notice that her head is extremely small?” “Does she always do that with her tongue?” “There is definitely something wrong.”

The genetic blood tests took a month and finally a diagnosis: Grace has Rett Syndrome.

This isn’t a list of tips 1 thru 10 for how to heal your hearth through the shutter. It’s just a few images that speak to me and have taught me about life and a plea to photographers everywhere: Photoshop is grand. Perfect composition is priceless and making money doing what you love it tops. But if you don’t shoot to live, shoot to heal and shoot to feel your heart pound once in a while, you are missing out.

You’ve seen this image before in my posts. It’s the dearest photograph I think I will ever have taken in my life. It’s the last photo I took of Grace before she was no longer able to hold herself up on her arms and she lost that longing gaze in her eyes.


It tells me this: If I hadn’t been so vigilant about photographing Grace no matter how long I had to wait for her to look at me with those longing eyes, I would never have caught this moment.

And then the photo as a result of me taking the time to watch her eat a cookie. She can’t hold a cookie anymore.


It tells me this: Soak in the mundane. Take photographs of your children doing every day things. They don’t have to be groundbreaking. One day, you may find that they were more groundbreaking than you thought.

And lastly, the most recent. I ignored the dishes and patiently guided Grace’s hands to see if we could climb a mountain and grasp a Cheerio. And I swear (cross my heart, hope to die) that as she swiped her arm around trying desperately to regain her picture perfect pincer grasp, those darn Cheerios opened up and made a heart. And I was holding my camera.


It tells me this: The dishes will always be there. Let fate take you by the hand and allow your photography to take you places you never dreamed you would go.

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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