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deb schwedhelm

I am still pinching myself.

It was four years ago that I came upon Deb Schwedhelm on facebook. I had only started photography about six months prior. I instantly fell in love with her unique style of photographing people. But even more than that…..I fell for her as a person. Deb’s online presence was positive, genuine and uplifting. She supported. She inspired. She led.

I remember a handful of times when I would leave random messages on her fan page. One in particular after she had posted something that inspired me as a human being. I told her to keep being her. That she was a gift to our industry. I often think to scroll back through the comments left on her page to find the ones I left so long ago.

I remember the first time I saw a posting for one of her workshops. I knew that someday I wanted to meet and learn from her. So I made that happen. Last fall she had posted that she would be in Chicago. I reached out to her to see if she would spend a day with me. Long story short…we ended up meeting in Michigan. She invited me to see Sally Mann speak. A rare opportunity. We spent a day together talking and sharing. She was every bit the same person in front of me that she was online. I knew she would be.

We kept in touch. And when we booked our family vacation to Florida this April I messaged her right away for family photos. I made my Mother’s Day gift very easy for my husband and two children. We drove to Tampa to meet her at her home. We were able to meet Deb’s family (pretty cool after seeing her kids so often in photos)  and had an unforgettable session on the beach. It is an experience that I will always remember. I won’t have to look far to recall these memories either as the photos on my wall will be a constant reminder of the beautiful photographer, mentor and now friend that stood behind the camera.

I have been very fortunate to have met and learned from the people I admire  and respect most in this industry this past four years. People that I have followed and have inspired me for so many different reasons. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. I believe you get the life you want and I have loved the time I have spent taking courses, meeting new people and learning from such talented photographers. Outside of the time I spend with my clients, these experiences have made my career in photography incredibly exciting. If there is someone you admire or that inspires you – in any industry – I encourage you to reach out to them. You never know what might happen.

Having a photography session, for me, is so much more than the photos. It’s the whole experience that gets you to the finished photo that will hang on your wall and become a part of your life’s mark. Deb will always be a huge part of why our family photos make me so happy when I look at them. From the bottom of our hearts Deb…we thank you. xo See our family blogpost here!

It doesn’t end there. Deb is coming to Ontario in June! She will be leading a two day workshop that will inspire you beyond words. This in an opportunity you do not want to miss. You can find the details here. The workshop is almost full so don’t wait to sign up. You never know what good things might just happen:)

Dreams really do come true. 

Much love, 
Hilary xo

Deb and our girlies!

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03.11.73

Dear Mom,

I look forward to your card every year on my birthday. Every year without fail you write my birth story. I know that it was a crisp autumn day. I know what time I was born. I know how loved and welcomed I was.

Thank you for writing me this letter on my 39th birthday. The last year in my thirties. The decade that moved faster than any of them yet. Somehow you writing this same story every year becomes more and more significant as time takes us farther away from these moments. Thank you for taking me back to a place in your life that was significant to you and Dad. A place I can say I have now been with my own daughters.

As I read your letter I could envision every detail of your words in my head as they related to a handful of photos that lay stuck forever beneath plastic. Thumbed through hundreds of times. The hospital, the blue baby buggy…

I am grateful to know this story with your own words. I am grateful to Dad for taking these photos. Thank you for taking the time each year to write me. To move me to tears. To help put our time on earth into perspective. To appreciate the significance of every person’s birth into the world and into a family that will be a part of our history forever.

Seeing myself through your eyes and heart as I could not see myself is a gift.

Love,

Hilary

 

Dear Hilary Adele,

It was Halloween 1973 when my Mom said to me, her very expectant daughter, ‘that baby is ready to be born’ and true to the power of women’s intuition,  3 days later and 2 weeks early, you arrived into the world and our lives with gusto.

Now with Halloween 2012 as yesterday and 3 days before your 39th birthday, the sweet lure of nostalgia takes my mind and heart back to the birth of my first daughter, Hilary Adele.   I remember that crisp, bright November 3rd Saturday morning as if it was yesterday.  A hurried taxi ride to the hospital at 9:30 am, the quick registration,  no time for thought.  We welcomed you into are family at 10:41 am, the  first Lamaze birth at St. Joseph’s Hospital, London Ontario.  You had already defined yourself as a trailblazer.   Looking at the path in life you have taken, I understand that every moment had a purpose;   you were determined to begin as early as possible.

I have always recorded moments in my life through words.  To connect with my daughter, who records moments through photography, think of this letter as my photos in prose.

The hospital window was my picture.  It was a grand window and it was Autumn.  Golds, russets, oranges, reds, as background hues on the day you were born.   Your chestnut-coloured hair belonged remarkably in that Autumn picture.

Simple times in 1973.  The vibrant blue baby buggy, old-fashioned by today’s trends,  became our biggest resource.  It was the motion of that buggy that brought calm to you and our lives.  It was our baby whisperer.

If I was to describe you as a toddler, I would use words like:  Ambitious, curious, lively, industrious, busy.   You have taken those characteristics with you, and firmly established them as your signature traits.

Our lives as a family were stored in photograph albums, neatly tucked under protective covers.   Linear in format.  Enduring glimpses of birthday parties, family bike outings, Science fair wins, Easter dresses, proms, and more proms.  Our albums would probably  look like every other family’s photograph albums coming forward from the past,  defined by trends:  the big hair of the ’80’s,  big shoulder pads, things that now cause us to giggle, but they also were our connection to the past, to what once was.

Seeing our daughters  chase and grasp their dreams has been a sheer delight.  You were a little girl who had your eye on tomorrow and you had the unique insight into how to create the momentum to move forward to that mind’s eye dream.

I try not to think  of my own life in terms of age, but instead as a life made up of sudden flashes of insight, purposeful activity, unexpected turning points, moments of stunning clarity, meaningful junctions, combined with unquestioning faith, great hope, unconditional love for my family and friends and work that fills my life with passion, motivation and meaning.  And you, Hilary, understand this, and have created that kind of template for your own life.

With your tenacity and robust ambition clearly in the forefront, I have often overlooked a part of you that has been revealed steadily as an adult:  your depth of sensitivity and empathy, which has found a rich source of expression through your work.

I am one of your biggest fans.  I add my cheer to your successes. I empathize with you when those moments in life are just too much with us.

Celebrate all that you have created:  your family, your work, your circle of friends.   Celebrate with your characteristic gusto.  With your signature sensitivity.  With your treasured empathy.

Happy Birthday.

Love Mom

Pregnant with me (one of my all time favourite photos – Dad – you know your light!)

Delivery Day St. Joseph Hospital London, ON

The blue buggy

My Mom. Hands clasped in the air. Elation over their baby girl being born. “We did it”.

Hilary – what an amazingly beautiful post. I loved reading both yours and your moms words – and the photos…well they are simply incredible. You and your Mom are like twins. Happy birthday to a wonderful woman. You deserve every fantastic thing that comes your way. xox

Laura Gyryluk

A beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing. Happy birthday!!

What a wonderfully written letter. Every word describes who you are today. I’m so lucky to have you as a friend; someone to look up to as a role mode. You have truly brightened so many peoples lives with your love, support and energetic personality. Happy 39th Birthday Hilary! Thanks for everything you do. xo

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9

Dear Claire,

It’s been almost ten years since I peed on that stick and saw the double pink line. Almost ten years since I raced to my doctors office without an appointment, tears streaming down my face, to confirm that I was pregnant with you.

I will never forget the pain of those contractions, I will never forget your full head of hair and the moment Daddy said, “It’s a girl!”. Our baby girl.

The nurse, Doris, said to me that it would all go by so fast. That you would be grown up before I knew it. I prayed that wasn’t true. I didn’t want this part of my life to go by too fast. I do think back to what Doris said…often. Here it is. Your  9th birthday. The last year you are  in the “single digits”!  It WAS just yesterday that you were pulling on my pants to stand up, saying your first word, learning to skip, moving to the “big girl” bed, starting kindergarten, learning to skate, discovering YOUR voice…

I remember so clearly holding you in the rocking chair a couple of days after you were born. I sobbed the entire afternoon as you slept in my arms. I looked at your little face wondering what your voice would sound like, what you would look like, what you would do in your life. Wishing you all the best life could offer to you. I now know what your voice sounds like, I know what you like and I know the beautiful young girl you are growing up to be.

Happy 9th Birthday Baby Claire.

Mommy loves you. xo

 

 

This was the sweetest! Expecting a girl of my own come August, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears while reading your sentiments to your beautiful daughter.

I love this so much!! I love the name Claire too. It’s a family name for us. Beautiful images!

Niki

BEAUTIFUL….nothing like making me ball like a baby….Happy Birthday Claire:)

Emilee

Great post Hilary! This is so cute :)

Hilary, you made me cry. Your daughter is so beautiful! You captured her spirit. My little girl is 8 now and I know what you feel…time is cruel.

Lisa

How lucky Claire is to have a mommy who commemorates her birthday with not only beautiful photos but also beautiful words! Happy 9th Claire! Hope it’s your best single digit year ever!

Andrea

Darn you Hil for making me ball and I should be working! So beautiful what you wrote. I can totally relate even though I’m still in the early stages. So many milestones have already come and gone. The love of a daughter. Consumes every ounce of your being and redefines what it means to be alive. To love our children. Still crying….

This brought tears to my eyes – every day I say that I want to freeze Cooper. He’s getting too big, too fast and time is flying by. I don’t want to forget the time when he was brand new – I already miss it! Really lovely post and beautiful photos as always!

Theresa

Beautiful!

So beautiful, Hilary. I cried real live tears. I think many of those same things about little Ivy. What a lovely little lady you’ve raised. xox

Alison

Happy 9th Bithday Claire!
May all your wishes come true.
Alison, Eve, Ivy (9 in 2 days), and Grace

Amy Batte

Tears here too! Claire is absolutely beautiful, what a wonderful message for her on her special day.

Katie

So absolutely precious Hilary! Beautiful words! Touched my heart! <3 xo Happy Birthday Claire! :)

This made me so teary, such beautiful images of your daughter. It does go by wayy too fast *sniffles*

Happy Birthday Claire! What beautiful photos you have to always remember what turning 9 looked like !

What a stunner! Such sweet words… brought a couple tears to the surface. Happy Birthday Claire.

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8

Hello to everyone!

Photos are our memory keepers. This is that one phrase that I have been trying to pinpoint since I started my photography business. This is why we love photos so much.

Photos hold our memories. Literally. As we live our lives from day to day we think we remember how our life looks and feels in the moment. But it simply isn’t true. Memories of my childhood are foggy but I can re-live so many of those moments when I look back at old photographs. I re-live our wedding, the birth of my girls, my 30th birthday…the girls loosing their first tooth, the first day of kindergarten…playing in the sand at the beach, picking strawberries. I re-live the memories of my family that is no longer here. I re-live my life through my photos.

I am taking it upon myself this year to take more photos of our life. I am like the plumber with a leaky faucet. I have not kept up with documenting much of my own life the last couple of years.

Our oldest turned 8 earlier this spring.  I will never forget the nurse saying to me as I held her for the first time, “It will all go so fast”. In that moment, I couldn’t comprehend that sentence. The pregnancy felt long, the birth felt even longer. The crying felt like it would never end and I didn’t think I would ever sleep through the night again. Eight years has past since that nurse uttered those words. I now know what she meant.

I dragged my oldest daughter across the street for a few minutes on her eighth birthday. I wanted to be able to look back on this moment. To remember what 8 years old looks and feels like. Peaceful, questioning, beautiful.

These photos are the keepers of my memory…and someday they will hold her memories too. Happy 8th birthday my sweet.

Much love,
Hilary

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GORGEOUS! I know you will look back at these with pride!

These are amazing! love the colours, especially in the first one

Reading this with the photos to follow made me teary eyed. Time does go way too fast and I know how much we will all cherish the photos!!! Beautiful.

This post spoke to me so eloquently and brought a tear to my eye – I feel the exact same way! love love love the portraits!

Such amazing photos of your girl; I especially adore the black & whites!!

Boy does this hit home with me, I’m so bad about this. Your daughter is just beautiful and the images are perfection!

So so true.

Oh wow Hilary, you tugged at my heartstrings with this post! Such incredible wisdom are in your words and now, I want to dedicate the rest of this year to taking more images of my family just “being”. Your images are truly magical too…that last shot is simply perfect!

Your words gave me tears … and so did your photos. She is gorgeous (I can’t believe she is only 8!) and I am so glad you take the time to document her beauty!

Stunning, priceless, perfect. Love all of these.

Seriously, seriously, seriously beautiful Hilary!

Stunning! really stunning! love the last, love the first, just love them all!

Beautiful images! I love how sharp and clean these look!

Katie

So sweet, so sincere, so you Hilary!
You always know the right words and you can always capture that perfect picture!
Stunning!
xo Katie

michele roach

Hilary, you are so amazing about both photos and writing, it amazes me… wonderful post for all us who live through gagets and blackberrys etc to make sure to get these photos saved and printed…. ps i almost have my wall done

Shawna

Oh Hilary…such a beautiful post! Made me tear up! You really are right about the time going by so fast and the pictures holding the memories and keeping them vivid. These pictures are stunning. My favourite is the one of her smiling. Beautiful! xo

she is SO gorgeous, hilary!! i just LOVE her curls!

These are beautiful, Hilary!! I just love the first one. She looks beautiful in purple. :-)

Nancy K

Gorgeous photos of a beautiful girl… you are both very lucky!

Hilary, your posts always make me tear up! How is it that you are so equally gifted in capturing emotion through words as you are through the lens? Your daughter is so beautiful, by the way… What a wonderful memory you captured.

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Full heart

Hello to everyone!

It’s not often I blog pictures of our girls – probably because I don’t take as many pictures of them as I should. The girls and I went out a month ago for an evening “photoshoot”. The girls are so onto the lingo now. However, our youngest, still calls me a “tophograher” and she asks me who I “photoshooted” today when we lay in bed at night. With well laid out bribes that evening the girls got “photoshooted” by Mommy.

My heart is so full. Full of the life that I have. Our incredible girls, our family and friends and this path I have choosen for my career. I fall head over heels in love over and over with these two every day. They are my life. Thanks girls for (semi) behaving for Mommy on that beautiful July evening!

xo

A little update since this shoot….Claire has since lost her front tooth and both girls wanted haircuts like “Beezus and Ramona” so off went 4 inches of hair.

Your girls are gorgeous Hilary!

clearly, I meant how much I’d love YOU to do photos of my two.

Oh, Hilary, these are beautiful photos and your girls are absolutely GORGEOUS! Every time I see photos you post of any two girls, I’m reminded how much I’d love to do photos of my two! I think I’m going to save up for that in the Spring!

These are simply magical!

Melissa

amazing pics Hilary!!!
they are just gorgeous girls!!
Oh, and the bangs are back!! woo hoo!!!

Gail

OK….I know everyone has said it but WOW!! Beautiful girls!! You capture everything! Your the best! Oh…is it to late to ask if Colby can marry Claire?????

Such an emotion filled session. You really captured the bond between these girls!!!!

This is such a fantastic shoot. Your girls are gorgeous and the locale is perfect. How wonderful!

these are so so gorgeous! love that B&W and the ones below!

I love girls’ energy! You’re a rockstar ~ these photos are amazing :)

My gosh, love these. Love the black and white photo, and the warm backlighting, and all the action shots! They’re fabulous.

Krestena

These shots are so beautiful!! Your girls are so adorable!

WOW!!! Stunning shots!!!!!!!!!

Wow! Your pictures are so fresh and vibrant. Love your style! So nice to see a photographer that has that “wow” factor!

BEAUTIFUL! Love the emotion and joy!

These are incredible! So playful and pretty.

Oh wow, these are gorgeous photos!!! I love them. Beautiful girls.

Lorraine

Just love the light in these. great job!

Gorgeous lighting, beautiful photos!

GORGEOUS! everything. your girls. the location. the lighting. totally love these! great work yet again, hilary!

GORGEOUS! everything. the girls. the location. the lighting. totally love these! great work yet again, hilary!

Absolutely gorgeous images, love them all. Your girls are just beautiful!

i’m totally in love with your work! just gorgeous!

These are all gorgeous! I’m not sure which is my favorite because they are all so good. You have some adorable girls Hilary!

Oh, what beautiful little girls! Every shot is just lovely, but the 2nd and 3rd images are especially stunning. Fantastic job :)

MeghanW

I absolutely love every single one of these! Perfect@

Wow wow wow gorgeooouuusss. Did I mention I love them. Colours superb, fun, jove and pure childish laughter, amazing

these are fantastic!! not only are they beautiful, but what amazing moments to have of your two girls together. love every single one of them!

JOY! Pure joy you have captured with your children! The light is gorgeous, but so are your children! Love these!!!

Wow these are absolutely BEAUTIFUL…I have to say, I just love the emotion you captured in the first one – awesome! So great you’re able to get such great images of your OWN children! That’s a feat in and of itself!! :)

What precious girls! Love their interaction!

Adorable – great light and colours – LOVE them – great job!

Your girls are so adorable! Love the lighting in these.

Gorgeous! Love the lighting. Looks like a fun shoot!

Gorgeous! I love the lighting in these – looks like a fun shoot!

Niki

ok not sure why my comment looks like that take out all the 20% and it makes sense…haha!

Niki

LOVE…..LOVE…..the%20pictures%20your%20girls%20are%20far%20too%20beautiful%20and%20far%20too%20grown%20up%3A)

Niki

LOVE…..LOVE…..the pictures your girls are far too beautiful and far too grown up:)

Kendra

Oh wow, these are amazing. The colors are incredible and the girls are beautiful!

oh my – these almost make me cry! I just had my second daughter 3 weeks ago and hope that my 2 year old and her will share a bond like these two beautiful ladies!
Amazing captures!

Beautiful session! I love the vibrant colors and the flowers! Cute girls!

jenn

awww amazing job AGAIN Hil!!! The girls just continue to get more gorgeous everyday !!!!

they are gorgeous!! what a lucky mamma you are!!! love your style!

Laura Gyryluk

Gorgeous pictures Hilary!

Your girls are so gorgeous..just like their momma!!! Can’t wait to see the new haircuts! :)

These are gorgeous and so are your girls. LOVE.

lindaperston

whatever you needed to bribe them with was well worth it

gorgeous photos!! Your colors just pop right out at me! Awesome bokeh, and I just love that capture of emotion and happiness in each photo! Im sure the parents are just in love with these!

What two precious little girls. I love those genuine smiles : )

Shawna

Oh WOW! Hilary, these are stunning and so are your girls! These pictures definitely put a smile on my face!!!

Joy

Amazing, just amazing!!!

Christa

Wow. These are beautiful photos. The eye are the windows to the soul and your photos make sure that the souls of yur subjects are reveaed. Truly lovely.

Gorgeous photos – I love how you totally captured their joy.

I love this session! Beautiful use of light and these images truly tell a story. Great job!

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