I didn’t get into photography for the art of it; nor did I get into photography for the passion of it (which isn’t to say I’m not passionate about my art). I got into photography because after moving to Los Angeles to write for television, and doing that (and then not), I needed a job. A steady one. That I was in control of. I chose photography, because I am passionate about family. And about family history. And about leaving a legacy.
I live and work in the entertainment capital of the world – where everyone is beautiful, where if the sun doesn’t shine every day of the year, it can be painted in, and where even the unglamorous seems glamorous. I have delivered chicken soup to Aaron Spelling’s house as a gesture from his writing staff in hopes he would get better (and approve their scripts); I have dressed in black tie at awards shows at The Beverly Hills Hotel; I have walked the picket line in support of my union; and I have been to more celebrity-packed premiere and wrap parties than I can count. I would say it’s easy to get caught up in La La Land, but the truth is, it’s easy to get caught up anywhere.
Since starting my Children and Family Photography business four years ago, I have volunteered photography services for a number of the charities that I was already involved with on a personal level – mainly photographing events. But asking people to stand together in groups for photos that would ultimately wind up on organization newsletters or websites wasn’t very exciting. Or fulfilling. I wanted more.
So I connected with the Los Angeles chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation – what I considered to be a perfect match for a Children’s Photographer. My first “assignment” was to photograph Daniel for last year’s Season of Wishes campaign. What could have been an easy headshot shoot turned into a full-on family session (which I repeated for the child highlighted in this year’s campaign). I didn’t see the assignment as a publicity shoot; nor did I care about the credit. I cared about the families, these human beings. Before I even met them, I imagined them to be:
-Parents who may or may not have struggled to stay strong on the outside, while crumbling on the inside.
-Siblings who may or may not have been unintentionally set to the back burner.
-And a child who may or may not have even understood what was happening to them, able to judge only by the looks between parents and doctors which way things were heading.
Daniel and Melissa were (and are) both in remission, so the shoots became celebrations, about giving them just a slice of their history during and after when the above may or may not have been true.
We all run businesses to make money. I am lucky to run a business in an upper-class town where my clients can afford to enjoy canvases on their walls and albums on their coffee tables. Delivering their histories, returning for next year’s shoot and seeing last year’s photos on the wall and hearing of the joys and pleasures they have brought only reminds me of the gift that I am able to give to those less fortunate, whether in health, wealth or otherwise.
Giving is contagious. Last year when I let Pictage know what I was doing with Daniel, the company generously donated both a beautiful session album and countless prints to his family. This year, I got help from Shoot dot Edit in preparing Melissa’s photos. We have all had a hand in ensuring these families’ histories.
We all live busy lives and while it’s easy to say we’re more connected than ever, it’s also easy to realize how disconnected we actually are. It’s easy to say you’re involved and write a check. We’re all busy, and maybe even a little bit selfish. But getting involved even when you are busy, unplugging and actually connecting, at least for a few hours … it’s amazing how plugged in and connected you’ll actually become.
About the Author
Katie Botel moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia to pursue a dream of writing for television. She did that, for many years, and then transitioned to telling more personal stories through still photographs. Going on her fourth year of Katie B. Photography, Katie celebrates her growing cast of characters’ everyday joys (and sometimes pitiful sorrows). Instead of ending her stories with her previously celebrated “Fade Out,” Katie prefers “To Be Continued” –as she looks forward to seeing her little “stars” for next year’s photos and capturing their ever-evolving stories.