“There’s beauty in your chaos.”
…Words from one of Grimsby’s talented photographers, Karen Byker. She is the founder of Reflections of Life Photography at 42 Debora Drive, Grimsby, specializing in newborn, maternity and family photography. During our time together at Station 1 Coffeehouse, I learned how she has become a master of her craft, beautifully portraying the beauty and chaos of parenthood in the most real and delightful ways. The key ingredient? Empathy. Karen has seen the powerful way photography helps us all feel remembered and valued, from experience in her youth making photo albums for the children who stayed at her parent’s foster care home, to documenting her and other family’s lives as a proficient photographer.
“I get it.”
As a beloved English professor once wrote to me, “empathy is like a muscle; you are born with a certain capacity, but you have to work on it to expand its potential as you move through your life” – Marilyn Rose. (This was during a class she instructed called Literary Empathy, where I had become obsessed with the idea that I could learn to “feel with” others in their joy and pain to maximize human connection, especially during painful times.) If empathy is, in fact, a muscle that gains strength through exercise, then Karen Byker has a strong capacity to “feel with” the mothers in her community. Karen is a working mother with four children. She gets it. As she shared her precious motherhood experiences with me, it was evident that she is well-acquainted with the beauty and the chaos of it all.
“There are actually years of my life I don’t remember…”
…Honest words describing the roller coaster of motherhood. Sometimes, “survival mode” became a way of life for her, as it does for so many mothers just trying to make it through the day. This is why photography is such a cherished part of her life – it captures little moments as they happen, to help us remember them later when our tired minds succumb to the chaos. And thank goodness for that.
Through motherhood and over 12 years as a professional photographer, Karen has toned her empathy muscles and now gives from this strength to help other mothers around her take a moment to pause, rest and see their own strength. Karen’s business serves her community in a variety of ways. Her services include:
- Photography workshops
- Private photography mentorship
- Sole photographer for the newborn baby photography program at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, “A Star is Born.”
And let me tell you about the experience you’ll receive before, during and after one of Karen’s photography sessions:
Imagine, after signing up for a family photography session, you have a million things going through your mind: how will the kids react when they’re in front of the camera? What if they start running around the studio? What if they won’t smile? And what am I going to wear?
Remain calm. Karen has thought of all these things ahead of time for you. She will send video emails to your children, to introduce herself and get the kiddos excited to visit her studio. You’ll get to enjoy a meet and greet, where she will set you up with her stylist Christine, who will help you choose your clothes before the session and give you full access to the studio wardrobe. You might also find a little care package in the mail one day, reminding you to take some self-care time with a bubble bath the night before the photoshoot. She wants you to remember you in all of this. The morning of the photoshoot Christine will be available to do your hair and makeup as well, helping you feel relaxed and beautiful, inside and out.
During the photoshoot, Karen wants to catch your family in their natural state – let the little ones run, jump, laugh and twirl – Karen will catch them in action as they move freely around her studio, a 360 blank canvas designed to be a perfect shot from any angle. She’ll ask just the right questions to help you connect as a family while you’re there:
- Husband – tell your wife one way she is an amazing mother
- Mama – tell your child one thing you love about them
Karen wants this to be a connective experience for your family within the busyness of life. Because of this, you will come away with more than a beautifully-presented array of incredible photos. During the photo reveal, she will ask each partner to pick out their favourite picture of each other, a special moment where you might find that a candid shot or a hilarious face might just capture that “thing” your partner cherishes most about you.
Grimsby moms hold a big place in Karen’s heart. She grew up here in Grimsby, and just as people walked with her through different stages and seasons of her life, she is now committed to doing the same for the families she photographs; she loves photographing children as they grow, seeing Instagram updates from moms and seeing where life takes everyone.
Personally, I’ve been learning lately that our art, trade, craft or calling has things to teach us. I’ve been finding this with writing and so I wanted to ask Karen what photography has taught her about her life.
Her answer was a simple, powerful truth we can all remember as we go throughout life:
“The imperfect is more beautiful than the perfect.”
Amen to that. I’m so comforted and encouraged to know that Karen is one of the many incredible female leaders in our community, sharing her passion, strength and wisdom with mothers across Grimsby, to make them see their own beauty and strength.
Karen and I both wanted you, dear readers, to be left with a few things after reading this article:
- Are you a mama in “survival mode” trying to deal with the chaos of life? Karen has this amazing download for you RIGHT HERE.
- Sign up for Karen’s FREE Photography for Mamas workshop this September 10! Karen assured me that aunties and grandma’s are also welcome!)
Turn your beautiful moments into sweet memories. Be sure to check out Reflections of Life Photography to learn more about how you can document your family throughout different seasons of life.