Just before I launched the Rachel Vanoven Collective, I had made a plan to launch a series (like the eWorkshops over the years) that focused on photographing kids and families with disabilities, and we have slowly been building a library of videos that show different kids who are medically fragile or disabled— not only how I work with them, but hearing from their parents about their concerns over past sessions and things that kept them from booking photos for their family.
My hope is to continue to not only add my own videos to form an extensive wealth of information, but to also have photographers from all over the world submit their own videos that include vital knowledge about working with families and individuals who deserve beautiful portraits just like any other typical family.
The Inclusive Photographers Library is and always will remain free, relying solely on time and expenses donated by the photographers who provide the materials for anyone to learn from. I hope this Library will change the way photographers approach photographing families and individuals with disabilities or medical needs, but will also be a source for those families to find and book a photographer who has taken the time to educate themselves on ALL kinds of families.
One decade ago, in 2012, a mother for an upcoming session — another photographer — emailed me before their session to let me know that their son was Autistic and gave me some helpful tips to keep the session going smoothly for everyone. Then, she added that they would be happy with anything—lifestyle photos would be fine since eye contact and smiling at the camera would most likely not be something achievable in the short time we had together.
Not only did we capture lifestyle, but we were able to get several ones with smiling and lots of eye contact. And my clients' reactions to those photos were what planted that seed for other photographers to be able to deliver the same priceless memories to deserving clients.
Over the years, I’ve been able to photograph a wide range of families with varying disabilities and needs, and the heartbreaking theme throughout these shoots is parents who have been frustrated with photos or how they/their children were treated during the sessions.
Meet the Owens family! I met Karen 15 years ago in an online moms group that we were in for our sons, my son Nicholas and her son, Gavin.
Gavin was diagnosed with a degenerative mitochondrial disease, and at only three and a half years old, this left the Owens family reeling when he died after fighting a long battle against his terrible condition. His disease aided Karen and Adam with skills and medical equipment that they felt called to use in adopting four medically fragile kids from the foster system to raise along with their oldest child, Madi!
Siah, Angela, Jayden, and Harper—all with varying abilities, found their forever homes with the Owens family. Tragedy struck again, and they lost another son, Jayden, in a horrible accident. Losing two children so traumatically is hard for anyone to imagine, and caused Karen’s battle with the disease of anorexia to become a matter of life or death, and combined with the strain of the pandemic, in 2020 she suffered a stroke that left her dependent on using a wheelchair.
A lifelong advocate for those with disabilities, the Owens family joined the inclusive library to help open the door for stronger community and communication between photographers and medically fragile clients.
Meet the Grogitsky-Ramirez family!
I first met these amazing people early in 2019, in a hospital on a gloomy day just hours after they were given a grim prognosis for their three-month-old baby girl Luna. She was having uncontrollable seizures caused by cysts growing inside her skull, and I showed up to gift them with portraits of their sweet girl who had been given only days to live.
But Luna didn’t die in that hospital, and she didn’t die when they took her home on hospice, and two years later, she’s thriving under the love, care, and advocating her parents have done—and now a big sister!
Join us and an intimate home session, celebrating Luna’s growth and achievements along with the birth of her little brother, Atlas!
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Say hello to the Payton family and their newest little addition, baby Mila!
When baby Mila made her way into this world she underwent heart surgery for Ebstein's anomaly a heart condition of which she was given a 2% chance of survival. Mila was also diagnosed with Malacia of her airway and was told she would have to be trach vented for her whole life, but Mila surprised them all and only needs supplemental O2. Baby Mila has a long road ahead with surgeries but she is a little heart warrior defying all the odds!
In this video, the Payton family shared their view of what they hope to get from a photography session and their journey with Mila. You'll see how I modify my newborn posing to fit Mila's needs and age with a more lifestyle-inspired studio setup. Not only do I go over Mila's individual portraits but I also include her big siblings to feel like a special part of the session with baby Mila.
Meet the Burris family! When momma Meagan was just 14 weeks along with baby Alton, a family friend reached out to offer her a free elective ultrasound at her facility. While elective ultrasounds can't medically diagnose their clients or disclose abnormal findings, they do notify the client's OB office of any abnormal findings. A few days later Meagan's OB informed her there was an abnormality discovered which required further medical evaluation.
The Burris family received the devastating news that baby Alton was diagnosed with Prune belly, bladder outlet obstruction, and extreme hydronephrosis. Meagan's MFM doctor told her had they not found his condition so early, it's likely baby Alton would not have survived.
After an in utero surgery, the Burris family was given a pretty grim outlook for baby Alton, but with each passing week, Alton defied the odds and surprised them all by making it to 37 weeks! Within the first 2 weeks of his life, Alton went through 2 major surgeries, one of which provided a tube to relieve his bladder.
In this teaching video, we learn how to pose a 4-week-old newborn with a permanent medical device, being mindful of his limitations, and modifying poses to fit his needs.
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