Lifestyle Portraits of Shawna Turner

Shawna Turner | Jessica Blaine Smith

I love doing lifestyle portrait sessions. Sessions that aren’t about getting the perfect-smiling-at-the-camera portrait and instead are about documenting people as they are, doing what it is that they do. Shawna Turner is one of those magical people and you just know it when you meet her. She is full of so much knowledge and moves with grace that I am in awe of. I first met Shawna a little over a year ago when I signed up for one of her Chakra Circles. For seven weeks, I would go to her home and sit with a few other women where we would learn, write, meditate and move our bodies. Those seven weeks changed my life and sent me spinning in a whole other direction of life. In the late summer, we did a lifestyle portrait session to document just what it is that Shawna does. She invited a group of women to her home where they did a full moon ceremony before we headed to the lake to continue with some sweet, sweet sunlight. I love the resulting images.

Shawna has a lot planned for the coming months including new circles/classes and a retreat to Guatemala. I HIGHLY suggest heading on over to her website and signing up for her Chakra Ebook to learn more about what she has to offer.Shawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine SmithShawna Turner | Jessica Blaine Smith

Reena of kisii handmade

kisii handmade | Jessica Blaine SmithMore than a decade ago, I met Reena thanks to this camera of mine. It’s one of those incredible by-products of being a portrait photographer. This camera gives you access to the lives of others and sometimes through that access, friendships form. This is what happened when I met Reena oh so many years ago. There was an instant click (puns are punny!) and we have been friends ever since.

Reena is a woman of many talents. She is a teacher and a writer and she is also a creator. She creates the most beautiful jewellery and homewares, all created from ethically-sourced parts and sells them in her shop called kisii handmade. And because Reena is that incredible, a portion of all kisii sales goes to the Desmoid Tumour Foundation of Canada.

I knew that the name ‘kisii’ related to Reena’s Kenyan roots so I asked her for the specifics. Instead of me writing it out, I am going to let her words tell you what kisii means.

“Kisii is a small city in Kenya. It’s not where my family is originally from (Mombasa), but in the 70s when my Mom was starting her amazing teaching career, she was placed there. In the 70s, hell even today, to be a young woman who moves from a big city to a very remote city in a country divided by politics, racial injustice and gender inequality, it was a bold and brave move. Full of excitement and fear, she forged ahead and lived in a small cottage and taught in a classroom that many would consider unequipped for learning in today’s digital age. But the kids prevailed and succeeded, they even planned a class field trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. She was that kind of a lady. And after immigrating to England and then Canada, she continued to teach – only instead of in a classroom, it evolved to a dance studio and theatre where she really found her calling. So kisii represents a starting point for the women in my family. It’s a metaphor for taking a risk while having a heart full of good intentions.”

Reena is also a survivor and a fighter. In 2008 she found a lump on her calf and it took two years of various tests, biopsies, MRIS and all that fun stuff before they figured out what was happening and they removed two tumours. It turned out that they were Desmoid Tumours which are not your typical tumour breed. These awful things don’t grow in one solid mass. Instead they are of as sort of mushy pasta consistency which makes them really hard to remove. She had six weeks of radiation at this time and unfortunately in 2012 the tumours returned. This time, chemo seemed like the best option so for 1.5 years, every three weeks out of four, Reena would travel to the hospital for this treatment. And the chemo worked! At least for a couple of years before signs of them returning started appearing in 2015. For a year a new oral chemo treatment trial seemed like the best option so she signed up for that and was using that approach until recently. So over the span of ten years, Reena has had 8 tumours (of which three are still alive), six weeks of daily radiation, 1.5 years of intravenous chemo and another year of oral chemo. What a ride!

In the past couple of months, this incredible woman has decided to take a detox from all of the treatments. To give time to focus on her own self and her life. To not let these tumours rule her world as they have been for nearly ten years now. Reena never plays the victim. In fact, she is quite quiet about the status of her health. Whenever I am with her, I am filled with such admiration for her. She is resilient. She is strong. She is inspiring. And I feel so blessed to have her as my soul sister.

We recently did a lifestyle portrait session together. She needed some new portraits of herself, as well as some action shots of her creating the jewellery that she sells through kisii. I love all of the resulting images from this session but my favourite portraits have to be the ones of her proudly displaying her scar. When it comes to scars, we are so used to hiding these so-called imperfections. But the truth is, we should proudly display them. They are our battle wounds. Our proof that we have been through something. That we have conquered it. And that we will continue the fight.

Thank you, Reena, for this afternoon with me and my camera.kisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smithkisii handmade | Jessica Blaine Smith

Portraits: The Women of MISFITSTUDIO

MISFITSTUDIO Portrait | Jessica Blaine Smith

As a photographer, I am constantly thinking about creating images and those images are usually portraits. Recently I had the honour of photographing all of the teachers of Toronto’s MISFITSTUDIO. We had a vision for the resulting images and it makes my heart soar knowing that we created it. The goal was to create real portraits of these real women. None of this hyper retouched and fake perfectionism that we are used to seeing in images everywhere these days. We wanted to celebrate muscles and sweat and being human. So, here they are, the women of the MISFITMETHOD. A group of strong, fierce and incredibly inspiring women.

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A Very Special Family Portrait Session at High Park Toronto

Family Portraits at High Park Toronto

Okay! Before I get into the blog post I have to mention that this family portrait session took place at High Park in Toronto on December 3rd! Yes, that is correct – the day was gorgeous and coats were basically not necessary. While this is terrifying for the world, it was perfect for a family portrait session. It was also no surprise that we got the most gorgeous of days for this family because they deserved the most perfect of days for their portrait session. I say this because this family is one of the most incredible ones that I know. These four have been through so much and yet, they continue to smile and show those dimples. The strength they have is unbelievable.  In 2016 I photographed this family and a couple of short months later, their entire world flipped upside down when they lost Thomas’ twin Jude. When we did that session, the boys were a little sick with the usual kid colds and it nearly didn’t happen but we decided to do it anyway and I am so grateful that we did. You never know the value of portraits like these until everything in your life changes. For our session on Sunday, we honoured Jude by including one of his favourite pals, his penguin Everest (from Cuddle + Kind), as well as a quilt created by their friend that was made of pieces of material that belonged to him.  Words cannot express how honoured I feel to have documented this family again.

I would love it if you would please visit their site – For Jude For Everyone – to read more about Jude’s story hereFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park TorontoFamily Portraits at High Park Toronto

Ezra is One Year Old!

One Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine Smith

I love when my clients have babies and invite me to come along and document them again! Steph and Jacob got married in 2011 and what a wild ride it has been since then. Just short of their first anniversary, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has documented that journey since then at Pass Me Another Cupcake. Steph and Jacob have so much love and strength that they are capable of getting through anything. They were determined to grow their family and a year ago, li’l Ezra was born. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated his first birthday with a portrait session. One Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine SmithOne Year Old Portrait | Jessica Blaine Smith