We all love a good story.
Often the stories read or told to us when very young form our first and fondest memories.
The fantasies, flights of fancy and adventures remain with us, imprinted it seems, throughout our lives. Our parents typically played a key role helping embed these stories in our imaginations: fancy dress, plastic swords, and cardboard castles in the backyard.
This ideal however is just a dream for families experiencing hardship, especially the many challenges of raising a child with medical difficulties. Karen Alsop, an award-winning professional photographer in Melbourne, has had a long love affair with photography. A few years ago she made a decision to focus on designing and creating composites in Adobe Photoshop.
Stories as Digital Photographic Art
She established her business, Story Art.
“I’d always loved creating imagery from different photographs: merging them together to tell a story,” Karen said. “As my compositing skills developed using Photoshop so too was my enthusiasm for a story-telling style focused on children and animals. I loved linking them together through the magic of fantasy.”
These fantastic visuals became increasingly sought after. Both Story Art’s reputation and Karen’s standing as a digital photographic artist grew rapidly.
This reputation attracted Jacqui and Kelly to contact Karen in early 2016. Their daughter Tahliyah, who was 5 years old, has a condition which means she cannot walk, speak or hold herself up. While her mother, who was also a photographer, had taken some beautiful photos of Tahliyah, her parents wanted to capture something different: something creative and imaginative.
Tahliyah’s parents told Karen they imagined a scene, a story setting, where Tahliyah was free to fly. With the fantasy of flight in mind, Karen began photographing Tahliyah in various positions which she would later composite together with Adobe Photoshop.
Free to Fly
“The vision I had for the final photograph was straight out of a fairy tale: indeed, where Tahliyah was flying free. Where she leaves behind her wheelchair and all her otherwise necessary day-to-day restrictions and is just joyous: free to fly,” Karen said.
Karen noted these magic visuals are not possible without Adobe Photoshop. “With Photoshop we take many photos and merge them to create an artwork that’s impossible in reality.”
Story Art + The Sebastian Foundation = The heART Project
Karen’s visual fantasy stories inspired other families facing similar challenges to come forward: as well as other photographers who wanted to help and learn. “I looked to partner with a foundation or charity,” Karen said.
“We needed to build a dual-purpose organisation which used digital photographic story-telling to bring some joy to families in need while also generating opportunities for other photographers to participate.”
Fortunately, Karen knew Guy and Jules Sebastian and of the high profile couple’s family charity, The Sebastian Foundation. “I took Tahliyah’s story to the Foundation. They loved it. We shared a common goal of using photography to create and share joy. So together we created a new collaboration called The heART Project,” Karen said.
At that time Adam Cubito was the General Manager of The Sebastian Foundation. “Karen inspired us,” Adam said. “Through Karen’s ongoing support and the coaching workshops she’s organised, The heART Project has not only come into being, it’s also attracting a sub-community of other motivated Australian photographers who are increasingly providing hands-on support.”
The heART Project presented Tahliyah’s family with a beautiful framed Story Art photograph of her flying. “In this magical scene, Tahliyah, who loves animals, is accompanied through the air by butterflies,” Karen said. “Central to this fairy tale is her beaming smile; we hope it continues to bring joy and inspire Tahliyah and her family.”
The family also received other gifts from The heART Project including attending Guy Sebastian’s concert, and a holiday at Jamala Wildlife Lodge in the heart of the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra. This was a special treat given Tahilyah’s love of animals. Tahilyah’s parents, Jacqui and Kelly, said the family all loved the experiences, especially Tahilyah who, they said, continued to show she has the heart of a lion.
The heART Project captures Tahliyah’s time with her new animal friends
Inspired by Tahliyah’s time at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, The heART Project conducted a workshop at the zoo for digital photographers. Their efforts led to a special Story Art image created by Karen Alsop. Titled ‘Heart of a Lion’, it’s a fantasy made real: a reminder of Tahliyah’s amazing adventure with the animals she met and her own precious heart of a lion.
Watch the making of it here:
The heART Project
The aim of The heART Project is to spread love to families experiencing hardship through the challenges of raising a child with medical difficulties. Several of the heART projects include a workshop where, under Karen’s tutelage, photographers polish their skills while creating a portrait of a child who has had a rough start to life.
The heART Project has completed five projects to date and plans to spread the love: showing that something as simple as a photo can, fantastically, change families’ lives.
About Karen Alsop
Karen Alsop is an internationally acclaimed Melbourne, Australia-based photographic digital artist. Expanding on two decades of photographic and graphic design experience, Karen brings photography and art together to create stunning artworks that tell a story and take the viewer into another world.
Specializing in Portrait Art, her digital portraiture captures the personality and character of her subjects by placing them within a visual story highlighting their interests. Karen uses the power of Photoshop to composite multiple captures together, making the impossible possible within her art.
Karen’s latest project sees her using her compositing skills to give children with severe disabilities the wings to fly. The Heart Project is bringing hope worldwide to children and families through the power of photography