MAKE IT speaker Karen Alsop’s inspiring photo series


In a world filled with imagery, how do we get viewers to stop in their tracks? How do we create a viral visual project that garner’s worldwide attention?

Founder of The Heart Project and Story Art, Karen Alsop, will be running a special session at MAKE IT in Sydney on the first day of the conference on precisely this topic.

Karen’s photographic art has been shared worldwide by such publications as Huffington Post, CNN, The Today Show, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail and Vanity Fair.

Read about her latest project below and sign up for her session at MAKE IT.

Thrilling photo series of quadriplegic mother and her son

Her life was full of adventure Until a routine surgery changed her world forever

As a mother of two it breaks my heart to even try and imagine the pain of not being able to reach out and hug my children. We head out each day assuming that our lives will continue to roll by untouched, until something dreadful rocks our world, and turns it upside down.

Film by Courtney Holmes Films and Photos

Sarah-Jane (SJ), an outdoor education instructor and a mom, went into surgery after suffering a herniated disc in her back.  Waking up from surgery the next day she found that she was no longer able to walk, or even hold her son. The operation had rendered her a quadriplegic.

Here are some pictures of her before the surgery.


Sarah-Jane Staszak has weathered a storm with her son Hamish by her side. Her dream for her son is that she can continue provide him life changing adventures, despite her physical limitations.


When we heard SJ’s story, we immediately started devising a plan to help make this dream more of a reality. The Heart Project is all about bringing joy and hope through Photography.
This project however required an extra special force of nature – Benjamin Von Wong

It was not enough for me to want to provide adventure through a studio based photo. We wanted to take  SJ and Hamish back to the familiar rock faces of the Blue Mountains and knew we required an extraordinary team and an artist that takes his photography to the outer limits.

Von Wong is a conceptual photographer who takes photos that people think are Photoshopped. Collaborating with Benjamin made so much sense. Our methods are different. I Photoshop images together to create false reality. However, our reasons for creating are the same. We want to make a difference with our work. We tell stories, and in telling those stories hope to bring change to our world.



Behind the Scenes Photos by Courtney Holmes Films and Photos

Von Wong scaled the side of a misty mountain to photograph SJ and Hamish’s epic adventure. Meanwhile, I stayed safely on the sidelines capturing my background plates that made up the adventure scenes I’d planned in my mind.
SJ and her son’s love for adventure prompted the theme for my series of three images. I wanted to show their connection through my work, highlighting the mother and son dynamic at play.
My first background plate was captured early in our adventure at some ruins at the base of the Blue Mountains.


photoshop speed edit gif

Weathering the rain in our marshmallow ponchos, I pictured the final photograph as I set up my shots.

In this first piece I wanted Hamish’s new role of protection to be the theme.


The Rescue (c) Karen Alsop 2017

SJ’s strength and determination to support Hamish despite her limitations is evident to everyone that know them. In my second piece, it was this motherly, protective drive that I wanted to showcase. In this classic adventure scene Sarah-Jane hurtles out of a train tunnel with Hamish hanging on for dear life.


To achieve the sense of a train chasing them, we set up our lighting and smoke machine in the tunnel, backlighting the smoke to give the effect of an approaching train.


-Tunnel of Life (c) Karen Alsop 2017

 The most emotional image for me, and also for SJ, was ‘Leap of Faith’. Taking SJ out of her chair, freeing her from her quadriplegia in Photoshop was bittersweet. Since the surgery, SJ has hoped for a return to normality, but as the years have progressed she has come to the realisation that her chair is her ‘new normal’.


I do believe in miracles, and as time goes on, my hope for SJ is that her movement will improve, her pain and strain will decrease and medical miracles will provide better quality of life for her and her son.


Leap of Faith (c) Karen Alsop

Click here to check out Karen’s website and to learn more about her projects.

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. Register for MAKE IT and hear her speak.



Posted on 05-24-2017

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