Melbourne-based artist Karen Alsop doesn’t consider herself a photographer, exactly. Her business, Story Art, creates composite images that look like something out of a fairytale. A woman dressed as Cinderella flies behind a runaway pumpkin coach, and a little boy reimagined as Pinocchio sits in front of a bemused Gepetto. And a little girl with severe disabilities flies through the air, held up by butterflies.
The girl in question, Tahliyah, suffers from an undiagnosed condition. Though she’s 5 years old, she cannot speak or walk, and has difficulty even unclenching her fists. Tahliyah’s mother came to Karen and asked for a composite image of her daughter, depicting her free of any medical equipment.
The shoot was enormously involved. Even the shots of Tahliyah’s chair and dog were complicated by the top-down angle the image required. But the most challenging aspect was creating a complete image of Tahliyah without any medical equipment or visible assistance. Karen relied on Tahliyah’s parents to help get the shots she needed for the composite. “They helped uncurl her feet. There was a split second that Tahliyah released her clenched fist during the shoot and I was able to get that soft open hand shot (which the parents were amazed at, as opening her hands loose is very rare). Capturing the joy on her face was top priority. Her happiness came from her dad interacting with her during the photoshoot.”
In the end, the success of the shoot inspired Karen to share Tahliyah’s story with others. She created an Animoto video featuring images of Tahliyah growing up and combined that with an interview with Tahliyah’s parents. She then set the video to a song by Australian pop sensation Guy Sebastian, whose Sebastian Foundation is offering assistance to Tahliyah’s family and families like hers.
It’s clear from the video that both Tahliyah and her parents loved Karen’s story art piece. And for Karen, “This project has ignited a desire in me to create more Story Art pieces that bring hope, that make a difference in lives. “This project beyond anything I’ve done. It’s my hope that I can inspire other photographers and artists to find their ‘thing,’ their way of making a difference that fits with their genre and style.”
That’s why Karen’s sharing Tahliyah’s story on her blog. She’s also continuing to work with the Sebastian Foundation, crafting more story art pieces similar to those she created for Tahliyah, to be auctioned off or donated to children’s hospitals throughout Australia. In addition, she’s working with the foundation to educate photographers who want to want to make a difference by creating story art of their own.