Open Hearts

It’s October again. A hard month.

It used to be the month I lost my son, last year it also became the time I said goodbye to my Gran.

These friends helped me through October, and now it has returned, remembering…

I was out of film, out of energy, no more strength in my heart, only tears behind my eyes. After two weeks of unexpected travel alone with my kids saying goodbye to my Gran and crisscrossing the country to lay her to rest – these friends were a gift. The Parson family opened their home and their hearts to us, because welcoming others in from the cold is a way of life for them. At the end of a long journey, waiting for a flight home, we found ourselves amidst friends, good food and laughter. A gift our tired souls needed badly. Everything was a gift in those few days, even this roll of film given to me by my kids’ camping partner, Magnus. I won’t forget those days, our trip to the farm, their lovely children, laughing and eating outside, and joyful Alec and his scarf. These friend’s easy smiles and kind hearts mended us, and kept us together til we could finish our journey home.

I can’t do these beautiful people justice. But I wanted to take a bit of the gift that they are with me, so I clumsily made portraits.

I’m so thankful for this time, glad to hold these reminders on bits of film.

10-13 . Hasselblad 500c/m . Tri-X . developed and scanned at home . only half the roll made it through airport security handling and home developing

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Our friend is an amazing maker of skateboards and surfboards, and an awesome Dad. He made his sons surfboards and is working on making our boys their own hand shaped boards now. They got to hang out in his backyard workshop and learn about the process, and are so stoked to ride them soon. They went home and drew out designs and I will share photos of the finished product once they are ready to take them out for a session!

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Our summer on 100 rolls of film > real fast with music


Jesse likes to ebay. Last summer he bought a box of 100 rolls of 12 exposure expired Fuji Superia. He told me it was a great deal – I thought he was crazy.

I shot all 100 rolls last summer in my Nikon 1 Touch, Jesse and the kids helped. I think Jesse is less crazy for that ebay purchase now.

Our friend Roger scanned all 1200+ images on his fancy scanner machine. He’s amazing, and you can thank him for this video…

I’m really really glad we have these images

Summer 2013 12exp from sharon mckeeman on Vimeo.

Music >>> The Bleeding Heart Show by these guys

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Real Big

Last week I wrote this post about how making pictures was all tied up in my current heartbreak.

But sometimes you just need friends to get out a large format camera and spend lazy hours sitting in the middle of the road, making photos like people did in the old days while kids scooter circles around you. Then you eat pizza and watch them develop twelve sheets of four by five inch film in the kitchen sink, scan and eight hours later stare at bits of magic. That mountain afternoon, my little family growing up, caught so I can’t forget.

Sometimes you just need those same friends to send you a text that says “We’re picture makers… that’s what we do. It just is.”

And that’s enough to put aside all the anger and confusion over babies you can’t hold onto and images you never made, and take some steps back into life. The beautiful mess of life that deserves to be documented. Life filled with kids growing big and strong and friends who laugh troubles away.

Thanks Kaisers and Ellsworths


5-17-2014 . my first large format images . crazy camera with a shirt over my head, triX developed in the sink & scanned at home . photo of me by Jesse

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My hands are empty.

There are children running circles round me, but my hands are empty.

I have come to terms with the unthinkable. We have lost again. But is it too much to ask for a souvenir, to want something to grasp and hold tight?

I don’t even have a photograph, and this feels too much to bear.

My belly was growing wide, swelling with life. We bought this shirt on Valentine’s day and I wore it, so proud of how I was filling it’s fullness, cloth draped over the curve of my womb. My roundness, proof that life could begin again, more hope was on the horizon.

But I didn’t take a picture. Me with a pile of cameras and lenses, film and an iPhone, didn’t stop time. I was too busy soaking it all in, too busy just being. More than that though, I thought it would last.

I thought I had more time.

How can you be prepared for the time death comes? How can we live when life hides from sight?

After the silence of that ultrasound came crashing down, after the shaking and the tears, collapsing into nightmare – then I was too afraid to point a camera at the truth. Making an image of my own body felt like a photoshoot in a morgue. So I put my cameras down and held my children. I woke up from surgery and my body was shocking, far too small. All my life I have wanted my stomach to shrink, to stretch flawless and flat, and now I want only too see it round. My arms should be filling out by now, my thighs dimpled with fat, as with each pregnancy. But instead I am deflated, so light I might float away. And this striped shirt that was my glory, now hangs empty on the hanger in my closet. Unbearable – like the too small number on the scale, like my lonely body.

What am I left with? My husband, my children, my God. And Words.

Then all the notes I had taken in those days, the bits of poetry I wrote to cling to while my heart was breaking – they all disappeared, even the backup. All of it, gone, lost.

What a Mother’s Day gift. God can’t I have one bit to hang onto?

I want the world to know our baby. I need Beacon McKeeman to matter. I want to show you that he grew inside me for sixteen weeks of nausea and joy. I want you to see the real weight he carried here, the way he shaped and changed and left my body. I want to read the words I wrote in those moments close to him. But the losing continues and so I search frantic. My hands are empty, what can my feel stand solid upon?

Stumbling I find that I stand now straddling space and time – my heart divided between heaven and earth, the two homes of my children. I wonder, could joy be my souvenir?

We develop rolls of film, I hope for one glimpse of my baby bump. It is miraculously hidden, by chairs and children, not one frame where I can see the silhouette of pregnancy. But these images taken by Jesse on Valentines day before Beacon’s presence was visible growing beneath my breasts – These images paint Beacon concrete right into this world. The joy, the quiet peace I see here in black and white, it is not of me. This joy was Beacon’s gift, my womb swelling full like laughter. Each day I held him inside – joy.

Joy and a peace down deep where I have always tossed like a sleepless child. And I know now this is my souvenir. I can never walk perfect in this skin, but only one story has ever given me hope. Only one God has ever promised me life certain. Only one Human has felt my every painful tear.

In that last meal before death and life eternal He comforted His friends, “Let not your hearts be troubled, Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” And Thomas the doubter like me cries that we do not know the way! How can we make it to this home you offer us? And Joy and Peace, Jesus speaks quiet “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:1-5

He is the way, and I know Him more now through broken bodies and true life hidden from my eyes. I fall into thankfulness for a home given miraculous. A home beyond where death can steal, a home in which nothing is ever lost. A home I could never build or buy or secure for myself. A home for all my children. I am thankful for pure gift and I rejoice as He takes my fear away.

I can not see anything in my hands, photographs have fallen to the floor, words have fluttered away. Nothing I make can stand. But children dance round me, and the body of Christ, His people that hold onto faith sing with me. Christ’s body broken and filled with life in hundreds and thousands of souls, they have carried us when we could not walk, my hands are not empty they are held tight. Mothers and Fathers, children of our Creator we walk broken together, hoping against all hope for the promise given. Joy, peace, hope, and each other are the souvenirs on this bloody journey to Life.

Thank you to my Father, the Author of this heartbreakingly beautiful story for making me a mother.

I love you with all my heart Jesse, Aaron, David, Joshua, Jeremiah and Beacon.

(These polaroids of our kids were taken by Jaclyn while I was in surgery. When I came home, my heart and body raw and in a million pieces, these photos, flowers and chocolate were beside my bed, and they gave me the hope to rest and wake, get out of bed and keep living life. Thank you more than I can say, dear friend.)



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