I didn’t find photography.
Photography found me.
And then it healed me.
I started as a writer.
For 10 years I worked on one book, Beauty Restored: Finding Life and Hope After Date Rape. The heart of this book was to be a message of hope to women and their husbands/boyfriends, parents and friends. I wanted them to know they were not alone in their pain. It is based on my own painful experience of being date raped in college and how I went from living out of my car, checking into a psychiatric ward, and eventually finding hope to rebuild a life worth living.
Almost ten years later, on March 20th, 2001, the first day of spring, I birthed two babies; my beautiful, firstborn, Pascaline and Beauty Restored. When Pascaline was three months old we hit the road and for the next 18 months did over 50 National TV Shows and Radio Interviews. While my little one slept in the backs of churches and colleges, I was up front sharing my story and hoping one woman would feel hope again.
After two amazing years on the road, Brian and I were pregnant with our second. His name was Aidan, our little fire. While in TN for a week long speaking tour I started experiencing abdominal pains and three weeks later our baby Aidan’s heartbeat stopped.
After losing Aidan, I couldn’t speak or write and sought refuge in Brian and Pascaline’s love. During those times of grief, I picked up a camera. Pascaline’s innocence was precious from every view point. I found myself working to capture her story: the times she couldn’t stop giggling, the times she curled into the safety of daddy’s arms, the asleep time, the fussy and frustrated times, the first time she played with a yellow balloon… Friends and family started noticing the photos and asked me to photograph their kids. Soon brides were contacting me for their weddings.
I had gone from speaking to thousands of women at a conference and sharing my story, to finding healing behind a camera. Life had taken this unexpected turn and now I was given the privilege to artistically capture another woman’s story on her wedding day. Photography had found me.
A new chapter of life unfolded, a chapter of writing other people’s stories through images. Stories of new beginnings, moments of choosing to trust. Every time we shot a wedding I would see these moments; a grandmother reaches to squeeze the bride’s hand, a groom whispers in his bride’s ear, and then her giggle afterwards, a father’s tears while he dances with his daughter. What could be more worthy of capturing than these moments?
Photography is not just an art, trade or skill. It’s a tool of healing for myself and those I have the honor of capturing. When we approach the camera as a healing tool, the world opens it’s heart to us. I’ve had the gift of living a triumphant story with an incredibly humble beginning, and this impacts all I see through the camera.
Throughout this amazing journey, we had the honor of having our work featured on VH1’s Fabulous Weddings, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Lifetime Television. Grace Ormonde’s premier Wedding Style magazine named us one their Masters of Craft photography teams. For almost five years, Brian and I ran a high-end boutique wedding photography business with associate photographers under us. We were given the great honor of photographing million dollars weddings around the world. This was an incredible chapter in our story, but my heart’s deepest passion was and is to empower women. Thus, Brian and I set out on a new journey by shifting our business–slowly saying goodbye to shooting weddings–as we brought all our focus to building a dream that would empower moms with a camera and ignite their creative spirit.
I am a firm believer in speaking our dreams out loud, bringing them out of the dark. By doing this, they can come out of hiding and take flight. Our dream building began to take flight when SONY asked me to be one of their initial six sponsored Artisans of Imagery. Our partnership with SONY has been an incredible blessing these last seven years, as they stand behind me in reaching moms–empowering them to capture their families. They commissioned our award winning DVD series Refuse to Say Cheese to be reproduced for their instructional DVD “Kids in Focus”–given to customers who buy a SONY DSLR. SONY also sponsored our SOAR! Scholarship for women. I can’t say enough about this company.
Alongside our joy for photography, Brian and I rekindled our love for speaking. Together, we started traveling nationwide, teaching our CONFIDENCE Workshops to women, speaking at photography expos and conferences–with a heart to empower and inspire not only the professional photographer but the parent, enthusiast and scrap booker too. We now mentor our own team of certified CONFIDENCE teachers who teach our workshops in cities nationwide.
After two years of pitching the producers at the Oprah Winfrey Show, I received a call one summer afternoon with an invitation to be the photo expert for the Nate Berkus Show on NBC. Those two years of working with Nate’s team, teaching photo tips to an audience of millions, was an invaluable learning experience and preparation for my own show.
In November 2012, my own short-form show began airing on the Disney Junior channel teaching moms how to capture the story of their kids! “Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh” airs everyday and all day on the Disney Junior channel. No matter what city I’m visiting, if I’m at a park, I will have kids come up to me and ask if they can show “Ms. Me Ra” their photos. Empowering moms was and is the goal. But the overflow touched the hearts of kids, and I am so honored to play a role in the creativity of kids. Most recently, I’ve been invited to be the photo expert on Live with Kelly. What a huge honor each time they ask me back! Moments like theses is when I feel like the words triumphant story don’t even begin to describe the journey.
Not only was I appearing on more and more TV shows, but Brian and I were helping with production. Brian fell in love with directing. I fell in love with producing. And our vision started to grow for a show unlike any other.
In March 2014, our family took our biggest leap of faith. We packed up our sweet home and put it on the market. Then we bought one way tickets to New Zealand. With an extra camera man we set out to film Adventure Family: a family travel show that takes you off the beaten path. For the next five months we circumnavigated the globe filming in New Zealand, Thailand, Israel and Italy. When we left we didn’t have a signed contract but knew that if we wanted networks to believe in our show, we had to show them we believed it in the most. Watch Season 1!
I also invite you to check out my best selling book series for parents. Your Baby in Pictures, Your Child in Pictures, and Your Family in Pictures. Each book has forty “photo recipes” to capture the different, beautiful stages of family life. They have not only been #1, #2 and #3 on Amazon’s best seller list for months, but they’ve been been featured in The New York Times, Woman’s World, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and more.
You can find our photography published in The New York Times, Parenting, Women’s World, American Baby, Weight Watcher’s, American Photo, Click, Popular Photography, Digital Photo, Inside Edge magazine and more. Our work has been on exhibit in The Natural History Museum of NYC and reached exhibition on the shores of San Fransisco.
In 2015, we launched our Portrait of the World travel photography workshop tours! This has been a dream come true! With all our experience in traveling abroad, we now take groups each year to Italy, Thailand, Greece and Egypt in 2019! They’re DREAM, bucket list adventures where we teach you photography as we take you to our favorite, off-the-beaten path locations. Our Portrait of America series launches in 2018!
Brian and I are as real as they come. We take pride in having the best marriage counselor ever for over twenty years. After all, you need a great one when you work, live, vacation, sleep and do school together. Brian and I homeschool the kids. Our family travels a lot. Sometimes we feel like we’re living out of a suitcase, but we don’t mind. We build impossible dreams as a family. When we learn something new, we love to give it away through our workshops and private Facebook CONFIDENCE group.
We also do Family Meetings on Monday nights, church on Sundays, 6am yoga. Rosie is our golden retriever along with a super-soft kitty named Sir Windsor Bunny. And we still miss our very chubby cat named Prince Phillip.
Our family is known to spend 4 minutes being quiet for you (another book in the words).
Brian and I laugh a lot, and I think it’s because we’ve both cried a lot.
How does a woman start at such a place of deep pain and find herself standing in front of wide, open skies with a triumphant story that doesn’t seem possible?
If I can do this, I know with full confidence you can reach your impossible dreams too. My life’s journey began with a deep need to discover confidence, self-worth, and this search transformed into a passion to help women grab hold of their own. To help women create their own triumphant story, no matter how humble our beginnings.
Each day I find that my pain is still with me over my losses, but the joy is just as deep if not deeper.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story…my healing.
May we grow in confidence.
May we all take flight together!