BEAUTIFUL! COURAGEOUS! PHENOMENAL!
What do those three little words mean to you? To me, they epitomize how my clients feel when I show them the back of my camera during our session. They talk about how emotional they’ve been leading up to and including starting this session. How hard it’s been not to always drag themselves down when all around them is somebody doing exactly that. They are Beautiful before they come to me. They are Courageous for coming to me. They become Phenomenal when they see what I’ve captured and the same thing always happens. They change right in front of my eyes! They start to realize that they aren’t fat, or old, or worn down, or not beautiful, or, or, or…. They become Beautiful! Courageous! Phenomenal! AGAIN!!!
When I was a senior in high school, way back when, all of us were asked what our number one goal in life was. I know that gets asked for a lot of graduating seniors, maybe all of them. My answer at the time was, “to help people in times of trouble.” Back then I had planned to go to school for law enforcement and even started taking classes in college for criminal justice.
I soon realized that while I could get my degree and go in to law enforcement, I would probably be stuck pushing paperwork and working in an office type setting. You see, back then, any little medical issue was enough to keep me off the streets and I had flat feet and a bum knee from football. With a glut in the system because of the baby-boomers generation, there were plenty of fresh, healthy, young men (and a few women) just waiting for the chance at a career. I gave up the plan and decided to roll with life and do what ever I could find for a job. I worked in everything from dairy (milking cows for $14/day) to being an electrician to driving truck and even went back to school.
Fast forward to 2004. I was working as a security guard for a casino and had a chance to take a first responder class. I really didn’t do it to be able to help anyone but myself, I did it for a .75c pay raise. Just a couple of months after that, they held an EMT class and again I took it, this time for another $1.25/hour raise. In 2005 there was a school shooting on one of the reservations in the area I live in (we have 3) and I decided to join the local first responder group to see if I could help in any way. For the next 11 years, I volunteered with them, joined my local volunteer fire department and changed careers, working for my local ambulance service (two, in fact). I thought I had finally found my niche in life and was doing something I loved and it really had turned in to the goal that I had set way back in high school.
Working in EMS I had seen abusive situations, drug-related situations and terminal results of depression. I had friends that were in abusive relationships, physical, mental, you name it. Throughout all of this I had been an avid photographer, mostly of nature and landscapes and still-life. I have always found beauty in all things and in people. I have always looked for the good in someone and encouraged them to strive to be better. I’ve spent countless hours talking to my friends and family, even strangers, encouraging them, trying to show them how beautiful they are when their self-esteem was so low that they couldn’t see their own beauty. A few years ago I began to toy with the idea that I wanted to help show people how beautiful they really are by photographing them. I started photographing families and friends but I felt like I really wasn’t being honest with them or with my work.
I realized that one of the biggest lies that our society holds sacred is the idea that if a person, male or female but mostly female, didn’t have the right body shape, or the right hair color, or the right skin color or if they had tattoos or piercings that they were outcasts to be looked down on, shunned, or worse. I wanted to give my clients a fuller experience. But I was afraid. I let my own fear of society get me down and keep me from doing what I wanted. Then came an experience for me that has changed my life and my outlook on life. I had a stroke.
On August 3, 2016 while working I had a stroke. I was extremely lucky. I happened to be in the local emergency department because we had just brought in a patient. Within an hour and a half, I had been given clot-busting drugs and flown out by helicopter to a larger hospital in Fargo, ND that was better equipped to help me. I spent the next day and a half in ICU and three more on the floor before being discharged and going home. I started physical therapy and have since regained about 90% of my life. On December 7, 2016 I see my neurologist to find out if I can return to my EMS jobs. Whatever the outcome, I have realized one thing. Life is too short to let fear or self-esteem get in the way.
Update: 10/05/2017 It’s taken me over a year to get back to close to where I was. The 90% I stated earlier was optimistic. I still have some minor balance issues that won’t allow me (and I mean me not the doctors) to go back to the ambulance. I’m ok with that although I miss it. I still give back and I still want to help people so here I am.
This life story, if that’s what it is, is about taking control of your fears, taking back your self-esteem, taking back your life! I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT. Let me help you, by showing you through my eyes, my camera, my lens, the beauty that is you. People have always used the excuse that they don’t look good in pictures. I’m here to tell you that you do. Beauty isn’t only skin deep. It comes from inside you. Let me help you find your beauty. Let me help you find that person that you always knew, deep down inside you, was there. Together, we can make a difference in your life! HELP ME HELP YOU!
When you’re ready to take that step, I hope you’ll think of what I’ve written here and looked at my photographs and decide that you want me to help.
Bill Caddy is the owner of Bill Caddy Photography, offering Family, Engagement, Boudoir, and Fashion/Glamour photographs. He is the father of 3 boys. He is also a volunteer for Alaska Volunteer Fire Department.