Author & Photographer Accepted to MN LEND Fellow Program

by: Tera Girardin on

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Sunday, March 25, 2018)

Tera Girardin, author and photographer of "Faces of Autism," has been selected for the University of Minnesota LEND fellowship for the 2018-19 school year!*  MN LEND is Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities is an interdisciplinary leadership training program spanning 18 disciplines across the University of Minnesota and is funded by the Maternal Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  

This opportunity offers increased training, engagement, and support for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. This will translate into real change and growth for Minnesota children and families. "I'm thrilled at the opportunity to expand my knowledge with this amazing program. It will help me further my work as a champion for children with autism," says Girardin.

LEND fellows are graduate or postgraduate students, or community members selected for their outstanding skills and commitment to improving the quality of life for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. 

If you'd like to learn more, visit https://lend.umn.edu

*Girardin's acceptance is pending official approval of grant funding which happens later this summer. 

Photography Created for Those with Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

The "Faces of Autism" book has been out since April and it's been so well received. One of the comments I hear is "Will you do another book? And how can my child be a part of it?"  My answer to the first question is, "I don't know! This book is so new I'm still trying to see straight!" But the second question got me pondering. 

My purpose in life is to reveal beauty. And I happen to be lucky enough to really "get" children, especially those with special needs. So I love love love being able to reveal their beauty through my camera lens. 

To be photographed goes beyond the images created. It's an experience of being seen, heard, and validated. Oftentimes that is something a person with autism doesn't often experience. I want to change that! I want every child with autism to feel that way. To feel like a superstar of their own photo shoot! 

Thus the Faces of Autism Portrait Experience is born. This is a way to have the same experience the children in the book had. A portrait session where the child is the star. And it includes some awesome tangible products to treasure and share including a 12x12 framed print that has your child's photo, the "one word" to describe your child and my heartfelt narrative of who your child is and why I admire them. 

This is what one mom wrote after receiving her portrait package:  

"You are an amazingly gifted photographer. Besides your superior technical skills, your people skills truly set you apart. Your kind, gentle energy helped us relax and enjoy ourselves, and you caught some candid, special moments. We are also so grateful for your respectful and genuine connection with Amanda."

So my answer to that original question is I'm not working on another book at this time, but you can have that same experience for your child right now!  Learn more about the Faces of Autism Portrait Experience and book your session. 

- Tera

20 Tips for Photographing Children with Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

As a child photographer and an autism mom, I’ve learned a thing or two about photographing children with autism. And mostly I approach each session as I would any child, regardless of diagnosis. I strive to reveal the true inner beauty of each person I photograph. But to do so for children with autism takes some special considerations.

1. Pre-session consultation

I always do a pre-session consultation either by email or over the phone with parents, where I ask several questions. Some involve getting to know a child’s personality and likes/dislikes. And others pertain to capabilities and limitations. I want to know in advance of a session if a child has any physical impairments, sensory challenges, cognitive disabilities because I’ll tailor the session and my approach accordingly.

Not only does this help me, it also puts the parents at ease so they don’t have to worry or wonder if they should or shouldn’t bring something up. I find it easier to have a frank discussion ahead of time because it sets the tone. And I find being frank is welcome by parents — often times special needs parents don’t know what what to tell you but they will be thrilled you asked. They will love you for doing your best to accommodate their child. It shows you care and know what you are doing.

2. Consider sensory issues

Many children with autism have sensory sensitivities. I tend to think of them as having super senses. This could be an acute sense of hearing or sensitivity to light and smell. So I sometimes need to adjust the blinds in my studio so it’s not quite so bright. And I rarely play music or run the loud fan in the studio while they are there. I try to be mindful to not wear cologne during sessions either.

It can also affect their physical space and their boundaries — either having zero boundaries and getting into everything or having a wide circle of personal space that’s needed to feel comfortable.

I always advise parents to allow their child to wear something that is comfortable to them too. I want them to be able to be themselves and not be agitated by clothes that feel itchy or distracting. 

3. Physical limitations

The definition of autism doesn’t include being physically impaired but people with autism can and often have multiple diagnoses so I like to ask if there are any mobility issues I should be aware of. Sometimes a child can have poor muscle tone. Can the child stand unassisted? Does he need to sit to be comfortable? Can he get down on the floor? Or is a chair a better option? I then plan out the furniture and poses accordingly.

4. Verbal vs. non verbal

The phrase “non verbal” is a bit misleading because it’s not always as black and white as being mute vs fully able to carry on a conversation. There are many shades of grey when it comes to communication and not all “non verbal” kiddos are quiet! If I learn a child is considered to be non verbal, I then ask if she is capable of understanding directions. Because sometimes a child may not have expressive language skills but their receptive skills are just fine. I also like to find out if the child uses an iPad or sign language or other form of communication. Often a child might have some emerging language skills vocalizations, mimicry or even basic words.

And even if a child is capable of conversing, she may have a slower processing pace. So questions and directions may need to be repeated and time allowed to answer or comply. Keeping directions simple and direct is best with children that have slower processing speeds.

And some children with autism have no problem carrying on a conversation! So don’t always assume there will be problems with communication when photographing a child with autism. You might have a chatterbox on your hands!

5. Location and safety

Going back to boundaries, some children with autism don’t have a sense of boundaries or a sense of fear and danger. That means that thing that holds the rest of us back doing things we shouldn't is lacking or non existent for some with autism. This can lead to bolting and wandering and climbing or putting objects in mouths to name a few dangerous habits. For a photography session in my studio, I try my best to remove any tempting equipment, I blockade the stairs that lead to my storage loft and I do my best to make climbing opportunities at a minimum. I also remove anything that might be broken easily. This just puts a parent as ease so they don’t have to worry about binging their child to my studio and having them wreck anything. I want it to be as autism friendly as possible.

If we are going to be outside, I have a conversation with the parent first about what the child likes and dislikes. Often this means a playground! Which I have mixed feelings about photographing at. A lot of times, it can be hard to get a child to hold still for two seconds and engage with me at a playground. But sometimes it can bring out the biggest smiles because they are so happy playing and climbing. Just be prepared to chase and climb and run! If I feel the playground is going to be more of a distraction, I try to select a park where the playground isn’t easily seen right away and so I can get some images before the excitement of the playground kicks in. But a playground can be ideal for those kids who aren’t into engaging with a new person because it can remove that uncomfortable social situation and allows them just to play. 

6. What is most important?

I like to ask every client, autism or not, what is most important to you in this session? It helps them prioritize what they really want captured. Often autism parents know how hard it is to get good photos of their kids so they are not super demanding when it comes to requests! But I still like to know what are their expectations. Is a family portrait most important? Or is it capturing their son just being himself in some lifestyle candid moments? Do they plan to hang a portrait on their wall? Or use it for an album? This all helps me set the session up to be successful.

And if there is a long list of things that a client wants to accomplish, this question narrows it down and then I know without a doubt what I have to capture and what might be bonus shots. It can help manage too high of expectations. Too many sets and outfits can wear a child out. Especially one with a short attention span so getting to the heart of what’s most important to a client is critical for a successful session. 

7. Eliminate distractions

Before a client arrives to a session, if I’m in studio, I remove all distractions. This includes all the safety things but I also adjust any extra fun things that eagle-eyed children spot right away. The candy jar of suckers gets put away. The box of clips and kids toys and books are put out of sight. I sometimes use a reflector but if that becomes distracting, I put it away. Everything to keep a child’s focus on me.

If I’m outdoors, again, I look for things that might be distracting. A busy park with lots of people or cars will be distracting. Water is ALWAYS a distraction and can be a safety issue too. So finding a quiet place with nice lighting where a child will be comfortable is best.

8. Greet the child

When I first meet a family at a session, I of course first greet the parents but I never leave out the child. I say hello and introduce myself. I don’t usually offer up a handshake or high five but I do make eye contact and get on their level. EVEN IF HE ISN’T VERBAL. This is so important because even if a child cannot speak, doesn’t mean he can’t fully understand what you are saying. And even if he can’t understand your words, he will read your body language and the energy you have and that goes a long ways in trying to build a connection so you can best photograph your subject.

And it speaks volumes to the parents. It says you are treating their child as a human being and the star of the session. Not just someone to look over or talk over.

Greet the child. Always.

9. Read the body language

After I greet the child, I read her body language. Is she hiding behind mom? Or is she curious about the surroundings and looking to explore? If she seems ready to engage right off the bat, I waste no time getting out my camera. Often those eager kiddos are the ones who can turn rambunctious quickly so it’s best to get started and work quickly before their energy ramps up. If she is quiet and hesitant then I chit chat with her parents for a bit first so she can process the new situation. And after a few minutes, I typically ask something like “Are you ready to have some fun with me and take some photos?” and then see how she reacts.

If a child is clingy with a parent or a special blanket or toy, I allow them to keep that person or item for a sense of security in a couple of photos first. I need to build trust with a child so allowing them to feel secure and throwing away a few images is well worth it. I want them to be comfortable.

A lot of times with neurotypical children that I photograph, they “act up” with their parents around. It becomes a power struggle and they often act a naughtier with their folks than with me. So I will remove the parents from the area — keeping them nearby if needed but by creating that space lets a child know they are working with me and they usually cooperate better.

However, with a child with autism, I don’t often find this to be the case. It’s not a dynamic that I’ve seen as much as with neurotypical kiddos (although certainly can be present). In fact if I were to ask the parents to step back or out of the room, it might cause a child with autism a lot of anxiety so I don’t usually need to employ this well-known photographer’s technique.

10. Mind your tone and demeanor

People with autism are typically very no-nonsense and appreciate those around them that are too. So with children I find they respond best when you talk to them like you would an adult — no silly voices or antics are necessary. Again, sensory issues can come into play here as child might be sensitive to loud noises so being calm is best. Or a child may process verbal directions a bit slower so you may need to repeat directions.

I’m always careful to be patient, welcoming and respectful with my tone and demeanor.

11. Gear

I never ever use a flash or studio strobe or continuous lights when I photograph a child with autism (or anyone for that matter!). For those with autism in particular, that extreme light or flash can be too much for the child to handle. At times, I will use a reflector if the child is capable of sitting still but I’ll ditch it if it’s too distracting. And it can be instantly a source of curiosity so I skip it they become fixated on  the big shiny object!
I tend to skip professional backdrops too when I’m in studio too for the distraction factor. It’s too appealing for curious kiddos to sneak behind. I keep furniture and set ups very simple.

On location I also keep it simple. Just me and my camera!

Some photographers put cutsey things on their camera lenses that look like stuffed animals and such to grab a child’s attention. I’ve found I don’t need that. Again, it’s about being no-nonsense and not confusing.  

12. Pace the session

A child who has a high energy level and isn’t great at boundaries, you’ll need to work quickly before their energy level spirals too high and you lose their attention. You can bring their energy down a bit by moving deliberately and by whispering your instructions if they are verbal.
Or you might encounter the opposite. The child that needs to acclimate to new surroundings or is anxious about a new situation. Being patient and waiting until that child is comfortable will be far more rewarding than to rush them. 

13. Meet the child where they are

This is an overall good practice when interacting any child with autism. Meeting a child where they are, means making adjustments for any limitations autism brings but it doesn’t mean not including them or assuming they aren’t capable. For example, at the book launch of my “Faces of Autism” book and I included the children that were featured in the book to sign books along with me. Some were capable of this task but most were not. So we made accommodations such as having a parent or sibling assist or using a stamp or sticker with their name instead of an actual signature. This still allowed everyone to be included but met each child where they are at while allowing them to have success with the activity.

14. Engage

For most photographers, this is second nature as we want to engage with our subject in order to get them to relax or have natural smile. When photographing a child with autism, you really need to enter their world because they won’t easily enter yours. Observe what they are doing and follow their lead. Talk and play and laugh with them!

As a photographer I always, always, always strive for eye contact with my subjects. This can be really difficult for children with autism as it’s a challenge for them to look people in the eye. I never ever demand they look at me. I only encourage it through talk or play. But recognize just because they aren’t looking at you doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Eye contact will happen, you just have to be fast to capture it.

15. Be quick on the trigger

Just like eye contact, smiles can be fast and fleeting with children with autism so you have to be quick on the trigger! I typically do a quick test shot or two at the beginning of a session to set my camera’s settings but then I don’t fuss with it much beyond that. I never want to miss a moment because I’m worried about settings. So I might sacrifice a photo being technically correct in order to capture a beautiful moment because I know those moments will be fleeting.

Not only are those children quick with smiles but sometimes they are FAST moving too! So you’d better be willing to move around a lot! And be prepared to shoot and shoot and shoot. I tend to overshoot when I’m photographing a child with autism because it’s a bit harder to predict and anticipate those shots that will be keepers.

Just be ready for that moment when the true child shines through.

16. Use Mom or Dad

If a child isn’t really engaging with me, I might need him to interact with someone more familiar. Then I will enlist mom and dad to help me out. Either getting their child’s attention directly over my head. Or getting in the photo and asking him to play a game or hug or tickle their child — whatever their favorite form of play is. Again, this will be very different from child to child. But I like to include parents when I can because often the child lights up around their parents.

And you don’t have to do a whole family photo either. Just use the parent as a prop and shoot over their shoulder. Or holding their child’s hand and only showing their hand, but keeping the focus on the child.

17. Use anchors

For the wiggly body, I use chairs, stools, or even a sticker on the floor to anchor a child with autism to the place I want to photograph them. And for extra wiggly bodies, I have them sit on a wooden chair backwards — it’s not an easy position to bolt from and I can get a few good shots before they figure out how to climb off. Another good position can be having them lay on their stomach and look up at me.

Other ways of getting a child to stay still for a few moments is to sing their favorite song. Now, I’m a terrible singer but it does get a child to listen when they hear a tune they are familiar with. But anything to have a child remain in one spot for a few moments.

18. Recognize when the subject is DONE

Losing the room? Then it’s time to be done. Even if you never got started, you have to respect if a child isn’t enjoying themselves anymore. You can always try again another time if you never really got started. Knowing when a child is done comes from experience in reading body language. If the child has lost interest you usually can tell! And children with autism will often tell you straight out they are done. So call it a day but keep your camera handy because you never know when they might just relax and do something cute once the pressure is off! Some of my best photos happen when I say “we’re done!”

19. Reward appropriately

Before I offer any sort of reward, especially suckers or any other sort of candy, I ask parents first and out of earshot of the child. Many kids with autism have special diets or very picky tastes. So don’t just blurt out “want a sucker?” because they might want one badly but aren’t allowed due to diet issues.

I always welcome a hug from a child but never demand it — I can usually tell who the huggers are and often they initiate the hug when we are done. But some dislike being hugged and even touched. So I do my best to be respectful of these comfort zones yet I will still offer up a high-five for a job well done. (And not taking any offense if it’s not reciprocated).

20. Thank the child

This goes back to the same reasons I specifically greet the child when he or she arrives. I want to thank them for coming and playing and cooperating with me. It’s a sign of respect and it fosters a good feeling when they leave so they will hopefully look forward to the next time we get do photos!


Tera Girardin is a mom to three boys – her youngest is diagnosed with autism. She has been a child and family photographer for 12 years and is now author of “Faces of Autism,” a book of compelling photography and inspiring stories featuring 30 different children with autism. The book hopes to change the conversation from simple awareness to autism admiration. You can order the book and be inspired at

Or schedule your own Faces of Autism Portrait Experience at 

Be Unique. Be Amazing. Be You.

by: Tera Girardin on

LIMITED EDITION T-shirt supporting the Faces of Autism book. This fundraiser not only spreads a positive message about being yourself, but the proceeds help publish this amazing book featuring children with autism. Order yours today!



To follow along with the making of the book find us on Facebook!

Finding Dory, Finding Inclusion

by: Tera Girardin on

I just got home from watching the much anticipated movie sequel, “Finding Dory." Even though I took my kids to it, I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited about it.  “Finding Nemo” is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. It had to be. It was on repeat in my minivan back when my kids were still shorter than I am and I have probably listened to / watched it over a hundred times. Pretty sure I can repeat almost the entire movie. So when I found out “Dory” was coming out, we had to go.

And it didn’t disappoint! Endearing, funny, beautifully animated — it delivered on all points. But what delightfully surprised and frankly, impressed the hell out of me, was the incredibly positive messages it subtly teaches. As I felt for Dory and her story, I suddenly realized this whole movie is a huge lesson on inclusion! 

(I might give some of the movie away here so… spoiler alert). 

Dory repeatedly deals with and tells others how she suffers from short-term memory loss. At times it annoys others around her, at times she feels bad for it, at times it provides funny moments and all the time it’s just who she is. As a mom to a child with autism, I can relate. 

In the scenes when she is young, you see her parents lovingly teach her the things she needs to know to be safe but they all struggle with her “disability” (I put that in quotes because thankfully they never refer to it as such). Again, this definitely struck close to home. How do you teach a child safety rules when she can't remember?! Dory’s parents are excellent role models for special needs parents. They patiently and lovingly and repeatedly guide Dory. And ultimately they do give her the tools she needs later in life. And yet they worry about her future. Disney / Pixar even describes them this way “They celebrate and protect her, striving to arm her with the skills she’ll need to navigate the world with a faulty memory.” 

Celebrate her! I love love love this message. (Kudos Pixar!)

Then it dawned on me the movie is filled with characters that have short comings that don’t let them get in the way of living their life! Hank the octopus is missing a tentacle, Destiny is very nearsighted, Bailey had a head injury that affected his echolocation, Nemo has his little fin. Even Becky, the very disheveled (and might I add, non-verbal) loon is a valued member of the quest. They are presented in such a matter of fact way and it’s so wonderfully inclusive. Even in the original “Nemo” movie, his new school friends make Nemo feel better when his dad explains his little fin. They all chime in with “This tentacle is shorter than all the other tentacles, “ I’m H20 intolerant,” “I’m obnoxious.”  (See I can quote the movie!)  Everyone has their imperfections.

Through the course of the movie, Dory moves from constantly apologizing for her condition and seeing it as a hinderance to recognizing it is her strength. She’s a problem solver and endlessly optimistic. She begins to value herself. "What would Dory do?"

A person (or sea creature in this case)’s perceived disability might just be their greatest asset. If Dory didn’t have the short term memory loss, she wouldn’t have lost her way, wouldn’t have found her loving friends and wouldn’t have the fearless nature that allows her to think outside the box and creatively problem solve the issue at hand.  She compensates for her memory loss by following her gut instincts which often times simply means following her joy. Which ultimately leads her home. Believe in yourself no matter what. Doing things differently is valuable. And a perceived disability might just be a different ability. What amazing messages in this movie! 

Two fins up for Finding Dory for it’s positive message on inclusivity!

Tera Girardin is a mom to three boys - her youngest is diagnosed with autism. She has been a child and family photographer for 11 years and is now a budding author with her "Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope" book coming April 2017. Through compelling photography and inspiring stories, the book hopes to change the way we view autism and move away from awareness and towards admiration. You can follow the book's progress and be inspired at

This is Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

My hope with my Faces of Autism project is to show the world, through my camera lens, how beautiful and amazing children with autism are. And on this World Autism Day 2016 I want to do just that. 

I spent the last year meeting with families and doing photo sessions for this project. Really special photo sessions. It was a deeply personal and inspiring experience for me. To capture their spirits with my camera brings me such joy!

Not every session went smooth. Not every session was easy. Not every session garnered eye contact and smiles. But every session inspired me. These children are amazing!

There is a lot of hard when it comes to autism. Autism families hear a lot about the hard stuff. When first diagnosed it's all hard, daunting, isolating, difficult, confusing and ! Frankly I have to deal with enough hard that I'd rather not spend time talking about the hard all the time. Which is why I want to focus on the joy, the beauty, the victories, the child beyond the autism with this project. Because when it comes down to it, they are children first. 

What I've learned is autism is...

sweet | funny | loving | amazing | determined | loyal | vibrant| gift | resilient | energetic | smiley | remarkable happy | persistent | humorous | organized | blunt | silly insightful | delightful | quiet | loud | outgoing | shy | tenacious | exuberant | brilliant | hard working | sensitive thoughtful | fearless | moody | generous | kind |precise logical | intelligent | wise | artistic | beautiful | competitive | joker | compassionate | wonderful | motivated enthusiastic | honest | dedicated | bright | courageous | independent | courteous | patient | driven | serious | playful | eager | expressive | proud | sincere | responsible | trustworthy | friendly | imaginative | helpful | original | athletic | fun | brave | philosophical | decisive | gentle | quick | practical | emotional | creative | intuitive | charming | resourceful | warmhearted | adventurous | nice | diligent | forceful | inventive | rational | tough | willing | friendly | just | considerate | amusing | clever | innovative | spiritual | inspiring | curious | industrious | joyful | nurturing| perceptive | talented | caring | fair | analytical | goofy | polite | strong | affectionate | busy | selective | innocent | hopeful | lively | sweet | observant | mischievous | giddy | cheerful | bold | lovable

This is autism.

To follow along with the book production process, be sure to LIKE our Facebook page. Book coming Spring 2017!

Getting Real! Faces of Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

Faces of Autism Update

Things just got really real for the Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope book! It's getting closer to being birthed. 

And like all births, there is an incubation period. It's not a quick process but things are progressing along. First of all, I've met and will be signing a contract with a local publishing company, Wise Ink. They help purpose-driven authors launch their books -- this is a hybrid method between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It's going to be a good option for me as I'll get assistance with the planning, marketing, design, editing, and launching of my book. But that also means some serious dollars. It'll be well worth it as I want to do it right but it's been a bit daunting if I'm honest.

Which brings me to Highlight It Up Blue for Autism Awareness -- some of you are aware of this autism awareness event I've held at my photography studio the last 5 years. For a small donation, people get blue hair extensions and a Facebook photo to show their support for the autism community. It's a great event and we've been fortunate enough to contribute funds to local organizations that help our autism community. 

This year, the other two organizers surprised me by insisting the money raised go towards the funding of my Faces of Autism book. I was delightfully surprised and honored. And extremely grateful because it will give me the seed money to hire Wise Ink and begin the process. Yay!

I want to be transparent with this whole process with you so you can share in the excitement. I want to share the VERY rough timeline for the project is looking something like this. Don't hold me to this! But the plan is to launch the book in one year. Whoo-hoo!!

April -- complete work on all images and hire Wise Ink
Spring - Fall -- content, copy, flow, beginning design work, editing
Late Fall / Holiday -- pre-order and crowd-funding campaign launched

February -- book is finalized and off to print
April 2, 2017 -- World Autism Day and Book Launch Party!

You all have been such a big part of this project and I feel it's been less my project more that I'm a conduit to making this book happen. There are ways you can help and I will be needing help to make this all happen. Share the page, share the journey, share these amazing children!

Thank you for being a part of this journey!
Love - Tera
Tera Photography

Time to Share

by: Tera Girardin on

Time to Share

I have to tell you a cool story. So bear with me as I seem to ramble on here. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a while ago? Well, I got nominated to do it like so many of us did. And I really really didn't want to get wet and cold and I really really don't like being on camera so this whole thing wasn't cool with me. Plus I thought maybe I could make a difference in a different way and use my photography skills instead. I offered to do a full session for a family affected by ALS. I know when a loved one is facing terminal illness sometimes the last thing families are thinking about is photos but when their loved one is gone, the first thing they do is cling to photos. 

So I put out the call on my Facebook page and got in touch with the family of Bruce Kramer. I had the honor of photographing his entire extended family in October 2014. Several family members had flown in from out of town and it was a reunion of sorts. A lovely but heartbreaking reunion. At this point, Bruce was confined to a wheel-chair, on a breathing apparatus, had limited mobility in his hands, easily tired, but had a huge bright spirit and I instantly felt his grace. It was an amazing session. With the star of the show -- his only granddaughter who was a year old and delightful. 

I was able to capture this set of images of them together. Honestly I've not really shared these before because it was such a poignant moment. And such a sacred moment that I didn't share them all over as I often do with images I'm super proud of. Well, obviously I gave them all to the family and they've enjoyed and shared them as they've wished. But I've not felt right about sharing it publicly much.

I didn't know who Bruce was before I met him. And I only met him once, for about 90 minutes. I was in photog mode during the shoot and didn't get emotional myself even though there were emotions flowing all over. Laughter, tears, love, longing, nerves, gratitude...all witnessed. But as soon as I stepped into the elevator as I left their home, the realization of what I had done hit me. I realized I would likely never meet him again as his journey was near the end. The emotions I had been setting aside during the session hit me and a sobbed all the way to the car and then some. It was an honor to be a part of his journey.

I wasn't the only one who was touched by Bruce. Turns out he was sort of a local big deal. :) He was a dean and professor at St. Thomas and well loved there. He was also working with MPR's Cathy Wurzer who interviewed him for a series on his ALS diagnosis called "Living While Dying." I didn't know any of this until well after I photographed him. And that was just fine with me. I wouldn't have changed the way I did the session. It didn't surprise me he was such an impactful man to so many because in the very short time I spent with him, I was touched too. He passed away a few months after I met him.

Are you still with me? Well fast forward to this week and Cathy Murzer sent me an e-mail. (Not often I get an email from MPR!). She and Bruce co-authored a book based on the interview series. It was published just a couple of weeks after he passed away in March of 2015. She is now doing a TEDx Talk this weekend at her alma mater UW-River Falls to discuss her time with Bruce and his story. She emailed to ask to use the image below to share with her audience. I of course said YES!

I couldn't be prouder to have one of my images on a TEDx stage. I'm honored to have captured that moment in time. The emotions that cross his face in these three images speak volumes. 

And it's time I share it with you.


Bruce's St. Thomas obituary

The book "We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying"

Living While Dying Podcasts

Bruce's Blog: Dis Ease Diary

Cathy Wurzer on MPR

TEDx Talk Details

December Reflections Day 20: Warmth

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 20: Warmth

Being a Minnesotan, I spend a large part of the year trying to stay warm. About March I have a hard time remembering the last time my feet were warm more often than chilly. Lately I'm obsessed with the quest to find the perfect socks - -ones that are comfortable, warm enough to keep my permanently chilly toes happy but not too hot that they are sweaty, ones that don't pill, that don't sag, and of course, look cute. So far, I'm still searching although these Champion brand from Target are making me pretty happy. I also have some cabin socks from Dick's Sporting goods that are toasty but the fuzzy stuff on the inside tends to pill up and fall out. Still, they are heavenly to put on when they are new. 

This is how you'll find me most mornings these days...toasty socks, fuzzy blanket, cup of tea.  Warmth = good socks

December Reflections Day 18 & 19: Circles & Goodbye

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 18 & 19: Circles & Goodbye

I was reflecting on the Circles theme. And was stuck. What photo do I have or could I create to represent circles? What does Circles conjure up for me? 

I was driving along and thinking as I often do. And suddenly I couldn't stop seeing circles! On cars, on signs (hello Target), everywhere! But of course I couldn't take a photo. I was driving! So trust me, when you start thinking of something, you all of sudden can't stop seeing them.

But it also made me think of the cyclical nature of life and "what goes around comes around." Which leads so well into Day 19's theme: I said Goodbye to...

Recently I said goodbye to my trusty old mini van. It was time. And although I love my new car and feel so good in it... I thought about how long I had my van and how much it's been through. I had it 10 years!! We got it when I found out I was pregnant with Alex -- three car seats wouldn't have fit in the car we had so we needed more space. And I loved the mini van -- with its fold down seats and very fancy for the time, built in DVD player which saved us on long drives back to see family when we lived in Arkansas. My kids grew up in that car. We moved from AR back to MN in it. We've slept in it (camping trips). We drove 137,000+ miles in it. It's gotten us safely through snowy winters. It's been chock full of photography gear, groceries, Christmas presents, camping equipment, and various sporting equipment. It's transitioned from strollers to bikes. It's been on many family vacations. It saw me through a divorce and taught me to take care of getting repairs done myself. It brought Alex home from the hospital in it. I taught Drew how to drive in it. It was a car full of love and memories. 

This photo is from our family vacation to Duluth this past summer. When I told Alex I sold the mini van, he said "Awwww. I'm going to miss it."  Me too buddy, me too.