Me Ra Koh on how photography found her
05 June 2014
The images of Me Ra Koh not only record the world around her, but also help heal those impacted by her work. Me Ra Koh told us how she went from being a writer to creating her bold photographs. As a mother, artist, author, and creator, she has taken her family on this journey with her.
Describe the moment you knew photography changed your life
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.
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 and within three years my husband and I were shooting high end weddings all over the America. I had gone from speaking to 800 women 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. But the story had only just begun.
Over a decade later, I’ve had the honor of teaching photo tips to millions of moms through my Disney Jr show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh and guest appearances on daily talk shows. In August 2014, my third book in a bestselling Amazon series releases. Your Baby in Pictures, Your Child in Pictures, and now Your Family in Pictures have been translated into languages all over the world, empowering moms to capture the beauty of their everyday lives. And today, I’m writing this from under a mosquito net in Thailand’s jungle where my family of four is filming our dream, Adventure Family. It’s a family travel show that takes viewers off the beaten path and inspires you to become your own adventure family. Combining the last decade of photography, writing, producing, and filming, we are building our boldest dream yet with this show. I stand in awe when I look at how Aidan’s loss gave birth to all that our family is and does today. Even though I must wait to hold him again, Aidan lives with us in all that we create.
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 and teaching. When we approach the camera as a healing tool, the world opens its’ heart to us.
How does a woman start at such a place of deep pain and find herself standing in front of wide, open skies...I'm speechless. If I can do this, I know with full confidence you can reach your impossible dreams too.
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 hearing part of my story. May it encourage and inspire you. May we all take flight together!
If you could sum up your work in one word or one sentence, what would that be?
Evolving. The most rewarding and challenging part to being a working artist is to let my work evolve and even guide me versus define me.
What is the most remarkable person, place or thing you have ever photographed and why?
Aside from my two children, it would have to be the Valley of the Whales in Egypt. Our family drove four hours into the desert to see firsthand this magical place where ocean reefs stand tall, endless seashells cover the ground and the vertebras of whales lay in perfect placement from when the ocean simply disappeared and the sea life was laid to rest. No other place has humbled me so deeply by its’ sheer magnificence and history.
Talk to us about your bucket list... what is on the top of that list of things to photograph?
I would love to photograph the nameless alleys and cobblestone roads throughout Europe. I know they’ve been photographed a million times, but I’m excited for my turn. Our family’s path has led us from exotic jungles to Egypt’s pyramids, but cobblestone roads are still ahead. And then every so often I get excited about the idea of photographing the icebergs, long, stretches of white landscape and mysterious beauty of Antarctica. Some people think that’s crazy, but the best part of a bucket list is you don’t have to rationalize or explain it!
If you had not become a photographer, what might you be today?
When I speak to audiences, I tell them that I don’t label myself as a photographer. This is too limiting and also not the full truth. My creativity comes through my camera, but also my books speaking and TV production. I am an artist, a working artist. For twenty plus years, I have tried to be obedient to the quiet knocking that comes to my heart’s door and says “Create me.” Every time I begin this new, creative process, I give it all that I have and in the process I develop expertise in many types of art. But my identity can never come from a single label. Otherwise, I may miss the next knocking because it came to a door I was afraid to acknowledge.
But to desire and dream, I carry ocean size amounts of these things. If I had not picked up a camera, I may have become several things that are all across the board! A Jane Goodall to Langur monkeys and Gibbon apes. For seven years, we’ve rented a house in Thailand’s jungle and brought our kids for six week stays. Before these adventures, I never saw myself as an outdoor type person, and yet I’ve fallen in love with observing the jungle and the way of life for Langurs and Gibbons. Or maybe I would visit Scotland and write historical, time travel novels that inspire women to be bolder, stepping into the unknown with courage! Or I would be a relief worker, bringing aid, supplies and hope to the displaced. Maybe an evangelist! And yet, somehow I see that I’m already doing all these things in my own organic way. Even more so, I’m only 41 years old with many years ahead. So don’t be surprised if one day you see that time travel novel in the bookstores, or the exhibit to raise money for preservation of Langurs and Gibbons, or the relief project my family launches. Our creative spirit listens for the knocking to come, and who can know what waits to meet us on the other side.
Give us your thoughts about the Global Imaging Ambassadors programme?
When our life has come to an end, our stories will continue to live. I’m not sure if there is any other tool that is more powerful than storytelling. And storytelling is the heart of the Global Imaging Ambassadors program. With Sony’s support, this program gives voice to storytellers all over the world through stills and moving images. It’s an honor to be among such a talented and passionate group of artists. And it’s a gift to be able to see their diverse work and be inspired for my own.
What is your favorite Sony camera of the moment (explain why)?
Before our family left to film our current project, Adventure Family: a family travel show that takes viewers off the beaten path, we got the Sony a7 and a7R. I have LOVED the a99 since it first released, and every time I pick up a different camera I find myself missing my a99. But the a7 and a7R are changing that. The degree of detail that I can retain in shadows and highlights is blowing my mind! These new mirrorless cameras are simply amazing! Whether we are using them to film for broadcasting content or shooting stills, I feel my creative spirit get even more invigorated when I see the camera’s results. I’m not sure how Sony will beat these two models, but I would have said that about the a99!
Learn more about Me Ra Koh here.