Behind the Scenes with Karen Alsop on Adventures of Quadriplegic Mother and her Son

I previously wrote about Benjamin Von Wong's latest project with Sarah Jane in the Blue Mountains of Australia. Benjamin’s portion was just half of the project set up by Karen Alsop.  She invited Benjamin to join in on some friendly competition. While her approach and style was different, there was still some amazing images created out of this cooperative project.Once Benjamin’s portion was done, Karen used the final day for her part of the project. Karen’s approach is completely different, where Benjamin set out on location to get the photo in camera. Karen takes her photos, merge, and manipulates them into something that wouldn’t have been so easy to do in camera. With the comfort of being in studio, there’s less factors that are out of your control for the shoot. You don’t have to worry about the weather and other factors that may conflict with your shoot.

With a team on set to help SJ for the multiple photos, Karen was able to transform her photos with the magic of Photoshop into a magnificent image, the "Leap of Faith." For a moment, Karen helped change reality for SJ, and give her an emotional memory for her and her son to remember.

Since the duo of this project wanted to make sure these images are a social component and get others to help, make sure to read more and join the campaign to help SJ and other mothers in need to help make the world more accessible for them.

I chatted with Karen to get more information about the project and where it all started. The Heart Project all started back in January 2016 when Tahliyah Griffin’s mother Jacqui contacted Karen after following her work hoping to free Tahliyah from reality and disability with an imaginative piece. Since then The Heart Project has completed 10 projects to help make a difference to families with challenges through photography. Once Karen heard Benjamin’s plan to visit Australia, the idea took place to do a collaborative piece together with The Heart Project. The two have different approaches but both amazing work, so they searched for the family who could benefit from their styles.

We want to make an impact in the world with our art. We started reaching out to find someone that would benefit from our two approaches. That was when we were introduced to SJ. Benjamin knew he could give her an amazing real life experience, and I knew that I could make the impossible, possible through Photoshop for SJ and Hamish.

Karen’s favorite part of any Heart Project is the reveal, this is where the magic happens. Being about to create magic and deliver a print to the families involved. With SJ and Hamish living some distance from Karen, she made a journey to see them and reveal the work in person.

For this one I needed to fly back up to Sydney, take a two hour train ride up into the Blue Mountains, and visit SJ and Hamish at their homes, prints in hand. It’s not enough to just share a finished work of this magnitude over the internet. SJ and Hamish were completely astounded when they saw each photograph in person for the first time. We were able to FaceTime Benjamin so that he too could share in this experience.

For myself, I always love hearing about the create process and how it all began. Karen loves to tell someone’s story in her images. She finds it very important to discover their interests and tailor the piece around them, she states “it’s a lot more meaningful.” Karen spent a few days planning out the shoot and the theme of the project. She asked SJ and Hamish a lot of questions about their favorite movies, hobbies, and books. After finding out what they liked, she started planning out the adventure concept and the series of three images. During the three days in the Blue Mountains of Australia, Karen set out to capture the background plates for her portion of the project.

The background plates were actually captured over a series of three days while we were up there, in three different locations. The leap of faith was composited from several individual images taken during Benjamin’s shoot. It was important to have these backgrounds ready for their studio shoot so that I could tether to my computer and ensure that everything would match, light, perspective, scale and angle.”

SJ and Hamish loved the adventure theme and had a lot of fun being made up, covered in dirt and scratches and then acting for the camera.

I asked Karen what were some of her final thoughts on the project and if there was anything else she wanted to share with us.

As photographers, we all have different methods, and different passions. But we can all find a way to make a difference in lives with our art. As SJ shared, Benjamin’s shoot was what life is like, it’s hard, things go wrong, but you just have to keep moving forward. Photoshop is how you wish you life could be. As you can see through this project, the method is not the important aspect. It’s the heart behind the project. There are so many ways to make a difference.”



Photographers: Benjamin Von Wong and Karen Alsop
Producer: Adam Cubito
Safety: Blue Mountains Adventure Company
Video Producer/Videographer: Valentina Vee
HMA: Paris Ambrose
Technical liaison: Jake Anderson
Assistants: Don Rajadurai, Stuart Alsop, Brian Bird, Yvette Martinette, Nikki Miller, Karley Miller, and Courtney Holmes
Additional thanks to: Glen Isla Luxury, Blue Mountains Accommodation, Woolworths, and BWS Leura Cindy Chen at Adobe Australia
Sponsors: Adobe Photoshop, EIZO monitor, Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, Tether Tools gear, Canson Infinity Paper

All photos used with permission of Karen Alsop and Courtney Holmes.

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1 Comment

Michael Holst's picture

All of the feels right now.