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The art of making memories

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As Rod Stewart once sang, “Every picture tells a story,” and that’s certainly the case for portrait artist-photographer Helen Chouinard, owner of Helen’s Photography in Highland Village.

Helen recalls every detail about the lives behind the faces featured in her works of art.

“This one for example,” she says, pointing to a gorgeous black and white photograph of a family of four perched on the bumper of a bright red truck, “allows the family to show different dimensions of themselves.”

Unlike typical family photographers, Helen is a true artist who has an innate talent for capturing the inner essence of her subjects. 

With all great artists, there is usually a signature feature that identifies the piece as theirs.  This is tough to get across for a photographer, but somehow, Helen has managed to infuse herself into each photo, while leaving behind a lasting testament to her clientele. 

Much of her work is done in black and white featuring a colored element.  Whether it’s a red truck, a pastel flower or the terra cotta coffee cups held by a loving couple, the special touches she adds makes her work appear worthy of a museum and not just a family mantle.

“I’ve been an artist since childhood but not a painter,” she explained. “How I work with selected color in each image makes each piece something totally unique.”

Because each artist has a particular passion, I asked Helen what excites her these days.  “Graduates,” she said without missing a beat. 

Why? 

“I look at this transition from high school to college as a time when a young person has the most hope for the future.  They are wrapping up seventeen years of narrowing down who they are and are about to become the adult they’re going to be.  It’s the best time socially for many people.  Also, I think those photos mean the most to the family.  It’s not easy on parents to have kids grow up.  Portraits are like a time capsule.  Parents have a lasting memory on the wall.”

To prepare for a photo session, Helen asks the graduate to bring personal items. “Anything that defines who they are, whether that’s an instrument or even certain clothes.”

Helen shared another family portrait from a couple who recently adopted two little boys.

“Imagine what those boys must have felt like to have this picture that says, ‘look, I belong.’  It’s important for all families to have a good portrait on the wall. And creating a portrait history for a family, gives children an added sense of security and belonging.”

She also shared stunning wedding portraits and a beautifully crafted album from a long time client. “I’ve known this young man his whole life. I did his preschool pictures, his high school senior portraits, and now we captured his wedding day.  It is an honor to capture these important change points in my client’s lives.”

As a mother of four, Helen majored in sculpture and has a background in graphic design and commercial art.  She taught photography and yearbook classes which eventually translated into her portrait business. 

After spending 25 years in California, she moved to our area in October 2011 to be closer to family after her daughter had triplets.  “I practice what I preach,” she said.  “How can I work with families to create lasting memories unless I’m doing that same thing with my own?”

So who is Helen’s ideal subject?  “I love any chance to tell a much deeper story,” she explained. “I’m looking for clients who understand how fast time goes and why relationships are all that matters.”

And her preferred place to work?  “I love being on location. I go anywhere.  One of my current favorites is the Grapevine Botanical Garden and another is Old Town McKinney.”

Typical sessions range anywhere from an hour or longer and take all aspects of a client’s situation into account. “I always ask about the size and type of area where the portrait will be situated and what story would fit into a particular space.”

Working with so many amazing people through the years has given Helen cause to feel grateful.

“One of the best compliments I received was when a mother saw the portrait of her child and told me that this is now her most prized possession.”

And she left me with a few wise words about living. “God leads you to the venue in which you can earn a living doing something you love a lot.  I’ve been fortunate through the years that’s happened for me.”

A longtime Lewisville resident, Shelley Kaehr is an associate agent for Nationwide Insurance, Randall Crane & Associates.

 

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