What I did on my summer holidays

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As you may already know, I spent my summer traveling. My best friend, Brooke and I embarked on a three week road trip to Manitoba and back and only days after returning, we left the country on a trip of a lifetime  to Tanzania, Africa. We rode motorbikes on dirt roads, we ate mystery  meat with the local villagers, we swam in the Indian Ocean and constantly chased naughty monkeys out of our belongings. But we have held back on sharing the images from our trip because the primary reason for our being there was to photograph the scenery (flora and fauna) as well as the people. We interviewed them regarding their participation in programs run by the organization we were there on behalf of – The Kesho Trust.

This organization, you might not have heard of. They were founded by a local Yukon man who I came to know through another friend. They are conservation focused and work with a number of villages surrounding the Saadani National Park which is the only national park to include both fresh water and marine landscapes. The project we were contributing to is called the Kihembe Environmental Learning Center. It is located in Mkange Village, just outside of the park boundaries. Right now, the site is a 100 acre piece of land which was given to the two partners in this project – Kesho Trust and SANA. It is a remarkable piece of beautiful property with trees, hills, butterflies and a view straight out to the Indian Ocean from the top of the hills. This is where the Center will be built and we invite you to come out on November 1st at 6:30pm to Baked Cafe on Main Street, in downtown Whitehorse to learn about the project and how you can support us by making a donation or volunteering. Brooke and I will be showing a video of our experience. I hope you are able to join us and that you are as compelled as we were to do what you can to bring this dream into fruition.kihembe-241 copykihembe-499 copykihembe-539 copykihembe-570 copykihembe-577 copykihembe-640 copykihembe-648 copy

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My new love

Many years ago, as a doe-eyed teenager living in a small Vancouver Island town, I had big dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Not very many years later, I realized that dream and had a thriving clothing design business out of my home. That was WAY before Etsy, and even before eBay. I had to hustle to make sales. I had to send physical samples of my clothes to stores before they’d agree to carry the line. It was a lot of work, it was expensive and it wasn’t quite like I imagined but holy shit, was it fun. It was creative, it was challenging and it was enough for me to feel validated in what I was doing.

Years into the business, my kids took priority. I relocated to Whitehorse and became a farmer’s wife. My newfound love of scrapbooking took up my “free” time (what is that, anyway when you have toddlers?) and the natural companion of scrapbooking is photography. I had always wanted to learn how to use a camera but was too intimidated to try. I got over that and began teaching myself how to shoot on a DSLR with the wise words of my wedding photographer friend, Karen, “Whatever you do, just use it on Manual all the time. You’ll screw up lots but you’ll also learn lots.” so that’s what I did. I did screw up lots but I also created some really meaningful images that I still treasure to this day.

Fast forward to my post-sabbatical state. In my “time off”, I was making an effort to reconnect to my affection for handmade housewares and decided to take a stab at quilting. Hand quilting to be exact. At first, I made a pillow cover for the sofa. Something small. Something I could finish even if I decided I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. Turns out, I really DID like it. I even HAND QUILTED that sucker. And I liked that too! So I made a baby quilt for a friend. Then I started a bigger one for myself – big enough for napping on the sofa! This is my newfound love. My current source of creative replenishment. It is for me, it is not for generating income. It is fun, it is new, it is challenging and it is slow. I like slow. It gives me opportunity to think and reflect, to plan and imagine. It is like meditation. And food for my soul.

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Also, I got this idea that maybe I could enjoy making my own clothing again. So I visited the local fabric shop – Bolt & Button and am hoping to make this simple button down shirt sometime soon-ish for myself. I can’t find buttons yet but maybe I’ll go to Vancouver and spend some time (and likely money) at Dressew. Lots of treasures there.

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Back to basics

I’ve been away from my studio for many months. Making the decision to cancel everything and accept the fact that everything I was doing was giving me anxiety and making me very, very sick was so hard. It was hard because I’d done it to myself. I’d backed myself into a corner and I was absolutely fucking miserable.

In the months since I started my sabbatical, I’ve driven across the country and back and I’ve flown to the other side of the planet to visit a country in Africa. My perspective on love, work, home, value and happiness has shifted permanently.

When my kids were small, I felt like my job as a stay at home mom wasn’t enough. I knew that it was enough for them, in their small world of home & school but for me, it felt like I somehow missed out on something. I felt like I *should* be/do/accomplish more. I think I told myself that in order for my life to have real value, I needed to achieve great things in a traditional work context. So when my youngest son started kindergarten, I also started a business that ended up taking more than 50 hours per week to meet deadlines, get clients’ orders processed and booking enough shoots to meet the demands of my very expensive studio.

When our house burned down in the spring of 2012, I pushed my work demands into overdrive. I was trying to run from the pain. I became a work-a-holic. My marriage was paying the price, my children were paying the price and my health was definitely paying the price. I was working day and night and I couldn’t find anything to be joyous about. I hated who I was becoming – driven by cashflow projections, overhead, marketing goals and profit margins.

This year, two years (almost to the day) after the fire, I reached a breaking point. My health had deteriorated to the point where I was dealing with chronic hives, nausea, anxiety, sleep problems, and a general dislike of where my life had gone.

I made a very painful decision to cancel my commitments to many clients – old and new- to apologize to clients whose orders were in the queue, telling them that I needed to get healthy and that I would do my best work on their orders as I was able, and I later moved my studio space to a brighter, more positive environment. There was a lot of crying and saying terrible things to myself about my failure. In the thick of the emotion and the fear of what I was going to do next, I was very cruel in the things I said to myself. I didn’t think I was going to be able to discover creative joy ever again. I thought I’d made a horrible mistake and that somehow if I’d pushed through the universe and my body telling me I needed to stop (impossible, I now know), that it would all be ok.  But deep down, I knew I needed to make big changes.

So now, after a summer of rest, personal creative projects, long walks/hikes/runs, drinks with friends, boat trips on the river with my husband, afternoon naps, dinners with friends, and some very big trips to warm and sunny places, I have a new found clarity for what I want out of my life.

I want to experience joy. I want to feel light. I want to be nourished. I want to relish in the abundance of my life. I want to honor that within me that is divinely feminine.

I have learned that I do have a gift in my portrait studio that I can and will share with a smaller number of people each year. I don’t have to work countless hours for my photographic work to have tremendous value. I have beautiful clients and I’m deeply honored to work with them.

I have learned that when I am in my home, with my family, I am my absolute happiest. I make unbelievably delicious food and I love doing it. I feel closest to my departed Gran when I’m in the kitchen. I channel her every time I make food to share with friends & family.

I have learned that making things with my hands reminds me of my exceptional value in this life and the things that I create – the things that didn’t exist before I called them into existence – those things are evidence of my abilities and that I am here. I am truly part of this life and these things are my legacy.

I have learned that I don’t need to make millions with my work. The things I make – portraits, quilts, socks, cookies- I don’t need to monetize them. When I experience the joys of creation, therein lies the value. Value and money are not synonymous.

So while I’m continuing to operate my portrait studio on a very limited basis, working by choice with only women in a context of celebrating their individual value and worth, I am also writing, knitting, baking, quilting, home schooling, reading, napping and living a free and joyous life.

My greatest wish is that every person affords themselves the opportunity to declare this and to make it a sacred commitment. It is my wish for you.



Brooke - They are many things I admire about you, your authenticity is definitely near the top of the list. You have, and continue to teach me so much about openness and vulnerability. Thank you < 3

Donna - I want to share my Malta trip experience with you. I believe it might be calling you. Congrats on listening to your whispering wisdom voice. xo xo

Lyndsay - So, so, so proud of you Vanessa!

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Doors re-opening for beauty & glamour portraits

It has been nearly six months since I started my sabbatical. You might be wondering what happened, I’ll give you the short version. I had lost sight of my true purpose which was to make beautiful images and build relationships. I had gotten so distracted by the business of photography that I had forgotten the art and beauty of it. I felt like I was drowning. I knew that if something major didn’t change that I was going to find myself in a real mess. I had started to see signs of systems falling apart. Turnaround times were embarrassingly long for client orders, I was making mistakes like crazy in the post-production end of things and I wasn’t enjoying one single part of what I was doing. Now, this didn’t come out of the blue. Rather, it crept up on me. It made me sick. Or maybe the being sick happened first and my priorities got all distorted. Hard to say. Either way, I was sick and my business was in trouble. I wasn’t happy anywhere, doing anything. It was time to change. Full stop.

I’ve been out of the studio almost entirely for six months. Now, I feel like I’ve done some major self-care work and gotten space from the toxic patterns that I had fallen into. I am ready to return to the studio but on very different terms than before. I am still shooting glamour but now, it is the only thing I’m shooting. I may do some maternity but it will be only the kind of maternity that fits into the glamour genre. My days of photographing kids is behind me, for the most part. I may occasionally bring kids into the studio for creative shoots but my heart is telling me to work directly with women to show them how beautiful they are in my eyes and hopefully they agree with my point of view.

I am still doing many of the things I tried to do before. I’m homeschooling my youngest son, I’m creating beautiful hand made crafts almost every day, I’m writing my book and I’m working with a charity organization in Tanzania to build an environmental learning center. I’ve also taken up napping and I’m also learning Swahili. My availability is super flexible (depending on my beauty team) but very exclusive availability. Clients will experience their shoot and meet with me within the week to view their images. Luxury and decadence is the name of the game here.

So, call your mama, your sister, your bestie and email me to make arrangements to talk on the phone to discuss how your shoot will go. I have a life changing experience waiting for you in my studio and I can’t wait to share it with you. You are beautiful, you deserve this and you will love it.


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Radio Silence

Have you ever found yourself in a state of total and complete overwhelm? A point in your life where you find yourself wondering just how you got into such a place where it feels like no matter how hard you work, how late you stay in the office, how many times you smile and say “I’m great” when asked how you’re doing, none of it feels right… it’s all just a little too tight, like a shirt that shrunk in the wash.

In March, a  number of things were happening. The long, dark days of were ending, my husband was hopefully coming home soon after being gone since November (it was another month until he returned), and my work schedule was slowing down a little – so maybe I could finally get less behind in my work. It was also coming closer to the second anniversary of our house fire.

Then my landlord decided to change the fuel tanks in my poorly ventilated basement studio which promptly filled with noxious diesel fumes up until literally yesterday. At the same time, the tenants on the top floor expanded their occupancy to the middle floor (right above me) and construction commenced. Through paper-thin walls, I was able to hear every move the construction team made… even their sneezes. When they dropped something, it gave me such a start, I was sure I’d have a heart attack.

I moved my secondary workstation from the studio and into my home. I was really bothered at first. I felt like I had somehow failed. By not being able to work fully in my portrait studio that I had worked so hard to create, I felt like I had made a mistake at some point and that maybe this was the beginning of the end of my successful, creative and beloved business.

This is the part where I had the breakdown. There were many, many tears. I sobbed, broken hearted. I felt like there was no way to survive this setback. I was devastated at the changes that felt as though they were being forced on me. I made the hard decision to step away from all of my commitments with the studio while the disruptions were taking place while I gathered my thoughts and emotions relating to my work.

When I cleared my shooting calendar, at first, I panicked. Of course, I was worried that I might upset some people. I’m positive that I did. Then I was worried that they’d not want to rebook. I’m sure some of  them don’t. I’m coming to understand that it is entirely OK if some people are uncomfortable with me choosing to put my own health and happiness ahead of my business. I started this business because of my love of creating images and wanting to add that to my already satisfying life. But somewhere along the way, it completely replaced my life and it was pretty much all I did.

Then there was the small matter of about twenty clients who all decided to either stop responding to my emails or they had excuses wildly varying reasons about why they couldn’t make arrangements to view their images or pay for them. It was the most bizarre thing. I am still a little baffled by how it all happened but what I can say I now know about how that weird it all seemed, it comes down to me. I provide a luxury service that focuses on celebrating love, beauty and existing in photographs for our families. I want to work with women who share those values and occasionally, that’s not the case. I’m certain that some of the folks who have decided not to even look at their images have reasons that feel perfectly legitimate to them. Same for the ones who made orders and then decided not to pay for them. But ultimately, the responsibility is mine. I’m in the service industry. My purpose is to serve my clients and when they are dissatisfied, I bear a huge responsibility for that. Maybe the mistake I made was in the post-shoot communication, maybe it was in the shoot itself or maybe it was in signing the wrong clients. I don’t know. What I do know is that I won’t make those mistakes again.

Aside from the fact that my small business can’t afford to photograph people who refuse to view or pay for their images, my small business can’t afford to have me fretting over those who aren’t the right clients for me to be working with in the first place. I love working with people who are giddy during their shoot, who cry tears of joy when I show them their images and who tear open their print order right in front of me when they come to pick it up because they excitement is just too much to wait.

I have been away from the studio for nearly three months without a lot of communication as to why or what my plans are. The short answer is that I wasn’t happy. Since the start of my break, I’ve read books, I’ve started meditating, I’ve taken up quilting, I’m making amazing meals again, I’m tidying the house and doing laundry, I’ve started a garden with my youngest son for his summer homeschool project and I’m spending time with my family as a whole.

Turns out, I was dealing with my grief over the house fire by hiding in my work. But I was miserable. I was using it like a drug or alcohol to numb my pain. Enough of that shit! I’ve taken my life back and am more present than ever in my everyday existence. I’m participating in our farm business, I’m overseeing the work to be done on our house this summer, I’m going camping and fishing (which I’ve done very little of in two years), I’m crafting like crazy which is lighting my creative fire in massive ways and I’m also working slowly at completing the remaining client orders that are on my desk from right before my break.

I suspect that this break will be about a year long. Maybe I’ll go back in the fall. I’m not sure. What I know right now is that I’ve tasted happiness and I’m ready for more. I’m also ready to start feeling some of the grief and pain that I’ve compartmentalized and ignored for two years. This will take time, patience and compassion. On my part and yours. I have every intention of resuming photographing women. But that’s it. No more families, no more babies. Not now. Maternity, yep. But truthfully, my favorite is individual women and mothers & daughters as well as Bridal Fantasy shoots. When I come back from my break and am taking bookings again, this is it.

So if you can be patient and wait for me to do a little healing, creating, and relationship building, I’ll be a much better woman, photographer, human being when I come back to the studio.

In the meantime, I intend to terminate much of my direct activity on Facebook and will be communicating via this blog. I encourage you to comment below, sign up for the RSS Feed and follow me if you want to get regular updates. I started off a blogger, I’m going back to being a blogger. Hope you come along.

Thanks for staying with me until the end of this post. It was a long one but I wanted you to know what happened and what I’m doing.

with love


Donna - Thanks for sharing Vanessa. You are such a powerful & insightful woman and I find it refreshing to witness your attention to your ‘self’. Keep on.

Above all, I want to say
– don’t look back!
– congratulations for knowing and following what your soul is whispering to you.
– what others think is ‘none of your business’…just do what you need to do.

I admire and respect you and would love to grow our friendship.

Big Hugs, d

Vanessa Falle - thanks Donna. I am pretty keen on living an honest and transparent life and I’m really glad that what I share, resonates with those who read it. I would also love to grow our friendship. It could be a very sweet ride :)

Deanne - Your honesty is so commendable! I admire you Vanessa. I had no idea what you were going through. You were always an Energizer bunny to me. I know you will come through the other side all juiced up and rarin’ to go :0)

Krystal - I think that what you are doing is quite brave. It is very scary to pull back at really truly look at yourself and where your life has gone.

Good for you too take the time to make sure that you are happy. So many of us, myself included hide behind work and put ourselves in a little box in a dark corner.

What you do is a gift and you should take whatever time you need to figure out how to share it best.

I still really want to do a shoot with you and one day I will. Once all my ducks are in a row (having some health concerns) I will be looking to set something up.

Enjoy your time to yourself and enjoy your amazing family.

Take Care.

Johanna - An honest post. All the best to you as you search for what truly makes you happy. :)

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