The digital age of photography makes just about anyone with a camera a photographer. But it takes someone special to create images, and Christine Gribble of Grand Rapids takes it one step further as a photographic artist for children and families with special needs. Christine's skill set, lifelong experiences, and her extra dose of compassion are prerequisites in her niche.
Christine's first encounter with a camera came early in life, and she's "basically had a camera in my hand since I was, oh I don't know, eight." After working in other industries, Christine decided to pair her love for photography with a business plan. She was accepted into the Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women program where she attended a fifteen-week, ninety-hour course and gained valuable connections, networking skills, and confidence. Christine recommends the program to all women looking to develop marketing and financial skills, and to those who "need something, but don't know where or how to get it," she said. GROW "provides answers and direction." And with every click of her camera, Christine is providing a unique opportunity for families as she proves that each child deserves a place on the family photo wall.
"Family pictures and pictures of children in homes are an excellent boost to confidence levels," Christine said. "It shows a sense of pride in the family and in the kids, even if it's a subconscious thing. It's a benefit to kids, growing up in homes with pictures on display. Plus it's a typical thing most families want to have, but not every family can do it in a typical manner."
While bright lighting and using a flash during photography sessions seem standard, for special needs children these features could cause uneasiness, notes Christine, who received her accreditation with Special Kids Photography of America last winter. Instead, when working with special needs children, Christine tends to use more natural lighting. This is one of the many idiosyncrasies she keeps in her artist's tool kit. She also specializes in location work, letting her clients choose a place in which they are most comfortable for sessions. Patience is the most instrumental for Christine, and through her own experiences she acquired her ability to work with all walks of life. "I grew up with two family members in wheelchairs. It was just something that was there from before I was born. I didn't think anything of it; it was just part of my family." In addition, Christine worked with special needs children at a speech and hearing impaired camp, where she learned to love working with children.
But not all of Christine's experiences have been positive. "I've witnessed people not being the best side of humanity when it comes to dealing with things that are different," she said. This only drove home her passion for providing equal opportunities to families that require exclusive care during photography sessions. Caring is innate to Christine. "I think it's my natural instinct to help people; that's just who I am," she said. "I like to fix things and help whenever I can, and I'm always offering to help with things. That's a part of the reason my schedule is so crazy."
Owning her own business allows Christine to choose her own priorities and plan her days based on the things she cares about most. She can be there to visit family members in the hospital, and she can spend extra time giving her clients the support and understanding they merit. As her business develops, Christine looks for more ways to provide photographic artwork to all families in need. Through the Family Hope Foundation, she hopes to create a grant program that would provide funding for photography to families with financial challenges.
"My mission is to create portraits for you that make you smile, touch your heart, and preserve your family's special moments," Christine said. "A photograph is a piece of art, a moment in time frozen to be passed on to future generations. A photograph tells a story, the story of your loved ones and your life."
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it.