From baby pictures to high school senior portraits, Photographer Michael Spengler is doing his part to help ease the burden of lost memories due to the California wildfires.
Specializing in capturing "life" with portraits of babies, families and high school seniors, Spengler is now trying to capture "hope" by offering complimentary photography sessions to fire victims.
"I know what it feels like to be evacuated from your home and to wonder what, if anything, you'll return to, " said Spengler, a victim of the recent La Jolla, Calif. landslide. "We've been watching the newscasts and wanting to give something to those we know are suffering."
La Jolla is a seaside resort community of about 41,000 within the city of San Diego.
Spengler, who operates the La Jolla-based studio with the help of his wife and publicist Jennifer, views his job as an honor and his striking images, which focus on capturing the true essence of people, are uncomplicated, yet beautifully unique and artistic.
Southern California experienced a traumatic slew of vicious wildfires beginning on October 20. At least 1,500 homes were destroyed and more than 500,000 acres of land burned from Santa Barbara to the U.S.-Mexican Border. The fires were so vast that they could be seen from space via NASA satellites. It took authorities until Nov. 6 to get control of the disaster.
It's hard to image that just six years ago, Spengler traveled the world as an international salesman. But things changed for him on Sept. 11, 2001. Spengler was sitting at Lindbergh Field waiting to fly to New York. Stuck on the runway for several hours, he thought about what he really wanted out of life: to be with his family and do something community-oriented.
He dusted off his old camera--it had been his passion since he bought his first professional-grade model at age 16--and hasn't looked back.
Living up to this goal, he is offering each family who lost their home and possessions during the recent wildfires a free professional photography session as well as an 11X14 fine art portrait of a chosen image. The value the donated session and print is about $700.
"This seemed to be the best way for me to reach out to those experiencing this great loss," he said. "Though I can't bring back their old photos, I can help them start anew with a family portrait; one that will represent this trying time that has brought a community together and launched a hopeful period of rebirth."
Families who have lost their homes and possessions to the fire should contact the studio at 858.454.0331 to schedule their session after the holidays, in 2008. Every image chosen for a portrait will be stored by the studio in a protected environment to avoid future loss.
Spengler, who is an active member of Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, and the Professional Photographers of San Diego, frequently donates his time and photographic talents to area schools and charities.
And while the Spenglers can't return lost belongings or build new homes, it is their hope that they can help these families start to rebuild a photographic record of new memories.
For more information, visit www.studiomlajolla.com.