By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A portrait is worth a thousand words and behind each one lies a unique story. Kimberly Rae of KRS Framing and Photography is partnering up with Akisqnuk First Nation in the new year to do portraits with Elders. Rae has also reached out to the Shuswap Band and the Métis Elders of the valley, and future sessions with them are to be established.

Rae has already had a session with Métis couple, Pheb and Austin Goulet, and met with them on December 10 to capture their portrait.

“Kimberley made us feel welcome and created a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in her studio,” said Pheb. “We are proud to be a part of her portrait project. She is truly a gifted photographer.”  

Through this invaluable initiative, Rae will also be doing sessions in February, in which she also hopes to include seniors at Columbia House  and Columbia Garden Village. Rae currently has a wait list for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. sessions on January 17, 18, and 21.

“My favourite part is that each senior is asked to bring along a cherished photograph from their younger days. It helps shift away the vanity associated with getting one’s portrait done and shifts it instead to them assisting me with my art project,” said Rae. “It gives us a tangible item to break the ice and start the real conversation. It helps us to get beyond the fluff and get deep and fun right away. I ask all kinds of questions and we just see where the conversation leads us. We are left with layered stories, layered photos, and layered emotions, and most importantly authentic, raw, beautiful portraits that tell their story.”

Rae received two kindness microgrants through the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, that they offered for World Kindness Day. She received one in February and the other in December, for a total of $700 that will assist with the costs for this project. 

“I decided to apply late one night, thinking I would donate my time to photograph willing Elders and use the microgrant to offer them a complimentary print,” said Rae. “The feedback was incredible. It was moving for myself, the Elders, and even strangers. The stories and layered images were incredibly touching.”

All prints are done in-house at Rae’s studio in Invermere. She has known her way around a studio since she was 16, where she worked in a one-hour photo and portrait studio in central Alberta. There, she learned the value of authentic and timeless images for families.

Rae said she feels blessed to have had so many Elders in her life, in addition to her grandparents that have always supported, encouraged, and mentored her.  

“I wanted to offer legacy portraits that truly captured the essence and personality of these beautiful humans. I’m honoured to be able to give back in a bigger way to this community- the project gives voice and presence to a valuable segment of our community. It’s an easy way to elevate their voices, their presence, their wisdom. I’m excited to offer them prints for their families. I hope all participating Elders and seniors feel seen, heard, and appreciated, and that they know that their stories and wisdom are cherished and loved by all that see them.”

Kimberley Rae’s Calling all Elders Portrait Project is open to all senior citizens over 65 residing within the Columbia Valley. For more information visit info@kimberleyrae.ca