March 6, 2022

WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photography International ) AWARD

So, I did a thing. I was absolutely terrified in competing for the longest time. I never won anything in my life. But perhaps if I just tried, if I just took a step and entered in competition, I can get critiqued by the world’s leading photographers and I can learn. That was it. I just thought the most I would get out of it was to learn and better myself. And I did. And I also won!

So what is WPPI?

For those of you that are not in this industry may not understand the depth and prestigiousness of this international competition but it is definitely one of the TOP dogs in the Photography world. I entered 3 images.

The winning image was SILVER. A score of 82. (The notes said: Silver Award. Above average skill and technique in most areas.) Only 7 people won Silver in my category and I am beyond honored to receive it. Ofcourse, I poured my heart and soul into this image as it was a photo of my son whom had heart issues since birth. I see now how I can improve and hopefully, next year, I can apply and receive a better score. But for my first time entering any competition, I went BIG and came back with an TITLE.

WPPI 2022 Competition held in Las Vegas, Nevada

My son’s broken heart

The story behind this image. January 17, 2014 my third child was born. He was a huge baby at 9 pounds 11 ounces (natural birth) and very handsome. However the moment I saw him breathe, I just had a really bad feeling that something was wrong. After being brushed off by a few nurses and a doctor, I demanded them bring in a specialist to take a look at the way he was breathing. There was something wrong. I knew it. After tons of tests, we were told he needed open heart surgery.

The only things that kept me from falling apart were two things.

1) He was still an infant so he won’t remember this.

2) His heart CAN be fixed.

The surgeon swore that this was an easy procedure and my baby can be fixed. He was a Yale University graduate and I believed him. He even smirked at me as if I was being dramatic asking all these questions and worrying over such a simple procedure. To me, it was still my baby having OPEN HEART SURGERY.

Not that this has anything to do with it but I had an just turned 4 year old and a 2 year old as well. They had no idea what was going on. Why they had to wait so much, sleep in hotels (We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House which treated us so well, I am eternally grateful. ) My husband at that time was also getting another MBA. With no help, no sleep, no family, (sometimes my mother helped) no friends off we went to Wilmington, Delaware to a specialized hospital for pediatric cardiology. They were supposed to be the best.

So what did he have?

Ventricular septal defects AKA, VSD. A birth defect of the heart in which there is a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the two lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart.

What happened?

After the first open heart surgery and what was supposed to be the only surgery at 2 months old, he had a draining tube inside his body that they stitched in by accident. So when they went to go pull it out, they couldn’t. As a mom, the high pitch sound of your child screaming in pain is the worst in the world. I still get nightmares till this day. The doctor told us since his bones aren’t hardened yet, he couldn’t tell that he was sewing through his cartilage. It didn’t end there.

What next..

About a few days after we were discharged, he started developing a thick blister looking bubble around his scar. (Now as a mom, trust me, I washed my hands, I disinfected it, I cleaned everywhere all the time, and I even didn’t let his siblings near him much.) SO back to the hospital. Now there was an infection. They had to clean it out by opening him up yet again. A few weeks later, it happened again. THIS WAS HIS FOURTH SURGERY. Back and forth to doctors, hospitals, home and back again.

The thick scar he has on his chest due to the 4 surgeries, will grow with him. It was just supposed to be a line as he healed but now it looks like a frankenstein scar. It will get bigger as his body gets bigger. I hope he is strong enough to withstand any type of mocking or ignorant questions he may get.

He is doing well, happy, and active. I know many parents don’t have this opportunity and people have gone through worse. I saw with my own eyes how “worse” children have it when I passed the other children’s rooms. This is just our story. A story that was traumatic most for me, and fortunately not my son. So I photographed all those feelings I had from the past into this image for competition. I am lucky. I still have my son with me today. In the end, we are blessed.

Some photos during his surgery – 2014

Photography is so powerful. My heart is racing posting these images.

Anyways, I will talk about my two other images in the next few blogs. I would like to thank everyone who allowed me to create, and be where I am today. To my clients, thank you for supporting my dream and allowing me to document your legacy.

If you would like to know more about WPPI competition: https://www.wppiawards.com

If you would like to donate to the Ronald McDonald House please go here : https://rmhde.org/

If you are a photographer and would like to send me a private constructive criticism, please feel free to email me at hello@kawadaphotography.com

If you would like to book a session with me, please book a complimentary zoom call to discuss all of your wishes and pricing. https://kawadaphotography.com/connect . I can not wait to hear from you.

To see more of my work, please head to http://kawadaphotography.com

Thank you so much for reading. Phew this was an emotional post. Lol.

Kay Kawada

  1. Monica Keppenne says:

    Kay I’ve just read this. Praise Kaito’s heart. Praise your heart. Congratulations on your award! Truly a work from the heart!


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