Be Unique. Be Amazing. Be You.

by: Tera Girardin on

LIMITED EDITION T-shirt supporting the Faces of Autism book. This fundraiser not only spreads a positive message about being yourself, but the proceeds help publish this amazing book featuring children with autism. Order yours today!



To follow along with the making of the book find us on Facebook!

Finding Dory, Finding Inclusion

by: Tera Girardin on

I just got home from watching the much anticipated movie sequel, “Finding Dory." Even though I took my kids to it, I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited about it.  “Finding Nemo” is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. It had to be. It was on repeat in my minivan back when my kids were still shorter than I am and I have probably listened to / watched it over a hundred times. Pretty sure I can repeat almost the entire movie. So when I found out “Dory” was coming out, we had to go.

And it didn’t disappoint! Endearing, funny, beautifully animated — it delivered on all points. But what delightfully surprised and frankly, impressed the hell out of me, was the incredibly positive messages it subtly teaches. As I felt for Dory and her story, I suddenly realized this whole movie is a huge lesson on inclusion! 

(I might give some of the movie away here so… spoiler alert). 

Dory repeatedly deals with and tells others how she suffers from short-term memory loss. At times it annoys others around her, at times she feels bad for it, at times it provides funny moments and all the time it’s just who she is. As a mom to a child with autism, I can relate. 

In the scenes when she is young, you see her parents lovingly teach her the things she needs to know to be safe but they all struggle with her “disability” (I put that in quotes because thankfully they never refer to it as such). Again, this definitely struck close to home. How do you teach a child safety rules when she can't remember?! Dory’s parents are excellent role models for special needs parents. They patiently and lovingly and repeatedly guide Dory. And ultimately they do give her the tools she needs later in life. And yet they worry about her future. Disney / Pixar even describes them this way “They celebrate and protect her, striving to arm her with the skills she’ll need to navigate the world with a faulty memory.” 

Celebrate her! I love love love this message. (Kudos Pixar!)

Then it dawned on me the movie is filled with characters that have short comings that don’t let them get in the way of living their life! Hank the octopus is missing a tentacle, Destiny is very nearsighted, Bailey had a head injury that affected his echolocation, Nemo has his little fin. Even Becky, the very disheveled (and might I add, non-verbal) loon is a valued member of the quest. They are presented in such a matter of fact way and it’s so wonderfully inclusive. Even in the original “Nemo” movie, his new school friends make Nemo feel better when his dad explains his little fin. They all chime in with “This tentacle is shorter than all the other tentacles, “ I’m H20 intolerant,” “I’m obnoxious.”  (See I can quote the movie!)  Everyone has their imperfections.

Through the course of the movie, Dory moves from constantly apologizing for her condition and seeing it as a hinderance to recognizing it is her strength. She’s a problem solver and endlessly optimistic. She begins to value herself. "What would Dory do?"

A person (or sea creature in this case)’s perceived disability might just be their greatest asset. If Dory didn’t have the short term memory loss, she wouldn’t have lost her way, wouldn’t have found her loving friends and wouldn’t have the fearless nature that allows her to think outside the box and creatively problem solve the issue at hand.  She compensates for her memory loss by following her gut instincts which often times simply means following her joy. Which ultimately leads her home. Believe in yourself no matter what. Doing things differently is valuable. And a perceived disability might just be a different ability. What amazing messages in this movie! 

Two fins up for Finding Dory for it’s positive message on inclusivity!

Tera Girardin is a mom to three boys - her youngest is diagnosed with autism. She has been a child and family photographer for 11 years and is now a budding author with her "Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope" book coming April 2017. Through compelling photography and inspiring stories, the book hopes to change the way we view autism and move away from awareness and towards admiration. You can follow the book's progress and be inspired at

This is Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

My hope with my Faces of Autism project is to show the world, through my camera lens, how beautiful and amazing children with autism are. And on this World Autism Day 2016 I want to do just that. 

I spent the last year meeting with families and doing photo sessions for this project. Really special photo sessions. It was a deeply personal and inspiring experience for me. To capture their spirits with my camera brings me such joy!

Not every session went smooth. Not every session was easy. Not every session garnered eye contact and smiles. But every session inspired me. These children are amazing!

There is a lot of hard when it comes to autism. Autism families hear a lot about the hard stuff. When first diagnosed it's all hard, daunting, isolating, difficult, confusing and ! Frankly I have to deal with enough hard that I'd rather not spend time talking about the hard all the time. Which is why I want to focus on the joy, the beauty, the victories, the child beyond the autism with this project. Because when it comes down to it, they are children first. 

What I've learned is autism is...

sweet | funny | loving | amazing | determined | loyal | vibrant| gift | resilient | energetic | smiley | remarkable happy | persistent | humorous | organized | blunt | silly insightful | delightful | quiet | loud | outgoing | shy | tenacious | exuberant | brilliant | hard working | sensitive thoughtful | fearless | moody | generous | kind |precise logical | intelligent | wise | artistic | beautiful | competitive | joker | compassionate | wonderful | motivated enthusiastic | honest | dedicated | bright | courageous | independent | courteous | patient | driven | serious | playful | eager | expressive | proud | sincere | responsible | trustworthy | friendly | imaginative | helpful | original | athletic | fun | brave | philosophical | decisive | gentle | quick | practical | emotional | creative | intuitive | charming | resourceful | warmhearted | adventurous | nice | diligent | forceful | inventive | rational | tough | willing | friendly | just | considerate | amusing | clever | innovative | spiritual | inspiring | curious | industrious | joyful | nurturing| perceptive | talented | caring | fair | analytical | goofy | polite | strong | affectionate | busy | selective | innocent | hopeful | lively | sweet | observant | mischievous | giddy | cheerful | bold | lovable

This is autism.

To follow along with the book production process, be sure to LIKE our Facebook page. Book coming Spring 2017!

Getting Real! Faces of Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

Faces of Autism Update

Things just got really real for the Faces of Autism, Stories of Hope book! It's getting closer to being birthed. 

And like all births, there is an incubation period. It's not a quick process but things are progressing along. First of all, I've met and will be signing a contract with a local publishing company, Wise Ink. They help purpose-driven authors launch their books -- this is a hybrid method between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It's going to be a good option for me as I'll get assistance with the planning, marketing, design, editing, and launching of my book. But that also means some serious dollars. It'll be well worth it as I want to do it right but it's been a bit daunting if I'm honest.

Which brings me to Highlight It Up Blue for Autism Awareness -- some of you are aware of this autism awareness event I've held at my photography studio the last 5 years. For a small donation, people get blue hair extensions and a Facebook photo to show their support for the autism community. It's a great event and we've been fortunate enough to contribute funds to local organizations that help our autism community. 

This year, the other two organizers surprised me by insisting the money raised go towards the funding of my Faces of Autism book. I was delightfully surprised and honored. And extremely grateful because it will give me the seed money to hire Wise Ink and begin the process. Yay!

I want to be transparent with this whole process with you so you can share in the excitement. I want to share the VERY rough timeline for the project is looking something like this. Don't hold me to this! But the plan is to launch the book in one year. Whoo-hoo!!

April -- complete work on all images and hire Wise Ink
Spring - Fall -- content, copy, flow, beginning design work, editing
Late Fall / Holiday -- pre-order and crowd-funding campaign launched

February -- book is finalized and off to print
April 2, 2017 -- World Autism Day and Book Launch Party!

You all have been such a big part of this project and I feel it's been less my project more that I'm a conduit to making this book happen. There are ways you can help and I will be needing help to make this all happen. Share the page, share the journey, share these amazing children!

Thank you for being a part of this journey!
Love - Tera
Tera Photography

Time to Share

by: Tera Girardin on

Time to Share

I have to tell you a cool story. So bear with me as I seem to ramble on here. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a while ago? Well, I got nominated to do it like so many of us did. And I really really didn't want to get wet and cold and I really really don't like being on camera so this whole thing wasn't cool with me. Plus I thought maybe I could make a difference in a different way and use my photography skills instead. I offered to do a full session for a family affected by ALS. I know when a loved one is facing terminal illness sometimes the last thing families are thinking about is photos but when their loved one is gone, the first thing they do is cling to photos. 

So I put out the call on my Facebook page and got in touch with the family of Bruce Kramer. I had the honor of photographing his entire extended family in October 2014. Several family members had flown in from out of town and it was a reunion of sorts. A lovely but heartbreaking reunion. At this point, Bruce was confined to a wheel-chair, on a breathing apparatus, had limited mobility in his hands, easily tired, but had a huge bright spirit and I instantly felt his grace. It was an amazing session. With the star of the show -- his only granddaughter who was a year old and delightful. 

I was able to capture this set of images of them together. Honestly I've not really shared these before because it was such a poignant moment. And such a sacred moment that I didn't share them all over as I often do with images I'm super proud of. Well, obviously I gave them all to the family and they've enjoyed and shared them as they've wished. But I've not felt right about sharing it publicly much.

I didn't know who Bruce was before I met him. And I only met him once, for about 90 minutes. I was in photog mode during the shoot and didn't get emotional myself even though there were emotions flowing all over. Laughter, tears, love, longing, nerves, gratitude...all witnessed. But as soon as I stepped into the elevator as I left their home, the realization of what I had done hit me. I realized I would likely never meet him again as his journey was near the end. The emotions I had been setting aside during the session hit me and a sobbed all the way to the car and then some. It was an honor to be a part of his journey.

I wasn't the only one who was touched by Bruce. Turns out he was sort of a local big deal. :) He was a dean and professor at St. Thomas and well loved there. He was also working with MPR's Cathy Wurzer who interviewed him for a series on his ALS diagnosis called "Living While Dying." I didn't know any of this until well after I photographed him. And that was just fine with me. I wouldn't have changed the way I did the session. It didn't surprise me he was such an impactful man to so many because in the very short time I spent with him, I was touched too. He passed away a few months after I met him.

Are you still with me? Well fast forward to this week and Cathy Murzer sent me an e-mail. (Not often I get an email from MPR!). She and Bruce co-authored a book based on the interview series. It was published just a couple of weeks after he passed away in March of 2015. She is now doing a TEDx Talk this weekend at her alma mater UW-River Falls to discuss her time with Bruce and his story. She emailed to ask to use the image below to share with her audience. I of course said YES!

I couldn't be prouder to have one of my images on a TEDx stage. I'm honored to have captured that moment in time. The emotions that cross his face in these three images speak volumes. 

And it's time I share it with you.


Bruce's St. Thomas obituary

The book "We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying"

Living While Dying Podcasts

Bruce's Blog: Dis Ease Diary

Cathy Wurzer on MPR

TEDx Talk Details

December Reflections Day 20: Warmth

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 20: Warmth

Being a Minnesotan, I spend a large part of the year trying to stay warm. About March I have a hard time remembering the last time my feet were warm more often than chilly. Lately I'm obsessed with the quest to find the perfect socks - -ones that are comfortable, warm enough to keep my permanently chilly toes happy but not too hot that they are sweaty, ones that don't pill, that don't sag, and of course, look cute. So far, I'm still searching although these Champion brand from Target are making me pretty happy. I also have some cabin socks from Dick's Sporting goods that are toasty but the fuzzy stuff on the inside tends to pill up and fall out. Still, they are heavenly to put on when they are new. 

This is how you'll find me most mornings these days...toasty socks, fuzzy blanket, cup of tea.  Warmth = good socks

December Reflections Day 18 & 19: Circles & Goodbye

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 18 & 19: Circles & Goodbye

I was reflecting on the Circles theme. And was stuck. What photo do I have or could I create to represent circles? What does Circles conjure up for me? 

I was driving along and thinking as I often do. And suddenly I couldn't stop seeing circles! On cars, on signs (hello Target), everywhere! But of course I couldn't take a photo. I was driving! So trust me, when you start thinking of something, you all of sudden can't stop seeing them.

But it also made me think of the cyclical nature of life and "what goes around comes around." Which leads so well into Day 19's theme: I said Goodbye to...

Recently I said goodbye to my trusty old mini van. It was time. And although I love my new car and feel so good in it... I thought about how long I had my van and how much it's been through. I had it 10 years!! We got it when I found out I was pregnant with Alex -- three car seats wouldn't have fit in the car we had so we needed more space. And I loved the mini van -- with its fold down seats and very fancy for the time, built in DVD player which saved us on long drives back to see family when we lived in Arkansas. My kids grew up in that car. We moved from AR back to MN in it. We've slept in it (camping trips). We drove 137,000+ miles in it. It's gotten us safely through snowy winters. It's been chock full of photography gear, groceries, Christmas presents, camping equipment, and various sporting equipment. It's transitioned from strollers to bikes. It's been on many family vacations. It saw me through a divorce and taught me to take care of getting repairs done myself. It brought Alex home from the hospital in it. I taught Drew how to drive in it. It was a car full of love and memories. 

This photo is from our family vacation to Duluth this past summer. When I told Alex I sold the mini van, he said "Awwww. I'm going to miss it."  Me too buddy, me too.

Happy Holidays

by: Tera Girardin on

I am so glad to be wrapped up for the season and looking forward to a little down time and a light schedule in the next two weeks. Before I hit the ground running for 2016! I have classes planned (including a Basics of Photography for those getting new cameras from Santa), lots of headshot sessions booked, a big winter sale, more Faces of Autism sessions to schedule, and possibly an e-course online incorporating gratitude and photography (what?! I know!). 

I am so very grateful to all my Tera Photography clients and fans. Thank you for making 2015 an amazing year! And may your holidays be filled with peace, joy and love!

- Tera

December Reflections Day 17: My Smile

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 17:  My Smile

I love to smile. And I can actually say I love my smile. I get compliments on my smile (thanks mom and dad for years of orthodontic work!) which is nice, but I'm never fishing for compliments. It's always a little hard for me to be gracious and just accept those compliments (working on that!). I rather hope my smile simply makes others smile. Because that fills up my soul. 

So smile. I see you. 

December Reflections Day 16: I Said Hello to...

by: Tera Girardin on

December Reflections Day 16:  I Said Hello to...

A lot of new friends! And specifically I really enjoyed saying hello to my new friends with autism this year. Working with families to photograph children with autism and tell their stories, has been a soul-filling project for me this year. And although I'm behind with where I'd hoped to be by this time, I'm looking forward to getting to work on it again this winter.  (Follow along on the Faces of Autism Facebook page). 

To learn a little about each child, to be allowed into their lives for a brief moment, to document who they are and show others what makes them special, is a true honor for me. I love meeting new friends. Especially sweet souls like these friends...

Hello young friends! I look forward to meeting more more of you this year. 

- Tera