Nov 30, 2015

Life Stories: Gil Penner

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us.”

I first heard of Gil Penner’s story through Facebook. I didn’t know him, but through his sister’s posts I came to learn a bit about who he was and what happened to him. I invited him for a photo shooting/interview a few weeks later and I had the chance to meet him and learn his story.
Gil and his family moved to Canada in 2010. At age 17, Gil’s life was changing. It began when he lost his friends and began to feel very alone. “I was aggressive.” Gil says. “I was impatient. I stopped going to church. I was trying to run away.” Then, in 2014, on November 13th, Gil found himself caught in an accident that he could not run from.

“I was having a great day.” Gil says. “I was at work and excited to go home. Then I got a call to bring a load from outside.” “It was really cold and I was wearing a big glove, something I usually never do.” To this day he can’t remember how it happened but suddenly he felt something on his hand. “I was in shock. I could hear my bones breaking. And I was hanging in the door. My arm was being rolled into the cable as it opened. I was being lifted from the ground.”
“The only thing I could do was scream, ‘No, no, no.’ I just couldn’t believe what was happening.”

The months following the accident “I had to be patient.” he says. “The frustration was so big. I couldn’t see my fingers. I didn’t know if I would be able to keep my arm, it felt pretty much dead. All I could do was be patient.” And wait.
“I knew that everything happens for a reason.” I tried to tell myself that. But “it’s hard to see what reason these kind of things happen for. It’s hard to keep our feelings and emotions away, and think with logic. “Sometimes there are no explanations.”
Gil felt more impatient with God than ever. “I just couldn't understand why I had to go through all that pain.” So, Gil started talking to God.
“So many things were going through my mind, and my thoughts were so loud. I couldn’t hear him.” “I didn’t try to think about the accident. I just tried to manage things. I had to learn how to do everything again, like putting on my own socks. I feel pain all the time, even when I’m sleeping.”
Gil is still trying to over come his phantom pains. “I feel like my fingers are crossed. I can feel them even though they are not there.” The doctors say that he has to learn how to uncross his missing fingers in his mind to make the pain go away. A physical injury has now become a mental barrier.
And then his thoughts were silent, and finally, he heard Gods voice.
He said “That he would never give up on me. I would be someone better than I was before.”
“I just didn’t understand. How could I be someone better if I couldn't even dress myself?”

Gil, like all of us, does not always understand God’s plan. But we, after all, are the body of Christ. Through our feet He walks the earth. Because his hands are on us, through our hands he will touch others.
Although he did not always understand, Gil continues to allow the Lord to work through his faith. I hope, that by sharing his story with you, we can begin to recognize that we are all living extraordinary lives. We can recognize that through our hardships can come beauty. We are the ones who choose whether or not our lives are worth recognizing.
When I asked him what advice he would give others that are struggling he said, “Just find a reason to wake up in the morning and just keep fighting. We all need to find something we love and fight for that, because, if we stop fighting, nobody is gonna fight for us.”
I asked Gil how his life has changed since the day of his accident. “Everything has changed,” he said. “The way I think and the way I see other peoples problems. I can see change in my family. We are closer than we were before. My mom was my biggest supporter. She was always by my side.”
“I have learned to control myself. When I was in the hospital I had to be patient. People visited me, and they were patient with me. God has used this to change my attitude.”
Gil is working again. He is currently working towards developing his own prosthetic hand. He says, “I am happy that I can work again. I thought I would have to retire. Now I can even put popcorn in the microwave. I can make it!”

written by Lea Sophie
Photography by Heinrich Nikel Photography

~ You are more than what you see ~

Aug 2, 2015

Black & White

I think that landscape pictures in black and white have to be told in a different way. Like this one, I wanted to capture the moving the clouds but everything else frozen. It was a windy day and the clouds were moving really fast. I used my old tripod to have a steady image while using a longer exposure time. The blurry clouds do give the image a moving dynamic, while the grass and drift wood that had been left by the flood last spring remained sharp.

Jul 28, 2015

Love Inspires

I had the privilege to photograph this couple while staying at their house for a visit. It was kind of a spontaneous shooting on a Sunday afternoon. We went for a ride just outside of the city and stopped on a road next to a wheat field. It is not hard to direct them, they are so comfortable around each other and their smiles are genuineness .
They have been an inspiration to me over the years and I cherish their friendship. Their love for each other shows in many ways. In the way they look at each other and especially how they talk about each other when the other person is not around.
"Nothing is perfect and we had to overcome a lot of obstacles over the years" they said, "but we want to make it work. That's why our marriage is strong." It is wonderful to be around you guys. You are a blessing.

Jul 17, 2015

Storm in my Backyard

I took the liberty to take off a couple of times just before a storm came by to photograph.
I would love to go on a road trip some day and see the great country I live in from east to west south and north and capture its beauty. It would be nice of course but it does not need to be at Thunder Bay to get great shots. Like these pictures I took not even three minutes from my home away.

Jun 30, 2015

Abandoned Places

Old houses have been a magnet for me as long as I can remember. I always felt sorry seeing an old building being tared down or in such a bad condition that it falls apart by it self. Things wont last forever but I sure enjoy the often quite nostalgic scene of wallpaper peeling from the walls, broken furniture all over the floor and doors fallen of the hinges. I have been visiting some places over the years and kept taking pictures and witnessing their decay with wistful feeling inside.
Cant really explain why. Maybe I want to hold on to good things from the past or make them last. Everything has a story behind them. Especially buildings have a magical aura of forgotten tales of people who used to live inside them and called them home. Can't help it but appreciate them while they are standing there quiet, reminding me of time passing. 

May 30, 2015

The outside after shooting with Jenny

The day Jenny and I had the grad dress shooting in the studio we figured that we should also do a shooting outside. We agreed that we will wait until the temperatures warming up to be a little more pleasant. About four weeks later then we met again and took some great shoots in the little forest behind our village. The trees where still without leaves but the weather was warm. So we wear able to take our time and the results are stunning. I also tried for the first time some new photo editing ideas in Photoshop I have not used before. I am very pleased with how everything turned out.

~Heinrich Nikel