Remembering Dad | Kayla's Senior Photo Session | Lilydale Regional Park, MN

Parents are the best. 

Seriously. If you have a mom, a dad, a step-parent, or someone who has been "like-a-parent" to you, you will agree with me. They are our rock most times, our foundation. The first people on our list that we always want to make proud. Some of us have multiple sets of parents. Some of us, unfortunately, have lost a parent who left this earth before their time.

Meet Kayla. Kayla is now considered my 2015 model team alumni, but I have had the privilege of working with her since spring/summer of 2014 as one of the model reps for my high school senior business. In an effort to get to know my models better, I ask many questions during our model photo session. I will never forget the first time I had asked Kayla about a particular piece of jewelry she was wearing. 

Kayla's Model Session Image for Class of 2015

We were near the Union Depot, downtown St. Paul, in a parking ramp, and I happened to ask about a rather large men's wedding band she was wearing. I learned the wedding band had belonged to her late father, Paul Hanson. Paul passed away four years ago from cancer, just about the time Kayla was about to begin her high school years. I remember sitting there at our model session, near the stairs (pictured here), most likely with a look of disbelief and sadness on such a sensitive subject I had brought up. I know my eyes filled with water a tad as I peeked up at her mom who was also with us. I was not expecting that response at all. As a matter of fact, I didn't know what to say. Yet I felt so much to want to comfort them in their loss. We completed our shoot that day, but those moments never left me on how important my job is to really get to know somebody, and to capture the raw emotion of someone's story. I learned a little bit more about Kayla's dad, and how he loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles. More on that in a moment.

Fast forward to June 2015. Kayla graduated from Park High School this spring! While I cannot imagine what those four years of high school were like without her father's physical presence, I know more than anything, she wished for him to be there as he once was. (who wouldn't!) After all, the feeling of "making it" through the ups and downs of high school, and to come out on top...who other to share that sense of accomplishment than with your parents. After all, as I stated above, our parents are the first we aim to please and make proud.

As part of my regular senior sessions, I always encourage my seniors to bring props, or things that hold special meaning to them. I incorporate those props into their session images. Naturally, Kayla's special prop request was for one particular 1991 Harley-Davidson Electra Classic to be in some of her senior photos. It would be her dad's bike that he left behind. So we did just that. I know doing this session with her younger sister and  dad's bike being present meant a lot to her for reasons beyond what you and I could ever imagine. Posted are some image snapshots from the tribute shoot with dad's bike. 

Kayla and sister Grace with their dad's bike.

Kayla with Dad's bike.


I put together a short 15 second video from the session. 

A special session like this was a first for me, but my goal remained the same. For me to be certain I captured the deep feelings of love, grief, accomplishment - the emotions of a daughter wishing to still make her dad proud...for everything that Kayla wanted me to capture in this very important yet delicate photo session.

Thank you so much to Kayla, her mom Juliann, stepdad Andrew, and sister Grace, for letting me into your life on such a personal level. And of course, my thanks and my prayers to the late Paul Hanson. What a remarkable family you have shared with me! May God's grace and the light of your dad continue to shine on you, Kayla. Your dad IS proud, and is with you every step of the way. You guys always have a special place here with me at Monda Goette Photography. Thank you again for such an incredible experience to capture your story.

To see the extended video version from Kayla's session, click here

-Monda the Photographer

Monda Goette Tapp

St Paul Minneapolis Portrait Photographer for children, families, teens, high school seniors, corporate headshots, branding, sports, and special events. Twin Cities photographer.