On The Cover: The Suresh Family – Life with the YMM Parent Cover Drawing Contest Winner
YMM Parent’s third annual cover contest kicked off this year by teaming up with two local businesses, making it the biggest giveaway to date.
It was eight-year-old Hanishka Suresh’s drawing of herself with her one-year-old brother, Krishn, and parents, Suresh Thangavelu and Vinaya Suresh that elated the editorial team. And, she won a family night out at Boston Pizza with a meal and one hour of play on their new sports simulator, as well as, an exclusive photoshoot with Emily Palmer of Emily Gale Photography.
When Hanishka learned the news from her mother, she said it caught her by surprise and didn’t realize what her mother was saying right away. But once she understood, she was ecstatic.
“My mom was looking at her phone and then said, “Congrats, Hani! You won the family cover contest”. I didn’t know what she meant by that. First, my reaction was like, “Umm!” My mom saw my reaction and told me clearer, and then I realized that I started screaming, “Ahh! I won the contest” in happiness. I am so happy.”
A student of Christina Gordon Public School, Hanishka enjoys watching movies with her family and eating her mother’s homecooked meals. Hanishka said she loves her family because “they take care of me and gave me a little brother.”
When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Hanishka said she got the inspiration for her future from her dollhouse.
“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an artist. Now, I changed my mind, and I want to be a civil engineer, as well. Because I want to build a big mansion like my dollhouse and, as an artist, I will draw my mansion’s blueprint,” she said.
Hanishka and her parents moved to Fort McMurray in 2015 from India. Ten years earlier, Suresh and Vinaya were both working in Bangalore, when they met at a bus stop. After a couple of meetings, they became friends and got married seven years later on February 7, 2011. A day before their first wedding anniversary, Hanishka was born.
“I was very happy when I first learned that I was going to be a mom, and when I held her for the first time, it was the best feeling in the world. And, the first few months were the most memorable moments in my life,” Vinaya said.
Now that Hanishka is eight, Vinaya shared she’s surprised to see her daughter growing up so fast and already demonstrating their family values of being kind to her baby brother.
“We teach our children to love others and be kind to people,” Vinaya said. “My daughter does the same. She is teaching this to her brother. I’m happy to see her like this.”
When first arriving in Fort McMurray, Suresh found himself in a role working for TEAM Industrial Services at Syncrude Canada, which he maintained for four years. Now, he works for Aker Solutions at Albian Sands. He shared that he loves the city because the career opportunities keep him close to his family and life at home.
“I like my job because I have been in oil and gas for more than 15 years. I enjoy it since I live here with my family in Fort McMurray. I am gifted to see them every day, unlike most people who stay in camp for their entire shift,” he said. “We advise most of our friends to move to Fort McMurray for the community to develop, and parents can see their children’s faces at the end of the day.”
As a family, the Sureshs enjoy going for picnics at the park in Waterways, Gregoire Lake in the summer and Vista Ridge in the winter.
“It’s great to be living here. Although we don’t have enough shops, we can get almost everything here. We have enriched extracurricular activities for our children. Particularly, most of the activities are available in one place like MacDonald Island, YMCA and the Suncor Energy for Performing Arts,” Suresh said.
On The Shoot
YMM Parent spoke with Emily Palmer of Emily Gale Photography to discuss her career in family and wedding photography, which she kick-started in the Fort McMurray community over a decade ago. It’s a dream that was ignited with extra spark after she held her son for the first time.
YMM Parent: Alright, Emily! We want to hear all about why you decided to become a professional photographer?
Emily Palmer: I have always loved photography, and I started over 10 years ago, but the moment it all changed for me was when they first placed my son in my arms. Holding this tiny little human brought so much awe and wonder. I wanted my kids see me pursuing my dreams so that they knew they should do the same. But I also never wanted to miss out on any of their big moments in life, so being able to stay at home with them has been the biggest blessing, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
YP: As an expert in wedding photography, we’re aware that you’ve reached out to amateur photographers to help mentor them with new techniques. Can you tell us why you’ve decided to teach pro tips to others?
EP: I love the teaching side of photography. But a lot of the time, new photographers don’t understand the entirety of running a business. When I mentor, we go over the shooting and editing side of things, but then we get into the business side. We talk about contracts and why they are important or when and how to schedule your Facebook and Instagram posts, so you are reaching more potential clients. Starting a business can be overwhelming, and because of how busy I am, it is also great for me to send clients their way to help get them started.
YP: So, let’s talk about your niche – wedding photography! What do you enjoy most when capturing such a happy and memorable time in people’s lives?
EP: My favourite part of the day is the father-daughter dance. There is always something about seeing a full-grown man get emotional during the first few seconds of the dance. It melts my heart.
YP: We know you’ve had hundreds of photography sessions — weddings, maternity, family portraits; can you share with us one of our favourites, and tell us what it was about it that made it special?
EP: I had a special maternity session with a younger couple. As I looked around their home, I realized they were investing in their session with me. They were splurging, and I knew they had been saving for this. I fought back tears during the entire session. Hours after our photoshoot, the mother went into labour and brought the sweetest baby girl into the world.
Unfortunately, her time here on earth was cut far too short, and this family will never know just how much they touched my heart. As one of my biggest inspirations once said, “Create timeless images for families to cherish for years to come. One day, they’ll look back at these photographs, and say: “Look at what we own. This is more priceless than anything I could ever buy.” This family re-ignited my passion and pushed me to pour my heart and soul into all my sessions. No matter what!
Born in Campbell River, British Columbia, Emily Palmer has called Fort McMurray home for the past 12 years and is raising her sons, Brogan, 5, and Ronan, 4, with her partner, Andrew Locke. She has also claimed the title as the official photographer for the Fort McMurray Fire Fighters Association fundraising calendar for the past three years. Learn more about Emily Palmer and view her photography collections at emilygalephotography.com.
Hanishka Suresh with her brother, Krishn, at Helen Pacholko Park.
The Suresh Family: Suresh Thangavelu and Vinaya Suresh with their children, Hanishka and Krishn during their exclusive cover contest photo shoot in August 2020. Photos by Emily Gale Photography