Heartbreak Exhibition and Zachary’s Photo

When I heard the news that Zachary would not live, I was lost at how to process the information. As an artist I began to document the life of my family in the time leading up to Zachary’s birth, death and the months that followed. This was my way of coping, recording, sorting and searching for meaning in a time so devoid of answers.

I chose to use a Holga camera to photograph that time in my life. The Holga is faulty and let’s light seep in through its cheap plastic frame. It is designed to be a toy camera that yields unexpected results. I combined the Holga with a batch of expired medium format film I had owned for almost ten years. This film traveled to New Zealand with me where my Mamiya medium format camera took its very last picture. Then the film moved back to Canada with my husband and I as we were expecting our first child. It finally came out of the musky box at Zachary’s diagnosis.

The Holga combined with the expired film equaled an unpredictable result. It wasn’t like when I shoot digital. I had no idea what the photographs would look like until the film was processed.

Where most documentary photography seeks to remove emotion and capture events objectively, I instead chose to document my life infused with the heartbreak I was experiencing as a mother. How could I not?

The images are haunting. Eerie. Dreamlike. Unfocused. Some are vivid in colour, others are dull. Just like my memory of that time.

The images are called “Unfulfilled Precognition” because, as a mother, I had such strong dreams for my son’s life. The dreams crossed over into visions I believed would come to pass. Such things as my child learning to crawl, the first tooth, soccer games and camping trips.

Yet these visions, these precognitions, have been left unfulfilled. They hang. They hover in the air like mist that touches my skin. I can feel these visions but cannot grasp them between my fingers.

“Unfulfilled Precognition,” will be exhibited this weekend at Bridge Songs: Heartbreak. This is a group exhibition but my work was chosen for a feature wall. I’m both excited and nervous to see the images displayed. This is the first stop of many for the photos as they are scheduled for exhibition well into 2014.

I had a strange experience as I delivered the photographs to the woman who would be hanging the show for this weekend. Sitting in my car as the rain poured down, I looked at all the images. I got stuck on one. It is a photograph of my husband holding Zachary at the hospital, just after he was born and passed away.

I slipped the photograph out of the collection. I’m not ready, I said to myself. Not yet…

Here is the photograph.

Photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute

Photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute

What scared me so much about sharing this image? Is it the swollen appearance of my child and the worry that people would not understand? Or the vulnerability I feel with this image, like I am wearing myself inside out for all to see?

Whatever it is, this one photograph will not be hanging this weekend. I want to share it here, I don’t know why. Maybe I am mustering my courage. Baby steps. Drat, those words. Do angel babies learn to take their first steps as well? I hope so.

(Crying now. Enough writing)

Friday Night, June 14, 2013:

Low Brow Art Gala (come see “Unfulfilled Precognition”): 7:00-8:30pm

$10 at the door, $15 for date night

The Anglican Parishes of St.Faith’s and St.Stephen the Martyr (11725 – 93 Street) Edmonton


“Don your bow ties and party dresses for a low brow, high class evening of art and refreshments. Live music provided by Andrew Mulcair and Darren Day.”

8:30-9:30 Concert: The New Eyes

“Songs from past Bridge Songs events and brand new tunes performed by the Bridge Songs house band, The New Eyes. Alternative rock, folk and pop influences make their way into this lively mix.”


  1. Amette
    Jun 13, 2013

    This sounds like a beautiful event, and I’m so glad you have an opportunity to share your experience! I wish I could come out to be a part of the evening, but alas, I have plans. I have total confidence that your work will be very moving for those who view it…

    • Alexis Marie
      Jun 17, 2013

      Thanks Annette! It was a strange sensation for me to see my photos displayed in the wall but empowering and freeing as well which were the strongest emotions. I feel grateful for the warm reception that my work has received.
      Thank you for your comment!
      P.s. I have other exhibitions booked for “Unfulfilled Precognition.” If you want an invite, message or email me your contact info. I’ll be sure to send the info your way.

  2. Marija
    Jun 16, 2013

    Alexis, this picture is heartbreaking yet so clearly amazing at the same time. Never before has a photograph captured my emotions so drastically. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Alexis Marie
      Jun 17, 2013

      Wow, thank you so much Marija. That means a lot to me to hear that. I truly believe that all the photos displayed together will be powerful and I hope I have more opportunities to share them in the future.
      Thanks for your comment!

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