Therapy through the lens

This is a blog about something personal and to what extent I have found/used photography to help my eldest son deal with the trauma and fear that he has experienced over the last several days in Knysna during one of its darkest and most frightening natural disasters on record.

I have some experience with things in life that can have a profound effect on you after 12 years of working in emergency services and high-stress environments. To this end, I have been racking my brain to find some way to help both my boys deal with the situation and with them both being somewhat introverted it has proved difficult. The #knysnafires have been something extreme and impacted many people on many levels.

We have a young family ( Misha & Jarryd + 2) staying with us as they have lost everything in the fires and their story has started to help my boys realize a few important things. Misha & Jarryd asked if I would go past there home and try and just capture the scene and a handful of images for a memory book they are planning. I eventually convinced  Josh, my eldest to join me and see first hand how the devastation has made the young family take life by the horns and show pure resolve and a positive attitude.


#knynsarises andrew aveley


Before we left he asked me if he could take his moms DSLR with and maybe take a few snaps. I stopped at the ruins and could not manage to get Josh to shoot many images but he did get out and look at what was once a happy home. I could not take many images it was a very raw feeling. The one thing that stood out was the melted swing that belonged to the young kids.


#knynsarises andrew aveley


We continued to drive out into the forest/plantation areas north of Knysna to see where we could offload some fruits and so on for some of the forest birds and animals left with no grazing later in the week. After a few minutes, Josh started to ask questions and ‘talk’ about his experience when they were evacuated. It was a positive start for me and one I hoped would continue …

As we stopped at a non-specific part of the “Old Cape road” I got out and started to look around at the devastation and burnt forests. Josh grabbed the camera and walked off into the scared ground near the road and started looking through the lens, sitting down and just generally trying to get a perspective of what he was seeing. Below is what he managed to see and capture. These are straight out camera JPG.

Josh Aveley – Life after the fire



I guess the key to this whole blog is the fact that there is power in photography in ways we cannot always understand. This was a turning point for me and I hope to get the closure my boys need from this small adventure. I hope when things have settled in a few weeks time, I can attempt to let them see more of the tragedy and where the new beginnings of Knysna will be coming from as there grow older.

Peace and Light – AA