Facing Forward, Looking Back
This award-winning image of young speed skating star, Gabriel Quon looking back over his shoulder while his body faces forward carries a deep poignancy for the photographer Shelley Vandervelde.
For while Gabriel is working hard towards his goal of competing for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics, he can look back to a special influence that set him on that path – Shelley’s late husband Rene.
Gabriel was raised alone by his mom Bonnie, a massage therapist. Rene was a client receiving treatment to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's and later issues arising from cancer spreading into his lymphatic system. Rene became like a big brother to Gabriel, introducing him to soccer and later speed skating.
Gabriel did not take to the game of hockey, so Rene, hailing from the Netherlands, a powerhouse nation at speed skating, took Gabriel to try his ice sport instead. Out on the ice, Gabriel fell but got up again. While at the oval the first time, Rene told Gabriel to follow him on the ice and copy his actions. Gabriel took to the long skates like a fish to water! Bonnie said he was a natural from the start. The following summer Gabriel tried a speed skating camp held at the oval and that fall joined the Calgary Speed Skating Club.
Since then Gabriel has gone from strength to strength. He has represented Calgary in Age Class Long Track Championships, the Can West Short Track Championships and this season qualified for the Canadian Junior Championships, as well as all the national competitions.
“Speed skating has captured his soul and given him such determination and drive to be at the next Olympics,” says Shelley. Sadly for Shelley, Rene is no longer around to see Gabriel go faster and faster around the oval, improving his personal bests with each competition.
Rene had life-saving heart surgery in 2001 and this prompted Shelley to quit her job of 20 years working with children with autism and pick up a camera. “Rene gave me the gift of a new life as a photographer”, says Shelley. “When he underwent quadruple bypass surgery I realized life is short and that it can end in the blink of an eye.” By the time cancer took Rene in April 2006, Shelley was already gaining recognition. She had a print accepted into the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) provincial competition in 2004 a merit at the PPOC nationals competition in 2005. She also received two accreditations in Studio Portraiture and Children's Portraiture.
Like Gabriel, Shelley has gone from strength to strength. Provincial awards for best in class for child portrait followed in both 2006 and 2007 and best in class in figure study in 2007. She has been a finalist multiple times for the Provincial Portrait Photographer of the Year award and received the ultimate recognition of her peers when the PPOC named her National Portrait Photographer of the Year in 2012.
Now, Shelley, who only does 40 to 50 sessions a year, has received the recognition of her province and been named 2014's Professional Photographer of the Year for Alberta. She, like Gabriel, can look back to remember the man who gave them both the inspiration to go forward to success.
Shelley is currently booking sessions for outdoor family portraits. If your children are home for the holidays or heading off to university in the Fall call today to reserve your complimentary design session.