Fort McMurray Fire: Baby's Portrait Captures City's Greatness, Photographer Says

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fort mcmurray fireWildfires forced more than 80,000 people from their homes in the Fort McMurray area earlier this month. (Photo: Richard Vassberg)

Susan Harty and her fiance Scott Langenhoff had to do what everyone else had to do: escape the inferno in Fort McMurray, Alta.

But the couple had a little more urgency on May 3 than most evacuees fleeing the wildfires. Harty was about to give birth, and she started feeling contractions while heading north, according to CTV News.

“I thought for sure Scott was going to have to deliver the baby,” Harty told the broadcaster. “I was so panicked.”

Luckily, Langenhoff didn't need to. Harty was airlifted to Edmonton, and on May 4 baby Deegan was welcomed to the world.

Close-up time

Charyssa Shippit saw Harty's story, and like many of the images and videos trickling out of Fort McMurray, it touched her.

"The week of the wildfires was absolutely heart-wrenching," she told The Huffington Post Alberta in an email. "It was tough to hold back the many tears that began with all of the horrific videos being posted on Facebook, evacuees trying to get out as fast as they could, having to leave behind some of their most cherished belongings, memories and pets."

Shippit, an Edmonton-based photographer, had donated to the Red Cross but wanted to do more. That opportunity came when her sister tagged her in a Facebook post for someone looking for newborn photos. Deegan was ready for his closeup.

Shippit and Harty connected "right away" and started planning the photo shoot. On May 11, Deegan's portrait was ready.

deegan baby photo
Deegan was born in Edmonton after his family fled Fort McMurray, Alta. (Photo: Charyssa Shippit Photography/Facebook)

Shippit said she "wanted to portray the greatness that came out of such a terrible tragedy." The different items in the photograph correspond to what she says most Canadians will remember from the fire: Albertans coming together, the city's strength and "the beauty that came out of the beast."

The mother of two, whose husband previously worked in Fort McMurray, said Harty insisted on paying her, but she refused.

"These are the citizens of Fort McMurray. So many people have come together and gone above and beyond to help out," she said.

A collection of images from Shippit's photo shoot with Susan Harty, Scott Langenhoff and their son Deegan. (Photo: Charyssa Shippit)

Harty shared her son's portrait in a post to a Facebook group dedicated to Fort McMurray, where she thanked the people who brought her and Deegan to safety.

"Amongst all the chaos and panic of that day, came a glimmer of hope!" she wrote.

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