When Aileen Avikova’s daughter was four, she became mute.
Avikova learned that her child, who struggled with a speech delay, had been labeled as a “problem child” at her preschool, something that was not only devastating to hear as a parent, but as someone who works with children at all ages at her luxury photography studio, Enchanted Fairies.
“I don’t believe in such things as ‘problem children’,” Avikova said. “No child is a problem. Every child is a blessing. And seeing how that affected my daughter and how she just retreated into herself and went completely silent after that was heartbreaking.”
At Enchanted Fairies, each portrait session experience is specifically designed to make children feel special, unique, and celebrated. Avikova and her team design storybooks where children are written in as the hero of their own stories, and create vision boards so children feel inspired to be their best selves.
“I didn’t know what else to do, so I took my daughter to the studio,” Avikova said. “We had a wonderful photo session, and every night we read from her storybook and we talked about her vision board. Within three months, she was talking again. And I truly do think it was about the transformational power of giving her the opportunity and the language to be proud of herself.”
Preserving Childhood Through Photography
At its core, Enchanted Fairies is a fine art portrait studio designed with the simple goal of childhood preservation in mind. Avikova said this mission was not only inspired by her daughter’s journey, but by the steady decline in children’s ability to just be kids.
“I think kids today have so many pressures today that we didn’t have growing up,” she said. “We got to get on bikes and stay out until nighttime, and we got to have a childhood. I think as soon as kids get these phones, they lose a lot of their childhood. These eleven-year-olds are getting on Instagram and all they’re seeing are these models who are airbrushed and photoshopped to death, and they think that’s how they have to look.”
At Enchanted Fairies, children aren’t airbrushed or edited, and they’re encouraged to be themselves and to enjoy the act of play – another thing Avikova feels children are lacking.
“Girls don’t want to have glitter and be kids,” she said. “They want to be sexy. It’s heartbreaking for me. Our mission for our studio is to preserve the innocence of childhood for as long as we can.”
Along with preserving that childhood comes an emphasis on instilling confidence in children – the kind of confidence that won’t wane through adolescence and beyond. Avikova said a key part of that is involving parents and family members in the portrait sessions.
“We wanted parents to see the impact something like a portrait session has on their child’s self-esteem,” she said. “You don’t have to do something big and grand to bond with your child. Giving them this gift and these memories is definitely more than enough. And I’m honored that we get to give it to them.”
A Mission of Purpose
Giving of herself to Enchanted Fairies is something Avikova has done from day one. In 2012, she stumbled into the photography business after her brother – who had partnered with a friend of his on a similar venture – called her in tears.
“His partner had taken cash payments for portrait sessions, never delivered the photos, and pocketed the money – about $80,000 of it,” she said. “My brother called me absolutely devastated, trying to figure out how he could make it right for the families calling him asking about their photographs.”
Avikova and her then-boyfriend (now husband) both decided to quit their jobs to help Avikova’s brother recoup his losses and deliver the promised portraits.
“It wasn’t easy. We became homeless. Sometimes we didn’t eat. Most days, I would take the one laptop we had to the pawn shop and pawn it hoping that we’d get enough sales that day so we could get it back and retouch photos on it at night,” she said. “At one point, my brother lost his apartment and I lost my apartment because we could only afford rent on the studio. We slept on the floor of the studio, but we didn’t stop.”
And now, Avikova said, seeing the difference their portraits make in the lives of children like her daughter, makes it all worth it.
“From the beginning, the persistence was there,” she said. “And now we’re here. It feels like a distant memory until I tell the story, and then it feels like yesterday. I feel so lucky that we have a business that allows us to donate to charity and create these photographs to inspire kids to be confident in themselves and their own magic. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
About Enchanted Fairies
Enchanted Fairies is a luxury fine art portrait studio that provides a magical, immersive experience for children of all ages. They have donated over $1 million dollars to children’s charities nationwide. To learn more about the Enchanted Fairies experience, visit https://enchanted-fairies.com/