Creating Treasures; A Collaboration between Portrait Artist Marla Michele and Kay Bratt, Author and Advocate

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways, How You Can Help A Child

So for a week now I’ve been buzzing about a new project. Some of you may not know this but I’ve recently jumped on board with AOW, An Orphans Wish. I’m very excited to work with such a reputable and amazing organization to continue my work supporting and advocating for China’s children.

That leads me to my GREAT news.

Portrait Artist Marla Michele Must of ~Enchanted Photography~ by Marla Michele and Kay Bratt, child advocate and best selling author of “Silent Tears; A Journey Of Hope In A Chinese Orphanage” are joining forces to create a treasure for adoptive families.

Illuminating real-life stories, our book will be an unforgettable photographic expression of the life changing and inspiring journey adoption has for families all over the world. Adoption is not always a fairy tale story. This compelling project will give you a snapshot of tears, trauma, laughter and joys of the unforgettable gift of building a family.

Open casting calls for the project are in the works. If you are an adoptee from China, Russia, Korea, or elsewhere and would like to be a part of this project, or if you are the parent of an adoptee from China or another country and would like to enter your child in the project and share a small part of her story with the world, please contact Marla at for details.  A portion of all future net proceeds will benefit AOW (An Orphans Wish).

All participating models will have a photo included in the book, and some models will also have aspects of their stories highlighted. Written pieces will be submitted to and edited by Kay Bratt, and will include memories of Forever Family Day and/or other special moments that should be captured in print for others to share. The sharing of the stories, however, is optional and up to the discretion of the family.

One of my online friends sent me a message and said, “I love the idea, but who is this Marla Michele?”  That’s a great point. If I’m going to ask you all to participate in such a project, I should give you a bird’s eye view of the woman leading it, right?

What I know is this. Portrait Artist Marla Michele Must of Enchanted Photography, is the proud mom of three remarkable children ages 12, 10, and 5 and lives in Metro Detroit. She is fluent in Hebrew and Mandarin (and her children speak Mandarin as well!). Her youngest cutie pie was adopted from China. I have to share a photo of her, get ready….

Marla has been a vegetarian since she was 11 years old. (33 years!). She loves photography because along with feeding her passion to find the beauty in everything, it allows her to bring awareness to adoption, parenting emotionally intelligent children, PTSD, and anti-bullying.

 And without further adieu, let me introduce you to Marla Michele in her own words:

 ~Planting Seeds~
Portrait Artist Marla Michele Must’s Story

When I was 13 years old I was given a camera by a family member who was someone I looked up to. She took an interest in showing me how to use the camera and how to properly compose a photograph (without shooting a tree growing out of the top of someone’s head, or a stop sign in the back-round of a portrait). Her encouraging words were very powerful to me at my young impressionable age when I was shy and not very sure of myself.

As I spent time getting to know my new camera, I realized that I had an innate habit of “composing” the world around me with my eyes long before ever picking up the camera. My new camera became my tool to capture all that I composed, all that I found to be truthful, meaningful, unique, precious, sacred, beautiful, enchanting, unusual and momentous in the world- and to capture it on film forever. It was magic!

I still feel that way today, much more so now that I’ve become a mom and have my precious three children to photograph. After years of hearing the question “do you do this professionally?” it occurred to me that the amount of time I was spending shooting, editing on the computer, and obsessing about photography might actually be translated into the practical world and perhaps something I get paid to do… so…. I hung up a shingle and things began to fall into place. The amazing part- all it took was for me to acknowledge and believe in myself enough to follow my passion wholeheartedly. I entered and won a photography contest and started to construct a website. I called a professional photographer in my area to learn more about the field, and now he is one of my mentors. I considered building out a studio space in my home and suddenly an opportunity for the Royal Oak studio came about. All of this leads me to the conclusion that following my intuition led me to my authentic path- and that path is lined with a higher purpose.

Life has a way of offering up opportunities to pay it forward… for example; in photographing children I’ve recently noticed a repetitive theme arising, especially with young girls. During our portrait sessions my young subjects will often confide in me and reveal something they are self-conscious about, or something they’ve been told is unflattering in their appearance. It’s at that moment that I recognize I have been given an opening to “plant a seed” of empowerment- either with a few words of encouragement or a sincere compliment. I strive to replace the negative thought with a positive empowering one instead. The words I offer are very powerful to the recipient, likely because they are perceived as coming from an “expert”, a stranger looking through the lens, someone aside from a friend or family member, someone with no perceivable motive. I can usually see a reaction following our exchange, sometimes its apparent in the softening of their body language, or an expression of relief, the renewed sparkle in their eyes.

The most exciting part of photography for me- it’s given me the ability to apply my passion towards a greater life purpose. I’m happy to be able to use my craft to support and endorse local businesses in Metro Detroit through a combination of my photography, social media, writing, and collaborating. The businesses and projects I am attracted to endorsing are those modeled on authenticity, integrity, driven by passion, and those that encourage giving back to the community. Causes I hold dear to my heart include bringing awareness to parenting emotionally intelligent children, anti-bullying, and parenting empathetic mindful children. I hope to bring awareness to therapeutic adoptive parenting, having just recently adopted my youngest daughter. I’m grateful for the medium of photography and the messages it allows me to send out into the world.

Hope to see you on the other side of the lens!

Adoption Blog:

”You may choose to spend your time and efforts raising your glass, raising your hopes, or raising your IQ.
You can raise the bar, raise your expectations, raise the roof, and raise hell if you decide to.
You can work hard to raise the bottom line of your bank account, or to raise a family in the most exclusive neighborhood with the most prestigious schools in order to raise other people’s perspective of you.
As for me, I choose to spend my time working on raising three remarkable children to be empathetic, emotionally intelligent, to live in the moment, and to be mindful. I am choosing to use my talent to raise awareness.”
~Marla Michele Must

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Comments (10)

  • Marla


    Dear Kay,
    Thank you for the introduction, I am really looking forward to working with you on this project and I am honored to be a part of bringing awareness to adoption, as well as raising funds for An Orphan’s Wish.


  • Debz Howatt-Gallant


    So fun! So glad I found you Kay, you inspire me! I’ll be following your new Journey!


  • Dave Woodhouse


    Hi Kay,

    This is a great project and Denise and I have already contacted Marla. We fully support An Orphans Wish and we would be honored to contribute to it through this collaboration.

    Your biggest Canadian fan


  • Tom Carter


    My blessings to you both on this wonderful idea.


  • Christie Daniels


    Kay, I would love for Anna Grace to be included in your book. What do you need from me?


  • Kay


    Thanks so much, everyone!

    Christie, just email Marla and she’ll start working out the details with you. I will get involved at a later phase with receiving/editing stories. Thanks!


  • cyndi


    I would love for Lily (who we adopted at 10 and has arthrogryposis) and Emma (who we adopted at 18mo. and is now 8 and needed rectal surgery) to be part of your book. I have amazing stories and Lily can fill your ear with story’s of orphanage life in China. I sent you and e-mail with a picture but wanted to make sure I was on here too! I also have a brother who is autistic and adopted from Korea, he is 32.


  • Dot Kienholz


    I just finished reading your book Silent Tears. I thought it was wonderful and I’m excited to see what you’re going to do next. I was adopted by wonderful parents 64 years ago. It’s something you never forget and I have always been grateful to them. Bless you for everything you have done for these beautiful children.

    Warm regards,



  • Kay Bratt


    Hi Cyndi. I don’t think I got your email? But thank you for wanting to put the girls in the book–it will be great. I’d also like to see if Lily has some stories that could help me in my current WIP.

    Dot, thanks so much for your support for Silent Tears. Adopted 64 years ago?! What a story–and you are the kind of person I crave to sit and have a conversation over tea with, and just listen. Blessings to you.


  • Joann Donahue


    Hi Marla!
    I have an 18-yr old who came here from an orphanage in Guatemala after enduring 10 months of severe abuse & neglect. Can you use an older teen? She has been here almost 17 years & it has been a struggle almost every day.


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