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WPJA members are stepping forward to assist the family of fallen colleague Michelle Otto, 29, who died in an automobile accident on the morning of October 8 near Hondo, Texas, USA. She was on the way back from a wedding.

Michelle McKay Otto

Michelle McKay Otto

Born July 8, 1977 in Houston, Texas, USA Otto was a talented wedding photographer who joined the WPJA in early 2006 and earned a Gold Medallion in the Reception category of the Spring, 2006 wedding photography contest.

For the past six years, Otto lived in her cabin on the 9E Ranch in Bastrop County, near Austin. According to friends and family, her two passions in life were serving her community as a paramedic and using her creativity as a photographer. She began serving as a volunteer firefighter and EMT while still a teenager. She subsequently attended UTSA, Temple College and eventually became a senior paramedic in Fayette County.

She is survived by her parents Joan (Yelderman) and Kent Bohls of Bastrop, and McKay Otto of Houston; as well as her sister Kathryn and husband Dakota Ward of Portland, Oregon; Amanda and Tom Jenkins of Houston; Josh and Liz Bohls of Austin; and numerous other family members.

“Michelle's passing was a tremendous shock to me,” said David Roberts, founder of the WPJA. “The tragic news of her fatal accident brought back to focus a stark reminder of the brevity of life and the lack of guarantees. Michelle was an outstanding wedding photographer and a remarkable individual. I mourn her loss; we all do. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Even before joining the WPJA and becoming a medallion winner, Otto was highly respected as a wedding photographer with superb skills, a lively personality and a personal touch. “She captures so much emotion and meaning with every picture that she takes. It is so wonderful to know that 20, 30, 40 years from now I can go through my photo album and recount all the wonderful memories of that one magical night,” noted one client in a typical endorsement on her site.

Since Otto’s untimely passing, numerous WPJA members have offered to help her parents with sorting out her files and commitments, including notifying clients, filling in where needed, editing photos, designing albums, and generally taking care of unfinished business.

“Michelle taught us new ways through her eyes and lens to see the world and strive to make it a better place,“ her father wrote to the WPJA in an email. “I had several email offers [from WPJA members] from Texas, Louisiana and even one from Minnesota -- all offering at no cost to be present in our grief and assist in any way.“

“I’m proud to see our members pulling together and helping Michelle's family come through this tragedy,” Roberts said.

”Michelle was very proud to be part of the WPJA,” noted her parents. “Thank you for an organization that instills that kind of care within its members. We are blessed by your compassion.”

— by Michael Roney for The Wedding Photojournalist Association

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