Michael Maes

Epiphany - How to make an ordinary life an extraordinary experience

A story about conquering fear, being among sharks and reinventing life at every turn, while navigating an autistic family through life as a mother and a photographer.

Epiphany is a story about love, autism, determination and making daunting choices. Ellen Cuylaerts, mother and award winning internationally renowned wildlife photographer, is afraid of water but sets out to conquer that fear over and over again to help the environment.

Early in her marriage, Ellen — master in history and education, former Cisco engineer, and e-commerce founder — is trapped between the peculiar situation her children and husband are and the mainstream expectations of social peers. Fighting an exhausting battle, mainly against ignorance and prejudice, she finds relief in a piece of paper: the diagnosis of autism in her husband and two children. Armed with evidence and facts, she can start educating her surroundings. Although making remarkable progress with her loved ones, she realizes along the way that the core issue would never disappear: society will not accept nor understand ‘being different’. Thus Ellen and her husband Michael decide to move away from their busy social life and settle down at the other end of the world, close to nature: Grand Cayman.

Living near the ocean, Ellen starts diving and pursues her old passion, photography, though this time underwater. Early on she understands the power of images and social media to bring environmental awareness to the public. As such emerges her mission to show the public the in-depth beauty of sharks and her battle to refute the allegation that sharks are a danger to humans.

In search for the “key” to communicate with people affected by autism, she discovers similarities with animals in the wild. Could that key help her to navigate her loved ones through society? Will it allow her to connect to those large predators she welcomes in front of her lens?