Niles Art Association member recovers from sickness through her artPublished 11:14am Wednesday, February 3, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
Sonje Gejji loves to travel and document her trips through photography. But what began as a hobby now is a source of health and happiness for the South Bend resident.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Niles Art Association, Gejji shared her story of how a cross-country trip to California not only sharpened her photography skills but also helped her recover from a serious illness.
In January 2008, Gejji was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease.
“I lost so much weight, so much strength and became depressed from sitting at home feeling bad all the time,” Gejji said.
All that time at home led her to looking at some old photographs she had taken, and she realized something.
“Some of these aren’t bad,” she said.
So she began taking them to the South Bend Farmers Market and other venues.
“People responded positively,” Gejji said. “It was making me healthier being out in public.”
Last summer she made a decision that would help her regain even more of her strength. She decided to road trip across the country to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to sell her photography at the 10-day art exhibit associated with the event.
“I woke up in the middle of the night right before the deadline and thought why not?” Gejji said.
She invested $4,000 into the venture in supplies, transportation and the $1,500 booth fee.
“I printed a whole bunch of prints and got a whole bunch of mats and filled my four-door sedan to the brim,” Gejji said. “and drove to Anaheim, Calif. – by way of Kansas City and Arkansas and Denver and a bunch of national parks on the way.”
She showed a variety of her nature photos from the trip at the art association meeting, including shots of the Indiana dunes, the Rockies and the Bryce Canyon.
“And way more of Kansas that I though I’d ever see in my life,” she said with a laugh.
She made the 5,771-mile drive in the heat of June without air conditioning in her 1997 Chevy Lumina.
But in the end – even though she only sold a little over $2,000 of her work – Gejji said it was worth it.
“Even if all the art endeavors cost $30,000, it would have been worth it for the strength I’ve gained she said,” she said. “It’s given back to me in health and happiness.”
Gejji also had two of her photographs published in a book called “Bead on Bead” from a contact that she made at the convention.
For more information about Gejji’s artwork, visit her Web site at http://sonje.imagekind.com.