Real: Stories by Shelley Malcolm ~ A Nonfiction Photography Book Review

Real: Stories by Shelley Malcolm


Real: Stories by Shelley Malcolm
Photography by Terilee Dawn Ouimette

About the book:

Focusing on her subjects’ hands instead of their faces allows Malcolm’s subjects to share more freely about their lives, tragedies, hopes, dreams, loves, and toils. Ouimette displays an uncanny ability to capture each character’s essence on film by depicting one of more sets of hands at work, at play, giving or receiving help. The result shows the genius of the project, the use of anonymity displaying a greater level of intimacy and vulnerability than might have been possible by any other means.

Malcolm states that her inspiration for the book came from a dream with similar images, revealing the beauty in imperfections in a person’s hands. “The hand image is made beautiful by the life behind it,” she explains. “More anonymous than a face or even eyes which show identity and emotion, our hands portray our work, our affection, scars…even our mistakes.”

According to photographer Ouimette, “People can feel even more connected to photographs of hands than faces. There is a little bit of mystery to each one – allowing the reader to visually connect with the inspiring story.”

Confronting the importance of status and beauty in our society, “Real” honestly unveils the life stories of remarkable individuals through moving images and stories that range from tragic to hopeful to triumphant.

My thoughts:

I love listening to people’s life stories. Some people want to hide part of their story and only tell the good parts. I guess what I mean is that I love a real life story. Tell me the whole story the good, the bad, and the ugly. I find that when we do this it opens our eyes to what God can do. I am part of a book club and there is nothing sweeter than being able to share our hearts with each other. I am not sure what book it was that started the “lets share our life story discussion” but by the end we all had tears in our eyes and one person said I wish I had a better story or that this part did not happen. It was then that I realized what an amazing God I serve that He would take these broken lives and redeem them.

After reading Real I thought, is this not the best book. In this book you get a story about someone’s complete life. These are not people you would know but you get to see their story reflected in their hands. Some stories do not end well and some do, but through it all you can see people seeking a purpose something bigger than themselves. As a believer I cannot help but see them searching for Christ.

While reading these stories I could just picture Jesus there with them through the struggles and the good times. I feel like the book Real shows us the stories from God’s point of view. When He sees our hands He does not think, oh what a nice manicure or oh my deformed hands. When He sees these hands He sees the real story, the whole story and always a story worth redeeming.
About the author:

Shelley Malcolm

While “Real” is her first published book, Malcolm is no stranger to creative projects, as co-owner and restorer of an historic chapel, La Perla del Mar in Shell Beach, CA, and a set designer for theater and film. Shelley Malcolm was named Pismo Beach’s Citizen of the Year in 2011 for her extensive contributions and involvement in the community. Proceeds from the book benefit the author’s favorite charities. Shelley Malcolm graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in dental hygiene. Shelley Malcolm resides in Shell Beach, California with her husband, Doug. Shelley has four adult children. Her interests include painting, drawing, sculpting, building, playing piano and other musical instruments, outdoor activities including hiking, ocean kayaking, running, water and snow-skiing, international travel, sewing, reading, writing and others. For more information, please visit or

About the photographer:
Terilee Dawn Ouimette

Terilee Dawn Ouimette specializes in photographing weddings, families and newborns through her business, Terilee Dawn Photography. Ouimette’s love of photography began with a gift of her first camera at the age of eight. Her collaboration on the book “Real” with author Shelley Malcolm represents the first published book for both women. Terilee Dawn resides in Shell Beach, California with her husband and the couple’s newborn son, Grayson. Ouimette’s hobbies include art, photography, crafting, reading, and travel. For more information about her work please visit


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