DOWNTOWN — A local photographer was at North Avenue Beach when she happened upon a shot of a lifetime: A man proposing to his girlfriend, the glowing Chicago skyline in the background.
The problem? She had no way of getting the photo to the couple — she had no idea who they were.
The photographer, Becca Heuer, of North Center, took the shot in mid-September. She’d been at North Avenue Beach to take engagement photos for her clients when another couple approached, asking her clients to snap a shot of them on their phone.
Heuer hung back as her clients took the photo, but when the man got down on one knee, she snapped a shot of her own.
But it was late in the day and the photo was dark, so Heuer figured the photo wouldn’t work and didn’t catch the couple’s names or contact information. It wasn’t until later, when she was editing photos, that she realized she could save the photo and make it light enough to be a picture-perfect shot.
Of course, then she had another problem: She had no way to get the photo to them.
Heuer tried to track them down, even following posts that used the hashtag #NorthAvenueBeach on Instagram in hopes the couple would post a shot of their engagement to social media. Nothing popped up.
Figuring it was a long shot, Heuer posted the photo to Facebook on Sunday and asked her friends for help in getting the picture to the mystery couple.
“Does anyone know these two?” she wrote. “… I would love for them to have it! Help me find them!”
The photo spread quickly throughout the city and then some. Heuer’s post alone has now been shared more than 1,200 times.
“I wasn’t expecting to get the amount of attention for it,” Heuer said.
Just days later, on Tuesday, the younger sister of the woman in the photo was in Florida when a friend sent her a screenshot of Heuer’s post and asked if the woman in it was her sister. Indeed, it was.
Kristy Sessions, of Minnesota, and Augustin Joseph, of Pilsen, had actually gotten engaged the day before the photo was snapped. The couple, who had been dating for three years, wanted to recreate their proposal at North Avenue Beach, where they had one of their first dates.
Joseph got down on one knee and they asked strangers for an iPhone photo. They didn’t know a professional photographer was in the background taking the perfect shot.
“It’s a little crazy,” Sessions said. “It’s just amazing that it got shared that many times and that it actually made its way back to us, and not even through a Chicago connection but through my sister who lives in Florida.”
The photo has special meaning to Sessions and her fiancé, Joseph: that early date at North Avenue Beach was when Joseph realized he was going to one day marry Sessions.
“Obviously he didn’t tell me that for quite a while after the fact,” Sessions said, laughing. “It’s kind of become a spot that we love.”
Heuer was as surprised to find the couple as Sessions had been to see the photo. She cried “happy, happy tears” when Sessions’ sister commented on her post to inform Heuer she knew the people in the picture.
Plus, the cellphone photos they got that night “turned out pretty terrible,” Sessions said.
“It was incredibly surprising. I thought it would be a long shot,” Heuer said. “I didn’t know if they were from Chicago. We didn’t exchange anything. I thought, ‘Well, maybe they’re from Chicago, but maybe not.’ I did not expect that I would find them, actually.”
And though Heuer’s a professional photographer, she let Sessions and Joseph have the photo for free. Sessions said it’ll “make the scrapbook, I’m sure,” and she’ll likely get prints.
The photographer and Sessions messaged back and forth, both of them amazed to have found one another.
“We’re both pretty happy that it worked out,” Sessions said. “It turned into something amazing. That people are so willing to cheer on a happy story and willing to share to do something small like getting a picture to somebody, which made our day — I really appreciate it.”
Sessions said she and Joseph are in the “throes” of medical school, so their wedding probably won’t take place until 2020.
But they might have at least one thing that’s easy to figure out between classes: Heuer said “of course” she’d do their wedding photos, if they’re interested.
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