When Your Aunt is a Photographer…

You will get a photo shoot for your first birthday present. And a blog post to go with it.

I am so lucky to be an aunt to my four delightfully spunky nieces, and taking photos of them is one of my favorite things. I love photography, and I cannot think of a single moment that I have not enjoyed being behind a camera. And I enjoy it that much more when I get to photograph people that I love. For Lydia’s first birthday, her mama brought her up to Athens for some strawberry picking and her birthday photo shoot.

Photography makes a pretty cool gift, whether you’re related to a photographer or not. It’s meaningful. It doesn’t take up space. And it lasts a lifetime. (Eh hm, if you back-up or print your photos and don’t leave them sitting on a hard drive.) The gift of capturing this moment in time- I know I would love to receive that wrapped up in a box.

Today was a perfect spring day. And look at this perfect face…

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Regrets | A Maternity Photo Shoot

When I was pregnant with my fourth and last baby, the idea of never being pregnant again was nothing short of exhilarating. But the thought of never having another tiny baby suffocated my heart, like a panic attack on my happiness. And somewhere in between the puking, migraines, Pubic Symphesis Disorder, and chronic yeast infections, I felt a nostalgic ache for the strangely beautiful process of bringing a little human into the world. I wanted to grasp onto that very last time- the happiness in the hardness and the sadness of letting go.

I had never had maternity photos taken in any of my pregnancies. An iPhone photo here and there, and a snap or two during family photos with the kids, but I mostly avoided those too. I was too busy, or too big, or too uncomfortable, or too insecure or too full of excuses. But the idea of my last baby that I wasn’t quite ready for, made me push through the “too’s” and the “buts” and the “I don’t know’s”. Watching my body change like the tide had led me to a reluctant acceptance. And in that process of acceptance, I recognized that when I looked back on photos, time had brushed away the self-criticism and self-hatred that held me back from stepping boldly in front of a camera, and left me an appreciation for what was real and imperfect. For the feelings that remain in the ruins when time blurs the details of the past. A gratitude for this messy life.

This last time, I wanted maternity photos. And not just a photo of me with a large, protruding belly draped in the tent-like fabric that we somehow call maternity apparel. No, I wanted real, gritty full-belly maternity photos. That left no imagination as to what my pregnant body looked like.  Photos of acceptance. I did not exactly feel comfortable with the idea, but that did not stop me from wanting them.

Until, I told someone close to me about my idea.

And they said, “Why would you want to do that?”

All of my acceptance shattered. All the voices in my head started laughing. I felt hurt, and defeated, and small.

Now, looking back, I realize that what I regret is not what someone else said to me. It was the moment after. When I jumped into the rabbit-hole of self-doubt faster than the white rabbit on his way to Wonderland. But there was no wonderland at the bottom, just disappointment in myself, and regret.

That simple questioning undid me.

I never scheduled maternity photos.

That was over two years ago now, and I’m grappling with my own regrets. Regrets about photos, but also regrets of living in a way that let others push me to let go of my own dreams and desires and plans. Letting others dictate who I am. For letting myself become driftwood in the tide, instead of living myself. But each day that I take steps to live for me, I feel my regrets fade a little, and appreciation is moving back into my healing identity.

I feel so incredibly sad whenever a pregnant mama feels badly about her body, or doesn’t want to take photos, or “feels like a whale”, because I know those feelings. I don’t want to feel that way about myself, and I don’t want others to feel that way either. (Although waddling when you walk does not help with animal analogies.) I tell clients often, “What is the worst that can happen? You hate the photos and you leave them sitting on your hard drive for years and no one has to see them.” Because I know that one day, most people will want those photos that they aren’t taking because of how they feel right now. Feelings change. We change. Life changes. Us.

My regrets have pushed me to ask questions. How can I work as a photographer to empower women to feel comfortable enough to capture the realness in their bodies and lives? How can I both empathize with and encourage women to embrace where they are, and know that it’s enough, and that it’s worth capturing?

And out of those questions came my idea to change my entire maternity photography experience. And I feel so excited to be offering a totally different creative process- one that I hope will take all of the dread out of maternity photos. Something so relaxed and fun that you would never doubt wanting to do it! Maternity photos are no longer an obligatory, awkward, optional chore- it’s a night to yourself to relax and be pampered with a local make-up artist at a luxery hotel downtown. And together we will be real. We will love and be, ourselves.  And we will make art.

Pregnant and want more details? Thinking about getting pregnant and want more details? Email me! 

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Mo + Jo | Wedding | Marietta

A winter wedding in Marietta, Georgia is usually lacking in the wintry aspects. Georgia can have a few cold winter weeks, and sporadic ice, but it’s equally interspersed with short-sleeves and sunshine. As Moriah and Josiah’s January day drew closer, the forecast became increasingly ominous, in spite of temperatures hovering near 70 the entire week before the event. Very few words can incite the terror, panic, thrill and excitement like “snow” in Atlanta. While the rest of the country chuckles, most Atlantans take it rather seriously since thousands of motorists were stranded on the interstates in January of 2014. The fear of running out of french toast and freezing to death without flashlight batteries or water sends Georgians to the grocery in droves. When most of the state was at the grocery store, I drove to Atlanta in the rain during Friday rush-hour traffic with the best second-shooter ever, a minivan full of camera gear, waterproof boots, and hoards of snacks. No milk and bread for me- beef jerkey, goat cheese, crackers, and chocolate are what I consider survival foods. We were uncertain, but we were prepared and excited.

Friday night before Mo + Jo’s big day, hunkered down at a hotel two miles from the church, I consistently flipped from the TV weather forecast, to the window, and through multiple weather apps and blogs like a rolodex.

Snow began to fall. Ice began to form. And there was nothing to do but wait, hope, wonder, and wait some more.

Saturday morning at 6 AM, we awoke to a minimal amount of snow, plenty of ice, and temperatures around 10 degrees. The sun was shining and the wedding would go on with a few schedule changes. After donning copious layers of socks and leggings, walking to Waffle House, photo schedule shuffling, car scraping, and slow driving, we loved photographing every chilly moment of Moriah and Josiah’s beautifully magical winter day in Marietta.

The Whitlock Inn was stately and a beautiful backdrop for photos. I was thrilled that Moriah & Josiah decided to do a First Look on the lovely staircase of the Inn; you can feel the difference in the photographs.

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Wedding Details:

Ceremony: Community Bible Church
Reception: The Whitlock Inn
Wedding Coordinator: Betty Ann Horne
Florist: Deborah Parker
DJ: Rivet Events – Joshua Whitehead
Catering & Cake: Carriage House Catering
Bride’s and Bridesmaids Dresses: David’s Bridal
Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Warehouse

I cannot say enough about The Whitlock Inn- their dedication to providing a safe, beautiful location during icy conditions was impressive. They truly went above and beyond during less than ideal weather.

Thank you Moriah & Josiah for sharing your beautiful wintry day with us. It was an adventurous weekend, and I was thrilled to be a part of the fun.

Under the Gingko Tree | Fall Mini Sessions

Athens is such an easy place to love. It doesn’t take work or effort. And like all relationships it might not quite be perfect, but even its flaws are endearing. The local food, the Athens Farmer’s Market, the creative energy of the music scene and vibrant local artist community, the cooperative heart of business owners, knowing someone everywhere you go, my favorite beer…But, it’s the Gingko trees that really seduce me to fall whole-heartedly for this little town. I live for Gingko tree season. I drive all over town multiple times a week to track the changing colors of some of my favorite trees all over town. And while I could say it’s for the mere pleasure of the experience, it’s really so that I can host my favorite sessions of the year: Gingko Tree Mini Sessions -the paragon of fall photo sessions.

Golden hour under a golden tree that symbolizes this special town- nothing could be closer to photo perfection.

But the very best thing about Athens is the people.

(It might have been the gingko trees, if I had never smelled the fruit).

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September Trip to Orange Beach

The 3.5 children and I took our annual trip to Orange Beach at the beginning of September. It wasn’t exactly a vacation, and perhaps traveling as the solo parent while pregnant was a little bit ambitious. All four of us got sick while we were there (ear infections and bad coughs), and I barely slept at all between the three sick little ones waking me up. I missed David’s help at bedtime, and at 5:30 AM when the little ones start to stir. But after having a few weeks to recoup and actually sleep more than 2 hours without disturbance, I am feeling more grateful for our time together. Most importantly, Dmitri, Damon, and Eleanor loved the beach. The sand, the ocean, the pool, going on adventures, seeing family- they loved all of it. And I know they hold tight to those memories. At the end of it all, Damon said, “Mama, you are the best mom ever because you took us to the beach.” For that, I am thankful. It was a lovely, albeit exhausting, way to celebrate the end of summer, and now we are fully embracing fall.

And maybe one day my idea of a beach vacation will happen, and I will be sad and missing these busy little ones!

A note about being a photographer and a parent at the same time: I have a little rule about traveling with my camera – I generally choose one day to bring the camera with me. I get the photos that I want to document our trip. And then I enjoy being present, hands-free and able to experience life with my arms wide-open with my three favorites, and the camera stays in the bag the rest of the time. I’ve done this on several trips, and it has worked really well. For shorter day trips and outings, I set a time limit on how long I will take photos, and then I put the camera away. I never want my family to feel like I am too busy being a photographer to be a parent. And that means, for me and my family, having boundaries. We are all much happier for it.

The photo of me is my first pregnancy photo with baby # 4. You know it’s your fourth baby when you wait until 21 weeks to actually get a photo. Baby bump continues to grow, and I’m feeling pretty pregnant these days. I am excited about meeting this baby! Less than four months to go!

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