Ten.

mom

Ten Years.

A decade has passed since you left us...a decade since our little party ended too early for my liking.

Ten years is a long time to love something you can't see or feel or touch or hear or talk to. It's a long time to love something that is no longer tangible. I can look at these pictures and try to remember what is was like to walk down that sunny street with you on that crisp fall day, or what it was like to eat chocolate together, or play Yatzee before bedtime, or just melt into the the comfort of your soothing, strong voice on the phone.

But it's not the same, is it? Memories always feel like they become more translucent as time goes on until suddenly and without warning, you can't see them anymore.

In ten years, I have become a pro at living around the hole you left behind. I did my fair share of falling into it's clutches in the early days. But now I know how to co-exist with it – dodging it's jagged edges and walking around it's stony cliffs. Sometimes I stand on the edge of it, just looking in... just remembering. But I know now how to climb out and dust myself off. I know where it is. And I know how to live with it.

Death changes the landscape of your life. Grief and sorrow become the pit you live around. You lose your way. You lose your sight. You lose your sense. It's disorienting and all-consuming – like being in a storm at sea without a mast to your sails or oars to a boat. And through it all, you still have to pretend like you have some semblance of control.

After ten years now, I have figured out that this landscape that I got used to in my early days will keep changing. Life will continue to shift things, so we can't get too attached to the view. Babies will be born. Children will graduate and become adults. Family members will pass on. Relationships will fail. Trust will be lost and found again. Friendships will be made. Love will be had. It's all part of the landscape of life: it's ever-changing. 

So I will just strap on those hiking boots and keep learning how to make it through the dry, harsh deserts and deep, musty caves. I will swim and sail through dark, stormy seas and slink through the wild, sticky heat. In the end, I hope see it all and witness the brilliant spectacle that is life.

In the meantime Mom, just keep being that shiny star, helping me navigate this ever changing terrain. I still need you.

With love,
Libby

 

Getting Balance

My awesome spring break view.

My awesome spring break view.

I had a shitty "spring break."

Let me explain...

Like many of you, I have a school-aged son that was on spring break last week. We don't have a lot of spare cash these days, so a trip was not happening. Instead, I thought of the bright idea of camping for a few days in the mountains (something I have actually only done once in my life...smart thinking.). We set our plans and started the wheels of our camping trip in motion.

Of course, life being what it is, the universe had some other plans for me. Or maybe I wasn't fully committed in the first place. But my plans changed course somewhere the week before. Some great, unexpected work came up. My teenager had some specific ideas about his social plans. And then I slipped into saying yes to far too many things I didn't want to do. So our camping trip got cancelled, I worked a lot, and then became an unpaid Uber driver for my son in my spare time.

As the week progressed, I started to get increasingly more frustrated. I was mad at life...mad at myself. I felt trapped and owned by some imaginary rules I had set up for a life that I was supposed to live. And it only got worse as I scrolled through social media to see friends enjoying Caribbean vacations, European adventures, and good old US road trips. What's worse was that I knew in the truest part of myself that I was the one responsible for the way this week was panning out.

When I started to reconcile what was happening and got real with myself, I realized a few things.
1. I was in desperate need of a break.  I work weekends a lot. And when the typical work week rolls around, I am usually still working. While I do set my own schedule and have lots of freedom to make appointments and go grocery shopping at odd times, I tend to still feel like I need to be getting work done during the Monday-Friday, 9-5 hours as well. To top it off, I was going on weeks of constant work without a break. I needed a change. 
2. I was telling myself a story that wasn't real. Not everyone I knew was on a spring break vacation. In fact, I knew more people that had to work than those that did not. Spring break trips are a luxury, not a right. And I needed to hip check myself on that.
3. I was feeling sorry for myself. And that wasn't allowing me to live on a higher "vibe" - if you will. I was sulking and wallowing in self pity instead of changing my reality. Once you change that, everything changes. Literally...everything.
4. I wasn't seeing the amazing opportunity around me. I live in a place with abundant beauty. I am 15 minutes from the beach on a good day (5 minutes from one of the most gorgeous parks in the world). I have gift certificates to 5 local restaurants. I have a sister with a pool in her very own backyard. Enough said.
5. I wasn't saying "NO" enough. Not to my son. Not to his dad. Not to friends or neighbors. I was doing things I didn't want to be doing. I was creating my own misery and my own sense of disappointment.

Once I started seeing all these things, I began changing my story. I planned an Easter Brunch to see family I hadn't seen in months. I went to the beach. I watched the sunset. I played with the dogs. I went for a walk with a friend and talked about some amazing topics like meditation, family, and life changes that we are both on the precipice of making. Once I took the wheel back, I lived in the presence of joy and gratitude instead of wallowing around in my own self pity.

The best part of this shift is that it only takes a moment to change your mindset. For me, it finally happened when I got real with myself and realized I wasn't listening to my inner voice saying - SAY NO...YOU NEED A BREAK! I was trying to please too many people - clients, family, friends, neighbors. I wasn't voicing what I wanted to do. But once I finally followed through for myself (albeit with begrudging sighs and protesting from my teenager), everything shifted. In that simple moment of saying "This is what I want," I stopped being a victim of my circumstances and started taking care of myself. I started enjoying where I was in the moment.

Squad. Goals.

Squad. Goals.

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

 

Sometimes saying what you want isn't about being selfish or narcissistic...it's just about taking care of yourself. Simple, kind gestures that say "Hey wait...I'm important too!" Make yourself answer the call to do more for you. You know when the teeter totter of balance of your life looks like a chunky kid from gym class is sitting on one end with sandwich and a Snickers bar laughing at you for being trapped way up there. Take control back. He's not in charge.

Just get some balance.

Muddling through

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

We all want to look like pros at whatever task we are handling - work, make up, dinner, motherhood. But in reality, most of us are faking it along the way - sort of like we do those first few weeks with our brand new baby. It's excited, exhausting, and exhilarating, but in reality, we are just winging it all hoping for the best outcome. Even though it all looks happy and easy on the outside, we are still on shaky feet behind closed doors.

Truly, I think it mostly works when we "fake it 'til we make it"... that is until something big comes along and gently reminds us that, in truth, it's all overwhelming. 

Just remember...the moment you feel like you are out of your league, stop, look around, and remember that you've already gotten this far in life and done just fine. All you have to do now is keep going. And truly, while it may not always look like this on the outside, nobody else really knows what they are doing either. Take comfort in knowing you have muddled your way through more than one time in your life and I am certain you can do it again.

 

Born to Feel

Holly McGetrick, of Dandy Boutique, totally keeping her cool backstage at Charleston Fashion Week 2017.

Holly McGetrick, of Dandy Boutique, totally keeping her cool backstage at Charleston Fashion Week 2017.

"Chill out." "Keep your cool." "Stay calm." "Easy does it."

These are all things we hear when under pressure, on fire, jazzed up, or completely stretched.

But why? Staying even in a sea of waves is virtually impossible unless you are a sociopath. When the waves of depression, frustration or fear crash over your head, it's perfectly acceptable to lose it once in a while. The key is not directing that energy to the nearest innocent bystander. But I think sometimes losing your cool is okay.

When you are in panic mode, stop yourself and ask yourself this simple question: will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 days? 5 years? If the answer is a resounding "NO!", then take a deep breath and try go about your business keeping your focus on the big picture. If the answer is "YES!", by all means proceed to lose it. Because I stifling it ain't gonna do you any good, sister.

We were meant to have emotions. We were created as sentient beings. It's normal to feel anxiety, panic, anger, hurt and frustration. As a matter of fact, it's tied to our basic survival insincts. The only difference is now, the threats aren't saving your life against a saber-toothed tiger. We have adapted since surviving wildebeests and other creatures. But the instincts are still there. Our perceived threats are very different now than they were 1 billion years ago.

So next time someone tells you to calm down, smile to yourself and do your thing. Because baby...you were born to feel.

 

Lessons in less

From brunch at The Darling Oyster Bar where upon I couldn't finish all the food we were given. A nice problem to have.

From brunch at The Darling Oyster Bar where upon I couldn't finish all the food we were given. A nice problem to have.

I often get caught up in the "I don't have enoughs" when in reality, everything I really need is right in front of me. I am clothed, have clean water, have a lovely roof over my head, power to my home, relatively good health and even extra food in the refrigerator and pantry...just in case. And often times, I can't eat all the food that is given to me because, you know what...it's just TOO MUCH.

I try to stop myself there, but in this privileged society, it's hard for me to say I don't need a haircut, some new clothes and perhaps that awesome new iPhone 7 Plus with it's sweet portrait setting that makes a cell phone camera look a little dreamy. (I mean, it IS my job after all).

Sometimes, I even make myself believe I don't have enough to do the things I need to do. I need a better camera, better lenses and a new computer for my job. I need a new pot to properly cook that coq au vin perfectly. And I could definitely use that special, fancy sea salt we ran out of to make that dish taste extra perfect.

If we balance out the "nice to haves" (new haircut, new shoes, new camera) more realistically with the "need to haves" (power, water, warm clothing), we suddenly start to see the shift happen. We start to feel the gratitude for what we have instead of what we don't have. Instead of seeing this lack as punishment, maybe see this as a gift.

I found this paragraph from a photographer I follow (stalk?) today and it really brought this concept I've been mulling over for weeks into fine-tuned focus.

"There are so many challenges to living our dreams: not enough money, not enough time, not enough knowledge, etc…. But the truth is, those are all one kind of problem…a lack of RESOURCES. And if you’re putting off living your own dream because of a lack of resources, then I’ve got news for you. NOBODY has all the resources they need. In fact, the very nature of big dreams is striving for something that’s not yet within our reach…it’s ALL ABOUT A LACK OF RESOURCES. So what can we do with what we’ve got to get there? It’s simple: you need to be more RESOURCEFUL. There’s a big difference."  - Chase Jarvis

Well...ain't that a kick in the pants? Instead of stopping us in our tracks, maybe we could use our perceived lack as a way to be more creative. That lens I want only makes me work harder for the photo I need. That pot and finishing salt I don't have makes me work a little more creatively in the kitchen to come up with another way to cook. So in the "lack" is actually a life lesson. Creativity is equal to Resourcefulness and is extremely necessary when you are working towards ANY goal. 

And for that lesson today, I am grateful.

 

 

 

A Fresh Future

Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

This past weekend, I got to attend 6 (or more...it's all a haze now) events for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. One of my dream events was shooting at Fresh Future Farm – an urban farm created as a response to addressing food, health, economic, and environmental disparities. Fresh Future Farm is in the middle of what's known as a food desert in North Charleston - an area where grocery stores have pulled out of the area because these are unprofitable neighborhoods. And as you may well know, grocery stores equate to big business.

So there I was, shooting a farm to table dinner in the middle of a food desert on the cutest little farm I ever did see, with some of the top chefs in the country cooking over open flame and plating up one of the most spectacular meals I witnessed in all the events I attended... maybe even in my whole life. All of it was Inspired food from the region – some of it grown right here in Charleston.

As I stepped away from the event goers and party planners into the field of collards and cabbages, I took a moment to appreciate where I was and what this meant.... For me. For the community. It was all a little overwhelming to be honest. Not only am I doing PRECISELY what I loved (HELLLOOOOOO.... farm, food, & people are my intersectional bliss), but I was getting to witness it being done for a cause that mattered. I saw community coming together and chefs making magic.  Suddenly, my heart felt fuller than the bellies of those lucky little diners.

I am lucky to do what I do every day. It's not easy. It doesn't come with all these romantic notions of love and grandeur and cups that runneth over. Don't be deceived. This work is hard. It's relentless hustling and constant let down. It's time away on the weekends and tired muscles from walking with too much gear. But it's what fills my soul. Especially when it intersects with moments like this.

I am forever grateful for this job, this life, and this continuously unrelenting call that hasn't left me since I first picked up a camera at the age of 12. I love what I do. But today, I feel inspired and incredibly lucky to just be here...basking in the aftermath of it all.

Thanks CHSWFF2017. I can't wait to see what you cook up for next year!

 

This, too, shall pass.

We are taught that to be accepted in this world, we must be perfect. Complete. Put together. We are told that our wholeness is what makes us intrinsically good. To be anything else is to be cast aside like a flower that's finished blooming. There is no room in our technicolored dreamworld for imperfections.

We aren't always taught to pause and appreciate the beauty in the falling apart. There are no books written on existing inside that space. You get no medal for getting out of bed or putting on pants. We are taught to run from brokenness. Fear it. Get as far away from it as you humanly and possibly can because it's painful, hard and terrifying. We aren't shown that despite our fragility during this time, being broken is truly a privilege. And we aren't shown that sometimes, being in that space is hard to get out of. Buck up. Chin up. Onward and upward. It's like the world doesn't want being broken to exist.

My words to you are this: If you are in the broken place, take your time. Feel around a little. Hold the space. Look for the beauty within it (For example - I know if the lights are off, I look much better in the mirror). Surround yourself with people who can do the same thing. It takes patience, courage, love and - above all else - empathy. Sit. Be still. And love yourself. 

Because this, too, shall pass.

Up to the Top.

From our time in Texas last summer.

From our time in Texas last summer.

Some days, I feel like I am on top of the world, climbing towards infinite possibilty. The only thing between me and upward mobility is a little bit of air that I can effortlessly float on.

And then the other days come....the days when I feel like all I do is climb over treacherous obstacles and stumble over rocks and boulders. There are the days that feel like I am on a narrow pass on the edge of a 2000 foot drop with jagged edges underneath. And there are days where my feet feel stick in pluff mud that's thick and heavy and pulling me under the more I try to wiggle my way out. 

Those are the days it's hard to say to yourself "You've got this. You can make it!" Those days you stay frozen, laying on the ground and hoping you can figure a way out without getting sucked in again.

The key, I have found, is to tell yourself these words:

You have seen this cliff before.
You have been stuck in this mud already.
You have climbed these boulders time and time again.
You and you alone have freed yourself from this...You have got this.
Just keep going...inch by inch. You will make it.

And every time, just like that, I move slowly to the top of the mountain once again.

 

Forge Ahead

sky

When we are caught in a sea of uncertainty, the best thing to do is to find a spot on the horizon line to focus on and paddle towards it with all your might. The seas may get rough. The winds and currents may be unforgiving. But you will always end up at your destination if you keep focusing on where you are headed. 

So eyes forward. And forge ahead.

 

Cultivating faith

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.

This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits. 

But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas. 

And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.

 

PORTRAIT SPECIAL

Hey friends...

So it's January and I can't think of a better time to freshen up things for yourself. There really is no better time than now to get some new, fresh portraits done for the new year - whether you are looking for professional shots to update your LinkedIn profile or you are looking to get some fresh shots for your social media accounts. Now is a great time for new photos for yourself!

 

ONE OUTFIT/LOCATION - $150*
Additional locations and outfits for an added fee of $50/change.
 

Let's get you on the books and give you a fresh look for 2017!

 

*Price includesa minimum of 5 final images in color or BW. Images are sized for online use only. Additional sizes can be purchased for a small fee. Price does not include travel outside the greater Charleston Area.

Lessons in the Blooms

These lovely Camellia's are happily blooming all around my yard right now, simply oblivious to the fact that it's the dead of winter in most areas. These plants enjoy coming to life in the cooler months and showing the world their magnificent colors and textures. They use the warmer months to go dormant, saving their energies for now when they really need it. It seems counter intuitive to what we understand plants to be, but this is how they are most comfortable. And we nurture them where they are planted and how they best thrive.

Wouldn't it be great if we gave our fellow humans that functioned like this a little more understanding? Wouldn't it be great if we just accepted that some of don't learn the same way the rest do and flourish under different circumstance? Wouldn't it be awesome if we accepted people as they are and understood that that mostly, everyone is doing the best they can?

If it weren't for the camellias blooming now, the landscape would be bleak with dormant trees and brown turf everywhere. But these happily blooming plants are there adding color to our lives when we least expect it.

Wouldn't it be great if we could see this same lesson in our partner, neighbor, or child? How can you accept their blooms where they have left them for you to see and not just where you expect them to be?

 

A little work with Garden & Gun

Brays Island

About a month ago, I went on my first shoot for Garden & Gun - a publication based out of Charleston. If you aren't familiar with them, you need to check them out. They do a great job at celebrating Southern culture by showcasing all the best parts of what we have cultivated here and telling out dynamic, beautiful cultural Southern story.

I got to be a part of one of their highlight events during Jubilee Weekend and traveled to Bray's Island Plantation for the Women in the Field series. I don't usually share loads of photos, but I was so excited and inspired by this gorgeous place, I wanted to show you more than my usual one and only one style. Enjoy!

 

camelias
mural
jub-114.jpg

Your Path.

I talk a lot about paths and roadways. I think perhaps because often mine hasn't been clearly marked and traveled (and also because I love a good hike or roadtrip). I always was attracted to the unclear path...the one with adventure and uncertainty along the way. I don't know why this appeals to me except that it seems like I just never felt that I wanted to march to the safe beat of a predictable drum. I wanted a path of the explorer and the adventurer. I wanted to be anything but ordinary.

But aren't we all that way? We are all looking to forge our own unique, individual path? Even if we take the predictable route, there is still individuality on the path - because it's ours. Nobody has the same experiences - even on that well worn path. There are always twists and turns, branches in our way. or fallen trees that trip us up. It's still our path. Even if it looks as recognizable as the next guy's...school, job, marriage, kids, soccer games, holidays, etc.

The important part is that you are forging ahead. The essential part is that you are experiencing it for all it's worth - the good and the bad. The ups and the downs. The hurdles and the turns. Take them in. Drink them up. They are life. This is your life.

This is your path. Define it. Own it. Walk it proudly.

 

My Christmas Gift to me.

Christmas

There have always been so many lessons tucked in between the branches of this season of light and love. So much gets magnified during the holidays. The best and worst comes out in all of us - showing us exactly who we are and precisely what we need to spend more time learning.

This year, I had many lessons shown to me. Some more clearly than others. I begged the universe to take it easy on me, but to no avail, it decided this was precisely the time I needed to hear the messages it was sending me...apparently, when you are vulnerable, tired and spent is when the universe teaches us it's strongest and most important things.

This year, I am tucking these messages away. Just like an advent calendar for my every day. Lessons I learned of letting go, receiving, gratitude and humility. Lessons of giving, forgiveness and love. Lessons of faith and trust.

Lessons, tied up with ribbons and bows and wrapped up better than any gift any lovely soul could ever give me.

Floating with faith

“Faith is not a club to belong to, but a current to surrender to.” 
Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir

Faith is elusive. It's slippery and sneaky. It changes on a dime and curves in ways you would never expect. It looks calm and peaceful as a still river on top, but underneath is a roller coaster of twists, turns, dips and loop-dee-loops that you could never calculate looking at it all from your perched perspective. And just when you think you have caught up with Her... there she goes, slipping gently away again, just out of reach.

But maybe...just maybe...we are fighting too much against this current of faith. Maybe we are so used to fighting for a breath of air or struggling for our very own survival that this becomes our focus. We put our energy into staying above for air rather than floating with it - even if that means having to go under for a while. To surrender feels a lot like giving up or giving in to some of us.  We want a guaranteed outcome...a perpetual happy ending. 

I don't think faith is about the ending, though. It's not about surviving. It's not about gasping for air. It's about surrendering to a place you are destined to be. It's about flowing with the current rather than swimming against it's power. It's really just about trust.

So take a deep breath and jump in. Surrender some of that power you fight for.

Just give in...float... surrender.

Your Landmark

sheldon church

A few weeks ago now, I was on a shoot out of town and decided I was going to make a stop on my way home at these old church ruins that are a historic landmark here in South Carolina. It's something I have always wanted to see for many reason. The Old Sheldon Church ruins still stand today after getting torched/gutted twice over the course of history. What remains is a historic landmark - a time marker for us to only imagine what things were like then.

I mentioned to a friend that I was going to stop here and his prompt response was "good luck...that's the most over photographed place in the area. And I have never really seen a photo that does it justice." No pressure. Just a reminder that there would be no way I could do the place justice photographically. It's not my job or anything....

As I approached the grounds with minor photographic trepidation , I sized up this spot to see if I could, in fact, do it any justice. History buffs reading placards, families photographing their holiday cards, couples on engagement shoots, and art school girls working on a project were all scattered around the historic grounds trying to get in their shot, making it difficult for all of us to get in anything decent without existing in their photograph forever. I shuffled behind columns and into corners to avoid being a photobomber in someone's Christmas card this year. I certainly didn't want to be commemorated in an engagement shoot of someone I didn't know.

When I finally stopped worrying about how I was going to actually get the shot, I stepped into the space and really started letting myself think about the place. I immersed myself in the experience (which, by the way, is what any good photographer tries to do). I wondered what it was like in the 1700s sitting in a service there in the middle of August, sweat dripping from the minister's chin as he preached about hellfire and damnation. I thought about families draped in their holiday best coming to remember their Lord and Savior for Christmas service on a chilly winter day. I thought about the pews and the people and how they must have even gotten there. What was the Lowcountry like back then? Especially so far out of the way of everything? How did they dress? Was it hot inside? Did the windows open? Was there somewhere for a fire on chilly days?

When I found myself immersing myself in this story is when I realized something: it really didn't matter what my picture looked like. I was here, thinking...wondering...filling in gaps. I wasn't taking this photo for anyone but me. I wasn't going to sell it or get it published or have it lauded in any way. What it was, for me, as most photographs really are, was a record of a moment I was spending there. It was a memory...and just like this landmark served as a historic spot for people to commemorate something, so would this photo.

Photos are just that. They are visual landmarks of time. Go through the Facebook albums of any close friend and that's what they are. Are they always great? Probably not to you. But maybe to the person who took them. They are special memories created for you, by you to remember life. That's all a photograph is in it's raw essence.

Each one of us were there to capture our own memories - or those of someone who wanted the moment captured for them (the reason you hire a photographer is you need something done that you can't do on your own.). Each one of us were clicking away on our phones and mirrorless cameras and DSLRs for our own purposes – just like every photo we take. They are ultimately for the person who takes them.

So stop worrying if your photo is okay. It's okay. It's just what it was meant to be: Your memory. Your milestone. Your landmark.