portraits

Sixteen

Graham-100.jpg

Here we are...sweet sixteen.

I'm not sure it feels as sweet from this end.  No longer my snuggly little boy. Not yet a full independent man. But you are well on your way. It's inevitable. The clock just ticks along...and with each passing day, change is eminent.

You tower over me now. At 6'1", you are man-sized. But its your spirit that remains so sweet. It's still got the innocence of you when you were a toddler waking up from a nap – bleary-eyed and drunk with thoughts of dreams that made you full of wonder and curiosity. Sometimes, it makes it hard for me to see you as the man you are becoming.

This past year was hard. It was a year of growth. A year of hurdles. You gave up a little, and then you gave it all you had. You learned such big lessons about life. You know when to ask for help and where to look for it. You know what struggle looks like and how it feels to be hopeless. More importantly, you know how it feels to be empowered. Strong. Capable. And in control. You know how to change the story with mindset, grit and grace.

The year ahead will be something you remember forever. I often reflect on my 16 year-old self and what she did. The mistakes she made and the trails she faced. So this is my advice to you: Make good choices.  You are ready for the year ahead, but the world will test you - pushing back like a the bully it can be. That's how it works. Stand resilient in it's face. Just keep remembering who you are.

You are good.

You are kind.

You are strong.

You are smart.

You are talented beyond your years.

You are gracious.

And yes, you are beautiful. Full of heart. Full of soul. And full of wonder.

 

You are wonder-full.

I love you, sweet Graham. Happy Birthday.

 

Wild love.

boy and his dogs

"Sometime's hope will look a lot like you." Unknown

It's Christmas.

I didn't do a card this year. In the past, we have had some winners. The first one was you as a naked baby sitting on a stool with little, white, drawn-on angel wings attached to you. That's where we started. And truth be told, we are still there. I could draw wings on you in this photo and it would be very fitting. You amaze me still...every day and in every way. Your heart is kind and full and ready to give. Your soul is like gold. To me, you look a lot like hope.

But we are at 15 now. It's been a tough year for you so far. Fifteen is hard. Between hormones and high school, you have been battled, beaten and worn down. But you just keep getting back up, facing it every day in the only ways you know how at 15. By flying with those wings.

I have admittedly been worried about you lately. It's what parents do. I know you feel it, too. The future is looming. There is so much pressure to Be and Do and Achieve. The expectations that life puts on you at this age are unfair. I don't buy into them. And yet, I still fret. I worry because I am unsure of what life holds - not only for you, but for me. I am unsure of how much to push, force, or encourage you to do things like study for an English exam or practice guitar. The doubt and pressure you are feeling are most certainly trickling down from me standing on a little shaky ground of my own.  Some of it matters. And some of it just doesn't. It's a fine line that is a unclear to a lot of people.

I saw a video the other day. It said something I was so sure of and I will never forget. It said "The world is desperate now. It is desperate for unconditional, wild, defiant love. Be that love."

I may be unclear about many things, but if there is one thing I am sure of it's this...we need love. Wild love. Unconditional love. Defiant love. So stay on your path...this path of kindness, empathy, caring. It's in you.  Be brave with your self because your self is beautiful. Spread it around like confetti. It may hurt sometimes, but I know one thing: the world needs more of you.

Merry Christmas, my wild love. You are all I could ever hope for in this world.

Fifteen.

Fifteen.

How did we get here?

You are now well into in high school. A full-blown teenager. A rising sophomore. You are a rugby player and really close to becoming a full blown adult black belt – a true testimony to your grit. You are almost driving now - which scares the heck out of me. You are 6 feet tall (or more) and truly more beautiful than anyone I know - inside and out. You are kind and compassionate. You are braver and far more daring than most people I know. You are more patient than anyone I know - despite what your last name indicates. And you are so gentle and sweet with animals that it truly melts me.

I can't believe what an amazing human being you are. As much as I hate the passage of time and mourn that little baby that grew up way too fast, I am inspired and full of awe at who you are becoming. It's such an incredible thing to witness from this side of life.

I don't worry now about the the things that regular parents think about – the trouble you'll get into and the mistakes you'll make. That's how we learn, grow, evolve and become. What keeps me up at night now is whether this world will break you. I worry that it will convince you to be something you are not, or stifle that which you are. Because what you are is truly one of the most beautiful spectacles I have ever witnessed.

Your gifts are great, Graham. Your heart is huge. On your birthday this year, all I wish for as you blow out the candles is that you keep that with you forever. Don't let this world break you. Don't let them take you over. Own YOU... because what you are is a beautiful soul.

Fifteen is big. Take precious care of this age. But mostly, enjoy every last second.

Love,
Momma

 

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.

 

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!

 

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.

The Real Picture

hands full

No matter what my shoot - be it commercial, personal, editorial - and no matter what my subject, I am always trying to tell the story. I am always trying to covey something with my images - mood, story, or feeling.

One of the hardest things to do is to let that happen with shoots that have expectations. Whether people are trying to pose for traditional Christmas card photos or whether I am working on a commercial shoot for a big client, most people have trouble letting go and letting things evolve during our time together. Sometimes the mood isn't quite right. Or what they thought looked good in their head looks awful in camera. So I sometimes have to convince my clients to just let things be as they are. I have to show them how to trust me. So we wait sometimes....longer than normal. And we let things happen as they need to.

As a photographer, this is one of the hardest parts of my job. It requires my clients not having attachments to the outcome. Mostly, it requires a large level of trust in me and what I am doing. 

Admittedly, this is even hard for me at times. It not only requires them trusting me, but it requires me trusting myself. When a client has paid a large sum of money to do something...believe me, my goal is to deliver a product that they love every.single.time. But there has to be a letting go in the process. Both from them and from me.

In this shoot, we were trying to get a specific shot...newborn twins with momma. But the 2 year old toddler had something else in mind. He wanted to be in on it – on the bed, bouncing from all the sugary snacks we were feeding him in bribery to behave. He was done...finished with me and this day by this time...buzzing with sugar and ready for attention. This tells so much more of the real story. A young mom, hands full with identical twins and a toddler, life moving at a blurred pace.

And honestly, this is the story. This is what she will remember for the rest of her life. Not just a pretty picture, but a real one.

And just like that.....

File May 12, 11 33 56 AM.jpg

Summer is here. Just like that.

For us, it isn't marked on a calendar or a clock. It isn't measured by the moon or the sun or the tilt of the earth. It arrives the day we drop our schedules and routines for something looser and a little more free. It arrives on a Tuesday at 5:37PM, when we are tired of homework and supper routines and classes and deadlines. It happens when we throw caution to the wind and finally sigh under our breath, "Summer is here. It's finally here."

Welcome back, Summer. I can't wait to float around gently and purposeless in your wake.

The Intersection of Joy and Work.

dandy boutique
venita

I had a great time shooting this series for Dandy Boutique here in Charleston recently. The photos are so happy, bright and joyful. And that Venita sure can have a good time on a shoot. She is like a pre-packaged party for 1!

This shoot was so fun and light that it got me thinking a lot about the intersection of joy and work. This is not something people are lucky to have. Some people have very serious jobs (hello and thank you, doctors of the world) that require some often sensitive and precarious interactions. So how do you create joy wherever you are in life, despite what is happening all around you?

I think that answer is as varied as the jobs in the world. For, me it boils down to a few essential things. I know gratitude helps me a lot. And knowing I am only a small part of a bigger plan in this universe also can get me through the harder and more serious times like when I am focused on the drudgery of taxes and bills and broken computers. But I believe it's different for all of us. Sometimes a good cup of coffee might actually change your whole day.

I don't think joy is a permanent thing - every day has good points and not-so-good points. But knowing that I am doing something I love every day certainly helps me enjoy the better part of my life and focus on the parts that aren't so bad after all.

So I believe the joy is there. Sometimes it hides behind the little things. But I do believe it's always there, just waiting to come out and play.

The Tastemakers

 Amalia Scatena | Executive Chef at  Cannon Green

Amalia Scatena | Executive Chef at Cannon Green

  Chef BJ Dennis  | Personal Chef and Culinary Artist

Chef BJ Dennis | Personal Chef and Culinary Artist

Carrie Morey | Owner of Callie’s Biscuits

 Dantera Richardson | Owner of  Swank Desserts

Dantera Richardson | Owner of Swank Desserts

 Vinson Petrillo|  Head Chef at  Zero George Cafe + Bar

Vinson Petrillo|  Head Chef at Zero George Cafe + Bar

 Vonda Freeman |  The Beverage Director of  Indigo Road Group

Vonda Freeman |  The Beverage Director of Indigo Road Group

As you may know, some of my very favorite things in the world (in no particular order) are as follows: Food, Photography, People, Portraits, Fashion. So few weeks ago when I got a call from my girl Andrea of Charleston Shop Curator to see if I wanted to photograph some ofCharleston's best tastemakers, I leaped at the chance to do this project (Truth be told, I sort of forced her to call me with my voodoo magic, but don't tell her that). Her roster of individuals included some of Charleston's leaders in the food & wine industry right now - coming from all corners of the business.

These people work tirelessly to give us the best dining and drinking experience that Charleston is known for.  And on the cusp of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, the timing was perfect to highlight these amazing people in a way they don't normally get to be shown to the public.

Since these people are usually seen and photographed in their apron, chef jacket, crocs, Andrea and her partner, Venita, had the great idea enhancing their already amazing styles with a fashion shoot.  And lucky for us, Cannon Green graciously let us shoot with their beautiful restaurant as the backdrop to our great shoot.

Did I mention I love what I do?

If you aren't familiar with these names, I highly recommend you get familiar with them. Each of these F+B pros bring something uniquely amazing to the experience of food in the Charleston Area.

A Collection of My Favorites, 2015 - Commercial Work Edition

 Bad Bitches, Body Image Campaign

Bad Bitches, Body Image Campaign

 Ashley Hall School, spring magazine shoot

Ashley Hall School, spring magazine shoot

 Beth, Founder of Bendy Brewski

Beth, Founder of Bendy Brewski

 City Paper, Hurling article

City Paper, Hurling article

 Workbench,  City Paper  Article

Workbench, City Paper Article

 Charleston Shop Curator, blog shoot

Charleston Shop Curator, blog shoot

 Charleston Shop Curator ,     Scout Guide

Charleston Shop Curator, Scout Guide

 Bad Bitches, Body Image Campaign

Bad Bitches, Body Image Campaign

 The Farmer & The Chef, promotional portrait

The Farmer & The Chef, promotional portrait

 Benji, portrait for  Charleston   City Paper

Benji, portrait for Charleston City Paper

Above is by far some of my favorite work from 2015. There were a few times over the course of this year I literally wanted to pinch myself when I realized more than once I was doing exactly what it was I set out to do originally.

Next year I can only hope to further this endeavor I set out on years ago, camera in hand, hopes as high as the mountains. I can hardly wait to see what 2016 brings!

Special thanks to all those who believe in me, support me, and encourage me every step of the way. I love this job of mine.

The Bad Bitches

I recently got a phone call from an amazing group of women here in town called the Bad Bitches. This all-female organization is tied together by their love of all things food. Not only are they hosting exciting and highly sought-after pop-up events around the city, but 100% of their ticket sales go to women in need of assistance to establish themselves in the culinary field. So it's food + feel good! Two of my very favorite things!

As they started on their mission this past year to host events around the city and through all their interviews and discussions, conversations began to pop up that never seemed to get asked of their male counterparts. Questions like "How do you keep your figure?" "Do you eat everything you make?" or "Do you ever feel guilty about eating so much?" began creeping into the conversation. So they decided to answer these questions with an EPIC social media campaign on Instagram: Bad Bitches Talk Body.

When I got the email asking if I'd be interested in supporting them on this storytelling mission, I almost jumped into my car to hug founder of Bad Bitched founder, Sarah Adams, immediately. It was like everything I had ever wanted, worked for, loved and desired came into focus all of a sudden. All the things I love and people I admire were coming together to talk about something near and dear to my heart - body image.

We photographed and interviewed 17 women in one day. Seventeen. All of them came and brought something to the table that was uniquely them and unique to their story about body image. Some of them had struggles. Some of them kicked worry to the curb. But the one thing they share - they are all beautiful in all the ways they should be. Every one of them.

Each story is as uniquely inspiring as each of these women, stripped bare and speaking of the issues they face as women in the food industry. They are all interesting. They are all worth reading. Mostly though, they are all worth getting to know.

"People who love to eat are always the best people!" -Julia Child
 

My Remedy

graham

I remember all of the things that I thought I wanted to be
So desperate to find a way out of my world and finally breath
Right before my eyes I saw my heart, it came to life
This ain't easy it's not meant to be
Every story has it's scars

When the pain cuts you deep
When the night keeps you from sleeping
Just look and you will see
That I will be your remedy
When the world seems so cruel
And your heart makes you feel like a fool
I promise you will see
That I will be, I will be your remedy

No river is too wide or too deep for me to swim to you
Come whatever I'll be the shelter that won't let the rain come through
Your love, it is my truth
And I will always love you...
Love you

When the pain cuts you deep
When the night keeps you from sleeping
Just look and you will see
That I will be your remedy
When the world seems so cruel
And your heart makes you feel like a fool
I promise you will see
That I will be, I will be your remedy

When the pain cuts you deep
When the night keeps you from sleeping
Just look and you will see
I will be, I will be
When the world seems so cruel
And your heart makes you feel like a fool
I promise you will see
That I will be, I will be, I will be...
Your Remedy

- Adele

Give Thanks. Show Gratitude.

giving thanks

This is the season of gratitude. It's a celebration of all the things we have in our lives to be grateful for - big and small, bad and good, easy and difficult. 

As much as I try to show and celebrate thankfulness and gratitude every day, I count Thanksgiving week as the reset on this essential part of living a whole and fulfilling life. It's a good time to sit back and reflect on all the things that have happened, regardless of their nature - both bad and good, happy and sad. It's like an emotional hip-check on thankfulness and a gentle reminder that things we have to be grateful for come in all different shapes and sizes.

This sweet pause this week is something I don't take for granted as we swiftly slide into the season of abundance and love. I think Thanksgiving fits nicely with the the coming Holidays, becoming a reminder to not give without love or receive without gratitude.

So today I give thanks, for all the things in my life - the lessons, the life and the love. I am thankful for family and friends, the work I get to do, and the life I get to live. It's all part of what makes me who I am and all part of what has put me on the path to what I want to do with this one sweet life.

And to all of you who support, love and motivate me in all parts of my life...Thank you. I am forever grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

The Farmer and the Chef

farmer and chef

The Farmer and the Chef - aka Jim & David - are 2 of my favorite people on this earth. Not only are they some of the best humans, but they deal with 2 of my most favorite things on this earth: farming and food. They are at both amazing at what they do - no detail is ever overlooked. The care and artistry of their individual crafts always yields some incredible magic.

I can't wait to see the next part of this duo unfold - right before my very eyes! In the meantime, I will just keep yielding the fruits of their labor. Literally.