“Take my hand,
Take my whole life, too
For I can't help
Falling in love with you.”
Congratulations to Maggie and Connor. What a magical couple. What a magical day.
“Take my hand,
Take my whole life, too
For I can't help
Falling in love with you.”
Congratulations to Maggie and Connor. What a magical couple. What a magical day.
Do you remember what it was like to play or be silly? When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt? Do you remember the feeling of reckless abandon…driving with your head out the window or skipping along a path or falling hopelessly in love with someone?
Somewhere along the way, somehow, I feel like we have collectively lost our sense of joy.
Maybe it’s the heaviness of the news right now. Or maybe it’s adulthood pulling at you to responsibly face everything…the laundry, the bills, the carpooling, the work, the shopping, the taxes. Or maybe we have been spending so much time in our heads, we have forgotten how to connect with how we feel in our bodies.
After so many years of being corrected, punished, and told how to act right, the world gives us no time for pleasure (no wonder drug use, prescription medicine and alcoholism are at an all time high.) We grow up being told to stand in line, take your turn, smile petty for the photo. We are told to suffer through it all or suffer the consequences. We are put into tiny boxes, expectations swirling around us like vultures ready to feast on the dying carcass of joy trailing behind us. After all, you can’t pay the bills having fun.
Or can you?
Could you – just for a moment – decide that life (and even work) was meant to be fun? Could you assume that there is joy within it all? Wouldn’t success come more readily while we are finding things we enjoy?
Pleasure, or joy, can come in many ways…going for a nourishing walk through the woods, finding an amazing concert of your favorite band, road tripping to a fun, new town with your favorite friends, or even in your daily work.
When I am photographing a family, or food, or whatever I am doing, I feel joy. But I can get caught up in the seriousness of it all with things like “Am I good enough at my job?” or “When are they going to pay me for this?” can get in the way of WHY I am doing this. It puts joy in a choke hold and suffocates it. If those questions creep in, I always see it in my work.
Finding the fun in the everyday isn’t only a recommendation anymore, it’s a requirement - like breath and water. We need joy, but it seems like we have lost it inside of adulting. When the heaviness creeps in and gets in the way of all that we are doing, it zaps energy and steals the joy we have. When I approach life with the “What am I gonna get out of this” mentality or “what is the (so-called) cost of this,” joy always takes a back seat. It’s an immediate buzz kill. If I worried about the price of the tickets to the concert we went to this week, I would never have been able to lean into the experience. I would never have felt that deep joy.
Much like anything, joy takes practice. It’s a shedding of layers of guilt and years of unraveling what messages we got around being happy - if we deserve it, if we are worthy enough for it’s company. But like everything, you have to keep trying.
But your happiness - your pursuit of of joy - has ripple effects. Your joy affects everyone you come in touch with and everyone around you. And, my friend, that little practice has the power to change the our whole world.
So buy that ticket. Invite those friends over. Pursue that new career. Jump off the diving board into the deep end and swim around in that joy. You’ll be so happy you did.
If there is one thing I have learned about life, it’s that cycles are always prevalent. The tides ebb and flow. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change and progress. We don’t doubt these things. We count on them to dictate the rhythm of our days.
Yet somehow, I forget that these cycles happen in my personal life as well. I forget that work comes and goes, or that relationships wax and wane. I forget the gentle push and pull of everything and wrestle with the notion that rhythm of my life SHOULD be good, abundant, happy, joyful and full all the time.
But what would I know of life without the dry spells? What would life be in only fullness? Would I recognize the tide if it only kept pouring in? Wouldn’t that mean I would be under water. Wouldn’t that mean I would never know solid ground or the sand beneath my toes.
As I watched the tide roll in the other day, I was confident in what would come next. Just as it flooded the lowcountry, soon, as it always does, it would flow out again, leaving behind treasures and findings and room for the little fiddler crabs to breathe again. I never doubt this. I only know with all my heart. I know it will because I have seen it before. Time and time again.
It made me realize that life flows the same way. Life flows. Things come and go. Its a never ending cycle. Practice and trust. Trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness and grace. Grace and practice. It just keeps on going. Always there. Always flowing. Always ebbing.
Right now, I am living my best life.
Wait...I take that back.
I am living my 95% life.
The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.
I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.
I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.
Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.
It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.
Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!
Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.
But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.
I am always casting doors open. I aspire to live in the wide open, so I can hear things like birds chirping, see the shadows fall differently, and smell the impending rainstorm as it moves in from the west.
Yet, we are warned. We are told by the writing on the wall to keep closed. Is it for self preservation? Is it a precautionary move? Or is it necessary? Should we be constantly shutting ourselves off because it's just too painful to stay open?
My former self was wide open. I lived fully and without pretense. I fell madly in love, dove straight into uncharted waters and let the current take me fearlessly where I wanted to be. But after years of a battled and bruised soul, sometimes I think a closed door might be a good thing.
The key is not to lock it down and throw away the key. We don't need to vault ourselves. We just need some well greased hinges and maybe a window to the other side. We need to crack the door just enough for the light to come in.
Because after the light pours in, the rest can easily follow along.
Recently, I spent some time shooting behind the scenes with the Chef Ken from NAPA in Mt. Pleasant. I followed him around like a lost puppy, watching him craft dishes and cook delicious, made from scratch foods right before my very eyes. I lurked near him in the kitchen, dodging busy sous chefs and prep cooks. I listened and asked questions while still trying to be a silent observer.
To be honest, this is sort of what I love - what happens behind the scenes. What does life look like when you peek behind the velvet curtains we veil everything with. Is it authentic? Is it beautiful? Is it messy and gritty? I love all capturing the reality of what is happening - whether it's a chef dishing up his daily orders, a nurse doing infusions on a cancer ward, or a mom with her baby at the park. It's what I come back to as a photographer time and time again - authenticity. It's what challenges me and excites me at the same time. Getting a shot that isn't staged or styled is harder than it looks.
I approach all my shoots the same way I approach life now - with wide eyed curiosity and a deep desire to show life as it is and how I see it.
I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully, quiet = busy… at least for right now.
One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am working on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?
Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!
I shot a wedding this weekend. It was on a boat that puttered slowly and gently around the lowcountry waters, shifting ever so gently back and forth with the sway of the boat and the shifting tide.
The skies were clear when we started our day - even with some hot sun piercing down on us. And then suddenly, the rain came in. It was a steady rain with no signs of letting up at all. Grey skies all around and a constant, gentle drizzle as we coasted the waterways.
Then as suddenly as the rain came, the clouds began to part just in time for us to see this remarkable sunset, color-filled and awe inspiring. I hustled the bride and groom to the back of the boat where I could get a good photo of them. It was all she wanted - a beautiful sunset photos of her and her husband, ready to start their lives together.
As I was snapping away at the photos, I heard one of her friends holler to them over my shoulder. "First the rain, then the sun..." It stopped my in my tracks.
Of course the rain has to come first. Of course you have to weather the storm first to appreciate the sunshine and the sunset. The thunder is there to shake us and move us. The water is there to nourish and refresh us. And then...the sunshine. To help us grow and bloom.
I have been here. Standing on stormy ground. Always hoping to find a way out. Maybe you are there now. Maybe you are stuck in a storm. Just know in your heart that the sun will shine soon. It has to. There is no room for only rain. We need both to survive. So settle in and cover up, because this, too, shall pass.
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.
"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.
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.
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!
Back in December, I had a series of fast and furious jobs that came my way. All of them were fun and delicious, but none as long awaited as my shoot for Charleston Magazine at the newly renovated McCrady's Tavern. The food was deliciously artful and the setting amazing. Check out the photos below.
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.
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!
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.
I recently got to do some shooting for Charleston magazine - a long time dream of mine. Even better than shooting for them was the fact that we were shooting a lifestyle spread around food for XBB at their house. Such a dream! Here are a few shots from the magazine. Scroll down to see the tear sheets from the magazine....
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!
My dad used to call me little chicken growing up (one of the more endearing nicknames he had for all of us.) Every time he said it, this is exactly what I pictured in my head: strong hands protecting his little fluffy, vulnerable babies. Some days, this is all I want...strong hands gently holding me until I am ready to fly away, but always open and waiting for me as a safe place to land once again.
You have to do the work...
Work the land. Plant the seeds. Till the soil. Weed. Water. Mulch. And watch with patience as things develop.
The good stuff takes time and love and reckoning with things you might not be prepared for. But the rewards are great.
Take your time. Do the work. Trust the outcome.
It's been hard to keep up with what I am working on these days. My job takes me from babies to brunches to beautiful women and everything in between. I am months behind on blog posts and image posts and all the things I want to tell everyone about each amazing day I had - every one seemingly better than the one before it. Here is a short view of some of my latest shoots. I love every delicious bit of my work and I am always grateful I get to carry a camera around with me and take photos of the BEST things in the world!