My Best Life

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

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 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 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, 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.




raised beds

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!

magnolia garden-137.jpg

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.


Little chicken

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.



A Few Things

Plate South

Plate South

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!

New Happenings

La Gloria

So....things have little topsy turvy this summer to say the least. That's not to say they are bad...just a little more messy than I am used to.

You see, this summer I decided to embark on a passion project I have been working up in my head for some time now. I decided to take some things I am very passionate about and combine them into one place where my skill set could grow and flourish. Sometimes as creatives, we don't get the projects that showcase our best work, so instead of waiting for the opportunity, I decided to make the opportunity. And so, Plate South was born. 

Plate South is a blog that I have created for my very own selfish purposes. I have always been a huge fan of photographing people and their stories as well as lifestyle around those stories. And I love food - I mean, really...who doesn't? I really love food photography as well. So I created a blog designed to highlight all the talents I have as a photographer, a writer, a designer and a foodie.

Plate South is about the culture of food in the South. It's about eating. It's about dining out. It's about the makers and the purveyors. It's about the markets and the recipes. It's about everything that makes up the growing, evolving, changing food scene we are now experiencing as a culture. 

This is Eddie.  You should read about him on the blog . He was an amazing character to interview!

This is Eddie. You should read about him on the blog. He was an amazing character to interview!

This blog is for me. But it's also for you. If you are passionate about food or southern food or food photography, this is something to follow.

I am still for hire. I REPEAT...I AM STILL FOR HIRE! This is just something I am doing as a side project for myself to showcase to you some of the talents I have as a photographer. So enjoy the blog and read along. You are sure to find some little nugget of what you like along the way.

Let me know what you think and what I can do to make it better! If you have an idea, feel free to call me and let me know! I'd love your feedback!

Much love! And thanks for all the support, friends!


The Intersection of Joy and Work.

dandy boutique

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.

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

This is depression.

benji lee

I recently got to shoot some very special portraits for a music feature in the Charleston City Paper on local comeback musician, Benji Lee. The weird part, however, was the shoot and the article really weren't focused at all on his music, his drumming, or even his comeback to the local music scene. The article focused acutely and specifically on his depression.

In my all-too-short time with Benji, we were on a fast track to get to know each other (shooting editorial will do that to you). I don't think there would have been any other way for either of us, though. We became immediate friends. I picked Benji up north on the peninsula of Charleston and we took as short drive to some old, rusty storage shed for the horse drawn carriages near the waterfront. I needed a spot that was a little imperfect. Not the "South of Broad" facade my typical clients request. I needed something real and honest and gritty. I needed something to reflect what I was about to see spilled open in front of my very eyes.

In so many ways, I feel more connected to this shoot I did with Benji than any other shoot I have done in a while. His pure candor and sheer honesty made me want to show more. His humility and gentle spirit made me want to linger all afternoon - asking questions and picking his brain.  I wanted to photograph his insides. His heart and soul. I wanted to show his truth.

So on that steamy afternoon, I found a shady spot to spend a short time with my new hero. He would most likely shun that label, but I think Benji is a brave soldier - fighting the battle every day with depression...slugging it out with himself and still standing strong in the face of one of the worst diseases of all.

If you care to ready about Benji and his battle, check out the Charleston City Paper this week.

In the mean time, warrior on, brave souls. Warrior on.


Support Staff


Our cat, Fez (or Mrs. Fezziwig if we are being formal) has taken up residence on my desk for her daytime naps now ('s super convenient). I am not gonna lie. I feel a little hijacked by her constant watch and grooming schedule. She keeps one eye and 2 ears on me all day - sleeping while I type, napping while I design, watching while I edit photos or write. If I get up, she is very aware of my movements. She seems intent on being close, which make me wonder what is happening in that tiny body. Is it her advanced age that makes her need to be near me? Is it her way of making peace with me for peeing on my curtains? Or is it her way of making sure no food opportunity gets by her? Regardless, she is staying uncomfortably close these days.

I am fascinated by what brings creatures the comfort they seek. As I type, my Golden Retriever sits a yard away. The cat is sleeping peacefully by my left hand. Our black mix dog, Sasha, sits by my right foot. None of the spots look particularly comfortable. But they are all within immediate view of me. I am their person. I bring them food, water, access to the Great Outdoors, adventure, treats and everything in between. They seem to love being as close as possible at most times of the day.

I supposed I get the same comfort from them, too. I listen to them sigh, pat them on the head as I walk by them, and offer them words of kindness and praise when I can. Maybe, in a way, I am offering this to myself as much as anyone. Could it be that it's me who is getting the comfort from them while they diligently do their jobs keeping watch? Perhaps they know my needs more than I really do.

So I guess it's not so bad after all having a napper at my left and two on my right throughout the long days at my desk. It's probably what I needed all this time to get through these longer days - a little extra encouragement and a little more love to make it through editing, designing, writing and facebooking  with a little extra support by my side.





Some days, my "work" really feels and looks nothing at all like work.

When I am in the middle of a shoot, I really don't think of anything else but what I am doing. I am thinking of light and emotions and what the image is saying and conveying. I think about if the image is right or if something needs to be tweaked. But never am I thinking about bills or dinner or my next job or how late I am. I am always right there, in the moment.

This outtake is from my shoot yesterday. This week, I was taken all over the state shooting for a long time client who I really love working with. And this little school was one of the businesses I got to shoot yesterday. This is "work."

These faces. I mean...come on!

I am the luckiest girl alive to call this job "work."

Behind the scenes

Today was filled with lots and lots of busy work. There was editing and emails (oh so many emails). And then I had a product shot to set up in my house. It is a little known fact, but I really love to do these sort of styled product shots. And honestly, I think I nailed it.

And while I do love the product shot, I really love a behind the scenes shot of how it all went down. While I'd like for you to believe I have some amazing product photography set up in my private studio,  the reality is that I set it up on my dining room floor, next the the pile of laundry that needs to be put away and my makeshift little bar. What you don't see is my trusty intern, marauding array of animals (both welcomed and not so much welcomed), a spilled water glass and some seriously frayed nerves.

Regardless, it's still fun to have a looksee behind the scenes. And always remember how much of our lives we get to curate on a daily basis my friends. It's really a real lot.

In other news, you really need to check out my friends over at Best Kept Self. (That's who this sweet little product shot is for). They are the real deal and do an amazing job with everything they do. I am currently working with their nutritionist, Jessie, to get myself in better shape health wise. And wow! What a difference I can already feel! Seriously. Get on over there and sign up for all things great.



Photo shoot in the most amazing place on the most spectacular day with the most lovely crew of folks. I had my little intern assisting again today on his first ever photoshoot. He did a pretty good job, all things considered. It's a lot of fun to be the photographer...but unfortunately less so to be the assistant. Alas, we all have to start somewhere. When he is rich and famous, he will thank me for setting him on the right path early on.

I am so happy about today's shoot, but need to hold off on posting photos of the real thing since they are waiting on the amazing Charleston Shop Curator to post whenever she is ready.

Our staging spot was the historic and lovely Legare Waring House at Charles Towne Landing. And it was so beautiful. I would love to have an event/wedding/live in that spot. It's so amazingly preserved and cared for. I can only imagine all the gatherings that took place here.

Above is a shot I took while scouting the grounds this mornings ...these blue skies we get in the winter here in Charleston are to die for. TO.DIE.FOR. They make my heart happy...and my body very warm on an otherwise chilly day.

The Intern

So... my son has to do an internship for a week with his school. They have to show up at a real-life job and do real-life job things. Today was my little guy's first day on the job as photographer's assistant. And since we couldn't find other friends/family/suckers to take him, I am the boss.

Here he is...Day 1. Reporting for duty!  "Seriously dude. Wake up already. Its 8:00 AM and I have accomplished about 40 things already."

I kid...this is what my intern really looked like today:

Just a few hours in and he was editing photos in a program he had never used before. He mastered that software like he'd been doing it all his life - LIKE A BOSS. What's even more awesome is that he is a perfectionist (Mom...that's not in focus! *sigh*) and a good worker! I am super proud of him today.

Tomorrow, we have an exciting shoot and some additional fun things on the books for the rest of the week. So I am looking forward to a fun and fruitful week with my main man.

Stay tuned for more adventures this week in interning.