I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
~ Anne of Green Gables
I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
~ Anne of Green Gables
My Staten Island-based childhood memories include faded images of maroon vinyl bar stools, my favorite minestrone soup, wooden bowls full of salty pretzels, and peanuts still in the shell. I don't know when the law changed in New York, but before it did it wasn't uncommon to see kids hanging out at a bar with their parents. These days that seems nearly unimaginable. Unless, of course, your parents own a bar (and then you can be there only when it is closed); Marli and Bart run The Fixin' To in St. Johns, and their smart and funny daughter, Emmylou, isn't yet old enough to realize how cool her parents are, or that she's the only kid in Portland who gets to eat bunny crackers off the bar of the F2.
Our session was the perfect mix of at-home and on-location, with the location being a perfectly authentic-to-them spot, and a new-to-me exciting adventure. I never thought I'd find myself chasing a baby around a bar on a Monday morning, but I quite enjoyed myself, and I love the results.
Just when I thought it couldn't get much better than a session that included meeting good friends at my favorite park in my own neighborhood on a sunny September evening, out roll the bikes, one with an xtra-special xtracycle for their twins, and well right then and there my evening was made. Oh and we went for gelato afterwards, so yeah, this was I'd call a stellar sesh start to finish.
I love this session for it's casual authentic beautiful real everyday lifeness (spell check says that isn't a word but I'm going with it). This is how Sukey and Cork, and their silly cute kids, Jack and Addie, keep themselves busy on those lovely long summer evenings, and I love that this is what they wanted captured and recorded: pictures of their summer memories.
Ruby and Carson, in all their just-turned-five little-big kid glory :: Cathedral Park on a cloudy summer morning :: words of encouragement in chalk graffiti :: hydrangeas that required a little dead-heading :: a mama duck and her twin ducklings :: dancing the sillies out :: kissing Dad :: snuggling Mom :: loving it up on Grandma :: cracking jokes and making silly faces :: best job in the world.
I've been sitting on this session for months because, once again, I'm without the perfect words; I don't expect perfection from my clients, in fact, we know I don't even want it, but I really strive to conjure the right words for a blog post, and sometimes I let that hold me back. So here I go...
Our first session was rescheduled when Ian fell off a roof. I know. Second session rescheduled because Aidan needed emergency surgery. Third session rescheduled when freezing rain came pelting out of the sky as I approached their home. (Hudson answered the door buck naked and ran around the living room like a wild child and it was really hard not to stay, despite the crap weather.) But for this family, fourth time was the charm. I'm not an "everything happens for a reason" person, it's just not who I am, but Anya and I are a great fit for each other, this session came together just at the right time, and in the two hours I spent with these four, the stars aligned and everything fell into place perfectly (there I go using that damn word again!). Ian's only complaint after seeing the result of our work together? He claimed the photos were inauthentic because no one was crying or tantruming! Ha! I'm all about authenticity, but I'll take that critique. We had too much fun for tears, and miraculously we avoided any major injuries or fights (though Hudson totally swore in front of me, which just made me like this whole family a little more).
When I asked Anya before our session what she wanted her boys to see in our photos when they look at them years down the road, she said this: I want them to know that their lives were filled with beautiful reality. That people fight and still love, that things get broken and put back together. I want them to see themselves as whole. I want them to see the richness of it all.
I think I need to start letting my clients write my blog posts for me.
I've been eyeing this pink wall for a while. Yesterday I got Franny on board with this red balloon idea by promising a hot cocoa date at the end. I also let her wear her gold shoes without socks (we battle over socks all winter long). We got all dressed and ready and headed out the door, only to discover it was raining. We drove to the pink wall anyway, with hopes that the rain would let up. We sat and stared at the wall through wet windows, we listened to Journey (how many 5-year-olds love Journey?!), and then we scrapped the idea and headed to our neighborhood play space. I won't lie, I totally pouted, cursed Mother Nature, and asked how it's possible I've lived in this city for so long and still manage to get bummed by the weather. But of course we moved on, had a fun morning with friends, and then when the rain finally did let up, we jumped in the car and headed to the pink wall, only to find the parking lot in which it is contained, was gated and locked for the afternoon. Booo. EXCEPT, we ran into our old favorite mail carrier, who told us just to buzz the building next door and ask them to open the gate. So I did. And you know what? After a somewhat puzzled response (why do you want to be let into our parking lot?) they opened the gate. And for five glorious minutes Franny danced around the parking lot with her happy heart and I snapped away. After which, as promised, we headed to a favorite local cafe for hot cocoa. When the barista saw Franny he said "I have the perfect cup for this situation" and then he made her a hot cocoa in a rainbow and unicorn mug, with a flipping heart in the cocoa foam. Franny and I just stared at it speechless for a moment. I mean, seriously, it doesn't get more Frantastic than that. Let me tell you, I've got some heart bursting love for this little neighborhood of ours, you guys, and that little foam heart just about pushed me overboard into crazy love for this community we have.
Oh but I have more to share. First, speaking of this community, one of my favorite local stores, where I buy pretty much all of my clothes, asked if they could feature me on their blog today. I have to tell you, I felt pretty embarrassed talking about my style. But I had fun with it, and I love the end result. Check it out here. (Much love to my uber talented friends who take nice pictures of me. Smooches to Yan, Shelby and Kati!)
Also on the topic of local love, all you Supportland card holders out there, don't forget it's double points rewards day. I don't think I said that right, just head over to your account and claim some killer rewards while your points are doubled (just for today, because we local business owners LOVE you).
And the last thing I am excited to share with you this morning: there is a serious love fest happening over at Let the Kids and I'm thrilled that one of my favorite photos from 2012 is being featured among other greats with techniques for capturing authentic moments of LOVE.
And that, my dears, is the end of this here Valentine's Day post. I hope your heart is happy, your toes are warm, and your speakers are blasting hair metal.
I've been searching for a happy place since Friday. Actually that isn't quite true; I don't want or need to feel happy, I just want a break from the news, the response, the dark details, and all the heartache. I don't at all expect or desire to feel "happy," in fact I think it is important to allow ourselves to feel shattered right now. But I am feeling overwhelmed by the news and the noise surrounding it. I don't want to read any more accounts of how it went down, I just want a place to rest my eyes on something that gives me hope. I've been clicking around the internet hoping to find something to bring my heart a little peace, and then I realized, I can do that for people. Karissa I am thinking of you calling this your "happy place," and while we've already established that there just isn't any being happy right now, it is important to remember that there is hope. On Friday after the horrific news broke about Sandy Hook, I absorbed it, I sobbed appropriately, I took a hot shower, and then I turned off the news, closed down my Facebook page, and got to work on editing these photos that were due. It helped me to spend time with Jonah and his carefree child spirit. There is beauty to be found in these children of ours (ALL of ours) who are lucky enough to be blissfully unaware. While we are feeling so tremendously helpless, let's try to remember that we can do something. We can practice empathy, kindness, acceptance, and understanding, and we can raise people who will do the same.
sending you all peace and love,
PS - want to DO something? I think Paper Hearts Across America is pretty a lovely idea.
In August 2010 I received an email from Chelsea. We had met in a group for new moms at the hospital where our girls had been born just a few months apart; now they were turning three. We were in our mid-thirties, running our own businesses, living pretty similar lives. Except Chelsea was emailing because she had just been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer; her treatment was set to begin the following week. Chelsea wanted to know if I could come over and photograph her family before the treatment began. I don't know what Chelsea was thinking at the time, but I know that after reading about her type of cancer and it's advanced stage, I felt like I was going to their home to capture images of her with Eva and Thomas so they would have them to hold in their hands when they didn't have her any longer. I remember it being the first time I felt the profound importance of documenting families together. I remember Chelsea looking directly through the camera and past me, to who knows where. I remember the contrast between the enormous sadness I saw in her and Thomas's eyes, and the sheer joy of their daughter, gorgeously unaware of the ugliness life can throw at you.
As we were wrapping up our session, a friend brought them a meal; they ate blueberries on their porch, as we said our goodbyes. When I got in my car I sobbed with overwhelming sadness for Chelsea, the barrel she was staring down, and what that meant as a mother. I felt scared for Thomas, heartbroken for Eva, and I felt guilty for being so damn grateful that it wasn't me. But I knew that this wasn't my battle, or my time to grieve, I had something I could do. I had never before felt so lucky to have this gift to give.
More than two years later, Chelsea is stable, living with no evidence of the disease in her body. I had followed a personal blog she kept, so I knew that she had come out on the other side of intensive medical treatment still standing, and ready to make some changes in her life to support her ongoing healing process. I was thrilled when she contacted me in August about photographing her family again; This time I was going to capture all THREE of them happy, and together, alive and well.
Update: Chelsea and another breast cancer survivor have teamed up and written a book for children who's mothers have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The book looks beautiful and fills a void in children's literature that sadly needs to be filled. But they need our help in getting a draft prepared to send to publishers. Please watch this video and consider a pledge to their Kickstarter campaign: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/461762311/the-storybook-project
Lalita had a dream one night: I was photographing her sweet family as they snuggled with their pet tiger cubs. This dream came to be realized some months later, but sadly it was sans baby tigers. I'm hoping she has psychic powers and there are baby tigers in my future. And not in a dangerous way.
This is one of those blog posts that could hold me back because I want to say 101 things and I want to say them right. But I'm going to blog every day this week, I have to because I have photos FROM SUMMER that still need blogging and if I don't give myself a serious goal I'll sit around thinking about how awesome people are and how I want to shine all my crazy love on them on this here blog, and well you know, then I won't say anything and here I go rambling on again!
Lalita told me that she Bob and Simon like to go for walks along the "secret pathway" and I was all hellz yeah! or, you know, more appropriately, ooo I love that place! So we met there, we did some exploring, a little book reading, played some baseball, checked out some graffiti, did the thing we do when families let me tag along on their adventures and capture their them. I was honored to take these photos. It was a big deal. And though I'm not going to get into why, and I'll note that it should be a big deal for every family, it was a little extra big for Lalita, which made it unicorns-flying*-over-rainbows-big for me. (*a flying unicorn is called an alicorn, in case you wanted to know.)
I'll have to stop there so I don't get wrapped up in the bigness and erase and start over, again. Also I need to just blog the heck out of some photos this week and not every post can be bogged down with LOVE and AWESOME and APPRECIATION and... oh who am I kidding, of course it can, what would you do if you came here and I wasn't gushing about all these wonderful people I get to hang with every week?! But seriously, that's the end of this post. See you tomorrow. Thanks for sticking by me despite my slightly ridiculous ways.
Last week I received a text from my friend and neighbor, Ruth, that her sweet 15-year-old dog, Zula Mae, was preparing to complete her "circle of light." For weeks, or maybe even months, they have known that Zula Mae's time was coming, and yet, she so frequently seemed like a pup. She still smiled when presented with bacon, perked up when Iris came home, gave running at the park her best shot. But bone cancer has increasingly made this old girl's days more painful, and so we met up at the park down the street from our house at sunset to capture Zula Mae with her ladies in their final days together. I feel so honored to have been able to give this gift to Ruth and Iris.
When I walked up to the park last Wednesday evening to meet them, what I found was Iris and Ruth dancing around Zula Mae, who was wearing Iris's sweater.
My girl, lightening the mood by goofing with the insta-camera. A highlight for 2011 and Franny's young life up to that point, was getting to be a part of Zula Mae's "rescue," when after missing for two weeks, she was found. Franny joined Ruth at the humane society, where Zula Mae was met with many hugs, tears, and doggy cookies. Franny still talks about how good it felt to be a part of that day. My little dog-loving girl holds a special place in her heart for Zula Mae.
This morning I received a text from Ruth telling me Zula Mae had left this earth last evening; I didn't plan to follow up yesterday's life announcement with a post about death, but it seems this is how the circle of light goes. Ruth said last week that saying goodbye to Zula Mae felt impossible, and I'm feeling a bit that way about writing this post. I think the words are best left to Ruth herself, I suggest you break out some tissue (if you haven't already):
Zula came into my life via being flung over my fence and abandoned by her vagabond caretakers, a mere month after her mama, Bear, gave birth to her and 11 brothers and sisters in the parking lot of the Oregon Country Fair. Her leg was broken and I, being in a life situation that was incompatible with responsible dog ownership, reluctantly decided to nurse this little pup back to health and find her a suitable home. Obviously the rest is history. I fell in love with the little blue-eyed pup and never found her that suitable home; Instead she happily tagged along from hovel to hove, eventually to more suitable accommodations. Zula, as it turned out, was a canine prodigy, mastering every basic dog command almost instantly, including potty training. Her best trick hands down was carefully howling "I LUV YOUUUUUU" causing many a jaw to drop over the years. Indeed, her brain was no match for her heart, as Zula Mae gave love easily, her loyalty unshakable, her spirit contagious... As for the best friend I have ever known, no thank you or tail wag or bucket of tears is big enough to convey my level of appreciation for the gift of sharing your life - Zula Mae, I LUV YOUUUUUU!
Every time I have tried to blog these photos over the last few weeks I began to feel overwhelmed, and promptly moved on to something else on my to-do list. I don't know how to explain it, other than I want to say all the right things, which blocks me from saying anything at all. It has something to do with the fact that I fuh-reak-ing love these guys. It also doesn't help that Ryan is really good with putting these things into words and I'm feeling the pressure to do the same for his family, even though I know he doesn't expect that. That's part of their awesomeness as a whole, they would never expect a love-gushing blog post, but I feel they are owed one. But instead of writing something eloquent and meaningful I'm here blathering on about nothing! Moving on!
Aili Wren is a 20-year-old in a 6-year-old's body. She is the smart, confident, precocious as all get out, and funny. And she refers to me as "Posy Quarterman" when she sees me in public, which I can't help but love. Seriously, when you hear a little girl shout "MOM! Posy Quarterman is here!" well, you just go a little squishy inside (well, if your name is Posy Quarterman you do.)
William is Mr. Amazing. His giant blues eyes are always sparkling, and there's usually a giant smile or tongue sticking out, to go with. His spirit is enormous and it shines almost as much as the princess dresses he prefers to wear. I have to resist the urge to scoop him up and eat him just about every time I see him.
And then there's their parents. Only spectacularly awesome people could create children such as these. And they are spectacularly awesome. Ryan and Lorelei are some of those rare people who just are good people. Although it appears effortless on their part, I know that it takes a lot of work, drive, focus, and effort, but I'm also confident that is is just who they are. I can't imagine they could be any other way. And somehow, whenever I need some kind of confidence boost, or kick in the ass, even when I don't realize that's what I need, a message will appear in my inbox from Ryan feeding me exactly what I needed to hear. A quote. A poem. Gratitude. Encouragement. It's pretty freaking cool to have such freaking cool people in my corner. All that stuff I said yesterday about feeling lucky getting to document peoples histories, well I feel especially so doing it for these guys.
And that's all I've got.
Some days, even in July, the sun hides behind big dark clouds all day long. Some days I have photo sessions planned, with sun dresses and big grasses, families with picnics packed, braids in hair, ready to let their love shine through that gorgeous golden light that happens at the end of a long summer day. And some days, the sun breaks through those dark clouds and bursts out just in time for our session. (Some days those clouds burst into downpour forcing me to reschedule my session, but I prefer not to think about those days!) This was one of those perfect last minute surprises. Let's just be superstitious for a second and say it had everything to do with the fact that I was photographing a kid named Lux. I mean, seriously, how could I not have perfect light for a girl who's name means light. And perfect light it was. And the location, oh the location: a trail along the Willamette, where they love to take their dog for evening strolls, picking sweet pea flowers along the way, and ending at an old train bridge covered in colorful graffiti art. Yep, I was pretty much counting my lucky stars every single second of this session.
You might remember Juno from back in May, when she made her shy entrance into Portland. She wasn't too crazy about me or my camera that day. Though I wasn't at all surprised by that, I'll be honest, I was a tad nervous about our session a few weeks ago. Turns out, Juno loves the camera. And though I'll never tell a kid to "say cheese," in Korea they say "say kimchi!" and the result, or at least on this little fireball, is a ridiculously cute expression, one among the many silly faces this kiddo makes. Juno had only been home with her family for a a little over five weeks when we got together, but you wouldn't know it by the way she was with them, and them with her, particularly big brother Max, who is kind, and patient, and so loving with her. So yeah, nothing to worry about, nothing at all. Yay for happy families!
I talked last week about my photographer friend, Kati, and what building up my photography pack this past year has meant to me, both professionally and personally. But I wouldn't be able to get anything done if it weren't for my village. I have got one seriously kick ass team of mamas on my side (and a few papas too!) and I owe much of the credit to this one, Mama Dre, for creating a space and community that has saved me as a parent. Saved me. Somewhere around four years ago Dre realized that what this community of ours in St Johns needed was a co-operative sharing space for families, so she made it happen by opening the St Johns Swap n Play (you can learn more about swaps here and here). Because that's just who she is. She gets shiz done, this woman. Dre is one of those people who you realize is missing from the party, and then you find her in your kitchen washing your dishes. Not because she thinks she should, but because she genuinely wants to help. She might be the only person I know who is actually living the life she strides to lead. Do you know what I mean? We all want to be better, do better, etc., but Dre actually is better every day. And she comes by it authentically. She is the most genuinely good person I know. Period. And although she is just one of the many friends who keep me sane, she is responsible for connecting me with many others who make up my village, not to mention creating a space for us to breather. She is a Super Woman and I strive to be more like her. Oh, and she makes cute kids too!
When I heard that Ryan and Will regularly visit Wayne's Barber Shop together for father-son haircuts, I pretty much wanted them to drop what they were doing and go get haircuts right now! It ended up taking a while for this to come together, and I was feeling very impatient about it, but when it did finally happen a few weeks ago, it proved to be so worth the wait.
Ryan nailed it when he said “Wayne is an old sturgeon in the St. Johns deeps.” I love that. I love that it can be said about Wayne's, and about St. Johns; this neighborhood is an old sturgeon in the Portland deep. I love that Wayne sees the value in what he is doing for the community and has no plans to retire. I love that you can get your neck shaved with a straight razor while talking with (and hearing the stories of) someone who has lived ninety years. My dad went to Wayne's on his most recent visit to Portland, and came home shaking his head and saying things like: He learned to cut hair in the Navy just like your grandfather! He was married for 65 years! He's been in St Johns since the '40's! You can learn much more about Wayne in this St Johns Review article, and by watching this great video of him, though what you should really do is go pay Wayne a visit.
That's Wayne in his shop for a Nikon ad that ran in LIFE Magazine in the early '90s.
And here's one more cute one of Will because, well, he's just so cute.
Happy Father's Day to Wayne, Ryan, and all the other awesome dads out there!
PS- That flag-waving photo, I couldn't have dreamed that one up if I'd tried, it borders on too much, but the flag sits on the mirror and little Will just loves to hold it while he's getting his haircut. And so, I give you, the most patriotic photo I've ever taken.
Franny plans to marry Luka when she grows up; Luka plans to be a police officer, and "police officers don't get married!" But sometimes he says he'll marry her anyway, and they'll also be married to Eleanor.