From time to time, my husband’s job as a high school teacher sends business my way, and earlier this year, I was lucky enough to meet Heather and Brian, parents of three kids. I was hired to shoot a senior portrait for Andie, one of their beautiful daughters, on the campus of Davidson College. So, of course, I was thrilled when Heather told me that she was interested in booking another family session for the Spring. The shoot was for her mom, Ingrid, and the session would involve Heather and her family, her sister Erika’s family, and then Ingrid and her husband Ed.
The location required easy walkability and lots of flowers. I chose the campus of Queens University as our meeting spot. It’s a fantastic place for a photoshoot; the landscaping is just beautiful, and the buildings themselves are elegant props. We started out by Belk Chapel and then made a slow tour of the grounds, stopping here and there along the way. Everyone, kids and adults alike, had the best energy during the shoot. I could tell doing this for Heather and Erika’s mom meant a lot to all of them.
There are times when it can be a little unwieldy to work with large family groups, but the dynamic between Heather’s family, Erika’s family, and their mother and father was fantastic. Between the daughters’ two families, there are six kids—their ages are 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, and 8. What I found incredibly charming was that the kids from each family who were closest in age had these adorably close relationships with one another, like they’d just grown up parallel with one another as allies. They had also dressed perfectly for the occasion. Before the shoot, Heather and I had discussed wardrobe, and everyone showed up dressed in various pastel shades, with lots of blue and pink. No matching, but all so complimentary. No matter how they paired up, everyone looked truly fantastic.
I loved spending time with Ingrid and Ed, their children, and their children’s families. They were so kind, both to me and to one another, and it was impossible not to see how much they all cared for one another. When I heard that Ingrid enjoyed the shoot and adored the photos that came from it, I was delighted to have given her some lasting mementos of the beautiful family she has raised.
Even before I became a parent, I had a healthy respect for the unique magic of photography. But once my girls came along, the way I looked at what I do changed in an essential way. More clearly than ever, I understood the crucial importance of preserving those delicate moments that are there for the blink of an eye and then gone forever. In this way, Lori is a woman after my own heart. When one of her big “milestone” birthdays was approaching, her husband Graham wondered briefly what to get her, but it didn’t take long for him to make up his mind. Lori loves creating a photographic record of her family, and Graham knows it. As a gift, he decided to get Lori not one but TWO family sessions with me. I already knew Lori and Graham because I was their wedding photographer back in 2008. Needless to say, I was so excited to help Graham craft this incredible surprise for Lori.
Our first session was just with Graham and the two kids, Connor and Kaylin, and Lori had no idea what we were doing. I met them late in the afternoon on the Midtown Greenway, and we got some beautiful images of the three of them. Connor and Kaylin were so lively and sweet. At 4 and 6, I wondered if they would be suffering through some of the same rivalries I see in my own kids, but they played so well together and were such good listeners when I needed them to follow my direction.
During the shoot, we wandered along the greenway, stopping here and there for images. I could see immediately how much the kids adored Graham, and how comfortable they all were with one another. They seemed to delight in the knowledge that we were working on a surprise for their mommy. When the excitement for the experience became a little much, I would ask Connor and Kaylin to make silly faces for a shot or two, and then give me sweet faces like they would give to their mama. Holy moly–those two melted my heart! We ended the session at a fountain and the kids splashed around a little—until Connor nearly fell in. All in all, it was a fantastic shoot, and mission accomplished.
Over breakfast on her birthday, Graham presented Lori with a slideshow I created for him of some of his favorite images from the first session, and then he told her that there would be a second shoot, this time with her included. Lori’s reaction to the images of Graham and the kids from the first shoot was just what Graham had hoped for—sweet tears—and Lori was delighted to take part in the next round.
We all got back together in November. This time, we met at the UNCC Botanical Garden to catch the last of the beautiful fall color, and I was so happy to see Lori and Graham together in front of my camera again. That their love is stronger than ever couldn’t have been more apparent. It was so heartwarming to remember them as they had been nearly 10 years ago, and then to see them in their new reality as parents of these two amazing kids.
These sessions were pure fun, and I truly cherished the opportunity to reconnect with this beautiful couple and their sweethearted kiddos.
Evan and Rebecca met in their hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio when he was taking classes at a local community college and she was finishing up high school. But they were both working at the same pizza joint, and as it has since time out of mind, the pie worked its magic, and here we are. It was Evan who made the first move. The two had been flirting a little since Evan began work, but when he asked her to lunch in a cool part of town, things kicked up a notch. Especially cute is the fact that he had to meet Rebecca’s parents since she was still in high school, and that he’d made a special country mix for the trip into town. There’s a song from that mix that still takes them back whenever they hear it. Their second date was just a couple of days later.
Rebecca fell in love with Evan’s brutal honesty, his ability to make her laugh, no matter the circumstances, his kind heart, and his constant support, no matter the cost to him. Evan found himself falling in love with Rebecca’s sweetness, quirkiness, and compassion. She was just fun to be with.
Not too long into their relationship, Evan ended up moving out to Las Vegas to be near his mother, who had relocated out there. After a stretch of doing the long distance thing, Rebecca took a summer semester in Vegas and loved her experience so much that she ended up transferring to finish up school. Evan was also back in school, and since their schedules were so busy, the two started carving out dedicated time with each other to celebrate the end of every semester. At the end of the summer semester of 2010, Evan had scheduled a nice dinner at the casino where he had started working. On their way, he handed her a card (not unusual for these celebrations) but told her to wait until dinner to open it. On their way up to the restaurant, Evan excused himself to go to the bathroom, so Rebecca took a seat to wait. A moment later, she got a text from Evan instructing her to open the card. It contained a loving message, and some instructions: head to the VIP area, get into the limo waiting for you, and then use the room key to the Bellagio that I’ve included. Rebecca did all of that, and when she opened the door, she found Evan on bended knee with roses on the floor leading up to him. He proposed, and of course she said yes.
Rebecca and Evan got married on June 24th of 2011 at The Bell Event Center in Cincinnati. There was dancing, great music, and fun, and they got to spend a ton of time with their family and friends in attendance. Nowadays, Rebecca is a family medicine resident physician at Carolina’s Medical Center, and she falls more in love with the job each and every day. She’s currently in her second year of residency and will finish her training in June of 2019. Evan recently made a career change and has moved into a role as a staffing manager, not his dream job, but one whose challenges he enjoys.
When they aren’t working, their favorite things to do are taking walks to Central Coffee in Plaza Midwood, finding great new places to get brunch or breakfast, talking about life and dreams, or just snuggling up on the sofa to watch something funny on the tube. They have a labradoodle named Xavier who is, essentially, their child, and get out with him as much as they can.
I had a such great time with these two, and wish them all the happiness in the world.
I’ve known Todd and Jessica for 12 years, since the days when all three of us were loosely affiliated with the same event-planning company. Over the years, these beautiful people have made themselves a special home in my heart. We might not see each other as often as I’d like, but when we get together, I find myself feeling the same love and admiration for them that I’ve always felt. But that’s not quite right. I admire them more now than I ever have. The amazing relationships Todd and Jess have not only with one another, but also with their children, inspires me. My own two kids are the great blessing of my life, but man, sometimes they just kill me. From time to time, I think of families with three or four kids, and my gut reaction is basically, “There but for the grace of God go I.” But not with Todd and Jess. This is a family that makes it work. They respect and treasure one another at a level I know is exceptional.
When I show up at Todd and Jess’s place for this shoot, my car door is hardly open before the four kids-Hayden, Caroline, Joelle, and Cameron—are rushing toward me, their arms outstretched for hugs. And not just one each. A whole bunch of hugs. It’s about the sweetest welcome a girl could ask for.
We do the whole shoot at the house, which is perfect for this family. For as long as I’ve known them, Todd and Jess lived in the same house, but in March, seeking more space, they moved into this new one. As Todd is wont to do, he had already customized the place, including the addition of a new woodshop, all constructed by Todd himself. Since Todd has worked on my own house any number of times, I’m well aware of the fine work this man can do, and I make it a point to use the new shop as a backdrop during our shoot. For pretty much the entire session, we just chase the light around the back yard and driveway. Toward the end of the shoot, I take Todd and Jess across the street for some romantics in the last of the evening light. Otherwise, it’s just this family in the place they love most.
These kids are special, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve known all of them since they were babies. Hayden, 13, is gigantic now—close to six feet tall—but he remains the considerate and empathetic kid he’s always been. This past summer, he took his first mission trip, to Nashville, and helped build handicap ramps for two retirees. Caroline and Joelle are sugar sweet, leading me by the hand around their yard, showering me with affection. Seeing such openness from these two girls gives me hope for my own daughters—if my own my kids develop such a willingness to care unabashedly for others, I’ll consider myself the luckiest mom in town. And Cameron…he’s just a pistol. Some of my favorite shots are of Cameron in his hat. They pretty much sum up his spunk and spirit.
I was so happy to have the chance to reconnect with Jess and Todd and their happy quartet. They’ve given so much to me and to my family, and I think often of how, when Todd and Jess came to my wedding in Nantucket, Jess was—unbeknownst to her—pregnant with Joelle. As usual, they were there to support us—Jess to plan, and Todd to DJ—and that’s essentially what I think is the heart of this family: loving another and caring for others. I’m lucky to have them in my life.
It’s always such a boost to spend an afternoon with a loving family, especially when the main subject is as adorable and energetic as little Anthony. It had been two years since the last time I saw him, and I loved seeing the enormous developmental leaps he’d made since then. Anthony is a little sweetheart. He’s generous with his hugs, he kisses boo-boos, and he always makes sure to ask if you’re okay. He loves reading his books, playing outside (soccer especially), swinging on anything, and goofing around with his dinosaur toys. I got the chance to see pretty much all of that during our shoot. Anthony definitely delivered.
Because it’s where Shanel, Jared, and Anthony spend so much quality time, we decided to use their lovely backyard as our main setting. Anthony and his dad kicked a soccer ball around, Anthony trotted out the aforementioned dinosaurs for a little play session, and Woody, the 4 year-old Havanese who’s essentially a full family member, made an energetic appearance.
As the sun began to set on the front of the house, we made a move to the front porch, and as we were passing through the house, Jared and Anthony decided to take a book break. Shanel says that Anthony tries to carry all of his books around the house wherever he goes, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The dynamic between all three of them was so comfortable and genuine—I got the feeling that what I was seeing was pretty much how it was all the time.
As we soaked in the last bit of sunshine on the stoop, Anthony got to show me his pumpkins, which he was obviously very excited about. Then again, this is a little boy who seems enthusiastic about pretty much everything. We chased the final streaks of sunlight down into the street for a few final family shots. It was the perfect ending to my time with this lovely crew.