family session at home: the happy heart retreat

I was lucky enough to meet this wonderful family while teaching in Buffalo, NY at the Happy Heart Project Artist’s weekend. My dear friend (and one of the co-founders of the retreat) Erin Brant used to live in Buffalo, and when she told us about this magical family she had lined up as models for our in-home session I knew it was going to be an extra special session.

Family sessions at home are super important to me. These are the spaces where we literally make up our lives - the familiar creaking of the old steps in the same place every time, the way the light falls across the floor in the kitchen just so first thing in the morning. When we get invited into a family’s space, we get to see their story - and who they are - in a much more intimate way.

I loved every minute with this family. They were the kindest, most fun, most loving humans to be with all morning, and the energy in their home felt so cozy. I’m so grateful that all our retreat attendees (and all of us teachers) had a chance to capture these loves, and that we were able to share back images with them that really reflect what a beautiful life and love they have for one another. For me, that’s truly what this work is about when it’s all said and done.

family session at home: parker turns 1

I didn’t know it at the time, but I met sweet little Parker when she was the size of a peanut. Literally! I photographed Parker’s parents (Caitlin + George) for the first time two Octobers ago - on a windy Saturday afternoon in South Philadelphia. I loved them together, and it was so evident how well they loved together, too. We romped around the local dog park with their dogs Bruno and Zeus and talked about the parts of Philly that we all love (I spent most of my first 8 years there.) Little did I know that just a few days before, they’d found out they were expecting!

Since that day, I’ve photographed little Parker three times. We did her newborn and 6 month old photos in their home in South Philly, and then life brought them all down to Charlotte, North Carolina just a few months before she turned 1. I hopped a plane to capture photos for her first birthday, and it was the most magical treat to pull up to their new house and see sweet Parker STANDING at the door! I nearly died. How could this child - who was standing and walking! - be the same as the kiddo I’d seen crawling around on her parent’s bed 6 months before? TIME ACTUALLY FLIES. I’m a momma, and I still forget this every time.

Our original plan was for me to fly down on Saturday afternoon to do a documentary session on Sunday morning, but let’s be honest - put me in a house with my camera, and nothing to do but hang with a 1-year-old for 24 hours? I’m gonna take a lot of pictures. We had the most amazing time catching up, and Parker did all the totally, completely ordinary things that I LOVE to capture when I’m in a client’s home - taking all the toys out of the toy box, playing with the pups, changing diapers, and even waking up from naps (ok, the going down for naps are pretty exciting too.) Lots of treats were had too, including one epic double-scoop ice cream cone that I’m still dreaming about.

I love this sweet little one and her family, and I’m so grateful to have captured so many milestones for them over the last two years! PS, if you peek at the first photo in this post, you’ll see two shots from our windy afternoon session a few years back hanging on their fridge!

mothers day mini sessions + giving back

A few weeks before Mothers Day, I had this totally insane idea. I called two of my dearest friends and said, “I want to do a bunch of mini sessions for Mother’s Day, but I want to donate a chunk of each session to support other mommas in Bridgeport. Wanna help?” Lucky for me, I have amazing friends and with less than three weeks, we pulled together one of my favorite days of 2018 so far. 

I knew I wanted to find an organization that I could donate some of the mini session proceeds to, and I’ve long been in awe of the women of the Mercy Learning Center. MLC provides literacy and life skills training to low-income women in a super compassionate and supportive environment - and they are based right here in Bridgeport!  

My vision was two-fold. I wanted to create a space that would let mommas and their kiddos feel super at-home and comfortable with each other in front of my lens, while at the same time taking advantage of a studio setting so we wouldn’t have to worry about weather. And, I’m such a huge fan of natural light, I wanted to be sure that we could create that feeling of home using window light alone.

My dear friend Marcella Kovac of The Bananaland was kind enough to volunteer her gorgeous studio space, which overlooks downtown Bridgeport from the third floor with huge floor to ceiling windows….MAGIC. Bananaland is pretty stylin’ all on it’s own, but I wanted to set up a few vignettes that gave my mommas a chance to be in the same kinds of spaces they’d be in at home - on the couch, cozy on the floor, and leave room for some space to shoot a few more traditional portraits against the gorgeous old white brick wall too.

Another super stylish soul sister of mine, Madeline Rhodes of Oh My Gemini, jumped in to help create the space that felt like what I envisioned - Maddie created a master plan for the furniture and adding cozy blankets and pillows into just the right nooks so it really felt like home. When I walked into the space after she’d worked her magic, I cried! It was so beautiful.

The last touch was snacks, because life. Selfishly, I knew I couldn’t go a whole day with some delish food, but I wanted to be sure that when my mommas arrived everyone felt pampered and we didn’t end up with any hangry kiddos! I reached out to the amazing Chef Raquel Pablo-Rivera of Pinch of Salt, and she put together a super simple and totally divine menu. I snacked all day, and so did everyone else. Totally delicious, and totally worth it!

We started at 10 and I shot until 4, and I had SO MUCH FUN. So many gorgeous mommas and grandmas, just hanging out and lovin’ on their kiddos. When the last family left, I definitely had one of those “life is so beautiful” moments where you catch yourself tearing up at just how good it was. We made some stunning images together that day! The best part - beyond the images and the magic - was the $546 donation I made to the Mercy Learning Center when it was all over. That’s an entire semester’s tuition for a part-time student. 

I’m so excited to share some of the images we made that day. Momma’s don’t get in the frame often enough, and it was such a delight to capture them all with their kiddos. I’m already planning for next year’s Momma Love Day, and I hope you can join me!

newborn session at home: baby zion

Baby Zion came into the world at exactly the right time - born in the middle of a blizzard, he arrived two weeks early, on his grandfather’s birthday. His parents are dear friends of mine, and a group of us texted updates back and forth late into the night that night, waiting to hear word from the dad-to-be or the doula or the expectant aunt. When hours later a picture came through of a beautiful little boy and a happy, tired Momma, I cheered so loudly I woke up my own kiddo! Worth it.

I finally met little Z just a few short weeks later, when I photographed him and his parents Luke and Marcella in their Bridgeport rowhouse. We spent a few hours together, just soaking in the slow, magic pace of a newborn, of new parents, of a new life altogether. I love love love in-home sessions for newborns. There’s no agenda, no way that anything is expected to go, just for parents and baby to be together doing what everyone does with a newborn - diapers and feedings and snuggling and snacking, on repeat. Whether you’ve spent months arranging a beautifully designed nursery, or you’re just taking it a day at a time together, your home will never be just the same as it is in those first few weeks.

When my own son was born, we lived in a one-bedroom cottage, and we didn’t have a nursery. I think back to changing diapers on top of our dresser and that particular arrangement of my nightstand with special cards from friends and family and extra burp cloths and wipes, and even that one get-ready-for-baby book I was sure I’d have time to read.) 

Luke and Marcella’s house is simple and beautiful, with so many lovely details that helped to make up the story of Little Z’s life. From a handmade wall-hanging from a dear friend, to the white brick walls of his nursery (painted by Luke and Z’s Aunt Laurie in the months before he was born) I had so much fun capturing their life as a whole. As Zion rounds the corner to 5 months old, its so sweet to look back on just how tiny he was in these very same spaces!

In-home family session: the levys

Before I tell you anything else, let me tell you this: Alicia Levy has the coolest closest, the most sophisticated cat, and the best laugh of anyone I know. Full stop. She also happens to be a totally kickass photographer, who somehow makes magic out of thin air and fairy dust for every school portrait I’ve ever seen her take. I met Alicia because she took my own son’s school photos a few years ago, and she captured him in a way I’d never seen in a “school photo.” The images were so amazing, I had to send her a note and thank her (yes, they were so beautiful that she made me cry..those photographers, man.) Fast forward a few years and I’m so lucky to call this kind soul a friend. 

It’s always humbling when another artist wants to hire you for your work - and when she asked me to capture her family in their new home, I was so excited. Photographers - especially photographers who are mommas - have a really hard time getting in the frame, and I wanted to be sure that the images we made together reflected what a present parent and partner she is, and how much of herself she’s put into her new home. 

I know her son Jaxon from school, and this made our session all the more fun! We did all the things he loves to do inside and out, and I made sure there was time for Alicia and her husband David to spend some time just being together too. We often forget that before there was a family, there was a couple, and one of my favorite parts of family sessions is to create some intentional space for parents in front of my lens. It was so much fun to capture these three together - especially our barefoot in the yard bubble fest at the end!

newborn session at home: baby samuel

I met Becca and John a few years ago - though now I couldn’t quite tell you where or how. They’re part of a magical little creative community here in Bridgeport - John is a musician (go, now, and look up the band Oh Cassius) and Becca is one of those creative humans that can make anything, and make it look amazing. They’re classy and kind and generous beyond measure. And as if that wasn’t enough, Becca makes a mean donut - I know because I’ve probably had too many. 

I’ve had the pleasure of taking pictures for lots of parts of their lives - I’ve captured photos of those divine donuts for Becca’s donut truck, documented the renovation of their old Bridgeport home over the course of 6 months, and I had a total blast second shooting their wedding with my forever teammate (and total badass photog) Taylor Lenci. But by far, my favorite of all is taking newborn photos when their son Samuel Ryland arrived in early January. We spent a couple cozy hours hanging out in that very same old house they’d been renovating for so many months, and even got to sneak in a couple snuggly photos of Baby Sam with Becca’s parents.

Documenting newborns at home gives us the chance to capture all the wonderful new-ness of those first few days - new parents and new routines and new reminders to slow down together. It’s that weird, lovely vortex of time where you are meeting yourself and your partner as parents for the first time, over and over again. At the same time, this little being is filling up your home and your arms and your time in a magical way unlike any other person or thing before.  I love these sessions because there’s time to really settle in, to capture how a family learns to move together through spaces and challenges and joy.

And, it’s almost impossible to believe that little Sam is big enough now to sit up on his own! Those newborn days feel like forever ago, and just yesterday all at once, don’t they?