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!

outdoor family session: the cepeda family

I met the Cepeda’s last summer when we did an extended family session at Waveny Park, one of my favorite spots in Fairfield County. Truth be told, I love family sessions that include grandparents! I am super close to my grandparents, and any time there’s s a chance for kids to be photographed with more than one generation I’m totally game. We had a gorgeous night to play together, and this whole family was so much fun.

What I love most about extended family sessions is creating the space for the various relationships to unfold themselves. Who is really closely knit? Who likes to be independent in the group? Who takes charge and keeps the whole rodeo together? And, most importantly for my heart, what is it about the adult couples in the family (parents, grandparents) that is really special to the family’s generations-long story?

I loved my time with this bunch - the light was magical that night, and I might have laid in the grass more than once to get a shot just because it smelled so perfectly summer-ish. Summer evenings feel a little far away now (because sometimes it takes months to blog a session!) but this one still lingers in all the right ways.

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!

outdoor family session at yale university: the cretellas

Sometimes running a business and raising a kiddo can feel totally overwhelming. Some days I feel it a hundred times over! There are so many great resources (and ways) out there to find and feel supported and encouraged and one of my most favorite is motherhustle.com. Motherhustle is a totally honest, inspirational community started by Emily Cretella, a CT neighbor and badass entrepreneur in her own right. Emily and I connected last year when she needed some images for the soon-to-be-launched Motherhustle community - I got to hang out with her super fun family in their North Haven home for a few hours on a spring Sunday morning. There was endless coffee, legos, couch jumping, piano playing, and yes, even glitter. My kind of session!

When Emily reached out this year to do another session with her kiddos, we decided it might be fun to capture all that magical energy her daughters have in the sunshine. The Yale University campus is a special spot for Emily and her husband Bryan and I love shooting in New Haven, so we made a date to meet in one of my favorite green spots on the campus - near the School of Music. Lots of people think you need tons of room and endless green for a fun outdoor session, but add in a college campus with gorgeous old architecture and you’ve got some really great opportunities to use line and shape alongside light to create beautiful images of a family being their wild, joyful selves. 

We lucked out - the weather was gorgeous, the kiddos were ready to go, and Emily even brought cupcakes for the girls as a post-session snack! I think I’ll add that one to my client prep guide…

I love this family, and I love the way they love too. It was such a joy to capture them two years in a row - and to celebrate how much the girls have grown up since last year’s session!