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Wendla + JR – Fair Oaks Engagement Session

JR and Wendla are getting married in July at the Granite Bay Golf Club. JR lives in Dixon and Wendla currently lives in Napa and so they are busy making it all work somewhat long-distance now. In keeping with their desire to get married in the Sacramento region, we met up at Sailor Bar in Fair Oaks for their engagement session. These two love to laugh, especially JR who finds it hard to keep a straight face for longer than a few moments. Except, that is, when he’s kissing Wendla, which he very, very serious about.

We had a fantastic time in the sunshine exploring the local trails. Can’t wait for their wedding!

Fair Oaks Engagement Session

Fair Oaks Engagement Session

 

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The Butterfly Project – Ramona

“How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. “

– Trina Paulus

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RAMONA

When you begin a new artistic project, you often have people in mind; personalities, situations, life histories and experiences that inspire you. When I began the Butterfly Project earlier this year (see first post here) I knew it would begin with my friend Mala but I also knew I had met other, beautiful, strong, and courageous women who I hoped would step forward to be seen and photographed this way. Ramona was one of them.

We had met through a mommy group when our kids were much younger. Our exchanges were brief and surface-level for the most part, for no particular reason other than situation and company. I knew through friends that she was going through some stuff, a tough divorce, transitioning to single-motherhood, but didn’t know the details. We weren’t close enough for me to reach out and ask. I don’t think we even exchanged phone numbers or emails. But, of course, we became Facebook friends as one does these days.

What I remembered about Ramona was her wild, red hair, and her raw beauty, full of freckles and expressive eyes, and a smile that just caught you off-guard, like you were seeing into her. Maybe it’s because she was going through stuff that took away the layers of polish we slap over ourselves when we go out into the world. She was naked, knotty, wood; you could see the grooves of living etched into every expression.

When Ramona stepped forward after my session with Mala, I asked her to fill out a questionnaire to understand what had driven her to want to be involved in this project and she told me about her life growing up with an alcoholic mother.

“I grew up very entitled and felt I deserved a charmed life,” she told me. “I carried these traits into adulthood and married an alcoholic who turned drug addict.”Eventually she had to walk away from her marriage, her home, the life she had built, with two children in-tow, her entire vision of how her life should look, shattered. And then slowly, brick by brick, rebuild her sense of the world, who she was and what she wanted. 

“It is beyond enlightening. To have lost everything, been through my greatest fears at one point, and survived. It has made me a better person, a better mother, a better friend. The other side is beautiful. I feel wise and complete,” she wrote.

She is now blissfully, happily re-married, and in a blended family that lights her up whenever she speaks about them. But even as I entered her gorgeous home to photograph her, she clutched her cell phone, a worried expression on her face as she talked patiently to her mother whose addiction continues to negatively impact both of their lives. Life is beautiful for her now, but not perfect.

“I have learned to stop and remind myself “this too shall pass”,” she told me, referring to life events that can take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. “I have also learned to bask in the simple and quiet good times as we all know they are usually brief. For me it will always be another court case, drunk mother episode, family member diagnosed with cancer. Life is consistently hard and I find comfort expecting it. Now, my biggest self love/self care is talking my emotions out with my husband. His touch, listening ears and wise words always bring me peace I when I cannot find it on my own.”

In brainstorming with Ramona about her session, water continually came up as a metaphor for cleansing and rejuvenating the soul. So we knew we had to do something with water. Something that gave her that same sense of emergence, and yet something that tapped into the vulnerable emotions we wanted to express to tell her story. Inspired by Adele’s recent Rolling Stone cover and a white robe hanging in Ramona’s master bathroom… we started there.

 

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The Butterfly Project

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The Butterfly Project

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 I am still taking applications and offering free sitting fees for other women who want this experience and these images to celebrate their beauty with, inside and out. They don’t have to look like this. In fact, I have no idea what YOUR photos will look like. They’ll look like how I experience you and that’s all that I can say.  I envision these sessions as a conversation. With both Mala and Ramona, we talked as much as we shot. We played with light, locations, poses, ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (There may also have been alcohol involved.) That’s all I can say and can promise: it will be a fun exploration. Please get in touch with me if you want to chat about why a session like this interests you and what that might look like.

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Orangevale Moment Design Session with the Lopez Family

When it’s going to be 108 degrees, the only way to make a family session bearable is to get up early. Which is what me and the Lopez clan did for their late June session in Orangevale. Bright-and-early –  7:30am – we met at Orangevale Community Park, ready to beat the heat and enjoy the cool, quiet park before summer life descended upon it.

This family is filled with love and laughter, so much warmth and closeness, it wasn’t hard to capture them naturally interacting and playing together. And since I’m an early morning girl anyway, this was my dream session. Up-and-at-em and then on to enjoy the rest of the day with my own little family.
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Moment Design Session

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Moment Design Session

 

If you’re curious what “Moment Design” (formerly “Beloved”) is, then please check out this link. As a certified Moment Design photographer, I have invested time in learning how to help my clients relax, be present, have fun, and connect naturally during their sessions. To me a session is first about the client, their relationships, their connections, and then about my vision and how I marry that with who they are. If you’d like to learn more about how I do this – how to say goodbye forever to the awkward, stressful photo sessions of your past – please just get in touch and I’m happy to walk you through what a session looks like, or even put you in touch with my clients so you can grill them mercilessly. Hehe.

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Sacramento Sidetracks Family Session

Oh my gosh! Red, curly hair, freckles, dimples, and belly laughs.. this family were made for me! 

This family are the Woodards, kin to Keilah Woodard who created the popular family activity blog, Sacramento Sidetracks. I’ve been advertising on Keilah’s blog and summer fun guides for a while now but only recently got to meet her in person. I’m so glad I did. She is bubbly, effervescent, warm, kind, and hilarious. As you would expect, her family are a blended salad full of the same qualities. When she asked me to capture her family for her blog, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

Keilah is all about exploring family-friendly locales in the area and, sitting on the patio at the Starbucks in Rancho Cordova, I realized that our local knowledge dove-tailed rather than overlapped. Although I photograph families all throughout the region, my personal “hood” is the imaginary circle surrounding Fair Oaks, Orangevale, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Granite Bay, and Roseville. Within that radius, there pretty much isn’t anywhere I haven’t checked-out at this point. So I gave Keilah some new places to adventure with her husband and three children, and recommended that we meet down by the American River in Fair Oaks for our session. It was brand new to her but a well-worn trail for me.

We had so much fun.  Here are my favorites from the session. I can’t wait to see which images are Keilah’s favorites and make their way onto her blog.

Enjoy the instantly-likeable Woodard family…

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Sacramento Sidetracks Family Session

2 Comments

  1. charity

    Beautiful, Michelle.

    Reply
  2. Vickie Horvath

    Besides all the beautiful photos what jumped out at me is the connection this family has with one another. So lovely

    Reply

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Introducing: The Butterfly Project

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Butterfly Project Beloved Photo Session Memories by Michelle Photography

You don’t get to the ripe old age of 41 without having met some pretty incredible people. In my 41 trips around the sun, I’ve been fortunate to have met many and. by virtue of being a woman myself, many of them women. What I’ve learned and seen and experienced, especially by standing beside those friends who have struggled with fear, grief, loss, abuse, and health issues, is that a woman’s beauty shines brightest through her tears. All of us carry with us hurts and scars that shape and transform us, that we fight to transcend, forgive, and live beyond. Some of us have scrapes and others deep wounds that cut us to the core; it’s not the depth of the injury that dictates the transformation.

Like a butterfly emerging from the broken shell of the cocoon, the moment of joyful, beautiful, colorful flight into the sunlight comes after days of darkness, a seeming brokenness, an end.

It’s this moment, this flying toward the light with sunshine blinding you, that I have been so transfixed by lately. There is wholeness to those people who have moved beyond their experience and into a new space for themselves, a transference of energy that, if you pay attention, has a physicality to it. The leaning in, the reaching out, the steady and loving gaze that says “it’s ok, I’ve been there, me too.”

And through that I have envisioned photographing women in what I feel is a completely different way from much of what we see and consume in daily media: women as whole, complete, messy, people; courageous, sexy, strong, vulnerable, defiant, and imperfect.

When my friend, Mala, and I tossed around some ideas about photographing her post-divorce, I felt that there were two ideas slowly drawing together like magnets but I didn’t exactly know what it would look like when the two ends met. Mala wanted to do a photo session around re-purposing and re-claiming her wedding sari, a defiant and powerful gesture both culturally and personally. We started there and let the rest fall into place.

Mala has her own story and her own, beautiful way of telling it. You can read more from her directly here. I see her as fun, artistic, passionate, flamboyant, bold, adventurous, emotional, strong, powerful and, you’ve probably guessed by now, brave, defiant, and sometimes controversial (you can see why we’re friends.) I also know that she has a lot of pain and hurt that she continues to deal with. So I literally had tears streaming down my face when I looked at these pictures and felt that I had captured all of that in our Saturday afternoon together.

I feel these are some of the most honest photos I have ever taken. And, I hope (KNOW), this is just the beginning. (See more below the slideshow for more on that.)

 

 

I am offering free sitting fees for other women who want this experience and these images to celebrate their beauty with, inside and out. They don’t have to look like this. In fact, I have no idea what YOUR photos will look like. They’ll look like how I experience you and that’s all that I can say. If you’re the quiet, thoughtful type, for sure I would never photograph you this way. I envision these sessions as a conversation, much as this was for me and Mala. We talked as much as we shot. We played with light, locations, poses, ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (There may also have been wine involved.) That’s all I can say and can promise: it will be a fun exploration. Please get in touch with me if you want to chat about why a session like this interests you and what that might look like.

3 Comments

  1. Jill De Marce

    Loved it. You can really get the feeling from the picture and that is what good photographers do. Way to go!

    Reply
  2. Brooke Collier

    Oh my! Yeah, this is powerful! ALL the myriad of emotions coexisting within one whole and complex woman. Thanks to Mala for her courage and vulnerability, and to you Michele for the sensitivity and skill with which you approached the subject!

    Reply
  3. Mama T

    THIS is what you are meant to be doing, my dear! Without a doubt this simply shouts beauty and strength and story of a life, messy, sexy, strong, beautiful.

    Reply

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More Rogers – Capitol Park Family Session

Sara, Jeremy, and Nicholas are my most frequent clients. I have been photographing Nicholas since he was born and then every year since, sometimes twice a year, and this November marked the 3rd time I’ve photographed this family in 2015. Only this time I got to meet some more of the Rogers clan. Who knew, Jeremy had a twin brother? He lives down in Bakersfield with his family but was up in Sacramento for the Thanksgiving holiday. Which was how I got to get them all together – twins, wives, children – for some fall fun on a pretty chilly Sunday morning in Capitol Park.

Photographing a teenager, a toddler and a middle-schooler in one session requires some gear shifting. One requires coaxing into joy and another requires slowing down from exuberance.  And getting everyone in one frame is only done with lots of patience, on both sides. I really appreciated everyone’s fun and relaxed approach to the whole session – and willingness to jump into a little Beloved with me here and there. (Click here to learn more about Beloved in my sessions.) Many of the photos here are the results of some Beloved goodness.

I now count the days until I can see the Rogers again, in whole or in part. (It’s ok Jeremy, I’m sure Sara can make it a few months at least. Mayyyybe.)

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Cool dudes  (Literally. They were so happy to put their coats back on.)

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