When your photography mentor, the person who has pushed you the hardest throughout your career to up your game, has believed in you and your potential even when you were ready to throw in the towel, and who herself has a successful decades-long photography business built on a reputation for beautiful, high-quality images, asks you to take her family photos… first, you vomit into the toilet, then you hover over the “n” button on your keyboard, before scolding yourself for being a coward and then saying “absolutely, I would love to!” (Closely followed by a large glass of Chardonnay to slow down your heart rate.)
Lisa Richmond is an incredible person: caring, driven, creative, dedicated, funny, a true professional. And, in truth, despite my nerves, I was honored to have been asked to photograph her and her family this past December.
Lisa is also a take-charge type person (we have this in common) which meant that I had to walk into this session ready to run it and run it my way. We are both awfully nice people but, when we sense that their is a vacancy of leadership, we’ll step into the space and do our thing. So, I was determined that, no matter what she and her family ended up thinking of the photos I delivered, I would succeed or fail on my own merits. That meant no doubt, no jitters, no second-guessing myself, forgetting who was in front of the camera and focusing on getting in the flow.
It helped that Lisa chose the location (I had to give her something, hehe) and that the light there on this particular winter afternoon was absolutely magical. It also helped that her entire family laughed more than any family I have ever photographed, ever. Sure, there was some element of awareness around how their position and reactions would play to the camera but, in general, I don’t think I have ever been with a family for whom laughter was so clearly a natural part of who they are together.
Jaz and Ember are both in boarding school on the east coast (cool fact: the same boarding school that Lisa attended as a teenager) and so I know this session came at an important time for her, coming to terms with the empty-nest syndrome earlier than many moms who typically don’t see their kids fly the coup until college.
I also know that the girls miss home. They love spending time with their friends but not being able to “escape” (their words) from the drama of school can sometimes be hard
I hope these photos give them all a little comfort when they’re missing one another.
Our session ended with some photos of Lisa for her website, camera in-hand, as I’m usually experiencing her.
I loved every minute of photographing Lisa and her family. They made my job easy. The best reward was Lisa’s smile and thanks at the end of our session, her appreciation and recognition for the energy I put into my sessions to help my clients be in the moment, let go, and have fun.
This morning, I got an email from her after she saw her photos for the first time…
omg… just took a quick run through. I am absolutely never letting another year go by without doing this. I LOVE SEEING my family….we’ve grown so much, we’ve worked so hard. and we are still laughing.. and you caught it all. Thank you from the bottom, top and middle of my heart.
Now booking newborn sessions and weddings for 2019
I have known this family since their oldest, Atticus, was a baby. I worked with his father, Brett, at Lyon Real Estate’s head office more than a decade ago now. I remember Atticus frequently sauntering up to my cubicle, his red-cheeked little face alive with curiosity and displaying a huge, naughty grin. Brett would follow shortly after, laughing, and yet a little proud at how social his son was.
He would tell me stories of “losing” Atticus in Starbucks while he was ordering, his son off at a table somewhere, conversing with a stranger. Brett loved his family and we would share many end-of-workday conversations in the spaces between cubicles talking about them and about life in general. We disagreed on politics but jovially so. Brett had an amazing wit and generosity of spirit that I always enjoyed.
When my daughter was born, Brett, his wife, Jessica, Atticus, and the then terrible-twos Micah, came to visit us in the hospital. I remember laughing so hard that it hurt because Micah wanted to grab and play with and climb on anything that wasn’t screwed-down (and possibly some things that were.) The main casualties were the barf bags. I remember her being obsessed with the barf bags, which we allows her to abscond with.
And then, one day, Brett was with us no more. Gone far too soon and far too suddenly. His Facebook page is still active and, occasionally, I will go to tag a friend on a post or something and a photo of him and Atti, taken by a good friend and fellow photographer of mine, will pop up. It still doesn’t seem real that he is no longer here.
I see him now in Atti’s smile and Micah’s cheekiness. I feel him in the innate joy and playfulness that he gave them. And I am thrilled that their family has once again been made complete with Whitney, who I met for the first time during this session.
Whitney’s warm, quiet, but large presence makes me feel like he has arms and heart enough to wrap around the whole family. You can see from the obvious easy affection between him and the kids that this is true. I know that Brett would want nothing more than that: to know his family is loved and cared for.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to reacquaint myself with this family after too long being strangers, to meet Whitney, and feel the beautiful colliding with past and present, held together by so much love and joy.
Now booking newborns and intimate weddings for 2019
Know of someone having a baby or getting married next year? Please connect me. I have wonderful packages for newborn photo sessions in the Sacramento area that include gift registries and albums, as well as affordable coverage for smaller weddings in the Sacramento region and beyond. Get in touch here.
The Fongs, simply put, are family. Watching these kids grow for the last 13 years has been magical. Photographing that for the last 10 has been an honor.
If you would like to follow their journey, you can see their sessions from 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013by clicking on the years.
Which is your favorite? Mine is the 2014 session. I loved that one because it was so playful. I also enjoyed my latte at the end 😉 Not that I don’t like this year’s session. I particularly love how Noelle is part-teenager, part-kid still and how that comes through in these photos, some mature and sophisticated and then silly faces with her brother and the love for her little Poo Bear.
Here are the 2019 Fongs…
I still have a few weekend spots open before Christmas. If you’re looking for some updated family photos for Holiday cards or gifts, Contact Me Here.
“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
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.
You know when you get asked to do something absolutely awesome and you’re so excited about it? You run off to do it with tons of energy and enthusiasm, do your best, deliver and then… life gets in the way both for you and your client and you find yourself sending an email asking “Whatever happened with…?”
That’s what happened here with a shoot I did in January of last year for the O’Connor Company , an HVAC company in Kansas City. My sister-in-law is the Marketing Director extraordinaire over there and she was about to embark upon am exciting, celebrity-endorsed, multi-media marketing and advertising campaign – tv commercials, radio commercials and billboards. She needed a photographer to capture the process as well as to take some portraits of their celebrity, soccer star Matt Besler of the Sporting Kansas City pro soccer team, for the print and online campaigns. She asked me and said she would fly me out to make it all happen.
Unfortunately I said no.
HA! Are you kidding me? Even minus 10 degree KC weather wasn’t going to deter me from this one.
I was on set at a local model home for the shooting of the tv commercials, which was a ton of fun to watch in progress. After the tv spots were shot, I did some stills with Matt who is a sweetheart. (He’s not so bad on the eyes, either.)
I just got these images today showing how some of my images were used. So awesome! Billboards and magazine ads and direct mail campaigns.
Seriously, I could get used to this. So, for sure, if your company is working on a big marketing campaign and needs some shots (with famous people or regular employees) to help convey your message, I’d love the opportunity to pitch my ideas for the project. Just shoot me an email email@example.com
Big thanks to the other Mrs. McDaid for this opportunity!
But I am proud to announce that I am – officially – a Certified Beloved Photographer! After 3 years of being involved with Jesh De Rox’s Beloved Collective movement, I finally decided to get tested and take the next step in this journey.
Although Beloved isn’t exactly documentary photography or photojournalism – really it isn’t tied to any particular style or genre of photography – the concept of creating a sacred space for your clients to express true emotions, connections, and expressions IS everything that my photography is about.
Many times, in my family work, I do this by encouraging families to stay within their own sacred space – home – where they can relax and be themselves with the people they love. Sometimes it means planning an activity that connects them, like going for a bike ride or an ice-cream cone, or simply walking the dog to the park.
But, to me, the method is less important than the experience and the end-result is only a product OF that experience. I don’t want to come in and pose my clients to create the appearance of feeling and connection, I want to create a space for them to actually feel and connect and photograph that really happening.
And so in this way, Beloved becomes another tool in my chest. Another way to work with my clients to capture something deeper, truer, and more meaningful about their life, their love, their joys, and their heart. I photographed a Beloved session with two of my good friends back in May for their anniversary, so if you want a taste of what Beloved is about click here.
Unlike just a photojournalistic approach, Beloved also asks for me to share in the vulnerability of the moment with my clients. To check my own negative self-talk, prejudices, limiting beliefs, and stagnated perspectives, to open myself up to the limitless potential of this moment with these unique and beautiful people in front of me – my clients – without expectation or the pressure that often comes with that; to hold a space for possibility.
In many ways, a Beloved session taps into the unexplored places of my own emotional life that I have been trying to set-free in recent years.
It’s challenging and absorbing and sometimes difficult to show-up wholly in that place but necessary and incredibly rewarding when it happens. Just like life. And I feel that’s what made me fall in love with the Beloved technique: it gives me a framework and a process to work with to unleash another side of myself that I’m eager to grow.
And, as fortune would have it, Jesh’s mom, Theresa (aka: Mama T) happened to be coming to Sacramento last weekend and was able to carve out some time to witness me in-action, performing my first ever, solo Beloved session with my beautiful new friend, Katy.
Thank you to Mama T for helping me finally reach this milestone and a HUGE thank you to my “muse” (Beloved’s name for a subject) Katy who volunteered herself for the certification session. Her willingness to be honest and real and in-the-moment with me made my part of the process so much easier.
If this post inspires curiosity around what Beloved is all about, I’d love to chat with you about a Beloved session.
It’s fantastic for couples (young and old) as well as mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, best friends, solo portrait sessions, or any combination thereof. If you’d love to experience a session where you can look at the final images and remember something wonderful happening in that moment, then I’m all yours. Enthusiastically!
NEXT UP… teacher training and certification.
Beloved is a beautiful way for photographers to create value with their clients, designing important moments of connection for and with them. It would be wonderful if more photo sessions were not just about pretty pictures and I want to spread that gospel a little further here in Northern California.
I'm Michelle and I love vampires (before they were cool), peanut butter and that deliciously off-balance feeling you get when you step off a plane in a new country. I'm also a mum, a writer and a visual storyteller.
Click here to learn more about all that.
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