A Conversation with Katrina: Part II

July 09, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

 

A conversation & portraits with Katrina: Part II

Katrina is a friend who kindly offered to sit down with me and share some of her story, her background growing up as a black woman in Alabama, and her perspectives on some of the racial questions our society has been asking today.
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Me: So what would you say to someone who says they believe in a 'colorblind' society or, 'I don't see color,' or 'I don't see race'?


Katrina: So in general when I have someone that says that they don't see color, my gut reaction is always, 'so you don't see me? you don't see the melanin in my skin?' and if it's not important -- if it is truly a colorblind society---why is it in every bit of our society? Why is it on our job applications? Why is it on my birth certificate? Why is it on every form you end up filling out...why do you need to know my race or my color, if it's truly a colorblind society, if people don't see color?


Me: My next question is on the topic of police brutality. Some people have said that the issue of police brutality as a whole, is not a race issue--that it's an overarching problem that affects everyone equally, that police abuse their power to people of all color, and that it's not an issue of police brutality towards black people. What are your thoughts on that?

 

Katrina: My feelings on that are... that it's asinine. Okay. If I play devil's advocate and try to see from that viewpoint...I'll accept that and say we still need to defund, dismantle, change that system. How about that? That makes it easy. If this is a problem that is system-wide and it's all about the culture of brutality then, you know let's just...dismantle it, start it all over from scratch. (...) But still [to hear the suggestion that police aren't targeting black people] it hurts me just to hear it. Hearing it, I just have this, visceral, emotional response to that, it's really just like 'screw you'.

 

Me: Would you say they're just ignoring the ...numbers and the videos and all that kind of stuff?

 

Katrina: Yes. and those are the same kind of people that as soon as you see people dying on the street, George Floyd talking to his dead mother...they are still the people who go and find videos and find evidence, or find anything, that can discredit him to ... besmirch his character. As a way to make you feel better. To justify some stupid...justification for why it was okay to kill that person.
[referring to the mass shooters in las vegas, charlottetown, etc] Even the way those arrests go, when they're taken down--they're alive. They can take them alive.

 

Me: Do you think that it has always been like this and we are just seeing it happen more because people are recording more, with cell phones, etc?


Katrina: Yes. It's the same. It's been that way.
 [Referencing police tactical, riot gear] That stuff costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars. They use that stuff..to fight off peaceful protesters.

 

Me: So, when people say 'defund the police', is that what people are talking about, do they mean cutting the budget for this unnecessary stuff?

 

Katrina: Yes. The budget is huge. Unnecessarily huge.

My last question is: I've heard a lot of people say, 'systemic racism doesn't exist anymore'.  What does systemic racism mean? What does it look like? Does it still exist in our country?


Katrina: When we view something as systemic racism or just 'racism' in general, I wanna go back to what I think that most people in society may view as 'racism', they're looking at--maybe, the 50's, the 60's, the civil rights movement, and they're thinking that maybe because they don't see public lynchings anymore...or maybe that because you don't hear people outwardly throwing out racial slurs...or you don't see them being discriminated against, seeing white-only bathrooms in restaurants or water fountains or...people being hosed down, children being hosed down as you saw in the civil rights movement...that that's where they're looking at, as far as well 'that part of racism doesn't exist anymore'. Even though to a lot of us in the black community those things do exist to us. They're just framed differently now. And systemically we're looking at things that are more insidious.

It's not the big neon flashing lights that you would have seen during those times...it's those small things, like equality as far as housing. The fact that for years a white person could go into a bank and get a loan for a house and a black person could not. Or...you may think that we are integrated now, but we're still very much still segregated. We're segregated in the way the communities are set up. You have that..."black" side of town. You have that, "you don't worship with people who do not look like you". Even in our friendships--the reason why some of this stuff is so polarized right now is because people do not have friends who do not look like them. [...] The way that the police system is set up to begin with--there's more policing in black neighborhoods. Do you feel as if that's okay? I don't. I'm not comfortable with that. I don't feel like just because of the color of my skin, that should dictate whether or not there should be a stronger police presence there. I don't think that it's okay in the world of banking to be denied loans just based on the color of their skin. I don't that it's okay that in our educational system that it's harder for certain individuals achieve a higher education--it's not because they're not as smart as the majority of Americans, because they are--but the system is set up now to where being able to achieve those goals--and have some of those tools in place, to help you be able to get a better job, to help you be able to live in certain communities, to just be safe in your own skin--those things aren't in place right now for black people. And that's all we're asking. It's not that we're saying that "black lives are more important than other lives"--No, we're saying that in order for all lives to matter, the lives that now are disproportionately snuffed out by the system--until they matter, then all lives aren't going to matter.

With all the disparities and all the systemic racism that's going on, it's a system-wide thing, but the way that we change that is not just with the entire system, you have to start with the individual, it's those small changes that each individual makes to shift, and to change, the problems that we have now. That's the best way to address this, is by the individual. But if you can't acknowledge the simple fact that it exists--then we're gonna continue to have the same problems. Small shifts--not asking for major changes. Just think about things.


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 The above is a transcript of an interview between Katrina & I. Katrina kindly accepted the opportunity to discuss some of her background and questions of race with me outside a coffee shop early Saturday morning.

I encourage my white friends to reach out to a black acquaintance and see if they would be open to having a similar conversation with you. Be prepared for them to say no, but be hopeful that they may say yes. Come and listen. You can use the same questions or format I used, if you like.


A Conversation with Katrina: Part I

July 06, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Katrina is a friend who kindly offered to sit down with me and share some of her story, her background growing up as a black woman in Alabama, and her perspectives on some of the racial questions our society has been asking today.
 
Me: Tell me about some of your experiences growing up--what has your life been like growing up as a black woman in Alabama, and what sort of things pop into your mind, what are some experiences that have shaped your perspective of your race?
 
Katrina: I would tell you that from a very young age, my race has always been a part of everything, my conversations the way people interact with me - even as a kindergartener--my first real interactions in a public setting with white children was in kindergarten--and...Like, I had a kid accuse me of stealing. Or...the time where I had a couple of kids make fun of how my face looks, because my lips were bigger, or I was darker than they were--or even, you know how kids will stick their tongue out--[I would stick my tongue out and] they would make fun of me and say "are you sticking your tongue out or is that your lips?" that sort of thing as a kid growing up.
 
[At this point in the conversation, she paused, getting emotional and holding back tears. We took a break for a minute so she could call her mom and get some encouragement from her.]
 
Katrina: I could count how many people were in that school that looked like me. Do you know what that's like, to have so few people that look like you that you could count?
Being a dark-skinned black girl, growing up in a small community and always sticking out--not only because of the color of your skin but...before puberty I was always the biggest, tallest child in the class. So anything that you say or do is taken as aggression. Or even having kids use the 'n' word to describe me. That's hard.
 
Fast forward to high school...going to football games or being the kid in the band, and anytime we played or went to a high school that was predominantly black; it was different verbiage, like, "you need to walk in pairs", we weren't allowed to go to the other side of the football field, you can't throw your hands up in certain ways because "there was gang activity 'out there'" and you know...the perception of the other kids or the other fans are bad. But...we could go somewhere, that has a rich history of white supremacy, KKK, anything like that, nothing would be said. You don't feel unsafe there, those places, but you feel unsafe when you're around schools with kids of african-american decent. Or to urban areas---it's not okay okay for us to be around those kids. And (...) my kids have those same things. I had a kid that played a sport, and they went to a school that was predominantly black, and they would ask me saying, "mom why is everyone acting like we can't go around to the other side, why is everyone telling us we can't go to the bathroom, we have to go in pairs, why is everyone telling us we have to have a chaperone for everything-we can't even really leave the stands?--and they never tell us that at any other schools."
 
And it's not like its purposeful--I don't believe the schools do that on purpose, small community schools--I think that they really don't understand what they're saying, and the impact that it has on those minority children that go to those schools.
Because I'm supposed to feel safe when I go to places where people hate you just because of the color of my skin. I should feel safe there but not feel safe where i go to a place where the majority of the people look like me. It's a powerful message.
 
Me: do you feel like your experiences would be different if you lived in a different place?
 
Katrina: it would be different. I mean..you wouldn't have these same incidents that took place in a smaller community...my experiences would be different --I probably wouldn't have come into contact with such hate, at an early age, or some of those views, but I still have friends that grew up in places that were completely different from where I grew up at--and they still had, I'll say similar experiences. (...) We're just saying that hey, I need you to understand this is my experience, this is my life, this is where I started to see things differently at, this is where I started to see where I fit in at, that...I can't be comfortable in my skin in certain spaces.
 
Even as an adult. applying for jobs or...working in certain areas, there are still those places where I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. And that's not okay. Because at the end of the day I can take off my uniform, but I can't take off my skin.
So some of the arguments that we have nowadays of 'blue lives matter' ...nobody said blue lives didn't matter but 'blue lives'--that's a uniform. Those same officers whether they be of color, a minority or whatever, in that uniform, they're still black. They take that uniform off, they're still black. It didn't make a difference. That's not gonna come off. [...] 'Blue lives matter' ..that's not their race. That is a job...at the end of the day, what you are underneath that...those things are still part of you. You bring those to the job.
 
Me: You said there's some environments you go to where you don't feel comfortable. What specific things make that happen? What is it that makes you uncomfortable?
 
Katrina: Even shopping. You [a white woman] walk into a store, you pick up something, you don't have someone immediately harass you or immediately come and ask you if they can help you. Just by looking at something, just by touching something in the store.
I immediately have people that come up to me when I enter a store. All the time. (...) and you can take it as, well that's great they're just trying to be helpful...but are they? Because I like to watch...I sit back and watch for a moment, watch other people around me. And I'll step into the same space, and see how I'm treated. It's not the same.
 
Me: What sort of messages did you get from your parents growing up about who you were--did they counteract those messages you got from high school or did they kind of imbue this feeling of, you just have to accept it?
 
Katrina: (my mom came from) a Biblical stance, it's always about love thy neighbor as you love yourself, and wanting to make sure you treat others the way that you wanted to be treated,  even if you are being disrespected. To always take the higher ground. Or as my mom always says "turn the other cheek," and I'm like, "but what if I run out of cheeks?"

--

The above is a transcript of a conversation between Katrina & I. Katrina kindly accepted the opportunity to discuss some of her background and questions of race with me outside a coffee shop early Saturday morning.

I encourage my white friends to reach out to a black acquaintance and see if they would be open to having a similar conversation with you. Be prepared for them to say no, but be hopeful that they may say yes. Come and listen. You can use the same questions or format I used, if you like.


Troy & April's Perfect Tiny Wedding (with a SURPRISE wedding parade)

June 25, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Okay, let's be real. The coronavirus has taken a toll on all of us lately, and weddings took a big hit. Everywhere, couples had to reschedule, replan, rearrange, and basically turn their dream wedding on its head due to venue closures and limits on public gatherings. It has NOT been fun.

But this amazing couple, with their amazing team of vendors and their STELLAR wedding planner pulled out ALL the stops to make this wedding day so much better than the couple could ever have imagined. A destination wedding in paradise was cancelled, and arrangements were made for a small, family-only wedding in the bride's mother's own back yard. Complete with fantastic food (from the amazing La Paz) and the most stunning floral arrangements I think I've ever seen (no, seriously) from Stems & Styles, April's mom's house was transformed into a wedding venue of their own.

But it didn't stop there. See, there was a secret. A few weeks before the wedding, April's planner contacted me telling me that she had a surprise in store for the couple. She was going to arrange for all of April & Troy's friends (who had had to be un-invited due to corona) to drive by the reception for an surprise wedding-day parade, complete with signs and banners and music blaring. April & Troy had NO idea, and I honestly believe it was the single greatest moment in my personal wedding-history that I've ever, EVER experienced. Seeing the joy and shock on their faces and the love of friends who showed up big time for them while joyful music blared from the speakers had me holding back the tears SO hard. It. was. perfect. I really don't think anything can ever top it!

The family transitioned back to the backyard for an intimate reception full of mingling under glowing lights and dancing flower girls twirling hard on the patio. The couple ended the day by exiting through sparklers to their limo--which the flower girls had been ecstatically enjoying moments before, sliding across the seats with delirious giggles and gasps of excitement. When April & Troy reached the limo, they paused, turned around, looked at the flower girls & ringbearer and said, "Come on!" for a ride around the block. The squeals were DEAFENING. What a fun, hilarious & sweet way to end such a lovely day <3

Scroll on for some gooey photo goodness:

 

Congrats April & Troy!

 

Catering: La Paz Catering
Florist: Stems & Styles
Bride's gown: Bustle
Men's attire: Men's Wearhouse
Planner: Ashley Copeland
 


Taylor & Romeo's Fantastic Backyard Wedding

May 29, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I can tell you one thing about Romeo & Taylor's wedding day--if you weren't there, you would've loved it.

Lemme tell you what I loved about it:

If you'd been in her house as the girls got ready you would've smelled that tantalizing smell of fried food wafting from the kitchen and loud, hilarious comments being spouted off by Taylor's uncle. There were HUGE cheesecakes stuffed onto a busy kitchen counter, covered in shining, deep red strawberries. There were hushed whispers as family members asked 'how's he doing?' about the bride's dad who had just had knee surgery 3 days prior but who STILL managed a perfect first dance with his daughter, without the help of crutches!

I loved Taylor's ballgown-style wedding dress that hung in a doorway, with iridiscent sequins glimmering in the light; the perfect playful mix of girlhood dreams of wedding gowns and stylish, womanly beauty.

I loved Taylor's easy laugh and silly nature, gladly accepting mimosas from her mom waiting in the wings. As we did portraits, she held it together for a few minutes of serious looks before splitting into big laughs and saying how ridiculous she felt. She is classy and beautiful and silly and different and has the face of an old friend.

I loved Romeo's confident love for her and his willingness to do whatever was suggested on the wedding day for his bride: picking her up, spinning her around, handing her his sword (did I mention this wedding had a SWORD?? OMG.)

I loved that there were not one, but EIGHT toasts to this couple from family & loved ones. Folks, if you have got eight people that love you enough to stand up and give a speech in your honor on your wedding day, you are doing SOMETHING RIGHT. (Can I squeeze in an extra P.S. and say I love the faces we make when we choke back tears and smile and cry at the same time because we're in this mix of happy and sad and so incredibly grateful for where we are at that moment?)

I LOVED this hysterical group of friends that were just awesome together, and this fantastic wedding day that was just family, close friends, a backyard, good food, good music, and your standard surprise-chase-the-groom-and-attack-him-with-waterguns at the end. Oh yeah, did I not mention that? It was awesome. Scroll on to step inside their beautiful day. <3

 

See? Sword. 

I want you all to know that Romeo & Taylor are living proof that you can have everything pulled out from under you, a pandemic cancel all your wedding plans, and everything change at the last minute and if you roll with it and laugh and surround yourself with people who love you, it WILL. BE. AWESOME.

Vendors were:

Bridal Sense boutique, Atlanta

Down In Front Productions (who were amazing and kept EVERYONE laughing hysterically all day long)

 


If I could speak honestly to all the couples having to reschedule their wedding

May 13, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Or downsize. Or cancel. Or whatever.

This is what I would say: This sucks.
A hugely unpredictable, uncontrollable event came and crapped all over your year and my year and everybody's year. And I'm not here to tell you to "stay positive" or "look at the bright side" in this.
 
Chances are, you've got enough people in your life telling you that already. Maybe you yourself.
 
If I could tell you one thing that I truly believe to be more important than any other piece of your mental/emotional journey during this time, it would be this:
 

ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE UPSET

 
Let yourself cry. Go scream into a pillow until your neck hurts and your ears are ringing. Watch a sad movie with a glass of wine until the tears are hard to stop. Go for a walk in the woods to a place only you know and throw little rocks as hard as you can.
 
Yes, I know people are dying and much worse things are happening. Yes, I know it's "just a wedding." I know that coronavirus can't stop your love, or even your actual marriage. I know you two can still end the day married, no matter what happens.
But I know this isn't how you planned it.
 

IT WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY

 
A wedding is a major life event: one you spent hours, months, maybe years planning. Thousands of dollars that (depending on your vendors) may be gone for good. A vision you've held since you were a little girl (or boy) that you would walk down that aisle, surrounded by EVERYONE YOU KNOW as they watch you say your vows. Now, all that is replaced with a small room, perhaps a backyard, and 15 people with a cell phone livestreaming it to everyone who couldn't come. No, this is not how you planned it.
 
I promise I'm not trying to stir up misery and unhappiness in everyone for no reason. So why am I doing this?
 
I really do think we need to give ourselves permission: to cry, to be sad, to be angry. To wonder why it's happening to us.
Because if there's one thing I know about emotions, it's this: we can't 'will' them away. There's an analogy that emotions are like a beach ball: we can try to shove them under the surface, but they will pop up in unexpected places.
 
And you know what I think could happen? If you are forcing yourself not to think about it, not to experience the sadness and disappointment that are crowding in right now--where do you think it might pop up? Perhaps on a day that's both exciting and stressful, one when you might not have gotten great sleep and reality suddenly comes crashing in--perhaps your wedding day? 
 
I'm not saying if you let out these emotions now, you will have a perfect wedding day. But I will almost guarantee that all that pent up emotion is going to come bubbling and spewing all over everything like some weird sorta science experiment if you don't let it out in little bursts now.
 
I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE
 
 
It's nothing like what you guys are dealing with now. But I, too, know what it's like to have a wedding day that's nothing like what you expected. One that just...isn't right.
My mom wasn't there. She died 6 months before we got engaged. How does a girl plan a wedding without a mother? Without her help and excitement and all the joy that I got to witness as my sister got married a few years before? Without her face in the pews of that white chapel where we said our vows? There was a lot of good on my wedding day, but there was still something wrong. There was someone missing. I know what it's like to realize this day isn't going to be like you planned and there's not much you can do about it.
 
No, it's not the same, but I want you to know I'm right there with you.
 
Whether you get to do it all how you planned it, just 6 months later. I'm here with you.
Whether you are cutting 90% of guests and losing all your deposits. I'm here with you.
 
And for the record, I know I'm just a wedding photographer (I might not even be your wedding photographer), but if you need an ear who will listen, someone to scream and cry to over a telephone and who won't judge you and tell you that "other people have it worse," I'm here for that, too.
 
I'm ending this with a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor, because I think it's so powerful. It hits me right in the stomach because I need to hear it. I run from sadness. I avoid and procrastinate.
 
But it's a wonderful promise:
if you let yourself live this sadness now, you will not sink.
 

Carolina & Seth: a Sunday Sonnet House Wedding

February 28, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Okay. The minute Carolina reached out to me, I knew that I was gonna LOVE this wedding. Classic understated colors and The Sonnet House meant this day was gonna be gorgeous, no doubt about it. And Her excitement & enthusiasm for my photography made me feel a little bit famous, y'all.

The day we met we bonded over so many things, not the least of which was the fact that I had even HEARD of Arley, Alabama - her hometown. We chatted for an hour and hit it off like old friends and she said, "This was meant to be!"

The consultation was so far ahead of her wedding that I had a year to look forward to it. Somehow the time slipped by and before I knew it, I was walking up the stately wood stairs of the Sonnet House and peeking in the door of the bride's room.

I loved watching Carolina look out the window with excitement as her dad drove up in the SHA-MAZING vintage blue pickup that he had purchased just for her wedding (best getaway car EVER). My heart aches a little bit at the sweetness of her first look with her dad & the proud, excited smile she gave him as her turned around. Y'all, PUHLEASE do a first look with your dad (or step dad, grandpa, grandma, bridal party, etc.) even if you don't do one with the groom! It's so worth it.

Carolina & Seth did their first look on the peacefully-gray porch of the Sonnet House, getting to take a deep breathe and just savor a little bit more time together on this important day. Seth's quiet joy & calming presence was evident as they spent time together & I have to imagine that he is her 'anchor' at times.

Friends and family trickled in and gave big, excited hugs before the ceremony. The weather was overcast and just a little chilly, but the cold and rain that had overwhelmed the days before held off as if just for them! The reception was full of smiles and hugs and an fantastic bouquet & garter toss, leading to their heavenly lavender-flower exit (I can still smell it in my mind). Okay. I'll stop talking...just see for yourself!

(P.S. Scroll through to see the sweetest proud smile of their pastor after they said their vows and walked back down the aisle together. I think it's one of my favoritest moments from the day.)


 

What a fantastic day it was! Best wishes, Carolina & Seth!
 

Vendors:

Venue, coordinator, catering:
The Sonnet House @thesonnethouse
www.thesonnethouse.com

Florals:
Corey Daniel Florals @cdflorals

MUAH:
Alex Pickle @alexpicklehair

Bride's gown:
Diane's Formal Affair @dianesformalaffair
www.dianesformalaffair.com

Videography:
Michael Silberblatt

Bride's Cake:
Barbara Hooper

 

DJ:

PartyStarter Entertainment

 

Special thanks to my assisant Alisa Lynn who captured so many fantastic images (including my fave of the proud pastor!)

 

 

 


Breakfast At Bromberg's: a marvelous Audrey Hepburn-themed photoshoot

July 04, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Have you ever had someone tell you about a dream they have, and it became your dream too?
That's what happened when my dear friend Jennifer told me she wanted me to photograph her daughter, Abigail in an Audrey-Hepburn-themed photoshoot to celebrate her 16th birthday. Abi is in incredible girl, who is gorgeous inside and out and who just so happens to have a striking resemblance to Audrey with her close-cropped hair, wide smile and ballerina's grace.

I'm pretty sure I jumped out of my chair and screamed 'YES YES YES YES!', or at least sent that via text (I don't remember how she asked me now).
After months of talking, planning, taking to pinterest for inspiration, and watching Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's (it was officialy research!), it finally, FINALLY happened in June.

I will be forever indebted to Jennifer & Abi who patiently waited as I pushed the shoot back due to busy wedding months, weather, and wanting to spend more time preparing (because, y'all, this was a REALLY. BIG. DEAL.) Jennifer and her family have been there for my husband and I during new-house struggles, floods, sewer malfunctions, etc., and I owed her this BIGTIME. Even now that it's done, I STILL owe them $100, some flowers, a box of chocolates and a margarita.  Forreal.

Ok. On to some photos. BUT FIRST, if you're not up to date in your Audrey knowledge, please take a look at our pinterest board that I referred to religously before and during the shoot. Can you find each look we tried to emulate?


And so we started early, armed with a few outfits, glamorous earrings, fabulous dollar general sunglasses, and 16 wonderful balloons. Look on, friends, look on. 

In the Gardens


"I believe in pink. I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and...I believe in miracles." -Audrey Hepburn 
"I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person." -Audrey Hepburn

"The beauty of a women must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides." -Audrey Hepburn


Breakfast at Tiffany's

Being the most recognizable theme of our shoot, I wanted to make sure each detail was as perfect as possible. We got a paper bag and a paper cup from Starbucks (thanks for not looking at me like a crazy person when I asked if I "could just have an empty cup, please?"). We had sunglasses and pearls galore. But what about Tiffany's? Bromberg's Jewelers was the closes thing to Tiffany's us  Alabama girls have. With retro exterior architecture and luscious window displays, we tiptoed sneakily along the side of the building to snap some quick shots first. Then we rounded the corner to the entrance. After a few more pictures, I gulped hard and walked inside (why hello there, mister security guard!) to explain what these crazy people were doing outside their store, and would they let me stand inside for a few minutes and shoot through the window, please? Y'all, THEY LET ME. I can't thank the folks at Bromberg's enough that day for letting us live out our Breakfast at Tiffany's dreams. Y'all are amazing! 

"Everything I learned I learned from the movies." -Audrey Hepburn

As much as I loved our Breakfast at Bromberg's, I expected it to be the pièce de résistance of the whole day. I was wrong.


Funny Face

In some lesser-known, fuzzy photos for a promo for Funny Face, Audrey holds an overwhelming bouquet of balloons, dancing, jumping, and otherwise being silly in front of the arc de triomphe du carrousel. Since we couldn't fly to Paris, we took a chance looking for a similarly stately architectural backdrop. How about the, uhm, Jefferson County Courthouse? Sure, why not? After struggling to parallel park, dragging 16 balloons from a car, and pinning my grandmother's antique black velvet hat (that I just happened to remember a few days before the shoot) to Abi's hair, we strolled proudly through the park, in front of the courthouse steps, and started shooting. Remember the pièce de résistance I mentioned before? Yeah, I'm pretty sure this takes the cake. 

 

Jennifer helps with hat-pinning. You might not be able to see in this picture, but Abi gets all her stunning beauty from her amazing mama.
"The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters." -Audrey Hepburn

Y'all, this was every bit as fun as it looks. I mean it.

Red Dresses and The Red Cat

Our final stop was a favorite downtown coffee shop of Abi's, The Red Cat. With big umbrellas and just a little Parisian flair, it was the perfect place to end our day. 

"Paris is always a good idea." - Audrey Hepburn


Oh what a day it was. I'll say it again. It was every bit as fun as it looked. It was exhausting (especially for our sweet model) but so fantastic. Oh, and if you're wondering if anyone has ever told Abi that she could persue a career in modeling, the answer is yes, they have. She's not interested. ;)

And now, it's only fitting to bid you adieu with a final Audrey quote:


"The best thing to hold onto in life is each other."
-Audrey Hepburn


Heather and Luke's darling Cullman loft 212 wedding

May 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

When I think about Heather & Luke's wedding day, what stands out the most is not just the love they had for each other -- but the love that SURROUNDED them. These two are loved, adored, supported by so many. Family played such a big part in the wedding day (and when the bride has five sisters, all of whom were in the wedding party, what else would you expect?). Friends and family just poured out their love on Heather & Luke with cards, notes, and smiles. But let me tell you about the bride and groom!

They met through mutual friends, and got engaged over a year before their nuptials. I LOVED shooting their fall engagement session that included Montevallo's campus, parks, and *cough* sneaking into an overgrown field nearby (maybe. MAYBE.) After the session there was still almost a year to go till wedding day and believe me, I suffered through those months impatiently! But it was so worth the wait. The groom and his groomsmen stunned in light gray suits. Heather's bridesmaids and sweet flower girls shined in cotton-candy pink and aqua. (p.s. thanks for using my two favorite colors, Heather!) But Heather was a devastating beauty in her lacy mermaid gown.

Anyone can see what a gorgeous couple they are, but what you may not know is just what a humble & kind spirit they both have. During the days before the wedding in my communications with Heather, SHE was always asking ME if there was anything she could do for me! Are you serious?? WHO has the presence of mind during the crazy pre-wedding days to ask if one of their random vendors needs anything?! I know I didn't! But this is just how Heather and Luke are--kind, outgoing, and putting others before themselves.

I could go on forever about how wonderful these two are, but why don't you just scroll through and see for yourself?

This moment when Heather's sister had to hold back tears upon seeing her. Be still my heart!




Heather's grandparents are both deaf. She's signing, "I love you".

Have you ever seen such a stunning bride?

This prayer time was so incredible and sweet. Just another way Heather & Luke were surrounded with their families' love. None of this was posed, I promise!




 

Venue:
Loft 212 Cullman
Catering:
Stone Bridge Farms
MUAH:
The Hair and Makeup Collective
Bride's gown:
Bella's Bridal
Flowers:
Cymbidium Studios
Wedding Cake:
For Goodness Cakes
 


Savannah & John's back-country northeast Alabama autumn campground wedding

April 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Ok, can I tell you about Savannah and John's wedding day? It was amazing. It was perfect. Even as an outsider, I could tell this day was the culmination of months and years of love, friendship, family, memories, all tied together and exploding into this amazing celebration. I want to say 'heartwarming,' but that sounds cheesy, but guys... it was heartwarming.

It was deep in the woods and hills of northeastern Alabama -- a land so close to my heart.
It was at Camp ToKnowHim, with cabins and woods and lakes and an amphitheater on a bluff overlooking a river WHERE THEY SAID THEIR VOWS AT THE MOMENT OF SUNSET. Yeah, read that again. Chills.

Some of the highlights for me were (and I'm narrowing them down) -- hearing Savannah and her bridesmaids talk about staying on the campground the night before. They camped out and looked at the millions of stars you can see, way out there.

The amazing potluck-style dessert table with cakes, fudge, cookies, banana pudding, and more.

The sweetest, and I mean SWEETEST trio of flower girls who adored Savannah with every fiber of their being.

Hundreds of tiny succulents littering the tables and serving as sweet party favors.

Catching the most perfect golden, bright, glittering sun rays as we photographed Savannah and her bridal party in the woodsy-brush before the ceremony.

THOSE. FLOWERS. They were explosively gorgeous and Savannah didn't even find out till wedding day that there was a problem with the first florist and her mom swooped in and saved the day {like only a mom can} at the last minute finding a back up florist (and Lula Belle's BROUGHT IT.)

And the best moment? The best best best moment happened at the reception, but you'll have to wait and scroll down to read about that! ;)





Ok, this is the part where you gotta pause. Because this? this just might be the most amazing "toast" that two sisters have ever crafted at any wedding, ever.

Savannah really wanted her wedding & reception to be kid-friendly. There was a kids' area upstairs with games, crafts, and toys. As the reception kicked off and the best man finished his toast, Savannah's sisters took the stage. The brought out some cozy blankets and invited all the kids to come up on the steps and join them for a "story time" since it was getting close to their bedtime. What on earth was happening??

Then they brought out the book--"Horton Hears A Who". You see, Savannah's new last name is Horton. And as they read the book aloud to the audience, we realized this wasn't the original version of the classic! They had rewritten most of the lines to fit Savannah and John's story - how they met, fell and love, and he proposed. They snuck it seamlessly into the rhyming rhythm of the original story.
No one had expected it (especially the bride and groom). When they finished their story the applause was deafening. I was stuck somewhere between laughter and tears as her sisters hugged Savannah and handed over their "customized" book. I wish I could remember some of the lines, but I will never, ever forget what an incredible moment this was!

Phew. Yeah, it was amazing. Alright, you may continue:





Savannah, John, you guys were amazing. Thanks for letting me be there.

Venue:
Camp ToKnowHIm
Catering:
Camp ToKnowHim
Flowers:
Lula Belle's Moulton
Dress:
Bridal Path
Menswear:
Jos. A Bank
 


Mindy and Calvin: A Laid Back Cahaba Brewing Wedding

July 11, 2017  •  1 Comment

So. Mindy & Calvin got married on June 10th at Cahaba Brewery. And can I just cut right to the good stuff? Because this wedding was FULL of it!

  • Despite weeks (WEEKS, I tell you) of torrential downpours, Mindy's day was 100% RAIN FREE! I mean not a drop! Even though I love getting to use my cute clear umbrella when needed, I was glad I didn't have to.
  • The whole day was at a Brewery, so...you guessed it. Big tall glasses o' freshmade brews were available alllll day.
  • Oh! How about all the home-made details that her family put together like PROS? There was creamy white wedding cake, almond flavored. <3 <3 And then the flowers--bouquets, wreaths, and all--from Davis' wholesale that Mindy's mother-in-law artfully designed. Pinks, oranges, purples--the wreaths and bouqets were every color of a sunrise.
  • The brides' & maid's shoes? Converse with brightly colored ribbon-laces, of course.
    And I haven't even mentioned the antique velvet couches, the hilarious groom + groomsman, and the huge warehouse full of historic shining firetrucks that we just so *happened* to get B+G portraits in.

I can't forget to mention the SWEETEST flower girl and ringbearer I think I have ever seen. With brilliant blonde hair and bright blue eyes, they were unbearably cute. (Look for her in the last picture--you won't regret it! ;) )
And now, I'll let the pictures tell the story:




Ok, can I just stop you here? Because this moment was the best ever. We were posing Mindy for some of her bridal portraits--no Calvin, just her perched on the couch--and he was just totally adoring his new bride. He couldn't look away!


cough. ahem. another note here. warning: tear-jerking/heartwarming moment ahead...




Dear Mindy & Calvin: thank you so much for letting me tell your story, because it (and you) was amazing!

Vendors:

Wedding cake: (home made)
Venue - Cahaba Brewing
Dress - David's Bridal
Flowers - Davis wholesale florist
Baby Bites: Pastry Art Bake Shoppe


Cassidy + Sam: a rainy Flagstone Farm wedding

July 03, 2017  •  1 Comment

When we arrived at Flagstone Farm to shoot Cassidy & Sam's wedding, I was struck by the sweet beauty of the place. Rolling green hills, an open chapel perched atop one of them. The GORGEOUS cottage with every beautiful detail you can imagine; and the rustic farmhouse feel of the reception hall. Did I mention there's a lake and dock for fishing and winding dirt roads through trees and wildflowers? Sigh.

As the wedding day progressed, threatening clouds loomed and eventually poured down harder than I've ever seen in my life. But Cassidy's charm and sweet demeanor never wavered through the day. When we had to take all the portraits on a covered porch to stay dry, she didn't mind! And when the rain beat down louder and louder during the ceremony, until you could no longer hear the officiant yelling, she just laughed hysterically. Cassidy was just beautiful, inside and out, and her joy and love radiated throughout the day.

I have a hard time narrowing down all the sweet details from her day, but here's just a few: she had signs for each of her girls to hold describing how they know each other; their guestbook was a large frame, and guests signed little flat wooden hearts and dropped them into the top of the frame, plink-style (SO cool!!); and they had a beautiful custom-made ring box with their initials!

Oh, I'm not done yet though. Because THEIR RECEPTION. Guys, it was amazing. I mean like, rocked. the. house. It was kickin'. All the dorky-cool phrases in the world don't measure up. Spirited sing-a-long to Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'? Check. Tearful dance with the parents? Check. Amazing dance moves from almost every single guest? And sweet + hilarious toast from bridesmaids? Yup. Oh, and how about the most EPIC GARTER TOSS OF ALL TIME. Guys, I'm not gonna lie, it got a little scary. And awesome. Basically, I wish I could party with these people every night. Yeah, you wish you were there, too.

Anyway, here we go:






Congrats to these two, wishing you both the best!


Andrea + Matthew: an Avondale engagement

June 30, 2017  •  1 Comment

When Andrea contacted me about shooting her Avondale Villa wedding, I FREAKED OUT. Avondale Villa, you guys! I have been enchanted by that miniature castle atop the hill at Avondale Park for YEARS. Yes, YES! I told her. We met up together with her fiancee Matthew and I was struck by their unique and relaxed love for each other. They're just so...easy. The engagement session plan was as unique as they are: we'd start at Avondale Park and hit some downtown Birmingham highlights; and then end the session in their home including three other members of their family: their cats! I'll admit I was a little nervous about how it was going to play out when I was told that most of the cats "don't like being in pictures" and also "don't always like being around each other"! LOL! As it turns out, the t-shirt-and-jeans relaxed bedroom photos with their cats were my favorites from the day, and can I just say if you're considering doing a nontraditional in-home engagement session...the answer is YES. DO IT.

Okay. Enough of me. Look at the pictures of these gorgeous people!





I can't wait to see what their October wedding day will be like! I'm so excited! <3


Instax Mini Fun!

June 27, 2017  •  1 Comment


Would you check out this sweet little pair of pastel pink cameras? and how about that string of perfectly tiny pictures?

These are Fujifilm Instax Minis...and I love them! I've taken this little camera on adventures to the mountains, to the beach, and to the city. It's so awesome to snap a quick pic and immediately hold it in your hands! Printing pictures is taken for granted these days...and these little cuties do all the work for you. And guess what?

Now you can have them at your wedding! I'm offering a new add-on feature for my wedding clients: the instax mini fun pack.

The package will include all-day use of both cameras, and six 10-packs of film.

These cameras are SUCH a fun treat to have at your reception! Save money on the photo booth and set these out for your guests to pass around at the reception! Enjoy sweet (or crazy) candids from your guests' perspective, that they can take home as party favors. Or, set out a scrapbook for them to fill up, for a unique and photo-filled guestbook!

I seriously think there are so many fun ideas you could do with these! Give 'em to the bridal party to catch some extra backstage action. Or run some ribbon through a frame with teeny clothespins and let your guests hang them up at the reception: instant cute decor! What would YOU do?

Contact me to find out how to book wedding day photography with Spark Photography and add on the instax minis! <3

 


a romantic-boho-winter-flower-garden bridal-inspiration shoot

March 28, 2016  •  3 Comments

 

A ROMANTIC FLORAL WINTER GARDEN BRIDAL INSPIRATION SHOOT
(and so on)

In December, I did my first styled shoot. I just had a vision of getting a model in a beautiful wedding dress and traipsing through gardens, holding lots of wild flowers, wandering in fields and capturing every minute of it. I found a model (who is GORGEOUS as you can see and totally WORKED IT) and finally scrambled the pieces together. I was afraid that every picture would come out horribly and I promised the model I could only pay her in giant Frappuccinos and if that wasn't going to be worth 8+ hours in uncomfortable clothes whilst possibly getting very odd looks, she should back out now.

And, y'all.

IT. WAS. AMAZING. Please. Just... look, will you? :)

I'm going to try to let the pictures do the talking, (heh) but you know I can't keep this mouth shut for long. So, let me tell you about the process. I knew the Birmingham Botanical Gardens were a must and I also had one other particular image in my head--so we went to Oak Mountain State Park at the end of the day.

I scoured thrift stores and e-bay and eventually found this GORGEOUS J.Crew wedding dress--with tags in perfect condition--for a STEAL.

I then gathered up some accessories--these gold hoop earrings and gold and pink bracelet from Wal-Mart (yup!); a gold bangle that I already had on hand; an embroidered shawl from my own wedding; and several feet of tulle for a homemade chapel-length veil. There was also a pair of shoes that never made an appearance...our day was all barefoot :) in love with these flowers..

The bouquet was made over a couple hours by my self. I gathered up seeded eucalyptus, berzillia brunia, coxcomb, football mums, and a few red carnations wired together to look like peonies. The ribbons were got from a local craft store--I wanted long, wide ribbons to blow in the wind and chose maroon and black to give it a moody and mysterious feel. <3 It was pure coincidence that this girl was getting married ONE WEEK later, so no, I didn't purchase the rose-gold diamond ring for the shoot ;)
wispy twisted & braided up do <3

  This amazing girl walked under those palm leaves about 236 times for me. but doesn't she look like a 1930s hollywood starlet here?

At the end of this post, I'm going to tell you how much I spent on that dress. And you're going to FREAK. OUT

I just love the golden simplicity of the bangle, made by baublebar

I had lots of foliage left over, and I decided to do a flower crown just for the fun of it. I'm SO glad I did! So thankful for many creativity-filled renaissance-faire costume sessions with my mom where I learned how to do these. <3 (And yes, I'm a dork)

an empty nest in a prickly plant... I love these stunning images of her in the wintery branches. It makes me think of something from a Pre-Raphaelite painting. 
The shawl is a beautiful silver beaded piece by Moyna that I wore in my own wedding--I was glad to get more use out of it! I bought 2.5 yards of ivory tulle from Walmart and trimmed the edges and sewed it to a simple comb to make this chapel-length veil. No need to spend $200 from David's bridal, amiright? in a woodsy part of the gardens.

fall leaves scattered the mild December day in the gardens. I was actually surprised by the lack of comments from anyone, but just down the hill to the left, we heard a little boy of 4 or 5 exclaim something as he pointed up at as. He was just staring at her absolutely enchanted--he was definitely in love! <3 Reflecting pool at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Back view of flower crown featuring eucalyptus, brunea, carnations, and faux berries. At the end of our day, we went to Oak Mountain State Park and explored the old stone outcroppings built by the CCC, along the edge of Oak Mountain Lake.

I mentioned earlier how I had a specific vision for Oak Mountain. I'd been inspired by this image from 1930 that I'd seen in a magazine. I cut it out and it's hung on my bedroom wall for ages. I knew I wanted a simple wooden pier jutting into a vast expanse of water, and it was so cool to see that vision realized!
I call this an inspiration shoot, because that's what I want it to be. I want this to be an inspiration to brides: you CAN create an amazing, fine-art and unique look for your wedding, for an amazing price! You just have to be open-minded and creative. Search e-bay and thrift stores for amazing deals; choose lower maintenance hair & makeup ideas that a non-professional (like me!) can pull off. And hit the wholesale places for flowers and details.  Remember that if you give your photographer some creative control, and even set aside a separate day just for bridal portraits, you can get some stunning bridal images in really amazing settings!

By the way, this entire look was created for about $100 or less! This goes out to the photographers, too: if you have an image in your head for a styled shoot, go for it! It CAN be done without breaking the bank. We had an amazing day and I'm so, SO happy that I went for it, despite my fears! I am forever grateful to the tireless and beautiful model Bethany, and to my amazing friend Christina Sloan as Official Floral Consultant, both of whom I could never have done this without. It was exhausting but so worth it.


Vendor and price list:

Venues

Dress
"Taryn" by J.crew (purchased NWT, e-bay, $35.00)

Shawl
Mercury Bloom by Moyna (photographer already owned)

 
Florals
 
Accessories
Gold slim hinge bangle: baublebar (photographer already owned)
Gold chunky bracelet and gold hoop earrings: WalMart. ~$6 for both.
Veil: tulle, comb from WalMart, $6. Handmade.

Florals, Hair & Makeup: Diana Martin
Bethany is wearing eye makeup from TooFaced and Stila and lips by OCC.

 


Natalie and Alan's family + maternity session

February 29, 2016  •  1 Comment

Natalie and Alan have turned out to be some of my most loyal customers. They're some of the coolest people out there, too, y'all.

At their newborn session (for the baby girl that was still cookin' in these photos), Alan offered me some homemade ginger beer. I wasn't sure what I'd think of it. IT WAS THE BEST THING I'VE EVER TASTED. (Well, pretty close, anyway.)

Their little boy is also a hilarious, adventurous, exploring kinda kid. Which isn't surprising if you know his parents! So needless to say, I love getting to take family portraits of them.

Take a look at this gorgeous family on a lovely spring day at the park in Helena, Alabama:

Loves swinging up in mom and dad's arms!

Those precious big eyes just GET TO me. Look at him!

Also, can I just point out how BEAUTIFUL she is?! Like, it's kind of ridiculous.

Also, Natalie is pretty much a dream client who wanted to combine the maternity session into the family session--and toss her shoes off and jump in the river! She was basically like "I really don't care if my feet get dirty". Coolest pregnant lady ever.

She also works a lot with BWIB and baby-wearing, and this is just one of the amazingly beautiful wraps she has.

 

<3 till next time!

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