The Backstory No. 5: My Why

As I thought about how I wanted to shoot our family photo this year, I had to consider my “why.” Why is it so important to make an intentional frame of the five of us together? I do want to be able to document what we look like in this stage of our lives, but my “why” is so much deeper than that.

If I had to pick only one memory about my children that I fear will fade with time, it is how they feel in my arms. When they were infants, their bodies curved perfectly in the crook of my elbow. Their heads relaxed right where my head and shoulder meet. As toddlers, their legs wrapped around my waist when I carried them. (Ollie and I used to call this the “foot hug.”) When they grew older, they climbed onto my lap to read, to be comforted, or simply to snuggle. Their skin is soft, their bodies are warm, and they still find ways to curl up just so against me.

When I think about how I want them to remember my husband and I, I recall pictures of my own parents and grandparents and how I used to marvel at how young they looked at a time when I didn’t have the perspective to know how slowly, but how significantly, we change with time.  When I look at photos of us from even five years ago, I can see easily how we are aging. We will never be this young again, and I want our kids to have tangible memories of us at the time in their lives when we drove them to school and ran around with them in the yard, laughed at their jokes, and watched TV together.

The occasions are certainly occasional when we all expend effort to look our best. When it happens, of course I pull out the camera to document the event. Unfortunately, the more formal affairs are generally accompanied by tight schedules that leave little time for photographs other than quick snaps in front of the house or garage or fence or wall or couch or some other place where the setting does not match the mood I want to remember.

With this in mind, I solicited the help of The Morris Inn and of Heather Strycker, who styles all of my client shoots. I explained my inspiration, the setting, the feeling that I wanted to convey. Each person’s attire was influenced by the personality who would be wearing it: Megan with her history-loving tomboyish femininity, Jacob and Jason being all about comfort, me with my desire to be stylish but comfortable, and Oliver with a little bit of flair.

The end result is a photo that makes me feel warm, soft, cozy, beautiful, and at peace–just the way I feel when my closest loved ones settle in next to me.


A family of five snuggles and relaxes at the Morris Inn after a night out.

To see more about how and why I make specific photographs, check out the previous posts entitled The Backstory.

no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Wedding Day Prep

I am frequently asked whether I shoot weddings.  The answer is a qualified no, but that is a very hard answer to say out loud. I love weddings and all of the stories that unfold before, during, and after the ceremony. However, for various reasons I have decided to not take them on (except under very specific circumstances.)

There are a few situations when I simply cannot say no, and in fact search weddings out.  That was the case when Elizabeth asked me to document the bridal party getting ready for her wedding. I photographed Elizabeth and John’s engagement session last winter, so I already knew them and their style, some details behind the wedding preparations, and that the scene would be full of narratives that they would want to remember and share as they start and build their new life together.

So many little girls fantasize about their wedding day and the dreamy gown they will wear as they walk down the aisle. I was completely taken by the way Elizabeth admired hers shortly before donning it. The detailing on the dress was exquisite and the personalized hanger added a whimsical element in addition to showing her excitement about becoming a missus to her mister.

A bride admires her gown, hanging on a whimsical hanger with her married name, before she dons the dress.


I love how the bride is the complete center of attention on this incredible day.  Her friends and family look after, help, and dote on her, want her to look and feel beautiful, and work to make this as perfect an experience as possible.

A bride seeks an opinion from her friend and bridesmaid after she has put on her wedding dress and is assessing it in the mirror.Helping hands fasten the buttons on a bride's dress.

Sometimes, for the younger members of the party, there is a lot of waiting before the wedding. These two girls found a way to quietly entertain themselves.

The flower girl and cousin of the bride arrange flower petals in a basket while waiting for the rest of the bridal party to get ready.

John was unbelievably relaxed.  Actually, I was looking for signs of nervousness from either the bride or groom, but found that they were confident and composed as the hour of the wedding approached.

The groom attaches his cuff link while getting ready for his wedding.

The parents were also quite laid-back and smoothed the few inevitable wrinkles that popped up–without blinking.

The groom's mother straightens her son's jacket shortly before his wedding begins.

I had to hold back the tears while watching Elizabeth and her mother interact in the moments just before the first look. I can only imagine the pride Elizabeth’s mother felt for her daughter and I feel the gratitude and respect Elizabeth has for her mother as I look at her soft smile.

The bride smiles warmly at her mother in the last few minutes before the first look takes place. One last hug from a mother to her daughter, the bride, before the first look takes place.

And then the tears came anyway as I watched Elizabeth’s father’s reaction the first time he saw his baby girl dressed and ready to go for her wedding.

A father sees his grown daughter, the bride, in her wedding gown and jewelry for the first time.

Finally, it was John’s turn.  Again, the confidence of this couple, the strength they have together, was striking.  These were some of the last photos I shot that day, but it was really only the beginning of the biggest celebration of their lives and the first of countless adventures to come.

A bride looks down shyly after her groom sees her in her wedding gown for the first time.






The Backstory No. 4: Mirror, Mirror

My daughter has never been one to embrace “girly.” As a very young child, she didn’t take to pretty dresses or bows. She chose Diego over Dora. Her hair, even freshly brushed, is in a state of constant disarray and I swear it actually repels hair accessories that attempt to tame the beast. I find all of this humorous, endearing, sometimes frustrating, and even familiar.

When Heather told me one day about her little girl, Wren, with tomboyish tendencies and a special enchantment with insects, I knew I had an opportunity to capture a narrative about mothers and daughters and how similar they are, even if on the surface they appear to be very different.  We took a number of shots (See more on my Instagram feed) but I felt this one best summed up my take on the relationship we share with our daughters.  Even though the setting is similar in all of the photographs, the stories in each are a little bit different.




This image has lived in many nebulous versions in my head for a few years.  I see it as a pretty picture, with an elegant woman modeling traditional femininity for her daughter.  Her beautiful daughter, feminine in her own right, is interested in more tomboyish curiosities.  But more than that, I see Wren as a likeness of Heather herself, perhaps as a little girl, perhaps as a reflection of how she embodies and encourages curiosity, imagination, and independence.  Wren stays near her, a part of the scene, but in her own world at the same time.  Furthermore, maybe you get a glimpse of this small child as she will be in the future.

As parents, we are constantly modeling even when we may not be aware our children are watching. As they grow, they do indeed mirror our own expressions, habits, language, and behaviors. As we watch our babies grow, it is fascinating to think of all the things they might become. But in trying to envision what the future brings for them, we might take a look in the mirror.

Check out more backstories to see how I try to capture with a camera the images I carry in my head.Save







The Fergusons

This shoot was bittersweet for me.  I have had the honor of knowing the Ferguson family for a little over a year and have been amazed by how easily they integrated into our relatively small city.  The more you get to know them, the more you like them, and even in the short hour or so of time we spent on this particular evening, I felt I got to know them even better–and liked them even more.

What fun it was to photograph this family of four in their element! We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening in terms of weather. The location was full of hills to climb and places to explore and they took every advantage of the warm weather and fresh air.  It felt absolutely liberating as we were just coming out of winter.

family observing fish in a pond

The kids were full of energy and jovial antics, just as they should be. It was easy to let them be themselves while I observed and clicked away.  They told their own story as they ran, climbed, twirled, and explored. Honestly, in the back of my mind I kept waiting for them to argue or fight, but they never did. I didn’t really think about it at the time of the shoot, but later remembered how easy they were with each other.

Brother and sister read a book together outside on a hill.
Boy reading in the grass

The best shots occurred, as they usually do, when they were simply being themselves.
Daughter holding her father's hand up to her face and smiling

Unfortunately for our community, we have to say goodbye to this fun, energetic, and very warm family as they start a new adventure. I wish them the absolute best and know that I speak for many when I say that you will be sorely missed.
silhouette of a family holding hands









Kate and Soren | South Bend Family Photographer

It was such a privilege to photograph Kate and her baby boy, Soren, at his young and fun age of six months. This session was done just a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day, so the importance of mothers being in the frame with their children, especially their babies, was at the forefront of my mind.
Babies grow and change at an amazing rate of speed that it’s sometimes only after the moment is gone that we are able to take the time to enjoy it. I knew from the time we started planning this session that I wanted to capture the little details and the gestures that pass so quickly one feels them but doesn’t necessarily get to see their beauty from an outside perspective.
As Soren grew sleepy during the session, Kate commented how much she enjoyed having her baby snuggled up against her. We admired his perfectly round head and chubby cheeks and how he hooked his finger over his nose when he sucked his thumb.
When Kate looks at these photographs in the future, I want her to relive how it felt to hold his relaxed, squishy little body. I want her to see how he made her smile and laugh. I want her to remember how he smelled when she kissed the top of his head. I want Soren to see someday how his mother cuddled him and gazed into his eyes. I want them both to see how they connected with each other so effortlessly.

Is there any moment in a mother’s life that is not improved by their baby’s smile and laughter?

How marvelous are the details that make this child his own little person?

In the calm moments, drink in the smells, the warmth, the softness.

I leave you with one last image that is not about the baby, but is absolutely about motherhood. In my mind, it was one of the most beautiful moments of the morning. Soren’s older brother needed a little attention while we were setting up and I was completely taken with the way Kate attended to him. Her gentle touch and calm voice, how she bent to his level to comfort him was everything that this shoot was about to begin with.