Year after year, I’m inspired by telling the stories of Goodwill’s Achievers of the Year. These are people who have had lives that aren’t as easy as mine but their desire to work hard and be good citizens makes me proud to know them.
And if you’re not familiar with all the wonderful things Goodwill does for this community, you should: http://www.goodwillwm.org/
Changing LIVES through the power of WORK.
West Bloomfield, Michigan
It may seem odd that I’m starting this blog telling you that I was greeted by Mitchel’s mother with a bag full of goodies for my two-day stay as I covered Mitchel’s Bar Mitvah celebration. To me, it was significant. Here’s why. As I got to know these fine folks and witnessed their interactions with family and friends who came to celebrate this special time, I realized it was this type of thing that made the two days wonderful. Sure, the food was amazing, the attention to detail, all the special touches, but it comes down to genuine love and appreciation for those in your life. I was a part of something amazing.
A wonderful family. Full of life. Pets. Great food. Friends. Laughter. Celebration. Proud parents. Generations. Tradition. Good music. Games. More laughter. Fun.
It had it all. Oh, AND it had a hilarious hypnotist, a juggling bartender, some amazing violinists and the coolest ice sculpture I’ve ever seen.
Temple: Temple Israel
Pre-ceremony dinner: Forest Grill
Reception: Franklin Hills Country Club
Food and desserts: Franklin Hills Country Club
Ice sculptures: Michigan Ice
Violin trio: Nuclassica
Juggling bartender: Flair
Linens: Affairs to Remember
Event planning: Party Assurance
Games: Game Crazy and Acme Partyworks
Go early. Stay late. Listen. Those are three rules that I have learned were so important to be a successful photojournalist. Last week I photographed this wonderful assignment for the Detroit News. I got there early, stayed REALLY late and I did a lot of listening to one of the most interesting people I’ve met in a long time. When that gentleman collapsed among the crowd, slightly injured after his firecracker stunt, he yelled, “No photos! Only her!” I appreciate the trust that John Fletcher “The Human Firecracker” had in me to tell his story visually. Happy retirement to you, John, and thank you.
Read Francis X. Donnelly’s Detroit News story and see more photos here.
I’m not sure I can even recall the first time I met Rev. Don Mathews and his wife, Grace. All I know was I remember the voice. If you’ve ever heard Rev. Mathews speak, you know what I’m referring to. The voice may have been my first impression but it was their commitment to this community and its people that left the final impression.
Rev. Mathews and Grace left Muskegon earlier this month to move south to be near family. They recently celebrated their sixtieth anniversary and then a reception was held at First Presbyterian Church so the community could say their goodbyes. If long lines, tears and more hugs than you can count is a testament to lives well-lived, than Don and Grace did just that.
“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” – Andre Maurois
Next month, Don and Grace will celebrate sixty years of marriage. SIXTY YEARS. And they still make each other laugh. Don loves to read jokes to Grace who has a good sense of humor. They still snuggle. They still hold hands. Their home is simple but rich with family photographs and mementos from their well-traveled lives. And they love. Yes, they do a lot of that. Happy anniversary, Don and Grace. You inspire me.
Meet Happy Henry. No, really. He’s the happiest baby I’ve ever met. (And he just learned a new trick – – crawling!) Just wanted to share a few photos for now but more to come…
June 24, 2013
The third Monday: As I made breakfast, I told Yuri and Harper to find something they wanted to do until it was time to eat. Yuri grabbed a book (which he decided to try to read upside down and backwards) and Harper grabbed an animal — so typical and so expected but I love it just the same.
After we ate, I decided to dig out all the photos I could find of my father who passed away last month at a much too young age of 57. I told every story I could remember to tell them about their Pap. You see, my parents divorced when I was too young to even remember. I lived off-and-on with my dad until I was Harper’s age — just ready to start kindergarten. But anyone who knows me, knows that my memories stay with me. I told them how my dad would drape my little legs over the handlebars of his motorcycle and drive down the country roads of Unityville, Pennsylvania. I told them how he would laugh because I was scared of the “eyes” that grew on potatoes when they rested in the bin a little too long. I told them how he indulged my sweet tooth and let me eat sugar cookies for breakfast and how he would let me comb his hair hours at a time. I told them how my dad teased me that, although I didn’t inherit his height or his wild nature, I sure got his ears.
Yuri captured the sweet photo of Harper listening to one of my stories and Harper took the photo of me smiling. As I edited the images for this post, I looked at the photo of my dad dressed as a cowboy in his fifth-grade school picture next to the photo of me smiling and I noticed I inherited a lot more than Danny Kessler’s ears. I see our smiles are the same. My eyes crinkle in the same places. Our chins are identical. A few freckles dot our cheeks. My time with my father was far too short but my memories will stay with me for a lifetime.
June 17th, 2013
The second Monday: They say home is where the heart is. My special day set aside for Yuri and Harper was shared with twenty of my family members that gathered at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, Virginia for a family reunion. They came from New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Missouri and Kentucky. Trust me, a posse of young cousins was much more intriguing to Yuri and Harper than their old mom but I still shot a few images (and Jon shot one too) to document a slice of the day. Then I set the camera down and let it all sink in. I let Yuri and Harper form new relationships. Yuri learned to play chess (well, sort of) with his big cousin, Andrew. Harper rode on her Zanny’s back pretending she was riding a horse as the Virginia sun transformed her freckles. We put together puzzles, hiked, read books and swam. We talked and talked some more. Yes, without a doubt, everyone called Virginia home and we all left with our hearts better for it.
Blue Lake Township, Michigan
Every once in awhile, I get a chance to be creative with something other than people. It’s fun to focus on texture, shape and light instead of emotion, laughter and moments. Don’t get me wrong, people are my real passion but I enjoy a timeout — a chance to take a visual breath. Besides working with the two wonderful owners of Carnivore Hunting Products, I didn’t have to leave my home. I’m always rushing away to photograph weddings in some beautiful location but, on this day, I walked out my front door and onto the 28 acres that ground me. Looking up, I saw my sweet 6-year-old son watching me work from our bedroom window. “Yes,” I thought to myself. “I needed this. He needed this.”
P. J. Hoffmaster State Park ~ Norton Shores, Michigan
Sue Moblo has 13 grandchildren with more on the way. Every summer she would round them up and plan an outing. Three years ago, they found camping. Sue says it’s a “down to earth” way to get to know who her grandchildren really are. “It makes me feel good when I’m around them,” she said. “They make you feel young.” So for a day this past summer, she hired me to capture their youth. Cousins playing a game of Ninja. Putting together puzzles. Warming their toes by the campfire. Making s’mores. Hugging. Laughing. Being a family. “If you keep them close, they’ll always be there to take care of you,” Sue said. I have a hunch she’ll never have to worry about that for as long as she lives.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
I had the great joy of photographing Chris and Merrill’s wedding this Saturday in Grand Rapids. These two made me cry. And laugh. (And, I’ve never seen a bride’s shoes create such a commotion. Kate Spade does things right.) So, take a peek and check back in to see the full edit soon. Congratulations, Chris and Merrill!!!
I’m not sure if I remember the officiant’s exact words but it went something like this, ‘Don’t focus on what is wrong but focus on what is right.’ I know the sentiment was meant for Lee and Lisa during their intimate, private wedding ceremony but I needed those words too. With changing careers, less time at home and life’s daily struggles, I know I can focus on what needs fixing. Don’t we all? I’m sure Lee and Lisa heard those words, too, and will use them as they start their new life together – – one that will include their future son that is due this May along with Lee’s young son, Zayden. Lee and Lisa, may you always look for what is honest, true and RIGHT with your relationship.
It’s no secret that I love creative people. I feed off of their energy, their ideas and their passion. Ellis, Michael & Muxlow are three wonderful human beings but when you sprinkle in a whole lot of creativity and musical talent, well, you get something pretty magical. If any of you were at my get-together on Saturday, you got to hear some of that magic firsthand. EM&M, keep making beautiful music together! (A shout out to my good friend, Matt Gade, for scoping out this sweet location!)
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Panic set in at first when the bride didn’t show up to the church on time. Oh sure, brides and grooms are late frequently but Hayden was REALLY late. She was sick and had been admitted to the emergency room, yep, a wedding “first.” You would think that would have put a damper on things but let the photos speak for themselves. Hayden had such a good spirit and by the end of the night she was dancing with her new husband, Ross, and all was good with the world. A few other things to note, I was in Heaven as I got to listen to the dreamy accents of twenty or more Australian guests. Swoon. I also loved how Hayden and Ross wove in so many sentimental things about their special day (sharing her grandmother’s anniversary, wearing her other grandmother’s wedding ring and having the reception at Cascade Hills Country Club – – the same place her parents did.) A big thank you to Nick Tremmel who helped me shoot this wedding. (Amazing photographer and awesome person to boot.) Ross and Hayden, may love always surround you in SICKNESS and health.
She’s kind. She’s beautiful. She’s fun. She’s smart. She’s sweet. Marlee hasn’t changed a bit since she was a little girl….she’s still all of those things. I’m lucky to know her.
I kept trying to cut down the number of images for Jeff and Lis’s blog post but, try as I might, I failed. I realized it was probably because of all the weddings I have photographed this year, Jeff and Lis’s was the closest to my own personal style. First of all, they were married in the same chapel that my husband and I were married in 10 years prior, then throw in all their vintage-inspired touches and DIY projects along with their two dogs as part of the ceremony and…. BINGO…you have this photographer’s dream wedding. And did I mention the birdcage veil?!
They flew or drove from Illinois, Virginia, South Carolina, New York and Atlanta to one central location: Michigan. The Hanrahan family came for one BIG reason: a baby. Thank you for allowing me to document this special gathering. May Michigan become your second home in the years to come.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~Seneca
Birth. Graduation. Wedding. Engagement. So blessed to be photographing such happy occasions!
When I chatted with Emily about her upcoming wedding, she really wanted the day to be about the gathering of friends and family that would come to celebrate with her and Jordan. She didn’t have an extensive list of photos she wanted, Emily just kept saying it was about the guests. No getting ready photos, no dollar dance or cake-cutting pictures. And for me, that was just fine. It was fine because the stress of missing a crucial wedding component for a photographer can add a few gray hairs, but on a more serious note, it allowed me to focus on the REAL meaning of a wedding in the first place…LOVE. Thank you, Emily and Jordan, for three beautiful days of celebration – – the rehearsal, wedding and Sunday brunch. (oh, and I think I gained weight just by editing these photos…the food was AMAZING!)
Alyse drove from Lansing to have her senior photos taken near Lake Michigan. We did that and a whole lot more. I found out Alyse is a pretty good soccer player so I figured she’d be up to my photographic shenanigans. And she was. Alyse battled some bees, climbed through weeds and even jumped in the lake! To top it off, Alyse’s mom carried my camera bag the whole time (my shoulders thank you!) and her sister held the reflector. What a family. Thanks for taking risks, Alyse, I can’t wait to show you the whole batch.
It’s not very typical when a college or high school girl wants to get up at 6 a.m. for an early morning photo shoot but Lauren and Courtney, two talented equestrians from Virginia, didn’t mind a bit. And why should they? The sisters have been doing it for years, preparing themselves and more importantly, their horses, for competitions. As a former Western Kentucky University equestrian team member, I remember those days well. You did all the work yourself or you’d be pegged a “horse show brat” (competitors whose parents did all the dirty work for them!) Thanks, Lauren and Courtney, for your patience, great attitudes and sweet Southern hospitality. You made me feel right at home.
We kind of piggybacked a mini engagement shoot of Jeff and Lis before a family photo session with Lis’s family near Lake Michigan. Sometimes it takes a couple a little time to warm up to having cuddly photos taken. I’m not sure if the scorching heat that day made them naturals or if it was just the fact they are crazy in love…maybe a bit of both! One more thing, I think Lis has one of the BEST smiles I’ve ever seen. Jeff and Lis, I can’t wait for October 6th! Until then, keep cuddling…you’re good at it.
Here’s one of my favorite images from Lee and Ali’s Chicago wedding. I was fortunate enough to second shoot alongside the talented Craig Watson. Thanks for the opportunity, Craig, and I hope there are more chances to work together. Lee and Ali, I wish you years of happiness. More photos to come when I catch up!
Tomorrow is the big day for Emily and Jordan and I am so excited to document their wedding, reception and Sunday brunch. During their rehearsal at First Presbyterian Church, the two shared a moment at the altar. So sweet! Can’t wait for tomorrow and, please, let it cool off just a little…