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Category Archives: Uncategorized

the gift of time

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One of the many things I love about film is that it takes time to process.

I believe that things happen *for me* not *to me.* So much of what’s happened *for me* takes time to understand. The meaning we make around the circumstances we survive can change with time as we begin to see ourselves more clearly.

I don’t really know how to explain it, but a good photographer inserts herself into the image. It’s why you can look at a photo of an iconic photographer and identify it. I’m in this image. It’s a darker part of myself I don’t always see because I really love to chase the bright side of life.

I shot this photo at dawn at my in-laws’ place in Mulhall, Oklahoma. I recall looking at my calendar that weekend and realizing it was the first in a while that I was not working. I love to be at home but knew we needed an adventure.

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Cash could run. Samuel could be spoiled. My wife could fish. It was a couple weeks after she – my wife – was diagnosed with breast cancer. I rarely, if ever, call her “my wife.” I typically call her my partner, which is confusing because I have business partners, and these relationships are far different. This terminology is an engrained protective mechanism and byproduct of living in Texas all my life. I’ve always felt sad for people who change their pronouns to suit the audience and shy away from sharing for who they are. I understand it…I can empathize with the fear they must have to keep those facades so well constructed…yet it’s still sad to me.

It seems hospital staff could use some diversity and sensitivity training. I know that to them, we are a commodity. Healthcare. I don’t have the answers. I am going to go out on a limb – see what I did there – and go conspiracy theory for a moment about how we’ll never find a cure for cancer because the medical model depends upon sick people to treat and the radiologists and oncologists and surgeons are all in one big cancerous bed together. And still, I’m so grateful that they’ve removed the cancer from my wife’s body. I can hold both perspectives at once: cancer treatment is a conspiracy and I’m happy to know my wife will likely live for the foreseeable future. So, with such complexity in healthcare, I’m not surprised by the lack of heart I see in the medical industry. But, I was surprised…over and over…when they wanted to know if she was my sister or mother or friend. Dana never missed a beat – even on morphine – she raised her eyebrow and said, “She’s my wife.”

So from this day forward, I’m going to call MyDana my wife. If I can muster half the courage and conviction she has, I’ll be fine. My. Wife. My wife. Mywife. Myyyyyyyy Wiiiiiife.

I think it’s good for people to be a little uncomfortable. If not, how else will they learn? And it makes me uncomfortable, and I know that’s where I grow.

She and I have been together ten years, and in that time, I think she’s been married to a few different versions of Amber. Just this morning at dawn I was singing, a little too happily, to my boy, and she was staring at me, and I looked at her and said, “Who am I?”

“I don’t know, but you’re *not* who you used to be.”

I’m not always who I want to be. There’s an egomaniacal part of me who believes with all the yoga and meditation and self-help literature and therapy and addiction recovery, I should be better than I am. Why can’t I walk on water yet? But she’s certainly right: I’m not who I used to be.

And on the morning when I took this photo, she nudged me and said, “Oh babe, you should see the fog on the pond right now.” And I wanted to see it.

And in hindsight, I see myself in that moment, too.

I’m at home now for a few more weeks as I try to stay in the moment and offer my best quality of attention to my wife and my son and even my dog. My wife keeps elevating me to sainthood, but I just did what I needed to do. There was a day not so long ago after my wife had come through surgery, and everything looked good and I exhaled enough to say, “I am so proud of you…you are so courageous.”

And she looked at me and thought about it for a moment. Her internal rhythm is a little slower than mine; she processes a little slower. I wonder what that must be like. She said, “I just did what needed to be done.”

That is the definition of courage: to be scared but to do it anyway.

I took a few weeks off from the work I love because it needed to be done. And as bitter and sweet as this experience continues to be, I know that with time I’ll look back on this period differently.

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reflections on 2017 | what mattered most

Much of my adult life has been about learning to feel again because I spent much of my teens and twenties learning how to feel absolutely nothing. Numbness, as it turns out, hurts more. So, I put this on the page to remind me, when times are happy…when times are hard, I get to feel it all. A blessing. A curse. 2017 felt like a little or a lot of both. The good news and the bad news: temporary.

I’m fond of ending my yoga classes by saying, “Who you are and what you do – it matters…you make a difference in this world…simply by showing up.” Sometimes I’ll ask my colleague, Lauren Wessinger, in jest: “Do people really need to hear how great they are every class?” And we always nod. Yes. Yes, they do. This world is beautiful. This world is broken. You’re unique, but so is everyone else, so you’re really not special. As we bid this year adieu, let’s be confident; let’s be humble, too.

A few years ago, professor and marriage and family therapist, Frank Thomas, inspired me to reflect at the end of each year on what I did that mattered. Something I’ve only recently learned through my studies of both Buddhism and Christianity is that I can give in the spirit of generosity without any expectation about how my offerings are received. Therefore, certainly, I don’t always know if what I do that I think matters, actually does matter. But, here’s what I did this year that mattered, to me. I’ve always believed that what I give, comes back to me – tenfold. And, this year has been no exception.

In chronological order:
In Washington D.C. I marched with 500,000 people who were as heartbroken as I was.
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With my wife, I bought a house – a quiet place drenched in natural light where we can live.
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I watched some phenomenal sunsets with inspiring people. I taught a yoga retreat and planned 2 more retreats for this coming year. (https://thetravelyogi.com/teachers/amber-shumake/)

2017-12-30_0004.jpgI coordinated public yoga events to fundraise for my philanthropy. I volunteered more than I ever would have dreamed possible, sharing my talents in clinical settings to people who might not otherwise find yoga and meditation. Ebony Smith, founder of YOGA ‘N DA HOOD has been a great source of inspiration for me regarding how to bring yoga to people of color, in particular. As she says, “Wellness knows no race.”
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I spent a tremendous amount of time with inspiring human and fellow yoga teacher, Lauren Wessinger, preparing for our 200-hour yoga teacher training, through which we certified several people of varying ages and backgrounds to offer yoga and meditation in their communities. I ended a relationship that therapist(s), mentors, and friends have encouraged me, for decades, to end. It hurts. There’s enough pain to go around. And still, it hurts less than continuing to subject myself to abuse and the insanity that comes with doing the same thing, over and over again expecting different results.
2017-12-30_0012.jpgI showed up for my family, even when I was hungry, angry, lonely, tired or it seemed inconvenient. The people closest to us seem to get the very best and worst of us. (It helped that I wasn’t hungry as often because this year, with few exceptions, I ate food, regularly…as in every few hours, every *single* day. And, I said “no thank you” and walked away when people asked me if I wanted to do a cleanse. I hope in the time and energy that I used to expend obsessing about what to eat and when to eat, I’ve been able to do things that matter more.
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I showed up for myself, every morning, mostly before dawn, to my meditation cushion to sit. I struggled with chronic pain this year, which limited the freedom in my movement. And, as much as I hate that, the limitations always bring me closer to my meditation practice, which brings me closer to God and the ways in which God can work through me and you, too. I had a dream on the night of a full moon in May where Dana was holding a young boy. The timing wasn’t perfect; it never is for major life upheavals, but we filled out the paper work and took all the classes and became licensed to foster / adopt kid(s). We didn’t get the boy in my dream, and our hearts didn’t understand. We got another boy instead, and it wasn’t a fit; I grieved twice for boys I barely knew – boys I felt as if my soul knew well.

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We went back to the drawing board. My prayer has been, “God, if we’re to be parents, you’ve gotta make it really obvious, because I’m really busy, you know?”

And then, we got this boy when he was one day old.

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God, I love this boy. I love him, meaning I want the best for him and expect nothing in return. That’s the way I love for people to love me. I hope it’s God’s will that I get to love him up close for the rest of my life. I won’t answer questions about this part because the only honest answer is: I don’t know.

With just a day or so left in this calendar year, I’m tired. And, I’m more woke than ever. I ache. And, I’m ok. I feel the fear…and try to do the next right thing anyway.

This year I learned patience. I learned how to live one day at a time, all over again, which means that this year I learned to lean closer to my faith. Because if the highs and lows of this life have taught me anything…other than resilience…it’s that I’m never alone. Through trepid turns and smooth seas, thank you for continuing to navigate the full stream of life with me.

May 2018 be a year which brings peace and prosperity to all beings.

fort worth personal branding session | Robin Wilkins Smith

Robin Wilkins Smith, or the Disruptor Guru, is the creator of Audacious Life: the Podcast. In her inspiring podcasts, she interviews women from Fort Worth and beyond – women she deems audacious. She loves lipstick and all things fashion as much as she loves yoga and lifting weights. She’s a life coach, wife, mom, mover and shaker. You can find her teaching yoga at Indigo Yoga and in the community in clinical settings. She comes from a line of artists and paints for therapy. She’s unafraid to have difficult conversations about taboo topics such as addiction. For her shoot, I brought her over to the Brik Venue over in the Near Southside area, which offers a blend of glam and grit. I lived over in the Miller Lofts (oldbuilding.com) for years and walked the dog near what’s now the Brik and always thought “Someone should buy that building and turn it into something cool.” Thank you for turning it into something cool. Special thanks to Craftwork Coffee for making those beautiful lattes. And shout out to The Flower Market on 7th Street for having pink peonies out of season 😉

I have enjoyed getting to know Robin through this process. To capture her many facets has stretched me in the best way. I got to shoot medium format film (Kodak Portra 800) photography and digital with my Nikons, natural light and studio lights. Nothing makes me happier.

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Fort Worth Meditation in response to Charlottesville

Tonight I led a meditation at the Kimbell Art Museum. I thought around 30 people would come. I mean, I decided to do this last night after watching CNN all day. Therefore, I didn’t get a permit. When I arrived (45 minutes early,) at least that many people were already there. Though I never counted, I believe around 200 people came. From Fort Worth and Arlington, Grand Prairie, and Dallas. Adults and children.

(photos courtesy of Rene Gomez)
After sitting for around 30 minutes, my awareness shifted from the birds and the water to a man shouting in the back. I motioned to Dana to check it out. With all of the people on the lawn and in chairs, I couldn’t tell what was going on. A few minutes later, it was clear that the conversation was not coming to an end.
I have this memory of Bernie Sanders having the opportunity to engage with Black Lives Matter protestors; he shirked the opportunity and continued with his speech. This is my opinion, of course. I recall feeling as if he missed an opportunity to engage in a necessary dialogue. I’ve marched with Black Lives Matter. And each time I do, I think, Whoa, they are soooooo angry. That memory came to me tonight. Two things I have learned about privilege: 1. When people of color speak, we must shut our mouths and listen. 2. We cannot expect nor ask people to be calm. Of course, they’re angry. We have historically not listened to them. We have silenced them.
I, on the other hand, have a platform that enables me to organize hundreds of people on a moment’s notice. I am a lesbian; however, I can pass as straight. Mostly, I ooze with privilege that I rarely think about. No police arrived to the event I organized tonight. Had a person of color organized, I wonder if that would have been the case.
A few weeks ago, I was teaching meditation at Alliance for Children, whose mission is to end child abuse. And, the woman I taught explained that where she lives, she never feels safe. How can one find a safe place to dwell in her body if she never feels safe? The fact that I’ve not felt this way too often is a testimony to my privilege. I don’t have the answers. I rely on the people I teach to educate me. And, I read widely about systemic racism and study how to merge yoga with activism. I always feel as if I’m leading from one step behind, which I learned in my studies to be a counselor.
So, in hearing this man, I asked the crowd to notice the sounds and what they were sensing in their bodies. And, I invited the man up. He had a white woman with him whose sign read, “Punch more Nazis.” I turned off my mic. I introduced myself. I asked him where he was from. He was angry that I – a white woman of privilege – was leading a meditation. He felt a dialogue where the most vulnerable voices are heard was necessary. I explained I thought that was important, too. I asked if he’d be willing to wait 10 minutes to speak at 8:15 pm when I finished my meditation. He denied my request. I asked if he’d be willing to move his conversation to one side of the lawn. He agreed.
I don’t believe we can meditate racism, domestic terrorism, religious extremism away any more than I can pray the gay away. I see meditation as the first step to clearing the path toward right speech and action.
I turned the mic on and introduced him to the group. I explained that he had some valid ideas to share and that they were welcome to join him. Around 40 people joined him. And the remainder finished the meditation. When it was over, I walked over to hear what he had to say because I am interested in how I can be part of the solution. I heard him criticizing me again. How could a white woman have the audacity to lead a meditation and ask a person of color to wait until the end to speak?! I took my awareness to my feet, and I lengthened my back. I breathed a little more consciously and felt my defensiveness dissipate. When he finished, I thanked him for honoring my request to allow me to finish my meditation. And, he offered me some feedback about how I can invite more people of color to join me in meditation and at my events, which I would love to do.
Except, I haven’t found many teachers of color around here in Fort Worth. I haven’t found many students of color around here in Fort Worth – other than the ones I taught this morning at Mental Health America and the ones I’ll teach tomorrow at True Worth Place, and the ones that another (white) teacher (of privilege) will teach at Safe Haven on Thursday. And, on Friday, we (white) yoga teachers will meet at Righteous Foods to discuss ways we can spread yoga and meditation to people who don’t have access. I offer a scholarship for my Soul.Full School of Yoga training, and I’d love to offer it to a person of color. I’ll just put that out there.
So, until then, “I’m a white woman with a ton of privilege” as I told the crowd, and I’m just trying to start where I am and do what I can. And, what I can do is share my gifts of uniting people and writing and my skills of Nonviolent Communication, Somatic Experiencing, and meditation. Granted, I don’t share them perfectly. I never will. I cannot allow the fear of making mistakes to paralyze me. I feel that no action is too small when it comes to creating change. This experience has helped me to look at the ways that I am, perhaps with the purest of intention, contributing to the problem, without even knowing it.
Because I’ll never transcend my humanity, criticism still stings, which is why I typically do not read nor respond to comments (even the kind ones.) The way I remember who I am is not to allow others’ opinions (with few exceptions) to hold too much water. Yet, the only way I’ve learned to be strong enough in my body to stay woke enough to pay attention to the vile stuff that is happening in our world is through yoga and meditation.These practices have taught me to be more sensitive and aware to what’s happening around me. These practices have taught me to stand (or sit) inside myself when I’m uncomfortable, even when someone else appears to be losing it. These practices have taught me to connect to my highest wisdom, to practice compassion and empathy when anger and blame arise more readily. These practices have taught me how to deactivate my own nervous system and to help others do the same.
These practices have taught me to hold space.
And tonight, that meant doing my best to hold the space for him to be heard and holding space for people to meditate. The two, I feel, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The central message in my teaching is always the same: never will there be another soul exactly like you. At once, we are similar and unique.Be confident, as Glennon Melton says, because you are a child of God; be humble because everyone else is, too.
Our world needs your God-given talents and hard earned skills. May our spiritual practices move us to open our eyes to injustice, to listen more receptively, to speak less violently, and to act together to create the community and world we’d like to see.

Photography at The Modern of Fort Worth | Film Photography

The Modern Museum of Fort Worth is one of my favorite muses in this city. When I find a free hour, which is rare, I like to pop in. And, on Sunday, the matinee movie is the best. When I shoot there, I like to shoot in a way where the location is unrecognizable. Isabella wanted a high fashion inspired look for this shoot. It’s been a joy to photograph her on her journey to musical stardom.

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I enjoyed shooting Portra 800 and some creamy Ilford 400 for this shoot. 2017-08-03_0009.jpg
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And, thanks to Christ Chapel for allowing us to utilize their recording studio for this shoot, too. It’s always thrilling to utilize dark spaces where I can control all of the lighting.

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If you’d like information about digital media for yourself or your business, find all of the details here: http://ambershumake.com/photos-for-digital-marketing/ or contact me.

Laura Bacigalupo | Fort Worth Artist + Abstract Painter

I did a podcast today and one of the questions was something about what I want (other than coffee 😉 .) I want to help people live in connection to their deepest knowing…their highest wisdom…their truth. Stepping into our most authentic self encourages others. I know how it feels to live in a place of disconnect…how much energy the facades require. I know how it feels to exist in numbness.

And, I know how it feels to live authentically – how it feels to wake bright-eyed with enthusiasm about what the day holds, how it feels to use my unique talents to serve others.

When someone who’s walking this path calls me to take their photographs, I’m always so thrilled.

I photographed this talented painter, Laura Bacigalupo at her beautiful (swoon) studio space in the Riverside Arts District of Fort Worth. I felt vulnerable and fascinated watching her work. I watched as she painted white over parts she didn’t like, as she moved the canvas from the floor to the easel back to the floor, shaking and dripping and drinking my favorite beloved Topo Chico. (PSA: don’t drink >5 Topo Chicos in a single day #addict).

When I got home, I felt so inspired to paint. I paint a little. Occasionally, I write some words over the watercolors and leave it on an altar. Mostly, I crumple up what I paint and throw it in the recycling bin.

After this shoot, however, I knew exactly what I wanted to paint: my teacher training manual cover.

One of the things that was important to Lauren Wessinger and me was to make our yoga teacher training manual “a work of art.” The same week I photographed Laura, our manual went to print. When I saw the cover of our training manual, I just didn’t like it. It didn’t invite me to open it. I actually felt sick to my stomach when it caught my eye from the dining room table. So, I sat down and began painting a cover that felt inviting and aligned with our vision. I don’t know if I would’ve done that if the timing of the shoot and the training hadn’t been in such close succession. Had I not seen Laura paint white over layers she didn’t like, I might not have given myself permission to begin again. We influence each other – even when we don’t realize. My life canvas in its many layers and textures continues to evolve. I’m loving this iteration.

I can’t wait to see what she creates for my dining room. I know it’ll be amazing. To see more of her work and for info about commissions, contact her here:

https://www.instagram.com/laurabacigalupoart/ or laurabacigalupoart@gmail.com .

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a film journey through Joe T. Garcia’s | DFW film photographer

For every single celebration, my family meets at Joe T. Garcia’s, the famous restaurant on the northside of Fort Worth. I’m a plant lady, so I have always loved their vibe. Stepping into the gardens here is like stepping into another world. Every quarter or so, I have the pleasure of taking photos for their social media and web branding, and it’s always a joy. The rich history of the restaurant and its lush gardens beg for the classic tones of Kodak Portra (along with a few Ilford 3200 black and whites). Thank you to Richard Photo Lab for the beautiful, timely processing.
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this is what democracy looks like | women’s march on Washington

I went to Washington D.C. I had no idea what to expect. I arrived on the day of the inauguration. I’d never seen so much red, white, and blue. People so proud of the President. Proud to be “deplorable.” And standing in the street, so many others: angry. I receive comments from time to time from people who say, “Amber, how can you practice so much meditation and yoga and still be so angry?”

To which I say: How can you *not* be?

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Anger is part of the stream of emotion. My meditation practice has taught me to *be* with all of it. My anger has morphed to compassion, mostly.

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I feel deeply in the marrow of my bones that women from all economic demographics should have access to screenings for cervical and breast cancer, that a quality free public education is important, that abortion should be an option, that Muslims – and all immigrants – are welcome in this country, that my wife deserves all of the rights that a husband would have, that clean water is important, that science is real.

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I have struggled to understand: how can you *not* believe in these fundamental rights for all beings?

And, I have realized that perhaps you feel just as righteously right in your beliefs as I do in mine: you’re as proud to be “deplorable” as I am to be “nasty.”

I think I’m starting to understand: you fear big government and/or high taxes and believe a businessman can turn our country around; you lost jobs to globalization or technology or both, and you’re angry because the American Dream you were promised has changed; you fear Islamic extremists and people who enter our country illegally; you are God fearing and do not believe babies should be aborted; somehow (though I still don’t quite understand how) you don’t believe in climate change; you can’t fathom why your health insurance premiums are so high and why you should subsidize healthcare for everyone else especially those who do not care for themselves; you served in the military where you were taught to serve and protect using semi-automatic weapons, and now the thought of some politician taking your right to arms away terrifies you; you believe marriage is between a man and a woman; you fear people who defy binary gender norms in bathrooms.

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Please write to me if I’m speaking out of turn. I can almost empathize, I think. I think I know how you feel.

And, while I can understand, I don’t agree.

I know, I know…you want us to give Trump a chance.

I’ll speak for a couple million people who marched on Saturday: we can’t. We can’t be quiet when equality and human rights are at stake. And, what we’d really like is for you to understand why your insistence that we stop talking about politics is part of the problem.

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Because, if you can afford to look the other way, your privilege is showing. And it’s hard for us to see our own privilege. (At least, I know it is for me.) When you choose to say nothing in the face of injustice, you feed it and condone it…you normalize hatred and inequality. And, it’s not normal. It’s not ok. So maybe instead of covering our ears and closing our eyes and defriending, unfollowing, and creating walls, we can build bridges with our dialogue.

It won’t be easy, I know. So much of what’s beautiful in my life today is the result of hard work, pain and suffering. This personal history as well as our nation’s history gives me hope. We are a resilient people. And progress is a slow march.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed was these women who formed a barricade around the women who were protesting abortion. Their voices were heard. Peacefully. Nonviolently. I hope I can hold this image in my heart for the next four years and eternally.

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One of my dear friend’s mantra this year is: the whole world is my church. May we cease to dress fear and hatred up in religous clothing. May we remember that we belong to each other.
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To purchase one of these images, click here. 25% of proceeds benefit a local refugee who was in a car accident and is trying to feed her children.

what makes me different | fort worth photographer

Everyone’s a photographer. 

Perhaps you’re holding your camera in your hand right now as you read this.

It’s the digital age, I know. 

These past few months, I fielded at least a few inquiries each day from prospective people wanting holiday photographs.

“How much do you charge for digitals?” is a common question.

I don’t typically deal in digitals – except with commercial businesses.

I give you the digitals to every print you order, free of charge. 

Digitals get lost in internet oblivion. 

Custom artwork does not. 

I was explaining to my hair stylist that she likely feels about as competent ordering a canvass for her home as I would cutting my own hair.

She cuts hair every day.

I’ve cut my own hair a couple times in my life. It turned out ok…eventually.

I design artwork every day.

Practice makes progress.

After five years, what I’ve found is this:

Most of my clients prefer me to handle this work for them. 

And, I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work. 

My work feels like my life, although I have a life outside of “work,” of course.

I was talking with a woman this morning – talking. 

On the phone. 

Not texting. She was kinda surprised. 

I know talking on the phone is antiquated.

In so many ways, I’m old school.

And some people are afraid to talk on the phone.

If I can’t put you at ease on the phone, I won’t be able to put you at ease in front of my lens.

And, I didn’t get into business for myself to email all day. 

Been there…done that…don’t want to go back again.

I got into business for myself for the freedom and friendships, and because I have a mission. 

It’s not really *my* mission though. I give it up to God every morning and night. 

I prefer a handwritten note to most anything.

If I’m to be honest, my favorite way to talk with you is face-to-face. 

I like to go into your home and see your style.

I like to design each shoot with the end in mind.

And, I like to deliver art to you like a life-sized holiday elf. 

I like to see joy personified in your eyes. And I like to receive late night texts about how much you love your album – how it brings tears to your eyes every time. I love this as much as I love the sound of the shutter.

a date, with a camera.

She’s been making my hair look good since it was about 15 inches longer. She warned me over and over about how they hated having their photos taken. I was kinda like “yeah yeah” because people say this all the time. And then in an interesting parallel, Lululemon wanted to take some photos of me, and I was grateful because I haven’t really had any photos taken since my hair was 15 inches longer and I was 3 inches smaller. Long story not so short, I cancelled. My allergies were a mess, I didn’t sleep well, and there was talk of wearing shorts and suddenly I got overwhelmed probably because it’s October which is about as busy for a portrait photographer as April is for accountants. and the Universe smiled because I got to experience what so many clients experience. So I confessed this story to her as I just did to you and told them to pretend they were on a date with a camera. And I stood around a ton and acted like I didn’t know what I was doing which is really my lost in confusion way of making people forget that I’m there. They actually had fun which is always my goal because fun makes for fine photos. And, by the way, I do hope to do a photo shoot…perhaps in shorts…soon…when I finish editing all the photos and ordering all the albums and designing all the cards. I don’t want shorts or being photographed to wield so much power over me.
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