* Family Sessions

Beachy Family Kansas Homestead

I visited Rachel Beachy and her family last month on their breathtaking homestead along the Arkansas River in Central Kansas. Her garden was the closest thing to heaven I've ever stepped into, reminiscent of what I imagine Ma Ingalls must have surely cultivated herself back on the Prairie. I was so taken by Rachel's humility and soft spoken grace and wanted to just sit on that porch a good week straight just soaking in all the wisdom spilling from her soul. I asked her to share about her passion for the soil beneath her feet and all the bounty bursting forth from her homestead.

You'll find her words below...

 

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Rachel:

 

"I told my husband recently that he makes all my dreams come true. I’ve never dreamt of being a princess and having fancy clothes and a mansion with all the amenities. Rather, my dreams were always to have an old farmhouse with some barns, and a little land to garden and raise some animals.  Two and a half years ago, we left a lovely home and community in Pennsylvania, and my dream became our reality here in Kansas.

 

 

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Gardening is a sacred work to me. it’s a hard, sometimes ugly, painful and can be devastating work. But, it is also the most rewarding, hopeful, fulfilling and breathtakingly beautiful of works. In my garden I find so many life lessons and pictures of God’s work of redemption and grace for my life.

I see over and again how no matter how hard I work, how ‘right’ I do the job, or how perfect a condition I create, God alone gives the increase. God created time and life in a garden and someday I look forward to being in eternity's gardens and learning from the Master of all Gardeners. But, until that day comes, I want to be a good steward of the earth God has entrusted to me.

 

 

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I want to instill in my children the privilege and responsibility that comes with being given grace we don’t deserve. I want to show them that there is so much pleasure and simple joy that can come from hard work and being willing to exercise our God-given gifts. I want them to learn that God gave us the ability to create beauty and share that with others.

I want them to know that life is a continual changing season and that no matter what season a person is in, God can still use them to bring glory to his name if we are living with purpose.

Purpose is not just a thing you do.

Purpose is something you are, something you give, something to live with meaning.

Purpose takes perseverance.

 

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In Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind”, part of the bridge says this: ‘when those dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you put in is realized… let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind.’ While I don’t use country songs as my guidebook for my life, those words sum up so well how I feel. It’s okay to enjoy the dream, to live the dream, to take pride in the work. But, in midst of those great and good things, to be willing to show humility and kindness.

Humility and kindness never grow old and are always worth pursuing and extending."

 

 

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your heart. What a gift it was so savor your space alongside you that day. - Joy

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Hall Family Harvest Session

   

"Home not is merely a dwelling. It's not merely a state of existence. It's a story, a narrative spun out day by day, a story moulded by the walls and hours and tasks and feasts with which we fill our time, reflecting the reality of the God whose love animates every aspect of our being."

-Sally Clarkson

 

 

 

 

I spent sunrise til sunset with the Hall family in Minneapolis. Their home is life-giving. Their home is a place for rest and warmth and forgiveness and compassion and healing. And it's not because it's pretty or well kept or organized or clean (even though, yes, it is all of those things).

It is because even in all it's grandness, it is humble.

 

 

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Their home embodied gentleness. Gentle words spoken in instruction and affirmation. Gentle hands offered to embrace and to create. Gentleness so evidently sowed into every inch of their home. And the harvest of their labor seen in the dear, rich, softhearted friendships held between the girls.

Home is the place where spirits are filled as well as bellies.

Home is where traditions are made and trust is planted.

Home is where courage is learned, grace is given and lovingkindness is cultivated.

This is their home.

 

 

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Hutchinson Family on Lake Minnetonka

I met the Hutchinson family in the wee hours, before the rising of the sun, on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota… the beautiful front yard of the place they call home. Coffee and the sunrise and back to their house for their favorite Saturday morning routine. Alicia, the mama, so graciously wrote out the breathings of her heart to accompany the images I created of her family. Her words are strung throughout the photographs below...  

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Alicia's words:

 

"Growing up, I was never the teenager you’d call to babysit or work in the church nursery. Motherhood was never on my radar. I didn’t play with dolls or pretend to be a mommy.

That life seemed too monotonous for me. I wanted bigger, better, more.

So when two pink lines on a plastic stick stared me in the face at age 19, one month after I graduated high school, I knew I had some mental adjustments to make.

 

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The realization of what I was saying no to because of what I was saying yes to didn’t fully compute until February 26th, 2002 at 2:22pm.

The doctor handed me my brand new baby boy and everything I thought I always wanted silently tiptoed out the door, allowing all the space for my heart to swallow up this perfect human that I never knew I needed.

 

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I realize now how lucky I was to, so early in my life, find out what I was created for.

This boy.

 

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Years and cross-country moves and so many joys and heartbreaks later, I’ve stretched my heart to fit three more beautiful babies.

I keep waiting for that original desire to creep back in—that yearning I had when I was so young to return and remind me of that other life I thought I wanted.

 

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It never has.

My life isn’t what I had envisioned, but isn’t that always the best? Like the best surprises are the ones you couldn’t have dreamed up yourself?

 

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We have Boy Scout meetings and baseball games. We take spelling tests around the dining room table and mend scraped knees in the bathroom. We make messes in the kitchen and clean it up together. We create models of battlefields and experiments out of vinegar. We go out on the town and we stay in and read on the couch.

We laugh and cry and argue together.

 

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It’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty. And I’ve learned in this walk of motherhood that some of the simplest things in this life are some of the most beautiful too.

 

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I look at my son, that same face that changed my life so long ago.

In an instant. In a push. Two new people in one hospital bed.

That same little boy that I kissed and sang to each night, now can shave and look me in the eye and buy songs on iTunes.

 

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That realization that our time with him here, in our home, is quickly dissipating, I question so many things.

Are we laughing enough?

Are we teaching enough?

Are we reading enough?

 

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Are we doing well enough?

Are we loving enough?

 

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The immensity of this parenting gig can swallow you whole if you let it.

 

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But I find that snapshots of the past are all-telling.

An honest look at your everyday can make such a difference in moving forward with expectation and intention.

 

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I can find peace with my little life-changer leaving home because I know we’ve loved him hard and we’ve loved him well. And not just with him, but with all our children...

The way Jack finds his way to his favorite place near my side to cuddle with me. The action is the same, his body just gets bigger.

 

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The way Sophia can let everything go and sing and dance her heart out without fear of feeling silly or embarrassed because we’re all doing it with her.

 

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The way Vera breathes deeper when I pick her up and her moon eyes shine in my direction when she does something well.

 

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The way Noah, my oldest, still wants me to be the last to tell him goodnight and uses that time to tell me what’s on his mind.

 

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The way we all laugh at inside jokes that are only funny to us.

That’s how I know.

 

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That’s how I know that no matter how our parenting career began or how many things I feel I did poorly or how many times I’ve messed things up…I know.

I know that bond with my kids is thick and true.

 

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And I know that even though these years are speeding by too quickly, these children find their home with me—with us.

 

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The days at the lake finding treasures from nature and learning to skip rocks.

The hours by the fireplace reading thousands of pages of books.

 

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The dozens of cookies we bake together.

These are the things we will treasure always. These are the memories we will have forever.

 

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I want to bottle them up, tuck them away in my heart for those days twenty years from now when my house is clean, but holding less people.

 

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I know that when that time comes, I can rest easy.

That no matter what happens, we loved our children well—

and I can hold that dear forever."

 

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(Alicia has inspired me toward a more rich and joyful homeschooling journey, as I know she has for mamas all over. You can find more of her teaching, words and beauty on her blog Investing Love at aliciahutchinson.com.)

Five Marys Farm - Harvest Session

I recently spent a day in the breathtaking Siskiyou County in Northern California with the Heffernan family on their 1800 acre ranch, aptly named, Five Marys Farms (with Papa Brian, Mama Mary and their four little Marys in tow). I rose with the sun, roamed through their grassy prairies, ran through thick woods and admired the snow capped mountains surrounding the homestead that was first established in 1858. The day was filled with caring for the animals as a family; Black Angus cattle, Navajo-Churro sheep, Glouchester Old Spot pigs, Red Bourbon turkeys and their 40+ varieties of laying hens as well as the heart filling laughter that poured through every wooden wall of that original grain barn-turned-tiny farmhouse.

 

 

This video. Well, the images too.

Can I humbly say that it is my favorite work I've done yet? I love it.

I hope you do too. And mamas, make the video full screen & call in the kiddos because I'm sure they would love to watch as well!

 

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Mary, the mama of Five Marys Farms, so kindly wrote the story of how they recently came to be a farming family and it is pieced throughout the photographs below. This is surely a long, rich post so give yourself time so you can make it all the way to the bottom...

 

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Mary:  "Two and a half years ago we were living a busy life in the Bay Area, Brian was a lawyer and I owned a few family based small businesses, and together we owned and operated two restaurants. Brian was raised on a farm in California where his dad farmed trees and row crops and I am a sixth generation Californian with farming roots - so we both always were drawn to the idea of buying a farm to split time between the bustle of Silicon Valley and the wide open California spaces. It was a "someday" dream since we met.

 

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We looked for rural property several times after we were married but nothing ever worked out at the time. The restaurants pushed us to look for really premium meat raised with idyllic small farm husbandry but we could never find the right volume, quality and consistency we needed year round - and so we decided to try and do it ourselves.

 

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We found our ranch by chance - looking primarily for land and water to raise cattle, not really for a place to live (at least at this point in our lives). It all happened quickly and soon we were the owners of a beautiful ranch that needed lots of work, cows and infrastructure. We naively thought we could do both - live a busy life in the city and be weekend warrior ranchers.

 

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We drove up and back to the ranch every weekend for 8 out of 9 weekends - a 6 hour trip each way with four carseated kids in tow. We had lots of "windshield time" together to consider and discuss what we really wanted for ourselves and for our kids. The 8th trip we decided we decided to pick up our life and plant our roots right here on our ranch for good.

 

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We fell in love with this land, with our small town here, with the incredible community of people willing to help us new folks learn the ropes, the local schools, and with everything about working hard together as a family raising animals everyday - with the lifestyle of ranching. We knew this was where we wanted to raise our children and grow old together.

 

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So we sold our businesses, sold our house and have never really looked back.Ranching is no joke - it's work 24 hours a day 7 days a week with no time for vacations or days off. We are up with the sun and, since every animal gets fed before we do, usually eat dinner after dark.

 

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There are livestock in my living room and kitchen half the time, my girls are always covered in dirt and my wardrobe consists of blue jeans and torn flannel shirts and boots every day.

 

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The daily ranch to-do list is truly never-ending and there are obstacles and hardships at every turn - back breaking work, broken pipes, drought, flooding and animals that die no matter how hard you work to take care of them. It's unpredictable and raw, with intense emotions in the highs and in the lows.

 

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But when you ask either of us where we'd go if we had the chance for a vacation both of us would honestly answer there is no place we'd rather be than right here experiencing this life together as a family.

 

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If we weren't here everyday - we might miss the wonder of a new baby calf being born, or a newborn lamb learning to walk for the first time, or a squealing little litter of 9 piglets learning to nurse, climbing all over each other. We feel pretty lucky we get to call this life together our own and are very proud of the meat we get to put on other families' tables."

 

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I was so impressed while visiting Five Marys Farms at how the children were never viewed as an imposition. It was the most beautiful thing to watch as parent and child just worked and played alongside one another joyfully.

I was so intrigued and asked Mary to share a bit about how they've instilled such a thoughtful nature and work ethic into their children and she wrote her heart out in the most beautiful post on her Five Marys Farms blog… mamas, I promise her words will encourage your weary hearts and inspire you to reach your children right where they are at rather than fitting into another family's mold.

Find her most recent blogpost as well as info on how to order their farm raised products (to ship nationwide!) on their website here.

 

 

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The Burke Family - Covered By Grace.

  "Come thou fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

 

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Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above,

Praise the mount - I'm fixed upon it

Mount of Thy redeeming love.

 

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O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I'm constrained to be,

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter

Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee.

 

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Prone to wander - Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love,

Here's my heart - O take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above."

- Robert Robinson, hymn written is 1758

 

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Mae, the radiant mother in these images, offered these words about her heart just after the photo session...

 

"We are in a season of always needing Grace.

 

Grace that covers half-hearted measures of attention to my girls. Grace that covers overheated tempers with my husband. Grace that covers blood deep desires to see my name renowned above my Savior's. Grace that covers receiving more from my friends than I am giving. Grace that pulls me closer to the cross despite my intense efforts of pushing away in laziness.

 

It's hard to allow yourself to be fully laid open in front of someone else to photograph, to not be in complete control of the image that is being presented to the world. It brings me to a level of vulnerability that I demand from my family, clients, and friends, but may not be fully prepared to rise to myself. But Joy knows. Joy knows this Grace deep, it's the same that covers her, and under that Grace she was present with us. Exactly where we are, our need and all. Thank you, Joy, for this literal image of the presence of this Glorious Grace in my life as a woman, wife, mother, Daughter of the Most High King and Servant Savior."

 

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Mae, I saw you.

I saw you hold the faces of your babies and kiss the forehead of your husband and laugh through all the tears.

And it was so very beautiful.

 

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A Golden Day with The Robbins Family.

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"Courage is fear that has said it's prayers."   - Dan Allender

 

This family is courageous.

Not the kind of courageous that roars and makes itself known, but the kind that humbly shows up everyday calling on holy strength to suffocate all the darkness.

 

 

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Everywhere they go they take along their nature journals. Documenting the small traces of grace in nature, recording the majesty in the oftentimes overlooked traces of miracles.

Hope documented. The maple leaf turning gold as the season shifts, the dandelion seeds in the breeze, the last ripe apple left on the tree as the chill of winter whispers through the bare branches. These traces of hope giving way to a deep and ever-present peace.

 

 

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They know that this life is a fragile one.

They know that not every day is a giddy leaf throwing October celebration, but that each day is worth mustering up courage to fight for the good.

 

 

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Harvest Session: The Solis Family

i received an email earlier this year from a mother asking if she could fly me to her home in hawaii for a harvest session…

"Hi Joy,

I sought you out to capture this time for us because I know that this time may not last forever. This is perhaps the last year I will be able to stay at home full time with my girls. The most important thing to both my husband and I is to try and give our children our unconditional love and presence. We aren’t winning any awards on the financial front, but seeing the confidence that my girls have and how happy and sweet they are makes my heart burst. It makes all of the hard work feel so worth it, though sometimes it feels like we’re trying to bail a sinking ship. It’s such a precious time together and I’m so grateful for it. I see this session as an investment in remembering this incredible gift of having this time with my girls. I don’t need new clothes, but I do need to remember this. Plus, I have a crazy fear that if something should ever happen to me and I wasn’t able to raise my girls, that they perhaps wouldn't know how much I loved them and how hard we worked to give them our best. We really don’t have many family photos and I almost don’t exist in any of them. The girls are still so young. They don’t know how many nights I’ve gone without sleep when they’re feverish or how my sole motivation for every single decision first revolves around them. They wouldn’t know this love either if I was gone tomorrow, because what tangible piece of evidence is there to show them in my home? So, it was my hope with this harvest session is that you would be able to capture a little piece of our enormous love in cinema and photograph. I truly think you’re the only person that could see the beauty in our humble struggle.

Aloha, Stormy"

 

i went last month. and although we were in a tropical paradise, the only beauty i could see was the intense bond of this family. stormy may have been fearful that her love had a chance of not being remembered, but i know without an inkling of doubt that even one tiny seed of this kind of love could reap endless fields of assured unending harvest. there may have only been one plumeria tree in their yard but when i closed my eyes the aroma was as strong an as entire orchard.

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Witkowski Family in Upstate New York

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"Love will hold us together Make us a shelter to weather the storm And I'll be my brother's keeper So the whole world would know that we're not alone.

It's waiting for you knocking at your door In the moment of truth when your heart hits the floor And you're on your knees.

Love will hold us together Make us a shelter to weather the storm And I'll be my brother's keeper So the whole world would know that we're not alone.

This is the first day of the rest of your life 'Cause even in the dark you can still see the light It's gonna be alright."

 

-Song lyrics by Matt Maher, Hold Us Together.

 

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i could easily write a novel about my love for this family. we first met when they hired me to photograph them at their home in new york last year while also graciously inviting my whole family to have a slumber party weekend with them while traveling on the road. together, our kids caught minnows in their lake, ran through tall grass, searched for bear tracks at golden hour and shared pancakes and heart stories in the wee hours of the morning. we all quickly became good friends and they surely took up permanent residence inside my heart. the way they live is, in itself, a ministry. they bleed such beautiful grace, and it is shown in their determination to keep marching onward, together. i had the honor of photographing them again a few weeks ago during my bloomville, new york workshop at the turquoise barn and i could not have possibly imagined a better example of authentic gratitude for my attendees to learn from than them.

the above song lyrics, they told me, have been their family's anthem this past year and what strength there are in those words; making the everyday beautiful and whole no matter what the season... Love will hold us together, make us a shelter to weather the storm. And I'll be my brother's keeper so the whole world would know that we're not alone.

 

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Katie Daisy - at home & in her studio.

  "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

- Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

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i first met katie daisy years ago, purely as the artist that i had admired from afar and whose soulful paintings i looked upon in my home as inspiration to breathe deeply throughout my days. from that time, our connection grew and i had the honor of documenting her with her fiancé eli among the aspens and wildflowers in bend, oregon, the town they met and fell in love. within katie i saw a passion grow, a depth and sensitivity towards this man and a freedom in sharing life alongside another. her heart had begun to swell and it was undeniably reflected not only in her art but in her spirit. and now, in my my recent trip to bend, their two hearts, now sewn together, had grown tenfold as they had welcomed a new bloom to their garden… sweet little finn. and in katie i saw a raw beautiful vulnerability unravel. where once there may have been a pondering and a quiet, i now saw an open spilling out of overwhelming pure selfless ever-expanding love. it was motherhood. she was now the sheltering tree that had grown to shade the tiny being before her while still swaying ever so gently in the breeze, allowing nature and her beloved to lead her spirit forward.

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i spent the day and evening in the place they call home; their cabin in the woods, with a river running just beside it, surrounded by wildflowers, tall ferns and the so very present aroma of contentment flowing through. it was a relaxing family morning in the cabin, followed by adventuring, and then when eli went to work in the afternoon i had the gift of seeing katie at work in her studio, with sweet finn snoozing on her back. melodies poured from their home all day… some from the radio, some created by eli, a few sung sweetly by katie to the babe on her breast, but mostly i heard the humming of nature all around them and the way it almost radiated from within them.

 

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"Yes, I need you, my fairytale. Because you are the only person i can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought - and about how, when i went out to work today and looked a tall sunflower in the face, it smiled at me with all of it's seeds."- Vladimir Nabokov

 

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standing in the sun. a family session.

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i've photographed these children since they were in their mama's belly. and when they were merely days old in various houses that they have moved into over the years and throughout various seasons of life. i have grown to love the heart of this mama so dearly, she has a deep joy that radiates out from within her and so evidently has spilled into the hearts of her children. as i walked into their home for this session a few weeks back in california, a piece of art in the kids' room caught my eye. it was vintage from the saturday evening post; it read:

happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort.

happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right for they will be satisfied.

happy are those who feel their spiritual need for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

happy for those who show mercy for mercy will be shown to them.

happy are the single hearted for they will see God.

happy are the gentle for the whole world will belong to them.

happy are those who make peace for they will be known as sons of God.

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and my time with these four, well their happiness was contagious. there was a halo that formed around the sun as they danced in front of it. sorrows were set free. mercy and gentleness wrapped around them in the warm breeze. peace was known. and my heart leapt with joy at the sight of it.

 

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The Harris Family: A Harvest Session.

a harvest is the ripe bounty of natural gatherings collected throughout a season; a labor of love and the rich result of patience, intention, endurance and hope. that is what i found in this home. the love put in over many years, spilling out within every bit of laughter, every dance party in the living room, family snuggle and light saber battle on the big bed and every bit of beauty as a reflection of a life lived seeking out the good. they requested a video. and i was more than happy to oblige.

i arrived in miami, the land of sunshine and palm trees, on a thursday and i left on a friday. it began to drizzle a hot rain as i drove toward the airport through streets lined with banyan trees and the hustle of city life. but this rain… it had the feeling of intense purpose. for a moment the heat subsided and the sweat on my neck was cooled by a stormy breeze and the welcomed feeling of renewal. it was just as my time with the harris home had been… i had walked into a sanctuary of art, and family, and most importantly, belonging.

this mama, carolyn, is a talented artist. one who values honest self expression and the raw importance of growth through brave photographic pursuits of self discovery. i was more than honored to have been invited into her home/playground/studio/life/bubble of hope and creation. and as i documented her from behind the camera, she also led me with her truth into a deeper understanding of my own.

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Harvest Session: The Wharem Family

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this harvest session is the documentation of a day in with the wharem family: chris, lexi, lucy and iris. the letter above was written by lexi's mother to her own mother on christmas 1981, when lexi was two years old. it was written as a 'thank you for life' gift all those 34 years ago. it resurfaced again when lexi's grandfather found it in his wife's wallet when she died, obviously always kept very close to her heart. an excerpt from nancy's letter...

"So when your time on earth has ended know this: life greater than your spirit alone shall live on, and the world will be still a better place because you have lived. My children are my gift to you for they will carry on the love obtained and shared by your mother and hers before, and so you have given me great purpose in this life."

the full letter is one of the most heartfelt pieces of love i have ever read. when lexi sent me the letter and images she told me this, "it embodies how i feel about my own mother, such a full circle feeling when i read it to know that she has in turn passed down that same love to me, and now it will be a gift given to my own girls."

and she has. that love lives on in every smile she shares with her babes, every twirl in the kitchen in the afternoon sun, every stroke of paint on the kitchen table, the guiding of sewing first stitches for little fingers and kisses in the hallway from her husband with their girls watching on; every moment of joy, struggle, hope and pressing on in the beautiful mundane.

i visited them last month for a full day at their home in lake wales, florida… the town where lexi grew up running beneath the live oak trees with her grandmother, swimming in the lakes beneath the beating sun every summer and where i watched a legacy of intentional gratitude carry on.

"Your light shines on and on and knowing you have allowed yourself to be a vessel of God's love has given immense reverence to me, to have been born of your womb. My gift to God, and consequently to you, mother, is to keep that light shining and flowing in the truth and honor of your love." - Nancy

 

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gardella family - a harvest session.

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i have long admired the gardellas. michelle's fierce passion and glorious artistry, thomas' gentle, loving spirit and humble bravery as he leads his family, and their two little beautiful humans, lily and braedon, who themselves are filled to the brim with quirky creativity, tender daydreams and wisdom far beyond their years. i have the honor of calling them friends, although family would perhaps describe the kinship better. and i know that anyone who has met them feels their genuine warmth burning from their hearts right down to their toes and into every soul they encounter. i spent a day with them at their home in austin, texas; arriving just before they woke up to an unkempt house, messy hair and bleary eyes, as requested.

michelle told me, "i want my children to remember this: that they, and we, are enough, even in our most undone and real moments. we are beautiful even when things aren't pretty."

while these images speak for themselves, i did feel that since the gardellas are, themselves, so eloquent with words, that i would share some of their writings that i gathered from their online journals alongside the photographs.  you'll also notice these are all in black & white, as requested by michelle. timeless and not a bit fancy.

these four souls, they just bleed love.

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Thomas about Michelle: "I have learned so much from her. How to love. How to be silly. How to open my heart to the world. But more than anything I have learned how to be a better dad from watching and experiencing her be such an amazing mom to our children."

Michelle about Thomas: "He always knows how to bring my heavy heart back into the light."

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Thomas about Lily: "I am certain I have known this soul for many lifetimes."

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Thomas about Michelle: "The little things about her I love… her side of the bed just after waking up. Her soft white blanket still warm while dreams slowly fade from memory. I cherish every moment with her."

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Michelle about Thomas: "If you were to throw a pebble in a lake it might make a tiny ripple, but if you happened to be super mini and sailing on an ant-sized ship, that tiny ripple would feel like an enormous wave. I am living this life on an ant-sized ship. Most days I see my highly sensitive nature as a huge blessing. Especially when it comes to my art. But somedays, my goodness it just feels like too much. And on those oh-my-goodness-my-heart-is-breaking-every-second-because-this-sunset-is-reminding-me-of-my-third-grade-lunch-lady-who-had-cancer-one-year-and-wore-orange-days, he is my anchor. He keeps my boat from capsizing or swirling out to a sea filled with pirates."

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Michelle about Braedon: " Me: I will always love you with every inch of my soul. Him: Well, I will always love you from here to the ends of the universe, therefor, it is always expanding."

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Thomas about Braedon: "He is more perfect than I could have ever imagined. Every time I look at him I am so grateful. Grateful for the amazing times I have spent with him over the years. He has such a huge heart… just like his incredible mom."

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Michelle about Lily: "Her sweetly spun fairytale, her messy hair, backwards Goodwill dress, arm resting on my leg... I don't want to let this go. I need to hold on to the seemingly simple moments like this, that, on every birthday since I can remember, I blew out the candles, and wished so hard for."

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Thomas about Michelle: "No matter what comes at us I know that she will always be there for me and our family. Never have I met someone so brave and true. She amazes me every single day."

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Michelle about Thomas: "I crept in on his nap so I could smell his neck."

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Thomas about Braedon: "At some point he went from cradled in my arms and rocking him to sleep to building and giving presentations on oscillating water generators."

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Michelle: "I follow their freckles like sailors look to the constellations, when their ships are lost at sea."

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Michelle about Lily & Braedon: "She called out asking for someone to help her button her sweater. He came running over. I don't know much about previous lives, but I do know, without a doubt, their bond is millions of lifetimes strong."

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Thomas about Michelle: "Hearing her blow dry her hair with Lily singing and dancing around her always makes me smile."

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Michelle about Braedon: "He has the kindest, most forgiving heart I have ever witnessed. I have seen him angry twice. The love I have for this human being is otherworldly and swallows me whole. Every freckle on his shoulders. Every sound effect he makes while playing. Every comic he draws in his notebooks. Every dance move. Every huge hug he gives his sister. Every morning snuggle. Every single second that I get to be his Mama."

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Thomas about Lily: "This girl has my heart. Always."

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Michelle: "Me- Lily want to do my daily meditation together? Lily- Sure! (giggles nonstop for ten minutes.)"

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Thomas about Michelle: "Everyday she works hard to live her truth and balance family and passion and art and income. We are so honored and blessed to have her as a mom and wife."

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Michelle: "My children know what it is like to be loved right up close, and to have parents who, by ungraceful but passionate example, live to nurture both the wilderness within, and afoot."

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Harvest Session: The Robbins Family

i wrote this post in december titled 'Harvesting Hope: A life worth remembering'.  if you didn't have a chance to read it then, i'd love for you to take a few minutes when things are quiet, with a cup of something good in your palm, and read it.  and if you did read it, thank you deeply.  thank you for your love, i felt it and i do feel it.  vulnerability is a fragile, delicate thing… like taking a great big leap into something unknown, with the hope of beauty below.  a sea of beauty.  i am swimming in it.  sometimes it is isolating but that is when i am just keeping my eyes on myself.  it is in the looking up, being expectant for the warmth from the sun, and the racing after gratitude that reminds me of all the grace. robbinsharvest-717_b&w

thank you for your comments, your support, and for those of you that expressed interest in having me into your homes to document your family for a full 24 hours.  i have begun traveling for these harvest sessions.  i am so very giddy to share this one with you.  i took many MANY photographs.  i ended up with 800 final color images (actually 1600, since there is a duplicate set in black & white).  and in this little slideshow that i made to share with you there are 200 of my favorites.  i just couldn't narrow them down any further.  these sessions are so different than my normal portrait sessions because the goal is not for a smiley happy all together posed photograph.  i am just beside you, doing your normal routine, on a normal day of your life.  i tread lightly, i try to stay back but not too much, and we become friends in the in-between, i talk to you about your heart and share mine and we are forever bonded by this special and sacred shared pursuit of hope through photographs.

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the robbins family invited me into their home to document their current season of life for 24 hours and bethany, the mama, sent this to me about her family to share here,

"These people in my little family are so dear to me-Daniel, my husband, and I both are constantly in awe of our children and each other, but we truly do not deserve such a safe and beautiful life. We've seen death and disease and extreme poverty-not just seen it, but we've held it and tasted it and seen hopelessness. We also truly have felt and witnessed healing and we have a great hope that all will be made new!  For our children, we long to help them understand their faith, to hold onto the promises given to them by God and homeschooling gives me the opportunity to gently show them who they are, who they are meant to worship and how they are meant to do that. Of course, I long for them to be geniuses and to love learning, but most of all, I want them to have a deep knowledge and love of the Lord.  I also don't want their days spent memorizing things and learning to please their peers. We hope to give them a strong foundation so they are confident in God's love and don't feel the need to seek that from anyone else in unhealthy ways. I've been so inspired and encouraged to actually lead my children through their education rather than teach them to be performers. I've always loved DOING things with my children-what better way to learn than by discovering God's own artwork through the eyes of my children.  We live in a beautiful place for such learning and I'm determined not to take it for granted!  Honestly, this photo shoot is so timely for us as we prepare our hearts for foster care-putting ourselves in the midst of someone's mess-opening our hearts and helping to carry the burden of broken families.  But we're being led by our loving father and that's where we get our strength, it's been so sweet enjoying this time with just the five of us and a new chapter is about to begin. Daniel and I should not be alive, let alone happily married with 3 healthy children. It's all such a gift!"

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and below you will find the little movie/slideshow of my favorite 200.  photographing from the wee hours of the morning until late in the evening with the moon big and bright.  it was a normal day for them so dad went to work in the morning as usual and it was a true gift for me to watch bethany homeschool, seeing a full day in her schoolhouse start to finish.  i am surely a better mother, wife and teacher because of my time beside her, seeing her knead bread for dinner, make baby laugh and thoughtfully guide her boys with  intentional learning.  she made the everyday magical.  and when daddy came home at the end of the workday, well, that's my favorite part.  make sure to make it full screen.  enjoy.  :)

HARVEST SESSION - Robbins Family from joy prouty on Vimeo.

The George Family: a Motherhood Session.

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”   -Maya Angelou 1

the beautiful mother you see in these photographs, helen joy, wrote me this email months back when she asked me to photograph her family:

 

"I feel that no one has ever captured that certain beauty I feel wash over me when I am with my babies.  Maybe it’s because I never trust the photographer fully to get it or maybe it’s because my kids are crazy and I feel like I spend photo sessions trying to get everyone to get into place and just so for the very non flexible photographer.  I would love one “imperfect” shot of me with them.  I know and trust that you will be able to capture it.  I told my mother the other day that I hate looking into the mirror because I FEEL so much more beautiful than I see in a photograph or in a mirror.  So I prefer to live my days just feeling the beauty.  This is not to say I want to look thinner or more beautiful.  It’s just that no one has ever caught that still, small moment of a piece of heaven that I feel scattered through our chaotic days.  I believe after all my searching that you are the one who can find the beauty in me that I feel when I'm with my babies."

 

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what a gift those words were to me.   i kept that secret hope for the documentation of her motherhood tucked deep into my heart as i took these photographs.  when i look at them i can almost hear her loud, deep, contagious laugh, her head thrown back in bliss, standing on the sand nursing her baby girl, her hair blowing wild in the island wind.

so, to you, helen joy, i say this:  YOU are a masterpiece.  not only because you are a mother, but because you are the most alive human being i think i have ever met, full of a million feelings and convictions and dreams.  you have shown me that beauty shines from within, and that intoxicating light just pours out of you, drenching everyone in your presence with tenderness.  you are a gift.  thank you for choosing me.  i hope that when you look at these images you see truth and depth and all of the beauty i witnessed.  it was almost too much for my eyes to hold.

 

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these photographs were taken on the tiny island of north captiva on the southern tip of florida.  the george family drove 13 hours each way to meet me for the session all the way from asheville, north carolina!  they rented a little beach house for a few days where they knew it would be as close to their happy place as they could imagine.

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The Beaman Family in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

beaman-164 the beaman family invited me into their home in jackson hole, wyoming to document their summertime in this beautiful current chapter of life for their family.  they all planned to meet in jackson hole at the river house and i would meet them there as well… the place where they all gathered each year for summertime and Christmastime and to pack in as many memories as possible in the short time they were all together.  the barn out in the flower pasture was brought to the property all the way from virginia and put back together out there in the perfect spot.  as their daughters flew in, each from a different school, i got to spend a magical afternoon beforehand with a good man and his boy and their dog, their favorite thing to do together.  i got to stand back and soak in all in, a true postcard of scenery before my eyes with the snow peaked Grand Teton Mountains in the background!  the next morning as everyone trickled in, i sat at their breakfast table and listened to stories from years past and crazy summer adventures along the water's edge in that house.  i had fresh pancakes made by mama with extra butter to the sounds of laughter.  the boys were out kayaking, the ladies knitted and then played volleyball out in the yard (they were competitive, it was awesome) and i had the honor of photographing the rest of their day in the sunshine.  i loved the whole experience of this.  the gathering.  the time set aside with intention to love and savor.  and then the documentation of memory making where the whole family can be themselves, doing the things each of them hopes the children remember most when they are grown.  i am so looking forward to photographing more of these family reunion weekend gatherings in my harvest sessions this coming year.

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the ford family: a vow renewal.

fordweb4the vows... lucas to jayme:    "if i could rewind time right now and look back a little over six years, i come to a moment where i told the universe that i was ready.  ready for the one.  the woman i would spend the rest of my life with.  the response was swift and you walked right into my life.  it was less than a year later and we stood together in a circle not much different than this and declared our love for commitment to each other for the rest of our days.  today i've come to realize that in five short years, i have lived more with you than in all of the years before combined.  i never knew true love until the moment i met you.  i stand here in that circle again today to renew these eternal vows to you.  jayme, i'll always love you and encourage you.  i'll forever stand strong by your side, through the best times and the hardest.  i'll laugh with you and comfort you, i'll cherish every moment we share together until my very last breath.  so you be the icing and i'll be the cake, you be the sweet and i'll be the savory.  you be you and i'll be me and i'll see you right back here in another five years.  and another.  and another."

jayme to lucas:    "a love like ours happens once in a lifetime.  in you i found not only a partner, but my true best friend.  you are the one who was everything i had ever hoped for and then some.  you are a part of everything i think and do and feel.  you have found yourself quite a cozy spot inside my heart… which, by the way, locks from the outside so looks like you're stuck there.  you love me most during my worst.  through hardships and tests from the universe, you never falter by my side.  you are my strength and my support system and i am incredibly grateful for your love.  here's to all the places we've been and here's to all the places we'll go.  and here's to me whispering again and again and again… i love you so."

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they traveled here from alberta, canada for the celebration.  the two of them, their three boys, and their immediate family.  they made it into a vacation and spent three days together (not far from our homestead) in a mountain log cabin just below mount baker, cooking and laughing and soaking it all in.  their only agenda was to be present in that moment and not worry about the fancy details.  they experienced some heavy years followed by so much healing in their marriage.  they wanted to celebrate the rebirth of hope between them and to marry one another again beneath a willow tree, just as her parents had done.  jayme wore her mom's wedding dress, and her mama and grandma were there to help her put it on.  they made her bouquet with dahlias picked from a roadside flower stand.  and his boutonniere was made from wildflowers and lavender from our garden along with a lego perfectly placed by jensen.  jayme's brother played the guitar for the ceremony and we had made sure to give our willow tree by the pond a lovely new knitted sweater for the occasion.  the boys all devoured the wedding cake at the end and there was plenty of laughter and hugging beneath that tree.  we adventured through the woods and the maple leaves were just beginning to fall, and the wet, calming weather just added to the soulfulness of the day.  that is what i love most about these images.  the intimacy.  i was able to be with them for an entire day start to finish.  i tried to narrow down my favorites but i still ended up with almost 200 (out of the final 1400 images, whoa), so i just went ahead and put my favorites into a little video. enjoy.

the lee family & a pink autumn sky.

the lee family came down to visit our homestead for a session from a wee little island up in canada and then we also talked them into a little sleepover party after the session!  i only wish it could have been a few days longer.   the mama spins with her spinning wheel on a rocky bank at the ocean's shore with a chunky babe on her hip, her husband adores her and speaks tenderly and their boys are happiest running wild.  she told me that for the session they just wanted to play and so we explored the garden, ran through the orchard (with the apples still a tad bit sour in august but the boys didn't seem to mind a bit) and over to the open field just below the mountains for one heck of a glorious sunset where the sky turned pink and i could barely take in all the beauty.  i was so struck by their overwhelming feeling of calm while we spent this time together.  no raising of voices, just adventure and conversation and tender intention.  they savored.  each other, the apples, the warmth on their faces, baby thighs and all the other sweet details of the season that could otherwise be so easily passed by.  i am reminded of this irish blessing looking again at these photos and wishing we lived next door to the lees: "may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. may the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand."

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a double rainbow in wisconsin.

it was a rainy few days in wisconsin when we drove through hudson earlier this summer to visit the kealy family.  darcy, the mama, is my studio manager, but more specifically she is my organizer/scheduler/encourager/therapist/superhero.  she is also a designer, a photographer and a children's book author (yup, you need her book).  but more than any of those amazing on-paper things, she is refreshingly real.  she is genuine and gritty honest and fiercely loyal a little bit crazy and a wee bit inappropriate - which i find wonderful.  and her husband and kids are great.  the kind of people you want to have a bbq with every saturday (and sunday and monday too). here's the thing about photo sessions.  you feel like they have to be perfect - i mean, there is just so much to think about and it's such an investment.  you want the day to be best case scenario/non crying kids/happy day with the spouse/joyful dancing in a cloud and dandelions kinda experience.  let's just say that darcy wasn't too psyched about the stress of it all.  i so get that and it's pretty much the way i feel about getting on the other side of the lens too. but she knew i was coming into town and it was her one shot.  she told me that her husband made her do it, that if she didn't that she would regret not doing the photos.  so we decided to keep it low key... we planned for biking to get ice cream downtown as they like to do as a family.  but then it rained  (all day).  but we went for it anyway.  there were some tears.  and there aren't any perfect everyone-smiling-this-is-a-perfect-family kinda photos.  but you know what i see?  i see a real family.  a family that loves each other.  a family that fights hard for hope.  that yells loud but laughs louder and holds on tight instead of giving up.  days are hard and the rain comes.  but when you get out and chase happiness, sometimes a great big double rainbow appears.  i love these pictures.  they make me smile, they make me remember how much laughter our families shared over those few days in wisconsin and they remind me that perhaps the most lovely things in life are the ones we just can't plan for.

p.s.  these photos are shown in backward order.  the ones on the bikes are my favorites so i started there.  you're welcome.   ;)

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The Bonnice Family in Pennsylvania!

this session was a joy!  i photographed this family at their home in eastern pennsylvania and it was so very important that it be right there because of all the history and beauty on that land.  lindsey, the mama, grew up there on that hundred plus acres and lived her childhood running beside the pond and through the woods.  she left home to go to school but came back with her sweetheart and he proposed right there where they ended up building their home.  and now they are living their dream with their two little ones and a few sheep in the pen outside.  the day of the session also happened to be the anniversary of their daughter, libby's, "gotcha day" (the day she was officially adopted in their family)!  there was laughter and daisy picking and cuddling and walking beneath the trees in the woods.  those big tall trees that will forever hold the stories of the most magical and dream fulfilled childhoods...2014-08-08_0001 2014-08-08_0002 2014-08-08_0003 2014-08-08_0004 2014-08-08_0005 2014-08-08_0006 2014-08-08_0007 2014-08-08_0008 2014-08-08_0009 2014-08-08_0010 2014-08-08_0011 2014-08-08_0012 2014-08-08_0013 2014-08-08_0014 2014-08-08_0015 2014-08-08_0016 2014-08-08_0017 2014-08-08_0018 2014-08-08_0019 2014-08-08_0020 2014-08-08_0021 2014-08-08_0022 2014-08-08_0023 2014-08-08_0024 2014-08-08_0025 2014-08-08_0026 2014-08-08_0027 2014-08-08_0028 2014-08-08_0029 2014-08-08_0030 2014-08-08_0031 2014-08-08_0032 2014-08-08_0033 2014-08-08_0034 2014-08-08_0035 2014-08-08_0036 2014-08-08_0037 2014-08-08_0038 2014-08-08_0039 2014-08-08_0040 2014-08-08_0041 2014-08-08_0043 2014-08-08_0044.5 2014-08-08_0044 2014-08-08_0045 2014-08-08_0046 2014-08-08_0047 2014-08-08_0048 2014-08-08_0049 2014-08-08_0050 2014-08-08_0051 2014-08-08_0052 2014-08-08_0053 2014-08-08_0054.5 2014-08-08_0054 2014-08-08_0055 2014-08-08_0056 2014-08-08_0059