Permalink to Con, Cosplay, & the Coolest Photo One Kid Will Ever Take

Con, Cosplay, & the Coolest Photo One Kid Will Ever Take

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DragonCon is weird.

Like, really weird.

It’s little kid stuff, but there aren’t many kids around.
It’s comics and toys and costumes and dance parties and miles of exposed skin.
It’s attorneys dressed as stormtroopers and pharmacists dressed as Master Chiefs and elementary school teachers dressed in steampunk.
It’s professional costumers and novice sewers.
It’s experienced sculptors and amateur propmakers.
It’s app builders and song makers and daydreamers and instigators.
It’s every kid who didn’t fit in in high school.
It’s every adult who doesn’t fit in now.

2014 was my 5th year at DragonCon. Despite overbearing crowds, overwhelming heat, and guaranteed con crud, I keep going back.

My friend Ara went to DragonCon for the first time at 19. At 33, she still carves out space every year to attend. “I found family here,” she told me.

In past years, I’ve spent time adding to my Checked In series, or wrangling my Dieselpunk friends for a private photo shoot.

This year I was more participant than observer, and only took a handful of photos. I mostly wanted to make pictures of my 7-year-old nephew. This was his first con, and I think his brain nearly exploded with all the awesome. (That’s him below with the “flamethrower.”)

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If you still don’t get it (it’s okay), take a few seconds to watch this video my friend Elizabeth made on the last day of Con.

We were weaving through the Marriott when we saw this adorable little girl in a wheelchair vying for a photo with Captain America, who had just handed her his shield to hold for the picture. Then Deadpool crouched down next to her. And Bane. And – is that Hagrid in the back?

And the crowd around her grew and grew until some 15-odd cosplayers surrounded her, and she was laughing and crying all at the same time. And at the most perfect moment of all, Elizabeth zoomed in with her last-gen iPhone and recorded one of my favorite scenes of the entire weekend:

I think even the most buttoned-up, by-the-book, unimaginative, non-nerd among us can appreciate this kid’s experience.
And I think we can all agree: this is why we keep going back.

This is DragonCon.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Moore for the entirely-too-perfect iPhone footage. You are amazing!


Permalink to The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me

The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me

Bethie & DanielBethie and Daniel in the parking garage at Town Brookhaven, just before we said goodbye.

Bethie’s mom shared a dorm room with my mom in college. Their lives twisted and turned and sometimes forked, but ultimately they wound up together again, best friends, giggly and wise and deeply bonded.

Bethie and I were born less than a year apart. We share a name (I’m Anne Elizabeth). We shared a home for a time as children. We share the status of eldest to a stair-step passel of siblings. We share a love for Jane Austen and an appreciation for pixie cuts.

Bethie and I live hundreds of miles apart, and we connect in person less often than we’d prefer. But our friendship is always there, giggly and wise and deeply bonded, just like our mothers’.


Permalink to It Lasts for Always

It Lasts for Always

“Once you are real, you cannot become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
-The Velveteen Rabbit

There are two people missing from this photo.

One is Mikie, Yoshika’s husband and the brilliant daddy to these adorable kids. Mikie had to work back home in California, and wasn’t along on this particular trip to Atlanta.

The other is Audrey – or Seri, her Japanese name. Seri left this world much too soon. Her brothers know she is in Heaven now. Her little sister never met her, but knows her through stories, photographs, and one soft, stuffed bunny rabbit.

But Mikie is here.
He is evident in his kids’ curiosity, in his wife’s smile.

And Seri is here.
She is present in her brothers’ understanding, in her sister’s belonging, in her mother’s gentleness.
And in one soft, stuffed bunny rabbit, flying toward the sky.



Permalink to Ashley & Josh walk in the park with Brownie & their baby-to-be.

Ashley & Josh walk in the park with Brownie & their baby-to-be.

I will tell you something true, that most childfree women do not say.

My heart squirms with mixed emotions when one of my friends tells me she is pregnant. I feel happy, because I know my friend is happy; I feel sad, because I know our relationship will change; and I feel… odd, I suppose, because I cannot relate to the powerful desire to be a mother.

I have an amazing mother of my own, who demonstrated in transcendent ways what motherhood is and can be. My example is strong and certain. But I still have never felt that pull, beyond a slight wonderment as other beautiful women in my life choose motherhood.

When Ashley told me she was pregnant, I felt all these things and more, because I have known Ashley since we were teenagers still living under our parents’ roofs. We’ve been immediate friends, then grown apart, then come together again in a bond not unlike sisterhood. She is one of the great loves of my life, and so I cried when she told me that she was expecting a new little person to join her family. I cried because she was happy; I cried because things would change; I cried because…

Because she will be a magnificent mother. And I am so proud to be her friend.

Any day now my phone will ring, and I will, with luck, join Ashley as she brings this tiny human into the world. And I will feel it all, all over again.


Permalink to I thought maybe I would leave you.

I thought maybe I would leave you.

A bad scan of a beautiful negative from my friend Brett Wood.


I thought maybe I would leave you, but first we needed to make breakfast, because no one cooks eggs the way you do, and I bought your favorite kind of bacon.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first I wanted to talk to you for several hours about a difficult client and a challenging project and a brewing idea.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first we needed to finish binge-watching that TV show we both love, the one with the amazing writing and brilliant acting and unbelievable cinematography.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first I wanted your opinion on the next lens to buy and the best way to frame those prints from the market and which record to play during dinner.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first we needed to revisit our conversations about religion and God and what life really means and why we’re all here.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first I wanted you to keep me company while I drove to the bank and bought groceries and wondered around the fabric store.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first we needed to eat at that new restaurant, the one with all the drinks and the yummy menu, and also that other restaurant, and that cafe, and that coffee shop.

I thought maybe I would leave you, but first I wanted to look at your face just a little while longer.

I thought maybe you would leave me, but you said, “No, never.”

I thought maybe we wouldn’t make it. But we are here, still.

Because every time I thought “Maybe it’s over,” I called my dearest friend to share my sorrows, and you were on the other end.

Happy 10th wedding anniversary, my love. Here’s to 100 more.


Permalink to The Mess & The Boredom & The Work

The Mess & The Boredom & The Work

This piece originally appeared on DEDPXL. Go check it out.  


If you were lurking by a warm Georgia lake just south of Atlanta on May 17th around 11:00pm, you would’ve seen a tall, lanky DJ and a tall, gangly photographer scrambling around the fringes of a party tent behind an elegant lakeside home, frantically directing colored spot lights toward the center of a checkered dance floor. And, if you know anything about photography at all, you would have thought, “Now THAT’S a horrible idea.”

Because it totally is. The bane of a wedding photographer’s reception experience is those glaring, colored lights that overpower our flashes and turn beautiful men and women into Teletubbies with their purple and green and red beams.

But on this particular night, I’d expended my booked hours and packed up all my gear, only to have a breathless groomsmen catch me at the door to plead with me to return to the tent and photograph the impromptu father-daughter dance that was about to start.

And there was no time. No time to set up flashes, no time to locate the secreted-away remote control that would turn on the overhead chandeliers. I grabbed my camera, a single lens, and a fresh card, and rushed back down to the tent where the DJ promptly began pointing those dreadful spots at the dance floor where my bride and her father would soon be dancing. I needed light; and that would have to do.

Less than a minute later, I made this picture:

Without a doubt, I know that there are better photographs of fathers and daughters dancing.

I’m positive that another, more technically-skilled photographer would have created something mind-blowing, using nothing more than a pinhole camera and a Zippo lighter.

But I used what I had, and I love the outcome. Even better? So do my clients.

Another photographer recently asked how one finds inspiration, particularly when the odds are against you: you aren’t connecting with the client, the venue is a disaster, the guests are all drunk, the DJ is an asshole, and the coordinator has made you her own personal punching bag. There are a million ways a wedding can be anything BUT fun. (Like the time a guest’s stiletto heel nearly punched right through the top of my foot. Oh, joy.)

So, what if this: what if The Inspiration is in the shitty light, the melting cake, the sweaty groom? What if it blossoms from the exchange between the setting sun and the shimmer of a silk tie? What if it grows from the merging of wild expressions and competent equipment? What if it lives in the collaboration between a photographer and a DJ desperately aiming colored spotlights over a dance floor?

In photography school, when it was time for the end-of-year, make-or-break portfolio reviews before a panel of stern judges, there was a possible controversial ruling that the student body eagerly awaited as each portfolio was scored: “Portfolio contested.” This meant that two or more judges’ scores were separated by more than ten points. And while it seems undesirable that one judge would have given a portfolio high marks while another scored it very low, the truth was that we all wanted a contested portfolio, because a contested portfolio was one which had made an entire panel of judges FEEL something. If one judge loved your work, and another hated it, surely you had made something that mattered.

These days, in my real-world experiences with people and parties, I find myself leaning into the space between wonderful and dreadful. I’m learning to value the difficult, to appreciate the contest.

I’m experimenting with the teeter-tottering motion that balances us between tragedy and joy.

On that night by the lake, I could have grabbed my trusty flash and shoved it into my camera’s hotshoe. I could’ve bounced light off the neat white ceiling of the tent. And I would have had a sweet, consistent series of photographs, evenly lit and well-in focus, shot at f/4 with low ISO and unobtrusive bokeh. But truthfully? It never even occurred to me to do that until it was all over. Until these were the photos I’d practically pulled out of a hat, the way a novice magician extracts a panting rabbit.

I love these photos. And I’m certain there are plenty of people who will hate them, who will know better, who would have done more.

But while they argue about the could’ve, would’ve, should’ves, I’m relishing the nervous energy of, “Portfolio contested.” I’m sucking in the air between hot and cold. I’m embracing the collaboration of light and shadow, smiles and tears, between my intention and the magic before me.

Inspiration does not come to us. We unearth it at our most exhausted, at our least graceful, when we give up and finally align with the mess and the boredom and the work. 

And then… then we make something that moves us.

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