I don’t have kids of my own, so my nephews are extra-special to me, as the only little people consistently in my world.
This is Holland. He’s 2-and-a-half.
This is Corbin. He’s 6.
My team drove through Tropical Storm Andrea to be at Rachel & PJ’s rehearsal dinner in South Carolina — only to find that all the bad weather had moved on, leaving us with the kind of perfect June weekend couples dream of when planning their weddings. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather, or more wonderful people to celebrate with!
Palmetto Bluff is one of those rare, phenomenal resorts who delivers everything they’ve promised and then some. Even this casual oyster roast was carried out to perfection!
This huge, amazing treehouse was the perfect playground for the kiddos — and a great vantage point for us photographers!
This story involved an alligator. I walked away before it got too scary.
Baggu goody bags for all the guests!
Rachel & PJ’s friends and family settled in for a slideshow at twilight.
Toasts from PJ’s sister…
…Rachel’s brother, and PJ’s mom…
…PJ’s best man…
…and a loyal, loving, silly group of friends…
Nerd Alert: I love the crazy lens flare my camera picked up during this long exposure! It looks like a UFO is landing in the Lowcountry! (Canon 6D w/ 24mm f/1.4 @ 20″, f/22, ISO 1000)
And photographed by:
(Anne & Erin & Ann)
Being part of Britni & Josh’s wedding day was extra-fun, because I knew, like, 20 people there! There’s seriously nothing better than shooting a wedding, then shooting their friends’ wedding, and THEIR friends’ wedding, and so on and so forth. I almost felt like a guest myself — minus a few glasses of wine.
If your makeup artist tells you, “It will only take fifteen minutes to do your makeup,” DON’T LISTEN TO HER. Unless you’re Britni. In which case, it will only take TEN minutes. Because your skin is flawless. And that’s how you roll.
LOVED Britni’s blue shoes!
Josh and the guys getting ready… His mother-in-law (to be!) helped him pin his boutonniere!
Through some weird stroke of amazing timing, I was able to photograph Britni & Josh’s first look from both sides! Seriously… I ran around and got Josh as he turned around:
This was the first wedding I’ve shot at The Big House, and I loved the myriad backdrops surrounding the venue. It was great to be able to step a few feet away and feel like we were in the woods…
The adorable-est flower girl!
This little fellow was the honorary ring bearer: too small to actually walk down the aisle, but a special wedding party member nonetheless! I love his face here!
A sneaky little flower girl… and Britni’s mom:
The oil lamp was lit in honor of Britni & Josh’s grandparents who are deceased…
I love the sweet way Britni’s dad is watching her in this shot:
Josh’s Mississipi State groom’s cake was a surprise from Britni!
Britni & Josh, thank you so much for sharing your wedding day with me!
Britni’s Dress: Casablanca
Programs: Paper Affair
Makeup: DIY by Britni’s friend
Flowers: MG Floral Designs
Cake: Douceur de France
Catering: Talk of the Town
DJ: Complete Music
And photographed by:
(Anne & Erin)
Lauren’s stepfather — the man she calls “Dad” — crying as he sees her in her wedding dress for the first time.
Weddings and families. Depending on your family, the very thought may send you into a swoon of happiness or a mad dash for the Xanax. As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen both responses (and everything in between) played out over and over again on notoriously emotion-filled wedding days.
Some moms forget it’s not their wedding; some dads can’t stop complaining about the suit they have to wear; some grandparents are ready to leave before the ceremony has even ended; some aunts and uncles arrive drunk and leave drunker. Family is beautiful; family is stressful; family… just is.
I had a great family, and for me, the word conjures images of hugs and laughter, late-night impromptu dance parties, picnic dinners in the living room, whiffle ball games in the back yard. Unfortunately, not everyone’s experiences with their biological families are so idyllic. Not everyone felt loved, accepted, encouraged. Not everyone had parents who said, “you want to go to art school? Awesome!”
It’s those men and women — the ones who didn’t have that organic, loving family — who have taught me the most about what family really means. Because they didn’t settle for the messy, difficult, unkind people who gave them their genes. No, they went out into the world and found new people. They built their own families.
In 2007, I photographed a wedding for a beautiful southern couple who celebrated their marriage at a gorgeous estate in east Georgia. The day was absolutely perfect: perfect weather, perfect setting, perfect joy. Early in the day, the bride told me that her stepfather would be walking her down the aisle — not her biological father; he wouldn’t even be present. “My stepdad is really my dad,” she said.
Makeup, hair, putting on the dress — these things filled up the morning, and eventually it was time to go downstairs and line up for the wedding ceremony. At the bottom of the stairs was Lauren’s stepfather, not yet suited up, a man who shared no genes with the beautiful woman in front of him; a man who immediately started crying when he saw his little girl all dressed up for her wedding day.
Daddy-daughter moments always move me. I have an amazing dad, and I love to see that same love between other women and their fathers. But this moment between Lauren and her father moved me more than most, because there was no obligation to emote. There were no forced tears, or required demonstrations of connection. This was love, real and honest and open. This was family.
Within the hour, Lauren’s stepfather was walking her down the aisle, and she became part of a new family. For most women, the “Giving of the Bride” ceremony holds a certain benediction. Clearly, no modern woman believes she is her father’s property, or her husband’s. But there is a blessing in this traditional handing over, as a woman unclasps hands with the first man in her life, and joins hands with her soon-to-be husband.
Lauren’s stepfather was not the iconic first man in her life. They had no biological ties, no legal bonds. But his presence as her father-figure was strong and sure as he escorted her down the aisle toward the man she had chosen to marry. His love for her made it so evident; her trust in him made it so clear.
Blood doesn’t make you family; love does.
We have no control over the families we are born into, but we are blessed with the ability to make our own families. To find people who support our dreams, love us unconditionally, speak truth to us even when it’s hard, hold us when we hurt, and maybe even walk us down the aisle on our wedding day. Go out into the world and find these people, the kindred spirits and like minds. Build your family, and be welcomed home.
I’ve known Melora since she was just a kiddo. She was one of my mom’s students in the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir, and, while making photos for the choir, Melora and I connected over our love for photography.
When Melora called and asked me to shoot her wedding, I was — well, first I was like, “Wait. Aren’t you still fourteen?” But THEN I was just plain ol’ excited. Celebrating with people I already know and love is SO. MUCH. FUN!
Melora, I’m so happy you and Ben included me in this totally perfect celebration of your love for one another! I adore you; I’m enormously happy for you; and I couldn’t be more honored.
Melora is fantastically expressive. I love photograph people who’s happiness just spills out of them!
Pretty precious: Melora’s ring — diamond INCLUDED — fit inside Ben’s ring. Didn’t even know this was possible!
This venue was very simple, but the gorgeous skylight in the girls’ room upstairs made for some really lovely light!
Melora gave Ben two Fossil watches. I loved this, because the first gift I ever gave my husband Dan was a Fossil watch. He still has the little tin it came in and everything!
Melora’s gift: a pearl necklace and matching earrings.
M and her dad…
Good luck charms:
I love this shot of Melora with her dad, framed by both of the moms:
Melora, her mom, and a small crew of friends hand-folded over SIX HUNDRED origami flowers for Melora’s wedding. When she told me they were decorating with paper flowers, I though, okay, sure, fun DIY project. I NEVER imagined how intricate and colorful they would be! They complimented Melora and Ben’s joy and energy perfectly!
An origami bouquet:
Check out all these origami boutonnieres and bouquets!!!
Ceremony & Reception: Shamrock Community Use Building, Jonesboro, Georgia
Melora’s Dress: David’s Bridal
Hair & Makeup: Brooke, B. Lee Salon Mobile Boutique
Cake: Cakes By Kemi
Catering: The Grand Gourmet
And photographed by:
(Anne & Erin)
Me (left), and my grandmother (right), both in photographs taken by our husbands.
I’m ten. I’m in my great-grandmother’s kitchen in south Georgia. My parents have left me with my grandparents for a few days, and we’ve just finished dinner: my grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother, and me. We’re all standing in the center of the green linoleum floor, staring at my legs.
“You sure have some skinny legs,” my grandpa says.
“Your knees poke out, too,” chimes in my great-grandmother. “That’s just disgusting.”
“Hmph,” my grandma makes that noise in her throat.
At my first opportunity, I escape to the bathroom and cry. Such is the life of a (silly, sensitive) skinny girl.
Of course, not-so-skinny girls have their own stories. And girls with uncooperative hair, and girls with irreverent teeth, and girls with determined noses. If you’ve ever, even one time, felt awkward, or ugly, or not-good-enough, you know exactly what I mean.
But this story isn’t about all the ways in which we feel inadequate.
This story is about beauty.
For my eighth birthday, I got my first camera. I figured out pretty quickly that, more than anything, I liked taking pictures of people. Landscapes: fine. Inanimate objects: whatever. It was PEOPLE who made me love photography. I loved their faces, the way their hands moved, the strange way they smiled when they weren’t sure if I was taking their picture or just playing. I liked that they trusted me to be there in that moment with them, to document it and keep it forever. I liked to see how alive they all were. I like to see how alike they all were.
Now I’m a Photographer-with-a-capital-P, with an expensive camera and a website and clients. (That’s real trust, right? To give someone access to your face, and then also hand over your credit card?) And still I love photographing people.
I’ve gotten better at it over the years. I’ve learned to pose, to engage. I’ve also learned to pay closer attention to the details that will bug my clients. I know all the tricks you ladies have practiced — tricks to make your waist look thinner, your arms slimmer, your double-chin not so double-chinny. And I pay attention to those things for you. That’s my job, to see the best of you and capture THAT.
But years of making pictures has convinced me of this: the best of you isn’t your perfectly symmetrical face and 95% fat-free hips. The best of you isn’t your straight teeth or pushed-up boobs. The best of you is… you. Who you are under your carefully-applied makeup, under your painstakingly chosen ensemble. Under your skin.
Our cultural experience is that pictures are meant to SELL. Photographs are for convincing others of a thing’s value — handbags, shoes, dresses, toasters. So we take that experience and apply it to our own photographs. And suddenly pictures of me are meant to sell ME, to sell others on the idea of me. Me stylish, me successful, me happy, me doing all the things. Me beautiful.
Two decades after that pivotal day in the kitchen, both my great-grandmother and my grandfather had passed away, and my mom and I sat in my grandmother’s kitchen and sorted through hundreds of photographs. And buried in the pile, among thousands of memories, I found photographs of my grandmother: Shirley in her Air Force uniform, Shirley cooking in the kitchen, Shirley working a crossword puzzle with her grandchildren, Shirley in a dress… Shirley with knobby knees. And with that discovery, my memory of The Kitchen Incident shifted. Maybe my grandmother wasn’t making fun of me at all. Maybe, in her own way, her “Hmph” was a sound of recognition. Grandma Shirley stood WITH me in the middle of that kitchen, not against me. She knew: I got my knobby knees from her.
Photographs connect us. They are vivid proof of where we came from, who we loved, how we grew. And it is in the imperfection of those photographs — in the true, unretouched moments — that we find beauty.
Pictures are for memories.
Pictures are for holding on as well as we can to the people we love, and loved.
And pictures are for beauty — not magazine beauty, but REAL beauty. The beauty experienced in laughter and tears. The beauty found in vulnerability and connection. The beauty you only see when ten, twenty, thirty years have passed, and for the first time you can appreciate how bright your eyes were, how strong your body was, how very much you were loved.
Pictures are for your granddaughter, who will one day see herself in you, and embrace her image for the first time.
On your wedding day, stand with your shoulders back and your arms held slightly away from your sides. Keep your chin up and your neck long. Check your teeth for lipstick and powder your nose. But remember: I’m not photographing you for Vogue or Marie Claire. I’m not making your picture for a CoverGirl campaign or the Miss America Pageant. I’m photographing you for the people who love you: for your husband or your wife, for your family and friends. I want your most joyful smile, your warmest embrace, your strongest gaze. And I’d stake everything on the certainty that that’s what your loved ones want to see when they see your photograph.
So let it go. We all have chubby arms when we’re hugging someone tightly. We all have a double-chin when we laugh really, really hard. We all have knobby knees when we’re ten.
And that’s exactly as it should be.