Most people think wedding photography is about taking photos at a wedding… which would be correct, but it’s also not that simple. Despite all the planning and good intentions that go into this a wedding, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes they’re minor, sometimes they’re major. And truth be told, solving problems is a huge part of wedding photography.
Besides documenting a couple’s life, one of my main goals is to be there for them, now and in the future. I don’t want the type of relationship where I provide a service, you pay me and then we never see each other again. I want to grow with my couples, but even if that doesn’t happen, I want them to feel comfortable coming to me to ask for anything. . . ever.
Solving a Problem
Not long ago, I had a former bride (now happily married) whose grandmother passed away. It was horribly sad, because she really is a grandma’s girl. A lot of families don’t get updated family photos. As older people in their family pass away and they begin to search for photos of their loved ones, they turn to their wedding photographer. Distraught, my bride couldn’t even bring herself to look through her wedding photos for a nice photo of her grandmother. She just knew I had some.
One problem is that she lives in Chicago. I’m headquartered in St. Louis. The other difficulty is that she needed them for the wake, which was happening in days. Time was not on our side here. I was able to lean on my photo lab to get a print quickly. Then, I personally drove it to her home to deliver it before the visitation at the funeral home. That’s the level of relationship I want to have with my clients.
Above and Beyond
I could have just taken a few group family photos at the wedding and called it a day. But I knew how important grandma was and how close my bride and her grandmother were. I knew that the portraits of grandma would be so valued and important. Did I take a few extra minutes taking portraits of grandma? You bet, but it was all worth it when I could see the appreciation this family had for the photos. Side note: Family photos are really important. I had no idea that these photos would be the last nice portraits of this special person. What matters most is that despite a sad situation, I was able to help during a difficult time.
Of course wedding photography is about tangible photos of your day. But it’s also about going out of your way to make sure clients have a good experience. It’s about being able to be counted on. Sometimes it’s about bringing light to a dark situation and helping someone get through a hard time, even if it’s just a small gesture to show that you understand and care. If I can be there for people through my photography, that’s great, but if it’s through service, then that’s a role I’m happy to be in too.
If you would have asked me a month ago, or even a week ago, I would have said that my skin is too dark to have light hair. In the past, I’ve felt self-conscious about having my hair color be different from my natural shade. The contrast is too much. It doesn’t suit me.
But let me tell you guys something: I was dead wrong. I dyed my hair this week, and I absolutely love it. I’ve shocked even myself.
It’s weird, because I’m typically not a dyed hair kind of girl. I like my locks — the curls, the texture and color. I have no idea what even got into me. I had an appointment with my stylist and I woke up with the crazy notion that I was going to go purple. Yes, purple! I didn’t think about the week before, toy with the idea or waffle back and forth. I didn’t ask friends or look up photos for inspiration. I just jumped in with both feet. Half-way through the session I began to panic. I’m going to be honest here: I had buyer’s remorse. I asked myself “Seriously, what were you thinking?”
Before turning me around to see the vividness of my new ‘do, the stylist gave me a mini pep talk. But when I saw the final product, I was stunned. I love it, and I’m even a little surprised that I do. The fact that I like it so much tells me that I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been. I realize now that I had a prejudice against my own skin tone, and I’m starting to let go of some of that. To not only turn around and see bright purple hair, but to love it is a testament to how far I’ve come as a person and how much I’ve grown in my own skin. My hair matches my personality. It’s bright, loud, fun-loving and unapologetic!
Remember when I said my skin was “too dark” for light hair? That’s ridiculous. There are no rules for who can have light hair or dark hair. There’s only one you, and there’s no wrong way to be yourself. I have to remind myself of this sometimes, even though I believe it with all of my heart. I wish everyone had purple hair. I wish everyone loved themselves and the things that make them different. And I wish all women could break out of their shells and say, you know what? I’m perfect just as I am, whether my hair is purple or brown or whether I have blue eyes, brown eyes or cat eyes. This is me.
I always say that there’s no wrong way to be yourself and today I’m not just saying it — I’m living it. Who knew that a hair appointment would make me feel so empowered? What are you waiting for? Get out there and do you, because no one else will. Get you some!
Stay Fierce, my friends.
You all know that I love me an empowering story. And while all stories have ups and downs, it’s through the difficulties that we learn not only who we are, but how strong truly blessed we are. Today I’m going to share Theresa’s story, which centers on a beautiful, healthy, amazing woman who battled (and beat!) an eating disorder.
In high school, Theresa was a self-described happy-go-lucky band nerd. At 5’0” and 155 pounds, she didn’t have a problem with her body image. Her senior year, she began taking a migraine medication. Not eating started out as a side effect of the medicine, but since she ate like a high schooler (lots of junk food), Theresa said she didn’t think much of eating less. She was active and losing weight, but not on purpose.
Before college and at 130 pounds, Theresa was looking for another hobby and took up kickboxing. Her idea of being “fit” quickly became an obsession that spiraled out of control. The first semester of college she dropped to just 60 pounds (that’s approximately the size of a small child, a big bag of dog food or less than eight gallons of water). This time, in addition to trying to be fit, Theresa began to take notice of what she ate — this time not as a side effect from the migraine medication.
Spirals Out of Control
While Theresa thought she was getting healthy, she was starving herself. Her family took notice and tried to step in, causing rifts for the first time in their close relationships. Theresa denied any allegations of losing weight on purpose. In her mind, she was still healthy. When her mom flushed the migraine medicine down the toilet she went and got more from the pharmacy. Theresa was fighting a battle raging inside her. Her brain was telling her she would get fat if she didn’t work out, if she ate, pushing her to do more.
“Looking in the mirror was horrific because I had to see what I thought was real in my mind — a fat cow who looked disgusting.”
At this point, Theresa couldn’t be in photos because she hated the way she looked. She couldn’t step on the scale without anxiety over her weight. Anorexia had taken over her every thought. She was a size Youth 12 and on five different medicines because of the toll anorexia was taking on her body.
“I had goggles on that were different than anyone else’s, and it took me a long long time to realize that what I see and feel isn’t the reality. It is a distorted image of what I really look like and that is something that doesn’t go away, you just have to learn how to deal with it . . . It never goes away.”
It took a total stranger to wake Theresa up to her self-destructive habits. She visited the on-campus nurse about leg cramps when the nurse told her that she resembled one of the starving children on television commercials, with a bloated belly because her body was trying to store every calorie she ate. She was offended, but then, a coworker agreed. Her father told her that he was planning her funeral.
With the help of her family and friends, Theresa was able to beat the disorder and get healthy. She started working with a personal trainer to focus on health goals rather than weight. She hasn’t weighed herself in four years. Theresa listens to her body. She pays attention to her triggers and consciously works through emotions.
“One has to decide if they control their life or does their eating disorder control their life, just like with any addiction.”
I love telling stories of love and this is a story of self love. We each battle demons, whether they’re visible or invisible, physical or mental. We have to take time to remember that we are strong, talented women. We can do anything. And there’s no wrong way to be yourself.
While her journey isn’t over, Theresa is still learning and growing. She is open with her family. She journals. She has friends and family she can lean on when she needs to. She sees beauty in other people, and in herself. Anorexia is a part of Theresa, but now she controls it, rather than the other way around. She is a living, breathing superhero, and she’s got this. And whatever you’re battling, you’ve got it, too. You have the power to be whoever you want to be and control your own destiny.
I know I’ve said this before, but I absolutely love growing (figuratively and sometimes literally!) with my clients. In fact, I don’t even like using the word “client” because these people are my friends. And so goes the story with Cyndi and Rick.
I recently had a maternity shoot with Cyndi and Rick for their first baby — a daughter, Caroline.
I first met them this amazing, fierce couple three years ago, when I shot their engagement session. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot their wedding, first anniversary, an ad photo for her business, you name it. Thinking through the past three years, I think I’ve worked with The Blalocks twice a year for various photographs documenting their married life. Anything that happens, Cyndi calls. I appreciate that and love that they trust me to document their life.
About The Blalocks
Cyndi is delightful. She’s fun, spicy, fiery and has the best spirit. She has the heart of a champion, which is my favorite thing about her. As a fellow small business owner, Cyndi is a constant inspiration to me. She isn’t afraid to try something new, even if she might fail. Cyndi is one of those business women who in her heart and mind believes she can do anything, because she can. There are no limits.
And Rick is the yin to Cyndi’s yang. He’s cool and collected. He smiles and laughs a lot. Even if you’ve just met him, you feel like you’ve known him forever. The best part about him is how beautifully he takes care of Cyndi and how you can see the love he has for her. They truly are a beautiful couple.
These two (and soon to be three!) are the best example of growing together. Cyndi and Rick know what they’re getting when we shoot. We know each other. We have real conversations. All three of us can let our guard down. As friends, we have the luxury of being real with each other. And because the couple has entrusted me to document their life together since their engagement, I could create an album of their entire married life — every milestone. There’s something special to be said for that. I am so lucky to be not just their wedding photographer, but their life photographer. Their story continues on, and I’m so glad they’ve invited me to continue telling their love story.
As for Little Miss Caroline, who will be here in no time: she is going to have phenomenal parents.
I already know that she is going to be a feisty fighter with a heart of gold, just like mom and dad.
Congrats, my friends, on this next chapter, and thank you for letting me document what is surely to be the greatest adventure yet!
Nothing brings out being foreign like holidays. As much as I love my work and being in America, there are times when it’s just more clear that I’m still a foreigner here. This past Sunday, more than a billion Muslims celebrated Eid. The holiday, which lasts for three days, is to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Muslims break the month-long fast with lots of food, by wearing their best clothing and, of course, spending time with family.
During Eid in my home country of Senegal, the streets look like a catwalk filled with people modeling their nicest outfits. Family and friends are decked out from head to toe. Everyone cooks and the idea is to share your bounty. People bring their food door to door to share with others. When you get home, there is a ton of food waiting for you. Eid is a time of coming together, reflection, and giving.
Family at Eid
It’s during these times of celebration that I realize how much I miss my family and our traditions. I successfully tried to stay busy and focus on my work during Eid. But in doing that, I realized that I have the best friends.
I had several friends who called or texted to tell me that they were thinking of me and to have a great day. These people, most of them, aren’t even Muslim. They have no reason to think of Ramadan, let alone Eid. But they do. And they made me feel like even though I’m not home, I still have people who care. I might not have much family here, but I have friends who treat me like family. That has got to be the biggest blessing of being foreign. On a day when my heart longs to be with my family most, It is nice to have my friends fill my heart with joy. I am truly blessed!