Stanek Family | Newborn Session at Home | Norfolk, VA

Newborn | Norfolk, Virginia | Family Documentary Photographer

I don't photograph a ton of newborn sessions, but when I do, they're instantly my favorite.  Maybe partly because I'm getting so close to having another squishy babe in my own house.

My sweet friend Bethany is friends with the Stanek Family and asked me to take her place for their newborn session at home.  They were such troopers not having tons of information on what to expect from me (we met the day of their session and only texted back and forth a few times), but they were absolute naturals.  They are so taken with their first born little boy and it made my job so easy.

I dare you to look at these and not want a squishy little one for your home too. :)

2017 Love Letter to my Family | Richmond Virginia Wedding Photographer

Y'all are wild - just wild.  Which just so happens to be something that I can get wild about.  We've had so much fun this past year and it's difficult to image how we could make things crazier, more fun, and more ridiculous (at times) than we have this year after adding Moose, the shaggy sheepdog, to our family and as you boys keep growing.  You often eat more than adults do - you questions us more than I imagined you would by this age - and you challenge my brain to keep up with a lot of stuff, including home school that we took on for the 2017-2018 school year.

Next year, we add another boy, just like the two of you.  You will teach him all these little crude boy jokes that you roll around in fits of giggles over.  You'll fight over which one of you gets to fetch me wipes and diapers this summer.  I couldn't be happier to be your boy mom - to soon have three sons - and keep this adventure with you going.  I love you all to pieces.

September 10 on 10 - Virginia Beach Family Documentary Photography

August was a blur.  July was a blur.  The summer has disappeared before our eyes and while I wouldn't say that we wasted even a second of our time - it does feel like it all went by faster than usual.  Probably because we were making such good fun.

Summers for us are always full of family visits, trips to the pool and the beach and the zoo, Henry's birthday in August, William wishing his birthday was in August, misbehaving and turning the hose on outside, and other general silliness.

The boys are growing and changing so quickly.  I know that people say, "It All goes by so fast."  While their childhood is far from over, it's true.  It feels like these little people have been with me my whole life and for only a second at the same time.  Every wedding that I photograph the mother son dance I am touched and saddened with the reminder that someday my boys too will grow up.

You'll find a mix of our summer here... I can't tell you if there are only 10 photos.  I am not inclined to count but these are my favorites from what we managed to take during the Month of July and August.  We purchased an underwater camera/housing to take to the pool.  Unfortunately I used it twice and took it with me somewhere and forgot the housing part in another state so we'll try again when I retrieve it.  Ha!  Henry's Birthday and the second year in a row that I have cleaned their faces, combed their hair, and forced them to stand near the window to have their portrait taken.  Henry didn't change quite so much, but William with his haircut looks so much the little man. 

Papa Jeff came to visit the last week of August and we went to the zoo and the beach a few times.  We finally got to see the lion clearly - after living here for 4.5 years!  Through a crack in the rock enclosure, we could see him relaxing in the shade.  Henry finally became comfortable in the water.  We've tried spending time in pools, taking him to organized swim lessons, taking him to lakes, even just filling up the bathtub at the house so that he could practice floating - nothing until this summer has worked.  I have never seen a person sink so naturally like he did.  Humans are supposed to float!  He needed to take his own time to get comfortable and trust himself as well as the water.  He has always held back until he's ready, no matter my encouragement or assistance and I try to remember to give him the space he needs.

So that's most of our summer - short lived, and busy, but traces of magic here and there.

As is the tradition in our little blog circle of friends that post our favorite 10 every month (I'm absent sometimes)... after looking through our summer, continue on to see how Sarah's summer has been going by clicking here or here.

Family Documentary Sessions for ZERO dollars | The All Families Project | Hampton Roads, Virginia

I could tell you how I became a photographer, but that's not very interesting.  At some point, I must have picked up a camera, right?  That's how that story goes.  There's a way more interesting question and that is "Why?"

The answer is easy.  I take photos to remember a feeling.  

Weddings, couples, families - it's all the same.  I photograph moments so that they live on and we remember.  Even if we weren't there.  You can feel it.

I don't photograph you so that you can remember what you looked like.  So much more than that - I want you to look back on your photographs and remember how you felt.  In the way that a song or a particular smell takes you back in time.  I want to bring you back to the moments that matter.

For a while, I've neglected documenting families, including my own.  In February, a friend of mine invited me and another photographer to present our work to other photographers and talk about what Family Documentary or Family Photojournalism is.  I spoke about photographing my own children and looking back at photos of my childhood - seeing my parents be young, younger than I am now, when I was too little to remember.  To see them loving me - their first child - in those first few years.  And I cried.  In front of a group of strangers I think I cried one of those really ugly, embarrassing cries that you regret before the first tear drops.  That's how moving those photos are to me - to see the beginnings of our family and the traces of love left behind spanning time and distance.  I go back in time to the houses we lived in, saw myself grow, and all the while my parents are there with me.  Aging and loving me and my sister as we grew.  Until I became a parent myself, I had no idea how much my parents really loved me.  Now, when I look at these photos, I see it.  

The same week, I asked a trusted friend to come take our photos.  I wasn't going to wait until I painted our dining room or I lost the 15 pounds I'd really like to lose.  My kids are growing and changing constantly.  Always.  Before this phase slipped away, I wanted to be in photos hugging them.  Laughing at their silly jokes.  Holding their tiny hands while they're still tiny and they let me.  Playing with our dogs and eating take out in the first house we've ever really made a home.  All of the completely ordinary, mundane, priceless, most important moments.

Out of the 7 years that I've been a mom, I have very little photographic proof.  I am always the one behind the camera.  To receive our gallery and see photos of us as a family - me and my husband being parents and loving on our boys - wrecked me in the most wonderful way.

Okay.  So what does this have to do with you?

For the sake of honest moments and leaving traces of love behind for the most important people we will ever know and in support of this crazy adventure of parenthood - for ALL families - for the rest of the year I am photographing you for ZERO dollars.  Zero.  None.  Totally free.

Did you get that?  Free.  No monies.

Want to know more... click below to get more info and apply for your session!

*********** Update!!!

This project has ended. Thank you to everyone who participated.

All family documentary work has been moved to my other website which can be found here: or by clicking the button below.

Best of 2016

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.  --Hermann Hesse

I couldn't have planned the way this year turned out.  I made a list of goals, certainly, but I lost that list.  If you're interested to read about my wins and losses and my plan for the next trip around the sun - you can do so here

Over the last 365 (or so) days I made so many friends, drove miles and miles, hiked mountains, learned, laughed, and cried.  To my friends, old and new, the folks that fed me yummy southern food, let me sleep in spare bedrooms, and my colleagues that let me work along side them - thank you.

A special thanks to - Megan, Justin, Alicia, Lindsay, Julia, Molly, Val, Jessie, Evelyn, and Stephanie.

Here are some of my favorites from 2016.  Catch you all next year.

A 2016 Love Letter to My Family

To my intensely joyful house of high fives and the people who share it with me -

You made my year amazing.  In the ways that you didn't make the awesome happen, you gave me time to find the awesome and add it to my days.  You let me travel to learn and grow and when I came back you were always waiting for me with buckets of hugs and kisses - in quantities far more than I could ask for.  Thank you for jumping on my bed, the tickle fights, the actual fights, and so much noise both happy and sad.

Henry - you are getting giant.  You're so heavy, I can barely pick you up these days.  As much as you don't like school, you're having the best year.  I can see so much of the little kid in you fading away and you're becoming quite the young man.  As much as my heart breaks to see your baby look disappear and as scary as it is to think how old that must make me, I am insanely proud to be your mama.

William - oh my little one.  You radiate excitement.  I see so much joy in the world looking through your eyes.  You are fierce in your emotions - be it happy, sad, or angry - you are all in every step of the way.  You are a night owl (a kid after my own heart) and stumble out of bed quite late in the mornings.  Your innocence and naive bravery inspires me to be brave, hug tighter, and just be happier.  And your blonde curls that are so often a ridiculous mess are the absolute best.

Chris - my best friend.  It has taken me so long to trust leaning on another person.  To give up my pride and realize that I cannot do everything alone.  That my achievements won't mean more because I struggled and made the journey so much more difficult than it needed to be.  That I could have asked for help and it would mean just as much.  I still won't ask you to get something for me from a tall shelf, but I let go of so much useless pride this year and asked you to help me follow a dream.  And of course, as you've always promised you would, you alone made 2016 possible for me.  For us.  And now I realize that everything we've done this year is more special because you believed in it from the beginning.  All of this wouldn't mean half as much if you weren't here to share it.

Press play and enjoy my favorite images from this year.  I can't wait to see what adventure 2017 brings our way.