beauty from ashes |

Isaiah 61:2-4To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.4Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.…

Soft hair brushes against my arm and you sigh in your sleep.

I nuzzle my face against the top of your head and breathe in the scent of you. I smell honey from the shampoo we used to wash mashed pears out of your hair. Your chubby hand has somehow found its’ way into my hair and the strands twist around your fingers, trapping me until you’ve fallen into a deeper sleep.

I love these moments. I love the feel of your soft skin, your warm breath, your heart pounding. I love the feel of your life, a life I never expected but that, like your brother, has changed mine 180 degrees for the better.And here we are, at your first birthday. You’ve been here a year and it may sound cliche but it absolutely feels like it was yesterday.

It was the end of a long day when you decided it was time to come see your brother, dad and I.

By the next morning you were in my arms and it felt like you had always been a part of our life.

Your daddy counted fingers and toes but I never did. I knew you were perfect. I knew you were from God and that’s all that mattered. All I saw were your eyes and they were looking into mine.

You, joined with your brother,  have been the burst of energy, the breeze of freshness this stale, jaded, empty soul needed to remind me that life is still good, that God is still on the throne and that beauty comes from ashes.

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The Week in Focus | Sept. 20 to Sept. 27

The days sometimes seem long, but oh, they are so short in reality. How fast my littlest is growing, how quick she is moving. In two more days she is officially one. Someday I’ll have to write her story and how she was a very unplanned, but amazing surprise for our family, during one of the most inconvenient and dark times of my life. Her birth made me feel like Doctor Who, a soul with two hearts because they are both my hearts, as silly as that may sound. They are my hearts, walking around outside my body._DSC1913 9_27_15grace_sept_2015_DSC1777 9_24_15 _DSC2586 _DSC2559 _DSC2541 gracefeetgrandpa_DSC1939 _DSC2595_DSC2064 9_20_to_27_19_20_to_27_2_DSC1870

fearless | Pennsylvania documentary photographer

Deuteronomy 31:6Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

You are fearless.

But that makes me fearful sometimes.

I see what can happen and my heart pounds when you lunge toward a metal slide

You are exactly like your brother in so many ways. You are even more impulsive and I didn’t think that was possible.

I am determined not to limit you, even if I feel myself inwardly cringe when you quickly dash over the rocks at the local playground or shove a dirt covered hand in your mouth.

You both make my days worth living.

You and your brother made a birthday I didn’t really care about worth celebrating because it means I’ve had another year with both of you.

Never stop exploring.

Never let fear stop you, as it has me so many times.

Never let the worries of this world cloud the joys of this world.

But, please, slow down just a little. You’re mama is feeling every bit her age these days. You have an entire childhood ahead of you to explore the world. It’s ok to take your time and enjoy it, ok?

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Faces from the past

The photos were in boxes in a cabinet under Grandma’s entertainment center. Most were sepia toned or black and white and featured stern or blank pale faces. But there were others, in a leather bound book, with black paper background, that were of smiling faces in Flapper style hair and clothes and suspenders and other early 1900 clothes
 

 

Who were these girls in striped leggings, straight bangs, pants and boys shirts, sitting on top of a train caboose, laughing and having fun? Curved letters on the back of the images dated them sometime in the early 20s and the one with the determined, fierce expression, broken only by the hint of a smile on one side of the mouth was Ula Gladwynn Grant, my grandmother, daughter of J Eben and Grace Grant.

My grandmother, Ula, is the girl in the middle. Two weeks ago I also noticed the woman in the window of the house behind the girls. I wonder now if that is my great grandmother Grace, who I named my daughter after.

I was enthralled with the images of Grandma as a teenager, laughing, smiling, looking determined. I wondered what she was thinking in the very moment the button was pressed to capture those images. And who took the images? Cameras weren’t as common back then as they are now. Phones with cameras that you carry in your pocket? It is something that in the 1920s Grandma could have never imagined. My dad thinks my grandmother’s aunt, Ivy, may have taken the photos, documented these real moments for future generations. They say Ivy died young. I’ve looked at the photographs of her and something about her wry grin and the sparkle in her eyes makes me think she and I would have hit it off very well.

I wish I’d asked Grandma more about the photots when she was alive. I wish I had asked her who the other girls were, who took her photos and why she was grinning. I wish I had asked her more about Ivy, the woman whose grave is facing a different direction than everyone else at the tiny cemetery behind the church, a sign to me that she was someone who liked to be unique.

Those images of my grandmother revealed someone vastly different than who I grew up with, or at least how I saw her. Somehow I seemed to think Grandma had always been old. She had never been a teenager, laughing with her friends. But these photos showed something completely different. Someone completely different, even though it was my grandmother’s laughter I’d captured with my camera one day when she was 88 that made me realize how much I love to photograph the real moments of life.

My grandmother is pictured with her father and sister, Onieta. I’m not sure who the woman with the baby is.

Sometimes I wonder if these photos were why I would later find myself desperate to capture the moments of my own families life. Her death was one of the timesI realized how important photographs are and that they can capture the real soul of a person, freeze a memory of that soul long after their body has left the earth. I even named my first photography business Gladwynn Photography. I still can’t recall why I changed from that name, but I guess it faded away, along with my full time business, when I decided to document my family’s real life more.

Those early, faded images of my ancestors showed me there is life to be captured and documented. I loved that many of the photos featured real expressions, not strained and forced smiles or stiff poses but life, real life.

The woman on the left is Aunt Ivy Grant. The woman on the right is named, but I don’t remember it.

Because of these photographs, I wanted to photograph my in between moments, my right now moments, my right here moments. And those are the photographs I still want to document for my future generations.

Seeing in black and white | Elmira NY area Documentary Photographer

When I document my family’s life I enjoy doing it in either black and white or color photographs.
This week I decided to challenge myself  by trying to see my photos in black and white as I took them. I always shoot in color and convert to black and white in case I want a color version of my image one day. There are some photographs which simply scream black and white to me.

I love how black and white can strip away the distractions and focus the viewer on the scene or subject within the frame.

Sometimes I need this in life too. I need to remove the distractions and focus on what’s in the frame, not the distractions around me.

I’ve been taking more social media breaks lately.

I was doing this anyhow, but really started to take it more seriously when I realized I couldn’t hear my own voice beyond the noises of social media.

There is so much pressure anymore to make ourselves and our lives look just right on social media.

It’s even spilled into the photography world where photos have all started to look the same. There is a certain style out there these days and it seems to many photographers are afraid to break away from that style and make their own style. I find myself caught up in this effort to fit in too, whether it is in the photography or the Facebook world.

That’s why a break is needed, to remember who you are and why you fell in love with photography in the first place, if it’s the photography world that’s screaming at you, or remember who you are in general, if it’s the social world screaming at you from so many different directions.

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Favorite images for the week | Elmira NY Family Photography

It was a fairly typical week with some unusual adventures. I don’t have many photos of the unusual adventures for this week’s weekly favorites, but I do of the typical, everyday life.
This is my view much of the day and I like it. My daughter is often clinging to my leg, especially if it is close to nap or bedtime. I love looking down and seeing the top of her cute little head and her chubby fingers holding on to the leg of my pants.

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My son spends many afternoons in his Lego room, which used to be our second living room. Over the years it somehow became his room to build Lego creations. And the Legos keep adding up too. Now that he has a little sister he gates the room off and has made it his little haven. In addition to his Legos he also houses his art supplies, which is sister likes to throw around the room if she gets the chance._DSC0033

My son had a sleepover with his friend and while a trip to the doctor for his sister wasn’t in the plans, it was fun to explore downtown Elmira after the appointment.

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Grace likes to wait for her brother after school and her latest favorite place is in the front seat, grasping the steering wheel.

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Her first word might have been daddy, but I think “dog” was a close second. Here she is following ours. She loves this little, old dog. She hugs him and leans her head against him as he licks her face.

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I hope I can keep her as interested as she is now in vegetables. Here she is stealing lettuce out of the fridge.

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