Friday, November 30, 2007

Demian, Elizabeth & Esalina

While I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, I was able to spend some time with my friends Elizabeth & Demian, and their adorable little girl, Esalina. Elizabeth was a bride at the studio I used to work for in Chicago, Real Life Weddings, and then she joined us as an employee for about a year. After working with her as a bride and then as a co-worker in the studio, we also worked together on my website. (don't blame her for the Coming Soon pages though - those are waiting on me to choose my favorites :) Elizabeth is an all-around great person, and her family is just adorable.

Check out these shots from our portrait session last year...

So, anyway, we figured that while I was in town we should get together for photo shoot!

We started the morning at their apartment on the North side of Chicago. I hadn't seen Esalina in about a year, so we spent a bit of time at the beginning helping her warm up to me. Mom & Dad did a great job keeping her entertained and happy.

After we played at the house, we went for a walk down to the beach. It was a beautiful day at the Lakeshore and Esalina loves the beach!

Lina loves throwing sand into the water!

Despite our best efforts, Lina still fell into the water :) Luckily, Elizabeth was prepared with another cute outfit.

Isn't she a doll?!

Thanks for a fun shoot you guys! It was great to see you all again - let's do it again next year!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World AIDS Day

In light of my recent trip to Zimbabwe, I was excited to hear about an event going on this weekend here in Boston, and around the US - World AIDS Day. Check it out below and I hope you can make it!

6000 children are orphaned each day by AIDS... so our goal is to raise 6000 dollars, and get 6000 petitions signed.

World AIDS Day
Saturday, December 1st, 2007
10:00am-3:00pm (open event)
Government Center, Boston, MA

Live music/performances from local bands supporting the cause, as well as some traditional performances by cultures impacted by the AIDS pandemic. A speaker will be there for a very informal briefing on how the AIDS pandemic has affected life today. Sign petitions at our booth to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). There'll be boxes to give small donations, even change, and what not. There will also be a table with a Worldvision rep in case anyone feels compelled to sponsor a child. Chalk will be provided so you can chalk up Government Center with huge messages and notes to tell the world that the city of Boston cares. An aerial photo will be taken at the end of the day.

World AIDS Day is sponsored by World Vision. For more information on World AIDS Day events near you, go here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sara & Bodie's Slideshow

I blogged about Bodie & Sara's wedding in the airport on my way to Zimbabwe, but hadn't had a chance to post their slideshow until now. Take a look...

Thanks for being patient guys! I hope you LOVE your photos!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shelton, Margret & Concilia - Zimbabwe Day 10

Ok, Ok! So, I'm going out of order - so sue me! :) The truth is, I can't go any further with this without telling you about Shelton, Margret & Concilia. When I think about my trip, I think about these 3 kids. When I pray for Zimbabwe, I think about these 3 kids. And when people ask me "how was your trip?" - I think about these 3 kids.

So, here's the story...

When the team was in Mtshabezi, at the BICC Mission, we did quite a few home visits - meeting with many of the people who they work with at the BICC AIDS Project. This particular day was quite hot, long, and emotionally challenging. We met with 4 families that day, and attended one funeral (which I'll share about another day). After the funeral, we went to one of the local primary schools, and picked up Shelton, Margret & Concilia so we could see their home and interview them. I have a hard time photographing and being a good listener, so I have to admit that I don't have all of the details on these kids - but that's what video's for! Hopefully my team can fill in some of the gaps (or correct my mistakes)

Shelton (8) & Margret (10) are brother & sister, and Concilia (11?) is their cousin. The three of them live in the home they used to share with their mothers, who were sisters. And they live alone. Shelton, as the "man" of the family, is the child head of household. Their Grandmother lives nearby, but they actually live alone. I think that both of their mothers died of AIDS, and now the BICC AIDS Project helps them by paying their school fees, providing some food when possible, and sending them to pscyho-social support camps during school breaks. The AIDS Project is supported, in part, by Forgotten Voices and is making a huge difference in the lives of these kids, and 1700 others in the area.

This is their homestead, which includes a kitchen (on the right) and a small bedroom (left) and no bathroom or other sheltered space.

The girls leading us onto the property.

This is their kitchen. Notice that there are no chairs, no tables, and gaping holes in their roof. Please also note that it is now RAINY SEASON in Zimbabwe...

This is absolutely the thing I think about most when I think about these kids. See that bowl of greens in the photo below? Those are weeds they've gathered from the bush surrounding their home. That's all that they eat when they're at home. Thankfully, their school is able to provide 1 meal per day because their school is supported by a project through World Vision. The meals at school don't include meat, and this is all they have outside of school. This is what I'm thinking about while I'm eating my dinner, and when I see food being thrown into the garbage. And this is what makes me think that while we're doing a lot to help these kids, we aren't doing enough yet.

We interviewed them in the kitchen and asked them all sorts of questions about their life and about what they want for their future. I can't for the life of me remember what they each said they wanted to be when they grow up - but maybe one of my team mates can leave a comment below letting us know? I was so distracted by that bowl of weeds that it was all I could do to keep taking photos and not start bawling - so apparently I didn't listen to the whole interview.

After the interview, we were also able to pray for the children, and then take a tour of their homestead.

This is the room that they share - which has a leaky roof as well. The girls sleep with Shelton in the middle (on a pile of blankets on the floor), and the oldest sleeps closest to the door. You can see how much they protect and take care of each other.

And this is their garden.

With very little rain so far this year, and seeds hard to come by, you can see that not much is growing in here.

Near the garden, just outside the fence of the homestead are 2 graves. The kids' mothers are buried here.

But, these kids are still just normal kids. Laughing, playing...

The girls thought it was HILARIOUS when Obert (who works on the AIDS Project, and who you'll hear much more about in another post) tried jumping rope too.

But these kids don't just get to laugh, and play, and do homework and have fun - like most kids in America. These kids have to take care of one another, take care of their home, do all of the chores, gather food, collect seed pods to use as candles, bathe themselves, wake up on time, walk 2 hours to get to school each day, and know that their parents are gone.

My heart aches for these kids, and I pray for them every day. Would you join me in praying for them as well?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Zimbabwe, Day 2

On Day 2 in Africa, Adam & I arrived in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. We were both a bit nervous about going through security & customs with all of our gear. The Zimbabwean government doesn't like journalists very much, and we were just praying that they wouldn't think we were journalists. Praise God, we made it through without any trouble!! Ryan & Trevor met us outside customs and welcomed us to Zimbabwe. It was nice to finally arrive at our destination after 40+ hours of traveling! Ryan & Trevor had been in Zambia checking out some potential new projects, and had just driven to Zimbabwe the night before - so they were pretty excited to be there as well.

Ryan drove us into Bulawayo and explained that we couldn't photograph any government buildings and should be careful not to let anyone see our cameras. Anyone in the CIO (Zim's version of our CIA) could be on the streets in plain clothes, and would probably assume that we were journalists. So, for the most part, I kept my camera down and I never really got many shots of the city :(

Our first stop was at a friend's place, where we gassed up the car and exchanged some money. Check out this fat wad of cash he gave us!! Don't get too excited - that 50,000,000 Zim dollars only equates to $50 US! It was just crazy carrying around that much cash - even though their largest bill ($200,000) is only worth about 20 cents! Zim is currently at something like 13,000% inflation! It's just nuts!

After a quick lunch, we headed to the Theological College of Zimbabwe (TCZ - or TCZed as it's called in Zim). TCZ's Hilltop Campus is located in an old hotel and includes housing for some of the students. It's a very cool facility, and the college and its graduates are the core of Forgotten Voices' work on the ground in Zim.

Ryan had a meeting with the president of TCZ, Victor Naka and John Stomboli. So, Adam & I got straight to work, filming and photographing everything that was going on. They talked for a while, and then took us on a tour of the campus. Out back behind the housing, they've begun a garden based on the principles of Farming God's Way. FGW was started by a man named Pierre (who you'll see later in the trip), and is an amazing farming technique that produces an insane amount of food in a small space. It's TCZ's goal to teach their students Farming God's Way so they can take it back to their churches and communities. The gardens can then be used to feed families, and even make money on crop sales. It's a geniusy plan, if you ask me.

Adam at work:
Victor Naka:
Ryan, Trevor, and John touring the Farming God's Way plot (check out the sweet light and the crazy sky - it was gorgeous!!)
After our visit to TCZ, Ryan took us "home." We stayed at his friend Warren King's home outside Bulawayo. We like to call it the "King Compound" since Warren's parents and siblings also have homes on the property. It is a gorgeous place (more pics later) and was a welcoming and warm home base for us while we were in town. The Kings were still in South Africa when we arrived, but their housekeeper, Miriam made us feel very welcome and made us a delicious dinner. That night, we were able to relax, charge batteries, rest and even have a bit of fun. It was a good first day in Zimbabwe.

Here's a shot of Ryan playing in the King's backyard...


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Great News!!

While I was in Zimbabwe, I got some awesome news! Here's the story...

Back in September, a fellow wedding photographer, Davina Fear, was offering a scholarship to a new photographer just starting out on their own for $500 towards a seminar or workshop of their choice. As soon as I heard about it, I got excited! First of all, I could use a workshop, and even had one in mind. Second, I could use that $500!! Plus, the scholarship would include 2 mentoring sessions with Davina - and that's pretty awesome!

I mentioned the scholarship to Matt & Enna Grazier, and they totally encouraged me to apply. In fact, before I'd even begun my application, they each sent recommendations to Davina on my behalf. They were the sweetest, most supportive letters, and I practically started crying when I read them. So, at that point, I had to apply! So, just under the wire I sent in my application, and prayed that God would do whatever He wanted with it...

As it turns out, I WON! Can you believe it?? I'm so excited! I can't wait to connect with Davina, and I can't wait to go to the workshop! I decided to attend Liana Lehman's Photo Business Boot Camp next month here in Boston. I think it's going to be awesome for me and for my business, and I am so grateful to have this scholarship to help me do it!

Thank you Davina for your willingness to help other photographers pursue their dreams! I feel so honored and blessed by this opportunity!

Zimbabwe... where to begin?

I've been trying to blog about this trip for days now. I just have no idea where to begin! I guess I'll just start at the beginning...

I left for Zimbabwe on Tuesday, October 23rd. I flew first to JFK in New York to meet up with my friend Adam. First of all, let me just say that I do NOT like the JFK airport! Hello? Signs would be helpful for directing passengers to other terminals & such! Geez! Anyway, I made it to the flight just fine, and got to catch up with Adam a bit before the flight. He graciously gave me the window seat and we set off on our 18.5 hour flight!

Thanks to my old friend, Benadryl, I slept almost half the trip. And the rest of it was spent chatting with Adam, and a couple of ladies across the aisle, watching Harry Potter 5, and playing MahJong on the interactive screen above my tray table. South African Airlines rocks!! I was so entertained, I didn't open up my laptop or a book once :)

When we arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, we had about a 16 hour lay over. Ryan's friends, Steve & Michelle Lockwood are missionaries in Jo-burg and they picked us up at the airport and took us back to their house. It was so great meeting them, and their 3 adorable kids. They gave us dinner, comfy beds, and warm showers - it was wonderful! They also shared with us quite a bit about their experiences in Zimbabwe - they had lived there for quite a few years before moving to South Africa. It was great to hear their perspective and their stories. By the time Steve took us to the airport the next morning, they seemed like old friends. I just wish I hadn't been too tired to take more pictures! Thank you so much Steve & Michelle for your hospitality! That overnight stay made all the difference in adjusting to Zimbabwe time.

And that was day 1...

up next, day 2...

Monday, November 12, 2007

The big 3-Oh!

Yesterday was my birthday - my 30th to be precise! I'm still freaking out a little bit about turning 30, but I am definitely excited about the year ahead. I feel like this is going to be a big year for me, and I can't wait to see what God does in my life this year!!

I had a pretty low-key day, but the highlight was definitely my birthday lunch...

Here are my niece & nephews in the back of the Suburban on our way to the best birthday lunch spot in the land.

(Tristan-4, Caeden-15 mos, Reilly-3)

That's right, we went to McDonald's! 2 plain cheeseburgers, fries & a coke please!

It was a fun lunch, and the kids colored me tons of pictures and gave me lots of hugs and kisses - so it was a great birthday!

Thanks to all of my friends and family to sent emails, e-cards, facebook messages, real cards, and who called to sing to me. I love you and am blessed to have you in my life!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm home!

I'm home! In fact, I got home a couple days ago. I've been meaning to blog some more about the trip, but just haven't felt ready yet. It's pretty overwhelming being back in the States. I walked into my niece & nephews' play room the other day and started crying (they just have so much stuff!). We cleaned off the plates after dinner and I started crying just looking at all of the food going into the trash. I can't even bring myself to go to the grocery store yet. I'm just having a hard time wrapping my head around all that I've seen and heard, and reconciling that with what life is like here. And to be honest, I don't want to get used to it. I don't want to become complacent. I don't want to return to a life of waste and greed and taking things for granted. But I do need to figure out a way to keep from crying every 10 minutes :)

So, bear with me for a few days, and I promise I'll share some more about the trip soon!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Back in Bulawayo!

Wow! No internet access for over a week! I'm going through withdrawl - this is a great quick fix :)

We're back in Bulawayo today. We left here last Monday and went to the Matopos and stayed at a place called Shumba Shaba. It was BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to show you the pictures! We stayed there for a couple of days with some of the pastors that work with Forgotten Voices (or the other way around, really). It was great getting to know them and enjoying the scenery.

We left Shumba Shaba on Wednesday and went to the Mtshabezi Mission/Hospital. This is one of FVI's biggest partners. It was an amazing week with them. They were so gracious and took such good care of us there. It was overwhelming. We visited the Primary School there, and interviewed some of the children who's school fees are paid by the Mtshabezi AIDS Project. It was so encouraging to see how much hope these kids have for their future now that they are able to go to school. We also visited some of the kids in their homes out in the villages over a couple of days. That was incredibly humbling. To see these kids surviving on next to nothing - literally eating weeds for meals - and then to go back to the Mission where they prepared such great meals for us. It was just hard.

On Thursday we were supposed to visit a woman who is cared for by the AIDS Project, but she died during the night and so we ended up going to her funeral instead. Her name was Setty, she was 28 years old. Her only child had already died of AIDS, and we aren't sure what happened to her husband. Her family was so welcoming, and allowed us to film and photograph the funeral. These are some of the most powerful photos I've shot - I hope to post them soon after I get home.

I've shot well over 5,000 images so far - so I'm going to be BUSY when I get home!! Wedding and Portrait clients will have to come first - so I hope you can be patient waiting for some images from the trip. It'll be worth the wait, I promise!

I've got a great story to share without about an interesting run-in with the "police" but I think I'll wait till I get home. I'm not that worried that the Zim police are checking my blog, but just in case... :) You'll just have to wait!!!

I'll be home on Thursday and will try to reply to emails then. If I get the chance, I'll blog again tomorrow, but who knows? Please continue to pray for safety - especially getting through the airport on Thursday. I hope all is well back home! I can't wait to get back and hug my niece & nephews and see my friends & family!!