"The world needs to understand that beauty isn't defined by someone's circumstances. Beauty is within. Beauty is measured in a million different ways. I am beautiful. YOU are beautiful!"
-Carli Lynne Hamilton
Too often we in life are judged by others, with our differences being seen as failures or disadvantages. From weight, to intelligence, to disabilities, to language barriers, we are constantly fighting to be viewed for what we are. Talented. Kind. Inspiring. Motivating. Dedicated. Smart. Honest. Trustworthy. Loyal. Loving. Caring. So much more than what we are dwindled down to in society's critical microscope. I wanted to be a part of this shoot because I wanted to be a part of making this woman feel beautiful, and of celebrating her beauty BECAUSE of her differences and not in spite of them.
As I started planning the design for the piece for the shoot, I realized how little I knew about a wheelchair. I contemplated how I wanted the experience to be for the model, and how I wanted her to feel at the shoot. As she looked out onto the shimmering distance of the stunning salt flats, I envisioned her feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin. As her husband nuzzled her face with the sun setting in the distance, I wanted her to feel loved and beautiful. I did NOT want to hinder her mobility with a large, clunky design, or to mar an experience meant to celebrate her beauty by making it difficult for her to achieve the vision she wanted.
The final images take my breath away. They show a woman completely happy with who she is, and a man who fiercely loves his wife. The stark, unique landscape of the Utah salt flats trimmed with the mountains in the horizon and the beautiful cloud filled sky are the perfect setting to highlight raw, unfiltered happiness and emotion. I'm grateful to have been a part of capturing life as art.
I love Valentine's Day. I know, I know, I'm a florist; isn't it expected? When the family floral business was in a retail storefront, it was by far our biggest single day. It meant 15 hour days, takeout and fast food, sore feet, laughter, and tears. Florists often hate Valentine's because they just want sleep and a hot bath, and because they rarely had the opportunity to celebrate it for themselves. Not me though. I loved observing the timid gentleman unsure of how big to go for his first Valentine's with the girlfriend, or listening to the man describe is appreciation for his overworked wife, or seeing the smile on the woman's face who selected a silly monkey, bouquet, and box of chocolates for her boyfriend. I am grateful that we live in a society where love and romance are so important that people actively take actions on one specific day to honor it, and that it's a civil liberty we have that our people have died to protect and that people still fight daily to protect. After all, we have the right to love whoever we choose, and we have the right to celebrate that.
As an independent florist with no brick-and-mortar store, choosing to serve day-to-day occasions or holidays is tricky. In addition to manage storage and design, there's the fact that most flowers and greenery are sold in bunches, making it challenging to do a single bouquet here or there. This year, I decided to offer Valentine's deliveries and couldn't be more excited!
Today we did a stylized collaborative shoot with a Valentine's theme. While I've participated in many collaborations, this was the first I've planned myself. So. Much. Work. First, I compiled the team: four photographers, a videographer, a hair and makeup artist, models, and a cake artist. As time passed and our date got closer and closer, there was a noticeable lack of responsiveness from some of the team members. We ended up losing three photographers and a hair and makeup artist with just a week remaining. I was so worried that the shoot would fall through, and not just because I wouldn't get my images, but because I would fail everyone who was looking forward to the shoot. As an additional stress, we still had no location. Panic! Fortunately, I'm the type of person who thinks everything happens for a reason, and we found new team members that I could not have been happier with! I can't wait to see the final product, because working with them was a dream.
As for a location, I wasn't quite sure of what to do. We had called and messaged studio after studio, to no avail, when my friend suggested that we see if anyone knew anyone who would let us use a model home. Yet another friend to the rescue, arranging for us to use a gorgeous model home as our entire studio.
The home was modern with unique architecture and full of natural light and luxury finishes. Both the casual, relaxed couple and the formal couple preparing for an elegant night out fit perfectly in the home, and I can easily imagine the home filled with the warmth and love of a family to fill it.
Above photos are candid shots taking behind the scenes of our stylized shoot. Formal images yet to come.
Standing back and watching the shoot unfold was so much fun! It was interesting to observe each photographer's styles and strengths, offering gentle guidance to the models and genuinely caring that they all got the shots they wanted. The models knew just what to do when directed "bright smile" or "whisper in her ear" or "gentle eskimo kisses with faces angled out". Standing around shooting decadent food though was TORTURE: everyone looked forward to digging into the cake and cookies and other delicious treats. (Note to self: for a happy team, bring treats.) Seriously though, everyone was invested in a truly collaborative way, and had a blast while doing it! I look forward to seeing the final images and to collaborating with this talented team again in the future.
Florist: Stephanie Potter, Raw Floral Frosted Custom Cakes and Sweets
Photographer: Anna Heinz, Mapping Light Photography
Photographer: Emma Thongrit, Emli Photography
Photographer and videographer: Melissa Wight, Wight Photo + Film
Casual attire models: Rachel Ross and husband Brian Ross
Makeup artist for Rachel Ross: Sarah Burton, Sarah Burton Makeup Artistry
Hair stylist for Rachel Ross: Arianna Snape
Formal attire models: Brookelin Backus and husband Kade Backus
Makeup artist for Brookelin Backus: Natalie Krall, Natalie Krall Artistry
Hair stylist for Brookelin Backus: Shayla Johnson
Formal dresses: Ypsilon Dresses
Location provided by: Kathleen Granderath Photo credit for behind-the-scenes images featured in this post: Christine Nelsen