An afternoon with Mollie, a session through The Gold Hope Project

“It’s so beautiful. It’s just so beautiful!”

Feet walking through gold confetti hearts on the ground

Those were the words that Mollie said over and over as we made our way through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Her joy was contagious and inspiring as she looked at every flower and tree with wonder. Mollie was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2016.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought it was an appropriate time to share this session I did with The Gold Hope Project, an organization that aims to aid research for rare pediatric brain cancer while raising awareness through photography.

Before I started volunteering with The Gold Hope Project, I did not realize that childhood cancer affects 40,000 kids in the US every year and that less than 4% of the National Cancer Institutes’ annual budget is accounted for childhood cancer research. Non profit organizations work to provide more funding, but more has got to be done for these children who have their entire lives ahead of them.

I really can not imagine what these children and their families experience as they fight through treatment and fight for a cure. Please go gold for the month of September and consider what you can do to help. Spread the word about The Gold Hope Project, donate a session, become a volunteer photographer, send a note of encouragement to a family affected by cancer. There are many ways to raise awareness. It matters.

A girl looks up at her mother while her mother tucks her hair behind her ear
a girl touches her forehead onto some flowers and smiles
a girl climbs over rocks under a tree
a girl climbs through a tree
a big brother helps his lister sister down from a rock
two girls climb around rocks in a garden
a girl hugs her dad who rests his chin on her head
a girl smiles and holds a stuffed animal dog
a portrait of a stuffed animal
three children sitting down, a girl hugs her brother
a girl sits in a shower of gold confetti hearts

The Clark Family, Atlanta Family Photographer

Of meatballs, marshmallows, and a magic house

Several kids play on and around a playset while two dads push kids on swing

Magic. That's what happens when two brothers, two incredible women, and a group of cousins get together every year. It's always magic.

This is the third time I have been able to photograph these families together, and each time gets exponentially more fun as the cousins get older and a little more...magical. The energy and excitement the kids feel when they are together extends to the adults, and well, I'm not sure if it's the kids or the grown ups who are having the better time.

Earlier in the day, the brothers put together a brand new swing set, and the kids had a blast breaking it in before roasting (well, burning) some marshmallows. There were all sorts of shenanigans that made the day fun, drinks out of cups with the family crest, plenty of games of chase, flying toy cars, and some good old fashioned wrestling.  

The parents decided to have their own fun with a blind meatball contest this year. Tanya's meatball recipe was up against the family recipe. When it was time to eat, the meatballs were judged on categories such as tenderness and taste. I'm not at all surprised that Tanya's recipe won.

I hope we continue to make a tradition out of this. The times I spent with my cousins growing up are some of my favorite memories of my childhood, and I so wish I had more pictures of the times we were together. Plus, it's crazy to see year after year how much these kids have all changed. Not long ago, they looked like this and this. It's pretty hard to believe. 

Magic House WEB-1.jpg
two pots of meatballs cooking on a stove
A toddler looks at the camera while laying her head on her dad's shoulder
A boy crawls on the floor after a car while a girl looks down it at her feet
A girl stands on a couch with one arm on her hip and one arm in the air and a smile on her face
A mother ties the end of a crown braid she has made on her daughter's hair
Man pours liquor into two cups
Two brothers grab arms, one grimaces, the other one laughs
A girl jumps on a couch with a smile on her face
A father wipes his daughter's face while a mother holds her son's face in his hands
A boy chases another child through a hallway
A man points to an owie while a boy holds his hand and looks up at him
Cousins play together on a new swingset
a toddler sits on a swing with her tongue out
A mother and father look at their daughter as she swings in front of them
A boy blows on a burnt marshmallow with others around
a boy bites a roasted marshmallow off of a stick
A girl screams while holding a marshmallow and a boy stands behind her looking mischievious
A mother smiles at a boy who is eating a marshmallow while a father looks questioningly at his daughter who has the whole marshmallow in her mouth
A boy laughs while being held by his mother as his father, brother, and sister look on
A girl cries while her mom pushes her on a swing
A boy has his mouth open while getting ready to go down a slide
Little girl opens mouth wide to eat spaghetti
A boy opens his mouth wide to fit a large meatball in it
Boy eats spaghetti and has noodles sticking out of his pursed lips
two women hold a plate with a meatball on it together and one woman points to it with excited look
A score card sits next to a plate of meatballs on a kitchen counter
A woman raises the roof in her kitchen after winning a meatball contest

A Day in the Life of my Life, Atlanta Family Photographer

From wake to sleep

Girl sleeps peacefully in a bed

I always like to start my year with an inspiring course that will challenge my growth as a photographer. For the final assignment of this year's course, The Documentary Approach, I had to do A Day in the Life of my own family. While I document my children every week as part of my Portrait of Play project, I had never photographed a day of our family life in its entirety. I went to bed with my camera beside me ready to wake up and capture the day as it happened all the way until bedtime. There was nothing special about the day. Nothing was scheduled, and we never even left the house. I took pictures like I would if I were photographing another family and also while nursing and vacuuming. It's safe to say that this is something I will continue to do every year as a way to record the things that stay the same and the things that change in our family life from year to year. The photos remind me of these things that I don't want to forget that define this time in our life:

-Winnie coming up to bed with us in the middle of the night every night. Waking up with her next to me.

-The furniture that James made for us that will be part of our life throughout the years.

-The exhaustion. Serious. Lack. Of. Sleep. Such is life when you have young children and you like to work until 2 am most nights.

-How much Roland loves James.

-The way my kids entertain themselves and me. My mom once said I should just record everything that happens here or stream it as a reality tv show. Their imaginations delight me.

-How Chuck sometimes wants to take showers by herself instead of baths with her sister.

-The little details that may go unnoticed to everyone else but are visually a part of our every day life: James' resistance band, the chalkboard wall, the rug, the coffee cups, the toys, the boxes from the car seats they will be in for the next several years, and the painting that is hanging in the girls' room. These are all things that make our house a home.

-The work that never ends, dishes, laundry, meals, pottying, nursing, changing, repeat, repeat, repeat.

-Atlas, the dog we had before we had kids, the dog who is not getting any younger.

This year has been rough. I mean, having three kids is crazy. In the same breath that I am already aching for the days I know I'll miss (that have not even passed yet), I am dreaming about 3 years from now when I will hopefully have more personal space, time to myself, and sleep. Because I know this day in our life will look different next year, I went ahead and printed these in a photo book so I could look at them without having to search through an old external hard drive to find them. My future self thanks me. 

While I was able to include my presence in these photographs, I am very glad my dear friend Anda Marie will be taking photos of our family this month. My family through my lens is different than my family through the lens of another. Plus, I want to be able to see myself with my children, and I want them to see me with them. My future self thanks me for that too.

Man yawns in a kitchen and a girl eats breakfast
still life of coffee and phone with a sleep chart on a table
Child puts hand into a plastic bowl of Grapenuts
Girl with a milk moustache laughs in a kitchen
Girl makes face at sister while opening the dishwasher
Child in red pajamas with head in the box while lying on the ground
Baby boy stands up in crib and looks in the camera
Girl sits in bath tup and puts her hands and feet together
baby slumps over in a jumper flanked by full laundry baskets
A girl sits on the toilet while another girl jumps on a bed
Baby holds bowl of yogurt close to his face
Girl in shower with tongue out of her mouth
Child stands on a stool and leans over into the washing machine
Man lies on a couch and looks at his phone
baby smiles and looks at his dad
Reflection of woman holding camera with a child on her back
Baby looks at mother while nursing as seen from mother's perspective
Dog looks at boy in a highchair in a kitchen while a girl reaches into a cabinet behind it
3 children play with pretend food in an oven
baby holds  on to child's shopping cart with a pretend kitchen
Mother vacuums while baby holds onto it taken from the mother's perspective
A child sits on a couch as a baby stands under a table and a girl sits in a laundry basket and talks on a phone
Girl writes on cardboard house with marker while sticking her tongue out
A girl gets ready to squeeze oranges as another girl looks over
A toddler sits on a potty chair in a bathroom with her arm stretched out toward the person taking the picture
A girl opens a door to go outside while a girl carries the top of a pineapple behind her
The top of a pineapple planted in a pot with dirt around it
A man and two children cut carrots with knives
A man lies on a couch looking at his phone while a child climbs on him and another child lies on the floor in front of him
A father puts pajamas on a baby who is holding onto his leg and another child leans on a couch beside him
A girl yawns as a father dumps pee in a toilet and another girl looks at the camera while brushing her teeth
A baby smiles at one sister while his dad sets him on another child lying in a bed
two children sleep in a bed

I'd love to spend some time in your home with your family. It doesn't have to be for a full day. You don't have to be at your prepregnancy weight. Your house doesn't have to be clean. Your kids don't have to behave. You just have to be you. 

three photo albums on a piano