Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011


spring has officially sprung (although today it’s cold, rainy and gross) but on tuesday it was gorgeous – and if you live where we do, this season celebrates a national treasure, the cherry blossoms on the national mall in dc. when deanna first contacted me about doing an e-session I was 1: excited, because I had met her at christine and bill’s wedding and she was a blast and 2: loving her idea for a cherry blossom session. now mother nature, as she delights in doing, threw us through a loop or two because we had nice days followed by snow  – SNOW! in.late.march…. but we picked a day that looked a little hopeful, crossed our fingers and met up by the jefferson memorial. and it was gorgeous! so gorgeous that I think every resident of the dc metro area was there. let’s just say that finding sparsely populated areas to shoot was a challenge – but deanna and dave were so great about following me around as I searched out locations. working with them was so much fun! their sense of humor is definitely similar to mine and their energy when together was so amazing making my job easy!   















I had such a great time! I have wanted to shoot the blossoms for a long time but never made it happen – so thank you deanna and dave for the idea and a fun afternoon!

March 30, 2011


this was the perfect way to start out my 2011 season! paige and scott’s wedding was so full of love, emotion, laughter, surprise and tears. from the beginning to end – this wedding was so special. I met up with paige and her mom at the church – little did they know that paige’s father had flown in her brother from hungary where he is studying abroad – I swear, when the door opened and her brother was standing there, paige jumped 8 feet off of the ground and huge hugs, kisses and tears of joy were abundant by all (including me). see I had met paige at the annapolis what’s up weddings show and knew that she and scott were planning a small wedding with a expedited time frame because scott was being deployed in may. that alone spoke to my heart, but all of the other elements of the day just celebrated all that true love is.




still makes me weepy….



















paige and scott, I feel so fortunate and honored to have spent this day with you. I wish you so much love and happiness in your life together!

March 30, 2011


so I’ve got to be honest – I almost always meet with a couple or at least the bride before we contract to work together. when everything is done over the phone or via email I get a case of the butterflies similar to those of a blind date when I go to meet them for their e-session. heather and chris are getting married at the chesapeake bay beach club but are living in austin, texas – so there wasn’t a chance for us to meet beforehand. but seriously, I get a case of the “I hope they like me”s as I approach the meeting place. I need not have worried! heather and chris are so much fun and easy to be around – we were laughing within moments of walking the streets of downtown annapolis. they were leaving that evening to fly back to austin where the south by southwest festival would be in full swing – jealous!











thanks so much for a really fun morning! I can’t wait to work with you again on the big day!


meet cornelia + rockwood – aka neilie + rocky, corny + rockster and most importantly to me, my parents. are they not amazing in this photo?! it’s my absolute favorite and was taken shortly before they got married. the story of how they met it almost cliche…. he was a midshipman at the naval academy in annapolis and she was a student at goucher college in baltimore which at the time was an all female school. because they both went to single sex  institutions, their schools had mixers and tea dances almost every weekend. mom was 5’9″ and dad was 6’9″ and they literally caught each other’s eye across the proverbial crowded room. the rest was history – she was small town girl from the eastern shore and he was a kid who grew up on the beaches of southern california. they were married a block from where I sit right now and I was born 4 years later. we lived in baltimore for the first 3 years after I arrived and then my dad got a job offer in syracuse so we packed up and headed to the tundra that is upstate new york. we lived on an idyllic street complete with block parties, potlucks, bbqs and kickball. we lived in a cedar shingled house where all of the neighborhood kids would come to learn and play football with my dad who had played for navy. I don’t have a single bad memory of life on huntleigh ave. I met a girl 7 houses down at the age of four who is still one of my best friends, learned that a life lived in 5 feet of snow made for some pretty amazing snow forts and that going down the slope of our road on my bike with arms stretched out wide was the best feeling in the world. my parents routinely danced to the beatles and beach boys in the kitchen while making dinner and took turns tucking me in at night, weaving amazing bedtime stories off of the other’s tale from the previous night. on my 7th birthday, I was led to the “wayback” of our yard to see our old storage shed transformed with paints of pink, orange and light green into “raye’s place” where I had all of my outside toys, some of my books, a portable radio and an indoor hammock (LOVED that hammock). the sign that was on the front door of my childhood refuge hangs in my office today – because as an only child, my parents understood then as my husband understands now that I need, for lack of a better term, my alone time – my own “place”  today, instead of toys, I have work that I love – instead of the hammock (although maybe I should investigate that same concept) I have a papasan chair in the corner - instead of a portable radio, I have pandora and itunes – but I still have books – lots of them.    

why am I telling you all of this? it’s important for me to remember these times – when everything was perfect and easy. because these two amazing people are my motivation for the tapestry sessions. when I was 8 my parents split and my mom and I moved to an apartment across town. mom had worked in advertising my whole life and she loved it – she was driven and creative and passionate about what she did – eventually opening her own agency and I thought she was the coolest woman ever – I wanted to be just like her. her friends were all in creative fields so I grew up surrounded by writers and artists and models/actors and I was treated as though I was one of them. for someone who thrived in a creative setting, it was the ideal adolescence. In the meantime, dad re-married and moved to chicago – I wouldn’t see him again until I was 22 and in art school. In the years following our reunion we both worked hard to rebuild our relationship and he became my best friend, just like my mom.

I was living in boulder when I got the call from my step-mother that dad had gone to the hospital with what was thought to be food poisoning. “nothing bad,” she assured me – “I just want to let you know.” during his time in the hospital, it was discovered that he had stage 2 colon cancer. when he called me to tell me I couldn’t speak. cancer. the very word scared the hell out of me – and now my dad, this larger than life man had it. “I’m coming home!” I declared but he assured me that he was okay and that his doctors were very optimistic. “don’t be scared raisin (great nickname right?) I’ll see you at christmas.” and he was right – after he had minor surgery, he had successful treatment and was cancer free by christmas.

6 months later mom called. she was changing insurance companies and as a result, had to have a full physical. during her mammogram, they found a spot. again I stated that I was coming back east and mom didn’t protest. luckily mom’s breast cancer was found early and staged at 1. after her lumpectomy I returned to boulder and following radiation treatment, she was declared cancer free as well.

I moved back east from boulder for good in 2001 and shortly after I met roland. after being together for a little over a year we were engaged to be married on june 4th and I knew that the shore would be my home for a long time. in the early stages of wedding planning, mom would get tired easy but we both explained it away with an anemia diagnosis she had received a year earlier. during a routine blood draw a couple of weeks later, some additional tests were done – and tests after that – and a few more tests until finally the doctors informed us that mom had stage 4 lung cancer. now you need to know my mother to understand this, but the realities of this diagnosis were never discussed. changing or moving up our wedding date was never an option. I simply took her to her palliative treatment, read my book in the waiting room and acted as if everything was going to be okay because that was what she needed me to do. one night while we were finalizing the guest list for the wedding she looked at me and said “do you realize that this will be the first time I’ve seen your father in over 30 years?” of course I did and silently prayed that it would still happen. it was my dad who I cried to about mom’s cancer and in talking to them both, I knew that they were actually looking forward to seeing each other. on valentine’s day 2005 mom suffered a seizure related to the cancer that had spread to her brain and it was the beginning of the end. I was blessed to be in a position where because I was self employed, I was able to spend every moment with mom and when I felt the situation required it, I brought in private nurses when I had to shoot a job - I was so grateful for this flexibility. but as an only child of an only child my support system was thin for round the clock care and although roland was amazing, I needed help. in early march we moved mom to coastal hospice on the lake and I was suddenly able to be a daughter again instead of a full time caregiver. the amazing staff allowed me to go home to snow hill for an afternoon to see the dogs or meet a friend for coffee worry free because I knew they would be there for her. but not only that, they took care of me. because I lived at hospice for the weeks mom was there, the nurses knew what I liked in my coffee, what size towels I liked after a shower, that I loved diet pepsi with lime and without asking, these things were silently provided for me. they made the remaining time with my mother as perfect and peaceful as it could have been – mom passed on april 3 – 2 months and 1 day before our wedding.

almost 2 years later I got another call from patti, my step-mother saying dad was in the hospital. this time, the easy assurance wasn’t in her voice – I only heard fear. I called dad’s room and in a polar opposite approach to my mom he said “it doesn’t look good raisin” and went on to tell me about all of the tests:  mri’s, pet scans and biopsies of his liver. we talked and talked and he didn’t even seem scared but I was terrified and made a lame show of hiding it from the person who knew me the best. 2 days later we got the news dad knew was coming stage 4 liver/bile duct cancer. dad didn’t want treatment – his main goals were to get his business and affairs in order and with a energy coming from amazing self will he did. crossroads hospice came to the house to offer dad pain management and patti general help. blessedly, dad had little to no pain just exhaustion. roland and I drove to philly every week and were so grateful for the support of  my step-siblings and other family. just a few weeks later I got a call from dad’s best friend saying that very early that morning dad’s condition had suddenly taken a turn and he was taken to crossroads - and that I needed to get up there – quick. dad was still semi-conscious by the time I got there and I was able to say good-bye before he fell into a coma that would last 7 hours before he passed.

In both of their deaths, the main thing that made it bearable was the assistance of hospice. I don’t know how these angels on earth have the strength and grace to do what they do day in and out. I couldn’t do it, I know that. they obviously care for the patient, but what blows me away it that they care for the caregiver and especially with my mother, it was the greatest gift I have ever been given. since my father’s death I have wanted to do something beyond the annual contribution to both organizations who were so amazing to my parents. and so late last year the idea struck, and I’ve worked since then on pulling it all together. for every portrait session I do from here on out, 25% of all post-product profits will be donated to both coastal hospice and crossroads hospice. In addition – anyone who is currently going through cancer treatment or is a caregiver of someone who is, it would be a honor for me to do a session with you free of charge – these sessions will not appear on the blog or website unless you want them to. I learned that although it’s a scary time, it’s also a time filled with hope, courage and overflowing love. 

both my mother’s lung cancer and my father’s liver cancer were unrelated to their first go around with this hideous disease. most people are familiar with the color pink being associated with breast cancer but every cancer has a color: white for lung, emerald green for liver and dark blue for colon. so when trying to think of something to name these sessions, it suddenly occurred to me – the tapestry sessions


I hope in helping them in whatever way I can will enable them to help others as they did me – I am forever grateful

March 14, 2011

this is a question we are asked all of the time – we realize how lucky we are that we have the friendship that can not only survive but flourish under the ups and downs of running a business together. it takes people who not only know and understand each other exceptionally well, but who also passionately share a vision for what they are working every day to create. but how did it start? well grab a snack and miss raye will tell you all about it……

almost 9 years ago I was asked to teach a photography class at the AI&G. “how cool!!” I remember thinking – I had all of these plans in mind for fine art paper printing, playing with cross processing of film and basically taking up temporary residence in the darkroom – my favorite place to be. I was stoked. “great,” the director said to me “now the class is for kids so it will be all classroom, no darkroom”  huh, wait, what?!?! no darkroom?? KIDS?!?!

after some semi-sleepless nights I came up with what I thought was a decent lesson plan but I was terrified. kids are no joke – they will not hesitate to let you know that your best thought out ideas are crap. I would have been more at ease with a classroom full of tiger sharks – but I got there early and spread out a ton of magazines covering everything from race cars to interior design. my first project was for them to tear out pages at will as long as all of the photos on the pages had something in common – then from those photos they made a 16×20 collage. as the students came in it was apparent that they were more like teenagers than kids and for whatever reason, this made me breathe a bit easier. 2 of the last people to enter the classroom were two girls who quietly and quickly took their seats – it was kristie and her sister emily. from what I recall from that first class was that kris was practically silent, very shy but extremely focused. after I sent them all home for the afternoon, I knew I had to up my game a bit because these kids were older and my planned assignments would get pretty boring really fast. I went out and purchased disposable cameras for all of them and during the next class I asked them to shoot shapes and light and not to repeat the same image twice. once returned and processed, most of the images are what you might expect from teenagers – but kristie’s photos? they took my breath away. it was also at about this time when the director asked me if I would teach a darkroom class during the next session for adults – absolutely I would. “but….” I said to the director “there’s this girl in my current class, and she’s only 15 but her eye is amazing” and I showed her kristie’s photos. I thought I would have to beg and plead for her to allow a student so young into a darkroom program – but she could see what I saw and quickly agreed.

since then obviously so much has happened. ever since the beginning of gillette portrait arts, kris has played a part. from interested hobbyist to her first full wedding - which was my wedding almost 6 years ago.  to now have her as my studio partner AND one of my best friends is such a gift and we depend on each other more than ever as the studio grows.

the photos in the post were taken last night as we wandered the streets of wilmington, nc – such a cool town!! we were goofing around and snapping away – something we rarely do because we both are surprisingly camera shy – and then went for tapas at the fortunate glass. SO good! we are down here to spend some time with friend and photographer/businesswoman extraordinaire millie holloman - millie has a studio of multiple employees and we thought it would be beneficial before this upcoming season if we soaked up inspiration and information from someone who has a studio like one we are working so hard to build – and we love us some millie!   

it feels like we’ve been on the road forever – but after this trip we’re staying put and it’s all about putting the finishing touches on the studio while we get ready for an amazing season! see you soon!


we had so many beautiful entries for this year’s valentine’s day contest that it was SO hard to decide. this year in particular we had a lot of entries from previous brides and clients as well so I decided that it was impossible for me to be objective – I form lasting relationships with my couples and I was afraid that my friendships with them would cloud my judgement so I gave all of the love stories to 3 trusted friends outside of the studio and the decision was unanimous! deborah and aram’s story is a journey of hope, fear, faith and most of all LOVE and I have been in awe with them individually and as a couple since we met. I’ve included images from their e-session as well as their wedding with their story as told by the amazing deborah – enjoy


Aram and I met on July 12, 2006, at a popular D.C. mediterranean restaurant, after spending several weeks e-mailing each other (ain’t online dating the best?!?).  Our first outing revealed quite a bit about each other (though we didn’t know it at the time).  I had been waiting at the bar for a while (I am punctual) when Aram walked in (Aram…not so punctual).  I was already pleasantly buzzed after having had a drink

(I am a lightweight).

We sat down and chatted.  Aram ordered something that sounded disgusting to me — taramasalata — briny fish roe paste (he’s adventurous).  But I tried it anyway (I’m adventurous too).  We enjoyed the food so much, Aram managed to wear part of it home

(he’s an enthusiastic eater…and klutz).

We ate and drank and laughed, and had a great time.  I wasn’t too fond of the belly dancers at our table, and Aram was able to fake that he didn’t like them either…  By the time I sat down to write a thank-you e-mail the next day (I’m polite), Aram had already written (he’s enthusiastic).  That date led to another, and then another, and then a few more.  And all that, in turn, is what led us to our big

lifetime adventure together.

We had been discussing the possibility of getting engaged for quite some time.  Aram was scared of marriage, however, and was blessed with a healthy dose of indecision, so I knew that translating talk into action could take some time.  So I waited, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently, until we had been dating for three years, two months, two weeks, and six days

(did I mention that I sometimes am impatient?).

Aram proposed to me on October 2, 2009.  The future looked nothing but bright.  On December 23, 2009, two and a half months after getting engaged, and despite having no family history of the disease and being only 37 years of age, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.   While they caught it relatively early, the cancer was particularly aggressive, and I had to respond in kind.  Since my diagnosis, I have undergone several surgical procedures, fertility treatments in an attempt to preserve our ability to have children, chemotherapy, and radiation.  Needless to say, it was not the engagement period we had imagined.

I had my last chemotherapy treatment on May 20, two days before my 38th birthday and five weeks before the wedding.  While I never grew up dreaming of being a bald bride (nor did Aram dream of marrying one!), we made the best of the situation by encouraging our guests to join me and wear some form of headwear, be it a wig, hat, or scarf, to the wedding reception.  The wedding was everything I had hoped it would be, and turned into a celebration of life, even more than a celebration of Aram and me

(although it was that too!).

I cannot begin to describe how amazing Aram has been throughout the past 15 months.  He was everything that I could have wanted, and more.  He listened to me, he researched for me, he treated me like I was more than breast cancer.  He was my best friend, my lover, my confidante, and when reality required it, my caretaker.  Amazingly, as bald and cranky and sick as I was, he still wanted to marry me.  He told me to fuck off when I told him immediately after my diagnosis that he didn’t have to stick around.  He helped me stay positive when I was exhausted from chemo.  He helped me figure out what life looked like post-cancer once my treatment was finished.

We are in the process of leaving this crazy period behind us.  Since the wedding, I have finished cancer treatment, we bought a house, Aram switched jobs, and I got a new job too.  There aren’t very many other major life changes to take on, so we’re gratefully adjusting to a normal-paced life again.  But even though those dark days are behind us (hopefully forever), we take some important lessons with us.  Most importantly, we know that we belong together, and that it’s going to take a lot more than breast cancer to keep us apart.



to see deborah and aram’s full e-session blogpost, click here and to see their full wedding blogpost click here. I love you guys so much and am so inspired by you and your love – maybe we can use the session you won for a maternity session?? hint hint wink wink xoxox


March 07, 2011


so we just returned from our long overdue honeymoon – and I will tell you ALL about it soon. but we got in at 2am this morning after a rather horrific day of traveling (think flight delays, very bumpy plane ride for this very aerophobic flyer and a monsoon awaiting us in the parking lot of philadelphia airport) and basically I have hit the ground running – doing laundry, placing orders, contacting new clients… loving on the boys who kris took such amazing care of in our absence. so I have too much to do to write a whole post about our big beautiful trip – but I did want to pop in for monday moments. pictured above is one of the most beautiful spots in the world and somewhere I have been blessed enough to visit twice before. our ship stopped at cozumel and I knew since day 1 that if time allowed, that were we’re going to dash to the ferry to go to the paradise above – playa del carmen. now while I was living in colorado, my oldest one of my best friends leslie and her then-boyfriend murf went to playa quite often and one year a bunch of us went along. I’d be dishonest if I said that I wasn’t a little bit disappointed this week by the growth that has happened in playa – it used to be relatively untouched by big business or over commercialized, but thing’s have changed – and yes there is a starbucks and god help me, I marched right in and got myself an iced chai. where we stayed that first visit was a hotel called the blue parrot that had thatched roofed palapas with hammocks out front and a bar with swings instead of stools. but the beaches…. and the water….  that has not changed and is in fact more beautiful than I remembered. back to les and murf! when murf proposed, I don’t think that any of us were surprised that the wedding was going to be in playa – and this was a little over 9 years ago. an amazing group of family and friends traveled to their favorite place to celebrate their marriage and love and I thought of that trip a lot as roland and I rode the ferry over. as I said, the town has changed – as soon as we were off the ferry, vendors yelled out to roland (referred to by many a shopkeeper as “mr. whiskers”) :) and the streets were very crowded – but I was on a mission to find the blue parrot. and once I did it was truly bittersweet – gone were the palapas and the hammocks and in their place were retail shops. but after a swim and as we were lounging on our beach bed, eating amazing fish tacos it occurred to me what has happened in my life since the last time I had been in this very spot. it couldn’t be more different… and better! I truly feel more carefree and open to experience than I did then, and I thought it would be just the opposite as I got older. I know that I am far more able to appreciate everything in my life, even the small stuff like true mexican guacomole. I look over to my amazing husband as he is asking a couple who is taking pictures of each other if they’d like him to take a photo of the two of them together by the water – hey! that’s my job?? I reflect on the fact that there are 2 more people in the world since that wedding day on the beach – leslie’s gorgeous daughters hannah and maille - I take this photo (with our point and shoot – not too shabby!) and just take a deep breath. as were walking back to the ferry, it felt like a chapter was closing, not in a bad way - it’s hard to explain. back then I was still uneasy and trying to figure stuff out. I had no idea where I was going because I didn’t feel like I fit where I was. I was not comfortable in my own skin. but now – I was holding the hand of my love, soaking in the sun and knowing that I was on the path I was looking for the whole time.


hannah and I had been planning a photo shoot for awhile but with her living four hours away timing was difficult.   when she said she was visiting for the weekend I told her to load up her suitcase and to be prepared to get dirty.  she lucked out because it didn’t rain the day we went out but she was ready. :)  we scoped out some great locations and had a blast!




 I say be prepared to get dirty and the girl brings heels- love it!!  :)






it actually turned out to be a wonderful sunny afternoon.  hannah was great to shoot- she always knew the look I was going for.






hannah and I had so much fun that afternoon even though I was determined to shoot her in the rain.  you know what that means… another photo shoot!  :)


thanks hannah!