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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


February 10, 2011


we LOVE valentines day! and we think it comes at a perfect time of year – when it’s all cold and gloomy outside, as the song says – we’ve got love to keep us warm.  so in that spirit we want to have our first contest of 2011. we want to hear your love stories – funny, sappy or just some old-fashioned romance.


for us spending a few days reading love stories is the perfect way to pass the blustery afternoons of february. we ran this contest last year and heard some amazing tales of first meetings, proposals and surprise anniversary celebrations. here’s how it works – send us your story via email to rayevalion@gilletteportraitarts.comwith a photo of you and your honey. the entries will be taken until midnight on valenine’s day. we will spend next week reading every story entered and a winner will be announced friday february 18th – right before we leave for vegas for wppi!


so what’s the prize for the winners? an on-location portrait session and a FREE 11×14 gallery wrapped canvas! we’ve got our coffee, we’ve got our tea and are ready to read some romance - so email us today and let’s feel some love!


morgan and her husband rich contacted me for an e-session this past spring. it’s not very often that I get asked specifically for an e-session, but for morgan and rich it was because they were having a destination wedding in jamaica but wanted to make sure that they got some images that reflected them because the resort photographer was going to shoot the wedding. now morgan also played along in a contest we had last year and she was the winner winner chicken dinner of a editorial bridal session (aka trash the dress, rock the frock, etc.) I had a location in mind that I was dying to play in and when I met morgan early that morning she was happily on board. now I said that it was chilly in the title of this post and that is a lie – it was COLD!! bone chilling, teeth chattering frigid and I was so grateful that morgan was beyond amazing about taking off her coats and sweater once I got her posed like I wanted. she was so great that you can’t even tell in her expression how polar bearish it really was!









thanks morgan!!

May 11, 2010


carrie & will won our snow storm contest – to read their inspiring love story that made them winners click here! will was only home for a limited amount of time before heading back to kodiak, alaska where he’s stationed - so we scheduled a session for pemberton park. to be honest, I hadn’t been to pemberton in awhile and had a great time exploring the park with carrie & will.  they were so cute together! it’s clear that they don’t get to spend nearly enough time together – so the with time they do have, they make the most of it!





there was a bee threatening to attack while we were at this location, but carrie & will totally took it in stride….







carrie I’m so happy that you took advantage of being snowed in to tell me the story of you & will. like you, your relationship is full of fun and love and I had such a wonderful time working with you!

April 13, 2010

so the crazy warm weather last week got me thinking – or should I say reminiscing about the weddings that I have going on this summer. the first year gillette portrait arts was officially in business I had just moved back from colorado – a very landlocked state – and I was so excited that every wedding that I had that year was either by the ocean or bay. 7 years later my business has changed and with it, the locations of the weddings have changed. at least 80% of my 2010 weddings are at least 50 miles from the studio and under half of those are by water. now while I am VERY excited to shoot new locations and welcome the creative challenge that these weddings bring, I want a reason to get my tail to the beach occasionally – so my brain said CONTEST! I don’t necessarily have a title for these shoots - they’re known by several names “trash the dress”  “rock the frock”, etc. the session involves an editorial fashion shoot involving your previously worn wedding dress and obviously you! I want to hear what you think your perfect “trash the dress” session would look like. it may not even involve the beach  or water – just a creative and funky fun shoot where you’re not afraid to get the dress a little messed up. shoot me an email  to and give me your thoughts – kristie & I will choose a winner by may 1st and they will receive a FREE session plus 1 8×10!


and here’s a sneak peek of james & shelly’s wedding at the newton white mansion – I am in love with this wedding! more photos soon!


March 22, 2010

although we had a lot of great entries for our Love Story Valentine’s Day contest (thank you for the huge response!) – the story of Carrie & Will really spoke to my heart (read below) Their story is full love, hope and is timeless. I’m so excited to do a session with them when they are reunited!


My name is Carrie, and I’m in love with a man named Will.  The story of how we met isn’t all that unusual.  We were out at a local restaurant on a Friday night and were introduced by mutual friends.  There was instant chemistry and within a few short months, I had fallen head over heels.  What makes our story so wonderful is the road we’ve been on since we met.  Will is in the Coast Guard.  I am a small town girl, working for my family’s business in Salisbury, MD.  I grew up here; my entire family is here; my life is here.  Will left his family in Florida and after boot camp was stationed in Crisfield, MD for four years.  And somehow, despite living in such a rural area, we did not meet until he was waiting for orders to where his career would take him next.  Those orders came after only a few months of dating, and he came to my house with a bottle of wine to tell me where he had been assigned.  He was assigned to a Coast Guard cutter in Kodiak, Alaska.  My heart dropped.  I couldn’t imagine a place in the US further away from me.  We knew it would be hard, and neither one of us had ever believed in long distance relationships, but we also knew that we had something so special and could not let anything stop us from being together.  I took some time off work, and we traveled across North America together.  We spent two weeks driving from Salisbury, Maryland to Homer, Alaska and stopped to explore a few US and Canadian cities along the way.  It was in Homer that my flight back to Maryland and his ferry boat to Kodiak Island both departed.  He drove me to the airport, and we had to say goodbye.  We were unsure of when he would be able to take leave or when we would be able to see each other again.  It was one of the most difficult days in both of our lives.  But we both believed in what we shared. 


Will is stationed in Kodiak until the summer of 2011.  He took leave and came to visit me for three weeks over the holidays, and on December 23, 2009, he asked me to be his wife.  It will be the greatest honor in my life to marry him.  From 5000 miles away, he makes me feel loved and taken care of every single day.   We have now been apart for over seven months, and we have just over fifteen months until he moves back and we will get married.  Even though he’s gone, my life is better every day with him a part of it. 


So that’s our story.  I hope that we are evidence that in a modern world, old fashioned love still exists.  Happy Valentine’s Day.


Congratulations Carrie & Will – I can’t wait to meet you!

February 11, 2010


valentines day is only 4 days away and we’re in the mood for love – YOUR love that is. we want to hear stories…. stories of how you met, stories from your wedding, even stories of him just taking out the trash – anything that celebrates the greatest thing in the world! we don’t care if you just started dating, are recently engaged or have been married for years – it’s cold outside and we just want the warm fuzzies that being smitten with that special guy or gal brings! send us an email to either or to and spill your heart out! the winner will receive a FREE portrait session and a glossy 30 page coffee table book!! we will choose a winner on sunday 02.22.10 – if you include a photo, that would be great!!!