Blizzard Jonas: Fine Art Fashion Shoot

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Looking at the snow on the rooftops and tree limbs on this now sunny March day in Brooklyn, I had to share a few images from our session with Elizabeth during blizzard Jonas. We knew he was coming so we did what any normal person would do, prepare for a fashion shoot in the middle of it. Oh wait, that's not what normal people do? If you want extraordinary results, you have to take extraordinary actions!

Elizabeth is a woman of extraordinary courage. She is a single mother (all the standing ovations) who has braved many different storms in her life to provide a safe and healthy environment for herself and her daughter. Elizabeth has taken chances and fought obstacles. She is the kind of woman who has not allowed the stresses of life to defeat her but has risen up with grace and determination to thrive in spite of them. Not only has she done this for herself but she has also done this for the inner city children she teaches. 

Blizzard Jonas was no match for Elizabeth's beauty and bravery. Even though she hates the cold, she was 150% into playing out the vision and as you can see, she killed it! Next time you're feeling in need of bravery, think of Elizabeth. :)

When Photos Speak

You may want to grab a hot drink and clear a few minutes out of your schedule to read the following. It is lengthy but I think its length is appropriate for the story I wish to tell. It’s a story about loss, hope and how sometimes, the natural becomes a part of the supernatural. I share this with the full permission and blessing of Ben and Zahra. My desire is to tell a story involving my friends and clients in order for all of us to properly grieve, be inspired by hope and provide them with the support needed. I also want to encourage other creatives to use their experiences and abilities to infuse life and hope into those around them instead of withering in insecurity and comparison. I do not want my photography or business to become the focus of this story but I am writing from my perspective and role in this story at this time.


Fall 2009. I stood at the bedside of a woman dying of cancer. She was a beautiful, life-giving woman and the mother of four equally beautiful young women. She had encouraged me and given me words of hope as I struggled with health issues. She was familiar with health issues having lost her husband to cancer four years prior amid other serious health needs in her family. Within a few minutes of my arrival at her bedside, Ms. Cythia took her last breath and her soul rejoiced in the presence of her Savior in glory.

Fall 2015. Fast forward six years and it was an unusually cold, windy October day when my close friend-turned-client and I had scheduled a photo session for her small family. It was the kind of morning that made us want to postpone the session, but we knew it was better to push ahead and go through with it since we were all ready for it and the sun was shining. We gathered and proceeded to rush around as quickly as possible to obtain that elusive perfect family Christmas card photo and capture the wiggly little one in all her cuteness. I was photographing three people that day, my friend, her husband and their eight month old daughter. There should have been four, five, even.

We had been planning to take a few baby announcement photos to announce the new life growing in my friend’s womb. The day before the photo session, they discovered that the baby had stopped growing properly and in fact, had ceased to live a few weeks prior. So on that cold day my spirit was in hush and awe as I took a few photos to honor this baby, because I consider it a privilege to be entrusted with something so intimate.

I grieved with hope, knowing the baby would be greeted by his/her grandparents and a sibling in Heaven. You see, my friend is one of the four women who lost both parents to cancer. If I recall correctly, I was the person who alerted my friend, Zahra, of her mother’s last breath as she was not in the room at the time. Now, because of my role as photographer, I became a part of remembering this baby’s brief life. Three years before this baby passed away, Zahra had shared with me how she had unexpectedly miscarried another baby. In the span of 10 years, 4 immediate deaths had touched this family, thus I grieved.

Two and a half weeks following the photo session a D&C procedure was scheduled for Zahra. Although it is normally a standard procedure, my heart felt uneasy about it and I decided the best thing I could do was pray. When I received an update the evening after the D&C, my heart sank realizing my unease had been justified. Zahra had almost passed away in surgery. To quote her husband, Ben, a registered nurse:

Just wanted to let you know that Zahra had her D&C today and it didn't go so well. Apparently the baby had attached itself directly to the c-section scar and somehow the bladder got involved as well. So they said she lost the equivalent of all her blood although they were transfusing at the same time [later they discovered she was actually given three times her body’s equivalent in blood!]. The good news is that she is alive. The bad news is that they did an emergency surgery in order to stop the bleeding, including repair of the bladder. She'll be in the hospital for several days. Please pray for her.”

Another update came from Ben two days later:

“We are feeling very grateful. Through the course of the morning six or so different doctors have stopped by on their rounds. All of them were involved with the surgery in some way and each of them mentioned that they thought they had lost Zahra on Wednesday during the surgery. Thankfully God wasn't ready for her to go yet. But it does bring tears to my eyes to realize how near she was to crossing that thin line from this life into the presence of Jesus. It may be strange to say, because I can't imagine what life would be like without her, but it almost makes me sad that she couldn't go. She thinks of heaven often with her parents there and two little ones. Having said that, I am so so thankful she is still here.”

A “standard procedure” turned into a nearly five-hour long surgery involving an emergency hysterectomy. Loss piled upon loss.

Today, 8 days after the day God decided to remind us of the brevity and preciousness of life by sparing Zahra’s, we joy in her presence! She continues to improve and is at home adjusting to the physical and emotional scars left.

Before the surgery took place, Zahra wrote me this regarding the photos I sent her from the photo session:

I can't even look at the photos without wanting to just spend the next several minutes crying. They're amazing! You're amazing! Most importantly God is amazing! There's something so beautiful that you capture in your photos! I don't know what it is, but I'm so thankful for it. God is glorified in this album of photos; thank you for using your gifts to glorify Him as you bring into focus the wonderful works of His hands. I LoVe this album, it's priceless.”

After the surgery, we of course treasured the photos even more. Now, let’s be clear that I do not think they are anything special or extraordinary by any means. I am telling the story behind these photos because it’s not something I could have orchestrated, it’s the story God chose to write with our lives. It gives me goose bumps to think that perhaps, in a small way, God worked through my faithfulness to use what I had in my hands (a camera) to bless this family. Sometimes the natural becomes part of the supernatural.

If I were to summarize Ben and Zahra and her family’s perspective and attitude regarding the losses in their lives, it would be in the words of Horatio G. Spafford (a man who experienced the death of his own four daughters in a shipwreck and penned these words after hearing the news):

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a
scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.”

If you want to help Ben and Zahra financially with the costs associated with the hospital stay and loss of work, please follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/The-YoderThree

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Magazine Feature-Marilyn

She will charm you with her soulful tunes, laugh with you over the mundane, create cards with leftover curtain fabric and serve behind the scenes. Marilyn is a talented and resourceful friend who is a lot of fun to hang out with! I love how these images capture some of her personality and interests. It was a privilege to illustrate her article for the magazine with which I work. Her article explained a few examples from her own life in which she had the choice to choose who's advice to heed.

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This gentleman suddenly appeared and posed for us so perfectly and hilariously, we thought it was rather indicative of Marilyn's NYC life!

Yes, Marilyn participated in the NYC Triathlon last year and has run other races as well. She enjoys staying healthy and dealing well with whatever challenge is before her!

When Calling and Career Connect

Don't you love when that happens? Earlier this year I got the good news that I landed a photographer position for Daughters of Promise Magazine! I was excited to have found a way to use my creativity and photography interests in a way that encourages women and illustrates stories of faith. It is a confirmation of my calling and a joy to collaborate with other women to create beautiful photos. I've already completed the shoots for the September/October issue and can't wait to show you those images once the magazine has reached readers. I'm even more excited for the upcoming holiday articles I get to illustrate, it's a lot of fun coming up with ideas, outfits and more. Thank you for choosing me, DOP!

DOP Themed Shoot-'Boldly Into the Unknown'

Last spring I (Rachel) was asked to do a photo shoot for a women's magazine called Daughters of Promise. They featured my friend, Ashadee, by including an article she wrote describing her family's journey the past several years. Ashadee's faith has become ever fiercer and her determination to praise regardless of the circumstances she finds herself in is a challenge to me! The article outlines their journey towards making it possible for her husband to become a pilot while navigating a lack of finances and small children. It's a great article and I am happy to report that her husband has now obtained his "wings" and flies commercially! I love their story and am pleased to show you some photos from the themed shoot involving aviation/travel, the city and a woman called Ashadee!

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Headshots - Gene

Some guys don't like being in front of a camera and Gene is no exception. However, he needed head shots so we got down to business. Didn't end up being so bad, right? By the way, ladies, he is single! ;)

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Launch Day!

Anxiety, fear, excitement, that panicky feeling you get when you are about to do something out of your comfort zone. That's how I feel about this venture. However, there's also the calm and collected feeling that you get when you've thought, planned, prayed and cried over an idea and you finally have the green light. It's time. Sink or swim, it's worth a shot. I'm a realist but I'm also a creative and believe that we are born into this earth to make it a better, more beautiful place by the people we become and the way we live. This business is a way for me to do that.

I'm very grateful and excited to be joined by my husband in this adventure. He is not only my business partner but also my best friend (no, I don't feel pressured to say that because it's the "in" thing so say). Without further adieu, here's to launch day, where comfort zones are blown to pieces!!!