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What the 4th-Grade Taught Me About Life & Running A Business

A huge window overlooked the schoolyard from my 4th-grade classroom - most of us spent the better part of that year staring longingly toward it and dreaming of recess. I had a pretty defining moment in that room. The layout of the classroom changed pretty regularly, and on this particular day our desks were arranged into little groups of five, a perfect square with two pairs of kids facing each other, and a fifth desk stuck awkwardly to the side. The lesson was on math, and although I’m no mathematician, I’ve always been fond of the subject. Our teacher scrawled out a question on the blackboard, I can’t remember exactly what it was. Next, he wrote down two answers. He read the question aloud and after waiting a moment, he pointed to the number on the left “Stand up if you believe this is the correct answer,” he pointed to the answer on the right “stay in your chair if this is the correct answer.” I practically flew out of my chair. I was standing there with my hands on my desk, looking at the number on the left feeling absolutely, 100% percent certain that I had chosen correctly. My eyes shifted to Mr. Post, standing with chalk in his hand at the front of the class, peering at me over the tip of his thin-framed glasses. “Are you certain?” It was then that I took a moment to look around the classroom.

 
 

Not a single one of my classmates was standing. NOT ONE.

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Kids snickered as I stood there in the center of the classroom all alone, all eyes on me, my face burning with embarrassment. He read the questions aloud again. Still, no one stood. Mr. Post folded his thin, lanky arms in front of his chest and looked me dead in the eye “Morgan” he pointed to the answer on the left with his stub of chalk, “are you certain that this is the correct answer?” Every head in the classroom shot toward me and I plopped back down in my chair, my face crimson red. Mr. Post shot me a knowing glance and turned his back to the class, lifting his hand to erase the number on the right. He turned back toward us, cleared his throat, and said “had Morgan remained standing, she would have been correct.” After a long pause he continued speaking but I'm not sure what was said, I tuned out the rest of that lesson and dwelled on what had just occurred. I don’t know if my fourth grade self had ever been so pissed off in my entire existence. Not at my teacher or at my classmates, but at myself. I KNEW what the correct answer was and yet I allowed shame and embarrassment to change my mind. I had given up on what I knew to be true because of the opinions of others.

I was scared to be different and stand up for what I believed, and I’ve been trying my hardest since that day to NEVER let that happen again.

This day plays in my mind often, pushing me to believe in myself and trust my intuition in times when it feels easier to conform. Like most things, it hasn't always been easy, it's a lesson I've had to re-learn once or twice, but this memory encourages me to see myself through and to remain unwavering in those moments when what feels right for me doesn't look like what everyone else is doing. Whether it's in my art, my business, or any other aspects of my life.

So, let this be a reminder to stand up for what you believe in. Stand tall and own your truth, in everything that you do. Have confidence in your intelligence and intuition and never second guess yourself based on the opinions of the masses, because you, my friend, are not meant to blend in. 

 
 

Brasilito, Costa Rica

There have been a lot of beautiful moments in my twenty-five years that I am thankful for, but this blew every single one of them out of the water (ha, no pun intended). Although I was too busy experiencing this moment to photograph it, I felt compelled to write about it, or, try to, that is.


Imagine you are handed the most exquisitely written poem in the world, only before you can pass it to anyone else the text fades from the paper, leaving merely smudges of ink behind, a blank white page, the words existing now only in your mind. That was this moment, a poem only we were able to read. 

 

Towels and flip flops were ripped from the sand quicker than I could even remove my sunglasses. Car doors slammed closed, their engines fading softly in the background. The sea was abandoned, crashing against a beach where only a handful of us remained. There were the locals, huddled below indigo blue umbrellas chatting over cold cervezas, and the two of us, trying to savor the last of my husbands cigar before the maduro wrapper grew as wet as our swimsuits. Raindrops began plummeting through the canopy of leaves we had sought shelter beneath, clumps of damp hair stuck to my cheeks and my lips grew wet with the taste of sunblock. Within moments we were weighed down with water, we looked at each other and tossed our towels against the tree trunk, sprinting toward the ocean.

 

Contrary to my expectations, the ebb and flow of the tide calmed with the darkening sky. The water enveloped me, as warm as a glass of iced tea left for hours in the July sun. I was waist deep, arms outstretched, fingers dancing gently within the waves of the surface, overcome with tranquility I spun within the water, it was absolute bliss. Raindrops melted into my skin and water splashed around my hands as my body made a circle against the tide. I was weightless. I was intertwined with the sea. Lightning pierced through the clouds and with a single clap of thunder the rainfall quickened. 

 

The wind sprayed salt water across my back and the rain soaked into my shoulders. Time stood still. Standing there, our bodies moving with the pull of the ocean in a torrential downpour, this is a moment I will look back on for the rest of my life. I may never find the right words to describe to you the sound of the sky falling into the sea that day, but I won't stop trying. The rain traced a song upon my skin, a melody more pure and rhythmic than any sound I have ever heard, it’s become the song playing on repeat, the lyrics I can’t get out of my head.

 

The waves softened like silk beneath the weight of the rain and there we were, the sky pouring into the sea, into us. I glanced to the left and my eyes met Sam’s, he smiled and the most honest of laughs escaped my lips as we tilted our heads again toward the sky. Thunder shook through the trees and the black clouds above us flickered with lightning as we made our way toward the sand. If every one of my memories were taken from me in an instant, I have no question that my body could recall this moment. My skin has memorized the sensation and my ears will always remember the sound, this moment is ingrained in me, it is a part of me.

 

We joined a group of locals under their nearby tent to watch the storm pass, sitting on a fallen tree amongst a pile of surfboards with cold cervezas in our hands. Finally the clouds began to separate and the sand grew bright again again beneath our feet. Cars appeared from the winding dirt road and multicolored towels once again peppered the beach, but the moment that everyone had fled from lingered. I closed my eyes and replayed the storm, feeling lighter as I inhaled. It was as if what we experienced here was a gift, a secret almost. Dozens of people surrounded us now, soaking up the sun and swimming the exact spot we had stood just moments before, unknowing.

A Look Back at My First Couples Session & What to Expect During Yours

A few months after we moved to Alaska I flew back to Beaufort for the birth of my second nephew. While there I photographed my first couples session, and now here I am, writing this blog post from our cozy little apartment in Old City, Philadelphia - a lot can change in a year (or, in this case, a year and a half).

For us, this time has held one cross-country move, a handful of beautiful vacations and a whole lot of growth. Exploring every corner of this city has made the months pass in what feels like only days. It’s incredible, really, not only how abruptly change can happen, but how long it can take to notice those changes. The simple habits of the day to day transform and fade away and suddenly you realize that everything has changed; the way it once was, the person you once were, may be completely different now.

Coming up on five years of marriage, I've seen a lot of this in our relationship (in a good way). We are so different than we were on that February morning when we signed our names across the bottom of that marriage certificate. In a thousand ways we are the same, yet our relationship has grown and transformed, blossoming into something more beautiful than I could have ever dreamt. This is, at the core, why I do what I do.

This is why I photograph love, in all of it's stages. This is what fuels me. Capturing those little nuances of a relationship, giving people a tangible piece of their past, a piece of their ever-changing story. It’s so much more than just the photographs though, it's also the session, the time spent together while we’re creating. 

That's why you will never, ever hear me utter the words "say cheese" or "pretend to laugh" during your session. My couples don’t look at their photographs and see staged smiles, they see moments of wild laughter, whispered words and crashing waves; they see their love exactly as it was in those moments.  The session is about slowing down, taking the time to savor your love and soak each other in, and because of that, you get to look back in thirty years on photographs that transcend time. 

Since this post features my first ever couples session, I want to share with you a bit more about what goes into creating these photographs. Many of the best moments during a session will happen naturally, but often, it's asking the right questions that create those intense moments of intimacy. It's one of the ways we put feeling into your pictures.

I'll often set you up in a pose that either has you in a close embrace or has you wrapped up together in the sand, and I'll ask a question - "How has this love changed your life?" and then ask that you just be with each other for a moment and think about the answer; silently reflect. Prompts like this are so amazing at creating emotion in a session, and that question is one of my favorites because it isn't just useful during your session, but after, too. Think about how different your day would be if you asked yourself that question as you walked through the door after a long day of work, or first thing in the morning when you see the love of your life next to you. How different would your day be if you took the time to celebrate your love and to ask yourself questions that instilled a sense of gratitude for your partner? Ask yourself questions like this as often as you can, and more importantly, share your answers with the one you love! 

 

 
 

 

 

"How has this love changed your life?"