Feast on Your Life and all that you are

-Cowen__20171022_220.1w

How can I celebrate you? How can I show you how those who love you most see you?  As a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, how can I show you all you are, based on you being you?

Come, let me celebrate you with a photographic session, tailored to you, specifically to show you how those who love you the most see you. Let me help remind you of the carefree girl you once were. Let me prepare a photographic experience where you are pampered with professional hair & makeup, then dance around in beautiful outfits. You don’t have to lose weight or know how to pose, you see, those are my jobs and I will direct you to the look of your best self. And after, you will sit and watch the feast of images I prepare for you, and see how truly wonderful you are…

 

You Are…

You are not your age
Nor the size clothes you wear
You are not your weight
Or the color of your hair
You are the books you read
The words you speak
The sweetness in your laughter
And every tear you’ve cried
You are the songs you sing so loudly
When you know
you are all alone
You are made of so much beauty
But it seems that you forgot
When you decided you were defined
By all the things you are not -eh

Family Portraits Support Happy Kids

 I was talking with my mom recently (she is a marriage, family, child therapist) about the value of family portraits in a home.  She made some great points that I hadn’t considered which got me thinking, so I started digging into what’s been written about this. One of the powerful aspects of family photography that I wasn’t aware of, is how having portraits in your home can help raise children with stronger confidence in their own worth and abilities. Psychologists and experts have done some work exploring this, so I looked it up.

In 1975 a study was done with a group of fourth graders at a Tennessee school by Tulane University. During a five-week period, the children took Polaroid instant photos of themselves with provided cameras in a variety of assigned poses, compositions while expressing a variety of emotions. Over those five weeks, the children worked with printed images of themselves and created scrapbooks once a week. Testing of the students and teachers at the conclusion of the study revealed a 37% (significant) increase in the student’s average self-esteem behaviors. This Murfreesboro Study shows some evidence that personal photography of children seen and enjoyed in a specific way can help boost a child’s self-esteem.

How does having Family Portraits help boost this process in the home?

In 1983, David Krauss, one of the earliest pioneers in using people’s personal photography and family albums to assist in mental health counseling and therapy, co-authored “Photo Therapy and Mental Health”. This became what is considered a founding text for the use of photography in therapy. He said: “I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unity.”

Judy Weiser, a psychologist, art therapist and author based in Vancouver says: “Family Portraits lets children learn who they are and where they fit”.  “They learn genealogy and the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photography they say to themselves: These people have me as a part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.”

Ms. Weiser has spent more than 20 years using all manner of personal photography to assist in the treatment process of her clients. She is considered by many to be the foremost authority on these treatment techniques called Photo Therapy.

tryptechand811x14_StairsPrints vs Digital

Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist from Eugene, Oregon, who works with children ages five through 13 states: “My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print”. Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse of touchscreen monitor, but you are not touching the image”.

Displaying Portraits in your home

“Displaying photos prominently in the home sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced”, says Cathy Lander-Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker and professional photographer in St. Louis, Missouri and the director of Photo Explorations, which offers workshops to girls and women using portrait and journaling for self-reflection.

Additionally, Krauss recommends having photographs of that child with their family placed in the child’s bedroom so it can be among the last things they see before sleep and the first thing they may see before beginning their day. “It says we love you and we care about you. You’re important”!

teenbedroom_rusticromanticImagine placing portraits in your children’s room of them being happy in your arms. According to the experts, this could be something that might help ground them as they go through their teen years.  Portraits speak when there are no words to be spoken. They are a gentle reminder and they bring to life positive memories that constantly reassure and message, “you belong” and “you are loved”. Having your kids see this when they wake up and as they fall asleep would keep that message alive when they go to their room angry and moody.

When my children moved out of state, I would find myself walking through the house, then stop to look at the image on the wall and just relive the memory! I hated that they were all so far away, but as I stared at the image on the wall, just for a moment, I got to hear their voices and relive that moment…

I hope you celebrate your family on your walls; walls that you see and walk past each day. One day those beautiful children of yours will be grown and gone, and you will walk through the house and pause, remembering all the chaotic, messy life that happened all around you while your children were growing up. Every impactful memory will be there in front of you, hanging on your walls.

What a wonderful way to never forget those moments!

Sunflower Garden is open!

Over the past two years, I’ve wandered out my front door and walked down the path with a purpose. Here, I check all the pretties lined up to make sure no more rabbitts have eaten more of the tender young sprouts that I have so much hope in.  I have pIanted,  I water, I weed, I spread mulch, I collect rocks and pray that the beauty I imagine will come and this garden will radiate love and glee and hope. I imagine children will be bewildered by the sizes of the giants and mothers will be enamored with the colors and happy faces. I pray it will be a place that dads can toss their kids up to see tallest ones or carry them on their shoulders and children can give their mama’s a  flower or two.

Kugler_Sunflowers_060217_0153-2w

This week the garden is ready, the  Sunflowers have finally bloomed! After so many months the next two weeks will be the perfect time to take advantage of this family venue.  The garden is open for portraits starting at 7pm in the evening until June 18th.

$175 Session fee,  Packages begin at $325  Call 619.208.1282 to book your session today!

Kugler_Sunflowers_060217_0008

You are never so beautiful as you are now

BrunettoGirls_ 151010_462cl

While out walking my dogs yesterday, my neighbor stopped me on the street for a quick chat. As our conversation progressed, she asked me about photographing her 3 children. So I  asked her when her last portrait was done with her kids, I was surprised to hear her say what every young mom I come across says:  “I want the memories of my children and I’m not good in front of a camera, I don’t like how I look!” Now, she’s in her 30’s and amazingly beautiful; so imagine my surprise! Here is what I told her-

When my youngest daughter was getting married we went through crates of photographs to put together the story of her life for the wedding. As we went through these images and relived each day of every one of them, she looked at me and said: “Wow Mom, You did an amazing job of documenting our lives, but you’re not in any of the pictures!! She was right-I always thought that I would “lose 10 lbs first” or didn’t like whatever it was about myself and dodged the opportunity to be photographed with my children. But I was so wrong!

She then proceeded to scold me and let me know how her memories were of all of us and she wanted the images to go along with them! I can still hear her words: “Mom, do you see how selfish that was?” “We love you and want you as you are!” How could I argue with that? How could ANY MOM argue with that?!

There are 3 things I learned from my daughter because of this, that I want to share with you:

This is what I got from my daughters-I believe they speak on behalf of all daughters to their mothers!

1). You are never more beautiful than you are today. And today is really all you have. You are their mom, and they love you no matter what your ideals of yourself are.

2). Your family portrait is about your family. How your children adore you, how you look at each other, feel about each other, live and have fun together. It is also about how your children will remember their childhood. Eventually, they will tell their children (your grandchildren) about their memories, and if you’ve done your job well, they will have lot’s of photographs to show them.

3). How you feel about yourself will affect how they feel about themselves. If you are timid due to the way you look, they will become timid with the way they look. This point she made sure to let me know about!

I believe everyone should have an image of themselves that they love. One that captures the essence of who you are, looking your very best. I strive to provide everyone with this type of image.

Someday when you are older and your children are gone, you can sit and smile at the beautiful images that are hanging on the walls of your home that tell your family’s story. Then you’ll laugh and remember how wonderfully chaotic and completely filled up your life was when your children were growing up;  and all those photographs will show is your beautiful self, surrounded by your beautiful family!

Celebrate your life, celebrate the lives of your family, the love of your spouse and the love of your children. Get in front of the camera and keep your mind thinking about how much you love them while you are doing it. Because then, this is what the portrait will be about!

From my heart to yours,

-Cindie

 

Thought for the day:  “Sometimes life is completely complicated, but you decide to make it simple because you accept it to be beautiful and it means that your choice is to be happy” -Ky Vanchhay

A Love Built To Last..

I was surprised when Vicky called and said” “I want you to photography Mike and I”. After all, she lived 3 hours away in Apple Valley, why call me, I thought? They had just completed 4 weddings within all their children…again, why me? Of course, I was flattered, humbled actually when she told me she loved my style of photography, and she really wanted me, my heart melted.

As I interviewed her as to why she wanted photographs of her little family (the love of her life, Mike, and their 2 dogs), she told me: “We have had some really hard times, ya know? I want photographs to show my children that with the love of Christ, commitment to each other, you can get through anything and love. And that love will continue to grow”.

We scheduled the session for my favorite dog beach in Coronado. It was chilly, but not cold in December and the water was wonderful! What happened next was a bit of a fairy tale…

People are usually nervous at first when someone follows them with a camera, but after she ran with the dogs and they all played, they seemed to relax.  With minor direction,  Mike and Vicky danced in the water while the incoming waves washed over them. He twirled her, they giggled and laughed at what I asked them to do…. But, when people love each other and you ask them to dance, they start focusing on each other and the moment instead of the nut getting wet with the camera!

Next came magic, he put her on his back and twirled her around, they played like they were teenagers courting and in the moments when they kissed, they only saw each other; they were only in that moment.

Vicky had been battling cancer and while I thought she was better, she wasn’t. I spoke with her one  Wednesday and she was having a very hard time. But after talking for awhile we were laughing, sharing stories of encouragement, faith and how God planned for our humanity. God knows us better than we know ourselves and Christ said: “In our weakness He is strong”. This I truly saw in Vicky.

Mike called me the following Wednesday to tell me she had died. He started crying and blurted out: “She didn’t  place the order and we have no pictures of her”. She died and they had no photographs….my heart broke. I was calm as we went over what her favorites were, but I cried as I prepared them for printing and I cried when I called my lab and said this is special, please make this happen.

I am surrounded by her memory, her laugh, her images and her great faith in Christ. A photograph of her and Mike acting like teenagers hangs on the wall in my studio, it’s a story of great love. You see, in her passing, she left a great testimony, a family that she loved and devoted herself to and a man that was the love of her life.

Today her family, her mother, and step-dad, her children, and step-children and Mike with the dogs are all together in upstate New York, where Vicky is from. They are all together to spread her ashes in this one spot that she loved so much. They are all together to celebrate her life, her love and to say goodbye. Goodbye, a goodbye that is so very final.

I learned the power of a photograph from Vicky. Someday she will have grandchildren and all those grandchildren will hear stories of an amazing woman that was mischievous, loving and filled with laughter. An amazing woman who had great faith in a great God and made sure she shared that with every relationship she had. And while her grandchildren listen to the stories, they will her photographs and these photographs will keep those stories and memories alive.

This is what Love looks like.   A love built on the best and hardest times, filled with triumphs and defeats. A love that never quit in the face of the impossible. This is a Love built to last.

graham_vicky_120115_0394

graham-coronado-beach-1

He’s such a funny guy!

Recently I had the pleasure of working with professional comedian Shawn Felipe. He came in for some photographs on one of the hottest days we had in a L O N G time! In 100 degrees he put on a suit and tie and looked as cool as a cucumber while outside; I’m sure all the ladies that saw the photographs and know he is single were thinking he was looking quite HOT!

When it came time to work inside, my dog Debo came in to say hello. You can see Debo and Shawn hit it off right away.

 

While I knew Shawn was very comfortable on stage, I get to see that in his new Reality show: “The Great Food Truck Race” on the Food Network. I think he is a homebody at heart. But he spends so much of his time traveling around for Comedy shows that every time we “talk” it’s via text, each time from a different airport. 

Keep a look out on the “Great Food Truck Race”, look for Aloha Plate-there you will see Shawn having a good time and being his adorable self.ImageImageImageImageImage

 

Caring for Professional Photographs

How to Care for Professional Photographs

The ultimate investment in the longevity of your families’ memories isn’t digital media.  While some people think it is the way to go, let’s take a minute and look at the history of the past 15 years. How many of you still have family memories on VHS cassettes? Have they been converted yet? Digital Media started off with  the floppy disk, then the small 3″ disk, then onto CD’s, DVD’s and now flash drives, portable hard drives and thumb drives. The truth is: digital media is really meant to be temporary storage. Hard drives fail, burned CDs and DVDs become inoperable, types of storage media fade into antiquity before data can be transferred, offsite storage companies go bankrupt and/or charge for every upload and download, SD (or compact flash or micro SD or Memory Sticks) have, can and will fail at eventually.  The only REAL way to achieve longevity of your images is via printed photographs. When you think about it, this is really why you commissioned portraits of your family in the first place..

In using Fine Art Printers today, professional photos labs and manufacturers like Canon, Epson, & HP (to name the top 3) say that by using a Fine Art Printer (the machine & someone trained in fine art printing) with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) inks and OEM papers, photographs printed this way should last from between 150-200 years. Of course we can automatically conclude that the price of this equipment, inks and papers aren’t going to be cheap-and the reason for that is longevity. Investing in professionally printed photographs in just that, an investment; and this investment will  be passed onto your generations so your Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren will be able to see you, and your family as you were when you purchased these photographs. That’s why the commissioning and printing of professional portraits are more expensive. Professionals, photograph and print with your investment in mind.

So you have ordered professionally printed prints from your photographer, and you will be framing them yourself.  Or, if you are like me, you might have recently inherited all the photographs from loved ones that have recently passed, (or several boxfuls) of snap shots, personal images that tell the story of your family’s life.  What steps should you take to preserve the investment of memories?  What can you do so they precious heirlooms can be passed down to future generations?  Here are some guidelines to help you with this task:

What you should do:

Photographs should be protected from extended exposure to intense light sources, particularly direct sunlight. 

  • Sunlight causes damage to the chemical composition of photographs, resulting in color shifts and fading.  Sunlight (and its’ accompanying heat)will cause warping of your artwork. If you choose to display a wall portrait in an area that is brightly lit by sunlight, you should invest in museum-quality glass with UV protection.  This type of glass minimizes the potential for fading and color shifting.  This will help to protect it, but can’t thoroughly protect the photograph from light damage. Keep in mind the amount of light in the room your investment will be hanging and keep it out of direct light.
  • If you choose to frame your photographs under glass, always use either a mat or spacers so that the photograph does not come into direct contact with the glass. If a print is in contact with glass, over time moisture will cause the print to become permanently stuck to the glass.  A reputable professional framer will do this for you however if you buy an off the rack frame try to have a mat with it to avoid the image touching the glass surface.
  • Most damage to photographs results from poor handlingWhen handling your prints, be sure your hands are clean and dry. Always handle photographs by their edges. Never touch the image surface because the oil in your skin can damage the print.  Better yet, use white acid free gloves to handle your images. These are very inexpensive and can be picked up at your favorite art stores like Michaels or Aaron Brothers.
  • Always use albums with acid-free paper or use photo sleeves made of polyester, tri-acetate or polyethylene. Look for albums that have a neutral acidity, are labeled “acid free” or designate an acidity level of 6.0 or higher.
  • When identifying your photographs, try an acid free adhesive label. Please do not directly label your photographs with a pen; the ink will bleed through onto the image. Once your photograph is framed, consider printing on a label to be placed on the back of the frame that includes the following: Name of subject, date and place taken. This way as your precious family heirlooms are passed down your generations, they will also know who they are looking at.
  • There are a few companies out there now making acid free adhesive labels, specifically for scrap booking and photo labeling.

Some don’ts:

  • Don’t use albums that are not designated “acid and lignin free”.  Most photo albums are actually harmful to your photos and while they may keep them organized they will be prone to fading and yellowing due to the acidity of the paper and/or adhesive unless the album was manufactured for archival use.  Lignin is in all paper products but archival papers have lignin removed.  Lignin is an important compound that happens to be the second most common bio-compound on earth. BUT that makes it bad for archiving.    When lignin breaks down it turns paper brown.  If you have ever seen an old newspaper, turned brown by age – that’s the lignin breaking down.
  • Never use self-adhesive or magnetic albums. Conservators have tested the “magnetic” quality of these albums and have found that the adhesive contains very high levels of acid.  The acid from the adhesive was literally eating away at the backside of the photos tested.  Even worse, the plastic cover that covered the magnetic page to keep these photos “safe” was actually sealing in the acidic fumes causing deterioration on the front as well as the back. I have albums like this that have turned my photographs red-wish I would have known!
  • Never use adhesive tape, glue, metal paper clips, thumb tacks, or rubber bands on photographs-all will cause damage.
  • Never use pens that are not labeled acid free.  Even pens that are labeled “acid-free” can contain minute amounts of harmful acids and this will take a toll on your photos that labeled with that ink.
  • Do not include mementos such as postcards, ticket stubs, etc with your photographs. Those items are often manufactured/printed with acid containing ink which can cause photos to fade away.

These are just a few important guidelines for caring for your portraits.  Much of this information comes from discussions with my Fine Art Printers,  the professional photo labs I use, Instructors from Fine Art Printing courses I have taken and of course, research on the web.   I don’t mind sharing, but should you copy this, please remember to use my name as author. Image