la vidacita

Breathing dreams into reality usually requires courage, perseverance, self-love, a whole lot of work, and patience. Getting to see my soul sister, Alli, journey from articulating a dream to launching an independent business doing just that has been truly remarkable.

La Vidacita is a collective of artisans and entrepreneurs co-creating meaningful accessories and a new reality for women and children in rural Guatemala. Alli designs thoughtfully to celebrate women and to celebrate life.

I'm so grateful for the fun we had collaborating on this shoot for her lookbook. I've seen firsthand how stunning these clutches are, and if you'd like to join in on the party, check them out here!

here you go, suman

This portrait session was particularly special because it took me on a little road trip with a childhood friend and her two tiny humans to a lavender farm in Virginia. We ran around to pick flowers in gorgeous open fields and played Ring Around the Rosie until it was time to venture homeward.

On the way back, each time Brooklyn shared a cracker with her older brother Colt, she'd say, "Here you go, Suman." My heart melted. (Suman is short for superman.)

spring has sprung

Spring in DC is nothing short of magic. The city comes to color and life in flora form, and I'm grateful to have reveled in a beautiful day with this sweet family.

My fingers and toes are crossed that the warmer days are here to stay!

just for fun

Lucy is one of the reasons I decided to explore photography and to take it more seriously in college. Her images moved me and made me want to make better photos. Also, she helped me pick out my first DSLR, the Nikon D40.

We'd go on little adventures around Charlottesville with our cameras to shoot just for fun, and that 19-year-old version of me had no idea she'd be photographing her friend's family portraits ten years later.

Lucy, thank you for inspiring me to embrace the camera life and for inviting me to help document your story!

couch cuddles

"Just snuggles up on the couch" was the request for this family portrait session, and I was more than pleased to oblige. Here's a small collection of my favorite images featuring one of my favorite families!

women's march 2018 // dc

Covering the event for Culture Trip was good for me because I was encouraged to pay extra attention to the other marchers and interesting signs or interactions. I wove around the city exchanging smiles with kind, gracious feminists. And just like last year, I walked away feeling full of hope and solidarity.

clarkson

I'm forever astounded by and grateful for how my camera gets us invited to help document such personal moments in people's stories. Ones they want to celebrate. Ones they want to remember. There's something so special about making art or viewing art that evokes questions like, "Am I allowed to be here?" or "Am I intruding?" because it's like we get to take a shared step into somebody's behind the scenes. We get to explore what's real and human. And that makes my heart really happy.

Quite a few of my friends are new parents, but that doesn't change the fact that the whole making a baby thing is absolutely remarkable. I mean, is it not nuts that moms grow tiny humans in their bellies, and then give birth to beings who will develop thoughts and interests and dreams of their own one day? Amazing, right?

The transition into parenthood is a beautiful process to witness, and it was a true treat to hang with KC, Adam, and one-week-old Clarkson to make some photos together. I love their love.

mini portrait sessions

Friends, whether you're hoping to document this life season in photo form or gearing up for holiday cards, I'm stoked to offer mini portrait sessions this fall in DC!

The cost includes a 20-minute shoot and an online gallery of 20 edited images for download.

Come hang on Saturday, October 28th at Meridian Hill Park or Sunday, October 29th at Constitution Gardens.

Please email mustardtights@gmail.com with inquiries or booking requests. Many thanks!

no ordinary love ministries // adanech

The moment we arrived at No Ordinary Love Ministries' safe house in Addis Ababa, we were greeted with the biggest and tightest bear hugs from dozens of young, smiling faces. The space was light and airy, and beneath the sound of children at play, the sound of music played softly. I had a gut feeling that we had walked into something special.

No Ordinary Love Ministries is committed to reuniting lost and trafficked youth with their families, and to date, there have been more than 400 reunifications. Street addresses aren't common in Ethiopia so locating homes is truly an amazing feat.

It's still surreal that my cam and I got to journey with a sweet spirit named Adanech to reunify with her mom and siblings. I'll let the video tell her story.

esma // marta

Earlier this year I traveled with a creative team led by The Table Initiative to visit a collection of rad nonprofits in Ethiopia. Our time there was equally heavy and heart-filling. Unthinkable brokenness exists, but so does unwavering hope. My goodness is that difficult to reconcile on most days.

I quickly grew to adore the kids I met and the babies I held at ESMAfrica, and I was deeply grateful to witness how the organization loves on them.

Here's a video I made about a strong and brave girl named Marta who was declared by her tribe to be a mingi (cursed). It'd mean so much if you'd share a few minutes to hear her story. And hopefully be reminded that we're each worthy and loved just as and where we are.

A zillion thanks to my team for being with me every step of the way, and another zillion thanks to my trip fundraiser supporters for making the experience possible.

costa rica

Costa Rica was steamy and dreamy. I journeyed there with about a dozen co-workers for a dear friend's wedding. The trip was beautiful beyond words and so saturated with emotion. 

Pura vida is Spanish for "pure life." According to trusty Urban Dictionary, it's the law of the land in Costa Rica. The expression is used in many forms, from a greeting, to a synonym for "excellent." Ticos follow this lifestyle and are some of the most wonderful people on earth. A synonym of "hakuna matata." Life is wonderful; enjoy it.

It's safe to say we embraced pura vida through savoring the pace of beach life, the bursts of color at sunset, reading reading reading, and our little work family. We were silly beans, per usual, but somehow I found myself engaging in deep, challenging, and thought-provoking conversations that seemed a little heavy for the beach, but were a good dose of nourishment for the spirit. 

Below are snaps from my phone!

cherry blossoms

The other day I was in an Uber to get across town and each time we turned into a new neighborhood, the driver exclaimed, "It's so beautiful! Amazing, no?!"

I couldn't help but smile in agreement as he pointed excitedly out the window to buildings and people and details he noticed. His enthusiasm was infectious and he reminded me how it's important to stay sensitized to the beauty of home. 

So a friend and I decided to meet for a sunrise walk around the Tidal Basin this morn before work. Though we both questioned our sanity (when setting the alarm for my friend and at the sound of the alarm for me) because we're not exactly morning people, the experience was well worth it. :)

It was San Francisco foggy, unexpectedly quiet, and beyond dreamy. We strolled slowly with no other agenda except to soak it all in. Because it really was quite beautiful. And amazing.

reflecting on ethiopia

It's been two and a half weeks since visiting Ethiopia to work with a collection of remarkable nonprofits on storytelling. I've overcome jet lag and reestablished a rhythm to my days in DC, but it's still tricky to respond succinctly when asked, "How was your trip?"

Short of talking through each day in detail, here's my attempt of an overall reflection in word and image form. Though my main role was to shoot video (stay tuned!), I snapped a bunch of just for mems and behind the scenes photos on my phone as well.

The Team

I served as part of a creatives team that traveled in tandem with a medical/education team; we totaled 14 (mostly) strangers hailing from DC, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Colorado. Though a diverse bunch, there was unity in purpose. These travel companions of mine quickly became a strong source of encouragement, support, and care. It was extremely easy to dive right into the serious, but also to be silly. 

Somehow we managed to dodge any hint of relational conflict the entire trip; this pleasantly surprised us all given how we were a large group traveling together for the first time in an unfamiliar place. Hip hip hooray no drama mamas and papas!

The air of cordiality present as we shook hands upon meeting was replaced with complete comfort as we parted ways sharing big hugs. I'm really glad our paths crossed.

The Nonprofits

One Child Campaign connected the creatives team with five nonprofits in Ethiopia that serve and protect vulnerable children and families. I had the honor and privilege of spending time with three organizations, first to hear the founders share the stories behind why they're in Ethiopia and then to document. We sincerely hope the photos and videos we make will help raise awareness of and funding for these awe-inspiring people doing important, life-changing work.

I'm going to share one personal anecdote per nonprofit below, and I invite you to click onto the organizations' websites to read more about the nitty gritty behind each mission for context.

Make Your Mark - On our second day of filming, I walked into Make Your Mark's courtyard and a rush of tears filled my eyes. Our creatives team leader had walked the streets in Addis the night before to visit with the boys, and she reported how they slept in a pile to stay safe and warm. That image stayed with me, and I willed myself to keep it together as I roamed around the building quietly shooting b-roll.

Upon entering a room bustling with chatter as boys ate breakfast, the boy at the head of the table (see second photo below) asked if I'd play football with them. I said, "Oh, I'm not very good," and he replied, "It's okay, I'll teach you. Anything is possible!" This interaction, which was translated via a teacher because he was speaking in Amharic, helped sway my heartbreak to hope.

Make Your Mark has a radical program model that focuses on transforming the boys from the inside out, and 100% of the kids who've successfully completed the program have remained off the streets.

ESMA (Ebenezer Shepherding Ministries of Africa) - We road-tripped from Addis into the beautiful country to Lake Hawassa where ESMA is located. Upon our arrival, we met a tiny baby (see fourth photo below). She was three weeks old and had been left on a trash pile. The police brought her to ESMA, where the staff was keeping a close eye on her.

It was my first time holding an orphan and also my first time visiting an orphanage. My mind reeled attempting to process it all. My heart hurt for all the tiny nuggets I met, but I also felt immense gratitude for the safe space ESMA has created to love those who've been marginalized (orphans, special needs children, HIV positive children, families living in poverty).

No Ordinary Love - I met an 11-year-old girl named Adanech. Her smile was bright and her spirit strong. She gave memorable hugs. Adanech's parents are divorced. She had been living with her mother and siblings in the countryside, about 150 kilometers away from Addis. Because finances were tough she was brought to live with her father in Addis where she'd been told she would receive care and attend school. Unfortunately, neither was the case. Upon arriving in the city, Adanech was abused and treated like a house slave. She ran away after three months and ended up on the streets. Police brought her to No Ordinary Love's safe house where she was welcomed, protected, and accessed therapy. The No Ordinary Love team located her mother's home through word of mouth, which blows my mind because street addresses aren't common in Ethiopia.

During the hours-long drive from Addis to Itaya, Adanech sat quietly and gazed out at the beautiful terrain. Upon recognizing her hometown, her eyes lit up. Moments later she started waving out the window. Her two brothers had been waiting for her on the side of the main road. Who knows for how long! It was the sweetest. They piled into the van and we drove to see their mom at home. It was an emotional and powerful moment to witness and film.

I have immeasurable respect for No Ordinary Love's commitment to reuniting lost and trafficked children with their families. To date, there have been more than 400 reunifications!

The Coffee

On the first day, we experienced not one, but two traditional coffee ceremonies. We quickly learned that the coffee comes with a side of delicious popcorn. Why don't we always have a side of popcorn with our joe? The care and intention behind the coffee culture in Ethiopia is admirable, and the distinct aroma still lingers in my memory.

I'm not really a coffee every day kind of gal back home (I drink it as a treat or when I really need a boost), but you bet I savored multiple cups of coffee every day in Ethiopia. :P

The Goals

One of our shared team goals is to remember. To remember the people we met and the stories we heard and the way we felt. To remember what broke our hearts and what shook our souls and how we cried (but also laughed) a lot. To remember the lessons learned to be open-minded and open-hearted. To remember and do something about it.

There's more brokenness in the world than I can begin to wrap my mind around, but there's also more beauty in the world than I can fathom. On most days, I find myself dwelling in the tension. But I also yearn to step forward in peace and hope and love. Regardless of where I am geographically, there's always room to grow more compassionate, empathic, and giving.

So, how was my trip? It was complex and rich and emotional and heavy and uplifting. I hope I'll continue to discover new learnings as I edit the videos, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Last but certainly not least, I must express gratitude for all the moral and financial support that helped make this experience a reality! Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming along for the journey.

i <3 dc

In less than a week I depart with a team of photographers, filmmakers, and writers to Ethiopia for ten days to make media databases for five tireless nonprofits. The organizations' work spans from providing education and healthcare in remote villages to caring for orphans and trafficked children.

Thinking about shooting alongside gifted creatives (and learning from them!) and contributing to storytelling that hopefully will help the organizations raise awareness of and funds for their causes gives me good goosebumps.

My mind is whirling from all the little things that need to be accomplished prior to departure, but I'm willing myself to pause for a moment to be grateful for the opportunity and for the incredible support I've received morally and financially from my community. Below are the images featured in one of the thank you calendars I made for the generous folks who contributed to my trip fundraiser. Through them, you'll encounter a peek of everyday life in DC!
 

march on!

Saturday morning's quiet greeted me as I arose and got ready for the day. The Women's March on Washington was upon us, and it was interesting to prepare for it as a DC resident. I organized some essentials in a fanny pack and affixed an "Introvert" pin to my dress' collar. 

Excitement and a tinge of uncertainty whirled around as I left the apartment, but my heart soared the moment I turned onto the main street. The District's sidewalks were spilling over with diverse collections of humans; I noticed people of varied ages and ethnicities and backgrounds with bold signs and pink pussy hats. Already the city felt smaller, more connected, safe.

If I'm honest, large crowds and I aren't exactly the best of pals (maybe you picked up on the pin reference), but I was compelled to march today to stand for love and hope and equality. It was a good life decision. 200K was expected to show up in Washington but 500K+ appeared instead. The sheer mass itself was incredible to witness, but what really blew me away was how everybody present acted generally peaceful and polite and pleasant. That fact filled me with hope and gratitude and light.

As you'd imagine, the rally and march were a people watcher's paradise. Marchers expressed empowerment through creative signs and solidarity through communal chants. The energy and emotion was raw and palpable.

On my walk home at the of the day, I was tired but invigorated as I thought about how going high does not mean going quietly.

Below is a collection of shots I snapped of the day on my phone. Solidarity, sisters and brothers! Together, we are fearless and powerful! <3

gratitude portrait project

As a believer of the psychosocial benefits of practicing gratitude, I shot a photo series called the #gratitudeportraitproject. Immediately before pressing the shutter release, I asked the human on the other side of the camera one question, "What are you grateful for at this very moment?"

Shooting my first rolls of film in adulthood was a journey laced with hope and uncertainty and a peaceful acceptance of potential failure. I feared that everything would turn out black, so I'm relieved to report that though there are many blurry, underexposed images (ya live and ya learn), there are also photographs that I'm elated about.

Thanks to the familiar and foreign faces that shared in this experiment with me. xo

this is home

I'm excited to share that the first installment of a collaborative personal project with my dear friend Ariel Min is live! THIS IS HOME is a documentary photography series profiling DC dwellers within the spaces they call home and the reasons they do sowhether it's a human or pet, room or ritual. If you so fancy, head on over to the THIS IS HOME blog to check it out!

Here's a sampling of some of my favorite shots.