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.

#poncon2015

Camping with city friends on an island that's home to wild horses was what my spirit needed. 

We fell asleep to the sound of the sea and rose to the sound of a "good morning, campers!" wake-up call for sunrise on the beach. (It didn't matter that fog concealed any sight of the sun.)

Most of our time was shared around the campfire where we swapped stories and snacks. The remainder of our energy was spent searching for ponies and squealing when we happened upon one.

The faces filling this little video made me laugh a lot (even when a 2.5 hour drive home turned into a 5.5+ hour drive because of traffic), and I eagerly await #poncon2016!

[Humming House: "Run With Me"]

little zander

Little Zander was just two weeks old at the time of these portraits. It might sound silly, but I still have a difficult time wrapping my head around babies. They're fascinating, don't you think? And they seem to know how to restore perspective like no other. Spending time around new parents also reminds me to be deeply grateful for my own. As much as I value independence, I want to acknowledge how we're made to flourish in community. Even in adulthood, we need one another.

26

One of my favorite bands, JOHNNYSWIM , often says, "If the journey is only as good as the company you keep, then we're gonna be just fine." I concur completely.

Thank you so much for the #birthdaybluesbegone fundraiser support and birthday love! You remind me to be a grateful girl.

Here's a short video I made featuring 26 seconds on my 26th birthday in New York, in chronological order.


birthday blues begone // fundraiser

The past few years I've battled birthday blues. Now before you laugh or give me a hard time because you think I'm too young to experience birthday blues, let me just say that the twenties can be tough! And nobody really warns you adequately. Recent birthdays have been stressful because they've served as a reminder of how I'm not quite yet whom or what or where I thought I'd be by a certain age. 

This time around though, I'm actually excited about the formerly dreaded day! I am dedicating this birthday to a special collection of GlobalGiving partner organizations that I had the opportunity to visit and get to know this year. I'm thankful to have crossed paths with incredibly kind, passionate, inspiring individuals working to solve problems in their local communities. 

From empowering vulnerable youth to become organic farmers, to transforming trash to practical, eco-friendly products, to saving orangutans through reforestation efforts, to cultivating a college-going culture in schools in which it's not the norm, there are good people out there who are making this world a little bit better and a little bit more beautiful every day. Perspective and gratitude are what they've instilled in me, and as I carry their stories with me in my everyday back home, my hope is to help build awareness of and garner support for their relentless pursuits.  

As a token of appreciation, anybody who gives to this birthday blues begone fundraiser will receive a thank you postcard that is a print of a photograph I took while visiting nonprofits in Indonesia. 

Will you consider giving here?

Many many thanks!


dan + eunice // married

It was an honor to shoot dear friends with a dear friend on a chilly, but gorgeous fall day in Princeton. Here's a glimpse of this couple's honest and heartfelt story.

xsproject // trash transformed, lives changed

In September, I had the opportunity to travel to Indonesia with my coworker and friend Marisa. We spent two weeks there and visited a number of GlobalGiving's nonprofit partner organizations. Specifically, we had the honor of spending time getting to know the people behind XSProject and help them tell their story. XSProject is an amazing organization working with the trashpicker community in Jakarta and Cirendeu, Indonesia to transform waste and change lives. 

My heart fell in love with the people there, and I hope this little video and collection of photographs may be useful in sharing an amazing story, inspiring action, and instilling gratitude for kindness and community. 

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, please consider supporting XSProject here!

pacific northwest part three // vancouver

The last destination of my little exploration of the Pacific Northwest was Vancouver. It was late evening by the time I crossed the border into Canada, and I lost count of the number of times I wish I could've pulled over because I was surrounded by the most stunning scenes of nature.

My heart filled with wonder as I realized I'd never driven in a different country before, and as I tried not to get distracted by all the night lights, it occurred to me that I had to figure out the mile to kilometer conversion. Yikes!

The purpose of visiting Vancouver was to see a bunch of friends from Virginia who've relocated there in the past year. It's sort of strange to see familiar faces dwelling somewhere unfamiliar, but it's also neat to witness how these dear friends of mine have worked to plant roots and are in the process of building community in the place they now call home.

My tour guides were thebomb.com. Seriously. I felt so cared for and welcomed as they planned where to take me each day; they made certain that I saw and ate and did everything the city has to offer. 

Vancouver is really a breathtaking slice of the earth. There's something about having mountains, water, and skyscrapers clustered in one line of sight that gets me every single time.

pacific northwest part two // seattle

I cannot recall too many details about the drive from Portland to Seattle. I want to say it was rainy that morning and there was a bit of traffic. (To be honest, I don't mind being a passenger on long road trips, but driving long distances myself is not my favorite.) I do remember distinctly that I felt comfort and excitement upon arriving because I recognized neighborhoods and streets from being in Seattle last year.

Though I had anticipated traveling solo for this leg of the trip, each of the days there was actually spent in really good company. I was connected to the kindest mutual friends for dinner one night, spent a day adventuring with college friends who happened to be there as well by chance, and shared life-giving conversations with someone I sat next to once at the Love Does Stuff conference in Tacoma last May. (The former gathering was solidified while in Portland, and the latter two surfaced serendipitously while in Seattle.)

The pockets of time I had alone unraveled like so. Part of it was spent hitting up spots I fell in love with before (e.g. Fremont Vintage Mall, Gas Works Park, Paseo, Theo Chocolate Factory), part of it included visiting establishments that I didn't get around to last time (e.g. Oddfellows, Volunteer Park), and part of it involved roaming around in the rain and exploring new territory. (Throughout my foray in the Pacific Northwest, I wore my "pretend to be a local" hat and weathered the rain sans umbrella. A part of me wanted to picture if I could see myself living there one day.) 

Seattle was so good to me again (in the grand scheme of things). The only other point I have to make is that I received my first parking ticket ever while there. Sad trombone.