This Is What Democracy Looks Like

I love my city.  

When I moved here 10 years ago, the only thing I knew about Philly was that it had been the murder capital of the US for a while. Little did I know what a decade could do to the city I now call home.  Thanks to a diverse community committed to change, this city is now home to amazing art, fantastic food, moving music, and very little crime.  And best of all? The people.  

Even our mayor, Jim Kenney, knows that the strength of this city lies in her people.  We flourish because of our diversity, and it is clear that we, as a city, are more than willing to stand up and protect those people who call Philadelphia home.  We are proud to be a #sanctuarycity, and we aren't afraid to show it. On Saturday, February 5, thousands of people filled the streets around city hall for the #SanctuaryEverywhere March, a protest against the policies of the Trump Administration.  

There was no violence, there were no arrests, there were no blockades.  The police were friendly and helpful, riding their bikes alongside the protest for protection and perhaps in solidarity, smiling and chatting with people.  There were children, pets, elderly, disabled, churches, brass bands.  People watched from their windows, others joined in as we passed. A man sold pretzels and water in the middle of the street as the protest passed.  This is the city I love.  This is the America my grandmother immigrated to in 1924.

I went because I wanted to stand up for what I believed in, but I also went because I wanted others around the world to see what I see: we are all human, and we will not go gently into that good night.  We will rise up, we will lift up our voices, we will hold each other close, we will make beauty and joy out of pain and struggle.  No matter how dark things may seem, I am comforted by how many people are making themselves a light.  This city--these people--are still revolutionary! We still believe in these words:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And we will fill the streets to defend THAT America.  Keep the flame burning: "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light." 

Want to see more of my images from the protest? Click here.

Jack Attack

I was super nervous the first time I photographed a birth.  It's such a sacred, personal moment for couples--I was sure my click click move click click would out of place at best, infuriating at worst. Lucky for me, my first time was also Jess and Tim's first time becoming parents, so they had better things to do (and remember) than worry about what I was doing.  And what a beautiful moment to capture--the moment when two adults become parents.  The above photo is my favorite from their first time: Tim, adorably clad in a Reese's shirt, gasping at the experience of watching his first child take it's first breath, and Jess's mom, shedding tears as she watched her baby have a baby, making her a grandmother.  And of course, the cool nurse, looking relaxed because she's done this a million times before.  At the time, Jess said: "I don't know what else to say other than that I'm in love with them.  The birth pictures moved me to tears and brought me back to that day." Tim said he barely remembered the birth he was in such shock, until he looked at the images I took--only then did it become real.  

Now it's really real.  That first baby, Keira, is a real little human who says no and has a best friend (his name is Milton. He's her dog). Since things went so well with their first attempt, they decided to do it again.  This baby actually came on the due date, which also happened to be their room number at Abington Hospital.

Some things were the same--Tim and Jess's mom were there, giving support.  I got to the hospital just in time, and once Jess went into labor everything went smoothly.  In fact, I think she only pushed 4 times before we met the new little bundle of joy! Then again, some things were different: Jess seemed less enamored with the miracle of birth, and more interested and getting the baby out of her body so she could sleep; as for Tim, instead of looking shocked at the moment of birth, he was looking at his wife, encouraging her every moment of the long night.

Jack Bradley Myers came out with a full head of hair (which Jess could have told you before he made his arrival)!  Her mom was again, tearful and overjoyed.  

Little Jack Bradley has a great set of pipes, and demonstrated his vocal abilities early.  Tim was apparently the same way, to the chagrin of his mother.  Jack also seems to have some attitude, giving his dad the middle finger within the first 5 minutes of his life. Tim doesn't seem too upset by it :P

But, Jack clearly has a soft side.  It's no wonder that Jess and Tim were in love with him at first sight.

Ready or not, Jack Attack is here and he's adorable.  I love the photo below--he opened his eyes and I swear, he looked right at me. My heart melted immediately.  I don't even know if a newborn can see anything, but I'm going to believe he did.  I also can't wait to see how Keira responds to her new little brother; she's got some serious personality on her, and Jack may have to work harder to win her heart. I'm sure, however, that he will succeed.  As my small gift to the couple, I brought some Reese's to commemorate our first birth session.  Hope the sugar helped make up for the late night they endured.  Congratulations Jess and Tim, for creating another beautiful life!!

Reflections

Tonto National Bridge

At the end of every busy season, my tired eyes long for new horizons and unexplored trails to refill my cup of inspiration.  A trip to Arizona for my favorite conference gave me the opportunity: on my last morning there, after days of sitting back and having my eyes opened anew by fellow artists, I struck out to see what I could see.  

Tonto National Bridge

And what lay before me? The Tonto National Bridge. This rock formation is the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, and I decided I would hike through its more than 400ft long tunnel with a broken rib. While not the smartest decision I've ever made, it was definitely an inspiring one.  

As I huffed and puffed and tried not to slip to my death (since I am not what you would call an avid hiker), I heard the words of my favorite Mary Oliver poem echoing through the cavern of my mind, grounding me, making me feel a part of this world in all the right ways.

"Every year

the lilies

are so perfect

I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding

the black

mid-summer ponds.

Nobody could count all of them--

the muskrats swimming

among the pads and the grasses

can reach out

their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that

rife and wild.

But what in this world 

is perfect?

I bend closer and see

how this one is clearly lopsided--

and that one wears an orange blight--

and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away--

and that one is a slumped purse

full of its own

unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life

is to be willing

to be dazzled--

to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even

to float a little

above this difficult world.

I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.

I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing--

that the light is everything--that it is more than the sum

of each flawed blossom rising and fading. 

And I do."

What a Wide Eyed World it is.  Happy 2015!

MP3: Melanie, Patrick, Paisley and Parker

Pat and Melanie were always pretty cool people.  Then they found each other, and the real adventure began.  Whether as DJs or parents, they make beautiful music together.  Their most recent collaboration was the creation of Parker and Paisley, their twins!  I caught up with the couple shortly before their due date to snap a few bump images at the zoo, and let me tell you, Melanie is going to be one badass mom! Even though she looked ready to burst right there, she ran around Girard with Pat and I in heels, changed in the car AND drove the car to our second location, the bridges on Kelly Drive!  Pat kept her laughing the whole time, and his smile seemed permanently affixed and so beautifully genuine.  The prospect of TWO newborns would make most people shake in their boots--it's as if these two just clicked their heels and started skipping.

Pregnancy isn't all fun and games and cute dresses, however.  I was anxious to see how the delivery would go; many moms have to go the route of c-section with twins, or aren't able to go full term.   But luck was on their side, and Mel delivered both Parker and Paisley naturally with help from Pat and her doula on a beautiful April day.  I expected to arrive at the hospital and find two exhausted, stressed new parents, and instead I found a glowing Melanie and a giddy Pat, both already thinking up knick names for their family of four.  

Parker's a talker already and kept opening his eyes to look around;  Paisley has an awesome appetite and a killer grip.  Pat thinks Paisley looks like Cindy; I think they both have Mel's lips.  But no matter who they look like, Pat and Mel are two seriously happy, blessed parents, and I'm so glad I could be there for them to capture some of the first moments of what will no doubt be the infamous MP3 clan.  Can't wait to see who these two little burritos grow up to be.  Congrats and OMG Pat and Mel!!    

A Laughing Matter: Tisha and Dane

I first met Tisha when I was being interviewed for Philadelphia's Music, Dance and Modern Art Show (check out the full video if you'd like to listen to me talk for 20 minutes about photography).  She remembered me months later while planning her wedding, and after a quick cup of coffee, I was sure I'd have a blast documenting her day at the African American Museum of Philadelphia.   It started simply: makeup, hair, bow ties, boutonnieres. A few nervous giggles, a little lip biting.

Things are typically a little stressful before the ceremony; everyone's emotions are running high, the couple worries about whether the event will go as planned, if the guests will have fun.  And although they were a little nervous, Tisha and Dane seemed unruffled.  Maybe it's because Tisha is a master planner.  Maybe it's because no one can keep from smiling when they're around Dane.  Maybe it's because they have a great community of family and friends.

The real reason Tisha and Dane were so calm? They make each other ridiculously happy.  Tisha was never more beautiful than when Dane was making her laugh; it's like her face explodes with joy!  And their joy spread to everyone celebrating with them, which, in turn, made my job very easy :D

After the heartfelt ceremony, we zipped over to Philadelphia's WaterWorks for some blue hour portraits, eager to make the most of our time and show off the beauty of the city they love.

WideEyedStudiosTishaDaneWBlogHigh-21.jpg

Once the "tough" part was done, Tisha and Dane took a deep breathe and dove right in, as if they weren't exhausted.  Psh.  The party swirled, the music pulsed, and Tisha and Dane kept laughing.

The best smile of the day? In the last few minutes of our portrait session, the wind was blowing its still-icy fingers, and Dane was keeping his bride warm.  I asked if he was excited to start his life and, more immediately, a family with Tisha (who's got a bun in the oven even now!).  Dane pulled Tisha tight to him and started giggling like a school boy.  He may have even blushed.  Tisha, in response, simply lit up.  And just then, the wind lifted her veil and his jacket. Click.  Clickclickclick.  That's love, Philadelphia.