Thowback Thursday: A Wish of a Lifetime

(As the Twin Cities gear up to host the upcoming Superbowl and the Minnesota Vikings head into an important playoff game this weekend, I can't help but have memories of this awesome day which appeared on my blog September 23, 2015.)

He grew up an orphan on the streets of Duluth, Minnesota. He is an 83 year old Korean War Veteran, a loving father, and a diehard Vikings Football fan.

Ford Lund's incredible sacrifice for this country is characterized by the letter of condemnation he received for his bravery during the Korean War. While in combat, he crossed the front lines and brought back two wounded Greek soldiers who had been hit with mortar shells. He was recognized with letter of commendation for bravery and is one of the only two American soldiers who were able to wear a Greek Army badge on their uniform.

Ford and his family have been fans of the Minnesota Vikings since their first game in 1961. In fact, a Vikings game in 1961 was the first and only Vikings game that he has been to in his entire life. Ford and his family have watched the Vikings play every Sunday for decades, but due to health issues and financial constraints, they have been unable to go to another game. To him and his family, the Minnesota Vikings are more than a sports team, they are a family passion and a recognition of their home state.

Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime and the Minnesota Vikings, Ford's dream to go to another Vikings game became a reality on September 18, 2015, when they flew Ford and his son Tim from Montana to Minnesota for an unforgettable Vikings weekend. 

I was honored to be invited to be the event photographer and to document the experience for this charming man and his son. 

Meet Ford Lund, as he does a little wheeling and dealing from Ziggy Wolf's office!

Halls are lined with memorabilia and photographs - symbols of the Viking's legacy dating back generations.

Ford and his son, Tim, were given a tour of Winter Park, meeting key personnel and places.

Stepping on to the turf at Winter Park's indoor practice field.  PS.  It is surprisingly soft!  Babies could lay happily on that stuff!

Ford was invited to watch morning practice with Executive Director of Community Relations, Brad Mason.  Due to security and team privacy reasons, we were not able to photograph the players engaged in practice.  However, Ford's smile says it all!

Ford was invited to the closing huddle with players to give the final break. 

Ford was invited to the closing huddle with players to give the final break. 

Coach Zimmerman introduces Ford to the players, telling of his amazing legacy as a soldier and fan.

I know nothing of football.  So, when the crowd surrounded him, I brazenly pushed my way through the wall of men, ignorant of who they were or what they did - simply so I could capture Ford.  Imagine my surprise the next day when I realized who they were.  Oh... hey there, Adrian Peterson.... Vikings Running Back.  Sorry for the elbow in the side and kick to the knee!

Ford gets his #28 jersey signed by Running Back, Adrian Peterson.

One of the sweetest and most lighthearted moments came when Ford delighted in knowing he could also keep the pen!

One of the sweetest and most lighthearted moments came when Ford delighted in knowing he could also keep the pen!

Tim also got his jersey signed by #22 Safety, Harrison Smith.

Quarterback #5 Teddy Bridgewater stayed behind to sign his own gloves for the gents.

Quarterback #5 Teddy Bridgewater stayed behind to sign his own gloves for the gents.

Ford meets former NFL player turned Vikings Offensive Line Coach, Jeff Davidson.

Ford practices his flex with an image of Adrian Peterson for inspiration.  "C'mon Coach... put me in, I'm ready!"

After practice it was a quiet moment to simply enjoy the experience.

Ford would next be interviewed for the Viking's documentary show - Beyond the Gridiron.  (Look for video clips on their website when they are posted.)  He spoke of his long standing love of the Vikings, and what a great coach he saw in Bud Grant.

Then the interview turned to speak of Ford's time in service.  His eyes dropped and he quieted as he sank into his chair.  Seeing the change, I realized that like most audiences, we saw his medals and valore - wanting stories of his time in deployment.  Yet, he only saw the battlefield and what dark times transpired during his time in Korea.  He son says he doesn't speak of it often and on this day, that remained true.

Then, it was his son Tim's turn for interview.  He laughed and smiled as he spoke of his loving father and what a happy childhood he had with him.  Through Tim, we saw the gentle heart of a loving father and dedicated Viking's fan who raised his entire family on this beloved Minnesota pastime.

Teddy Bridgewater's gift to the boys as a proud son enjoys this special time with his father.

A person's life can be changed by the kindness you show.

Wish of a Lifetime is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to shift the way society views and values our oldest generations by fulfilling seniors’ dreams and sharing their stories to inspire those of all ages.

Seniors are nominated by others and then a team at WOAL go to work to make it happen!  To learn more about this great organization, visit their website!

PS.  After a day at Winter Park with the Vikings, Ford and his son were guests at the Vikings game against the Detroit Lions.   (Ford - you must good luck because Vikings had a grand win at 26-16!)

 

Throwback Thursday - Cheretha & Tahja

The fun part of having a diverse portfolio is wandering through archives and finding delight in the many experiences your camera brings you through.  This day, I was invited to capture a special glamour experience for senior girls facing unique life experiences.  I would only have an hour with beautiful Cheretha, but in that time, I delighted in her natural smile and grace, even while caring for her young son.

I was also granted the opportunity to catch another sweet beauty this day, Miss Tahja.  She must not be missed in this throwback memory!

She is Doing Amazing Things, Again!

Project Runway: Meet the season 16 designers
(including Minneapolis' Samantha Rei!)

Photography by Lifetime's Project Runway

Photography by Lifetime's Project Runway

If ever there was a reason to watch Project Runway again, it is this!  Minneapolis Fashion Scene Darling, Samantha Rei, is a contestant for Season 16! 

I had the honor of shooting editorials for Samantha Rei's Second Star and Black Pearl collections, as well as seeing some of those images then published in her fashion design book Steampunk & Cosplay Fashion Design & Illustration. What I can tell you that in addition to being wildly talented and detail driven in the construction of her pieces, she has a beautiful way of bringing her concepts and ideas to a tangible product. Every collection tells a story and they are uniquely fun to explore and wear.

    Check out her latest collections on her website at www.samantharei.com.

     

    Watch her video on this link and you will see how incredibly charming she is, too! I mean... how can you not just love her!?

    Becoming a Beautiful Human

    This week I was honored to receive an award from the Beautiful Humans Project for Photography.  I don't know if it is the organization and award names or simply the idea that someone wants to acknowledge me for doing something I love so dear, but this really is quite humbling.

    This award program sought to recognize "those that have played a significant role in shaping the Twin Cities arts and entertainment industry from Fashion, Music, Journalism, Photography, Production."  I don't know if what I have done is significant, but it certainly has not been without some truly amazing and unforgettable collaborations!

    Thank you, thank you to those that nominated me and those that decided I was worth the honor.  I have been a photographer for 25 years now and as I look back on that time, I have learned these simple truths:

    Life is simple.  Do what you love and do it often!

    Family is everything.  Never put the work first.

    Live your dreams and share your passions.  
    You will make great friends doing so.

    With God by your side, the rest will take care of itself.


    Congratulations to my fellow award recipients (shown below).  I cannot wait to work with you all (or again)!  And, last but not least, thank you to every photography assistant/slave, makeup artist, collaborative photographer and designer who helped me live this amazing dream of photography!

     

    Delighted to share the evening with my favorite photographic assistant, Ariadne and to be photographed by one of MY clients, House of Nguyen fashion designer, Mimi Nguyen!

     

    Image Award Winners

    Talented people making the Twin Cities a more beautiful place through design, artistry, events and charity work.

    Music Award Winners

    Performers and talents whose music and work has not only gained them personal notoriety nationally but also enriched the Twin Cities.

    Alternative Award Winners

    Those who are contributing to and enriching the Twin Cities arts and entertainment scene in other ways.

    Photography & Videography Award Winners

    Those telling the stories of artistic passions and work through the lens, by placing the audience in a front row seat to a unique perspective.

    Journalism Award Winners

    People who have given a voice to their passions and professions through radio, blog, tv, web, publications and beyond.

    • Fresh Fruit - Quinn Vilagomez & Roxanne Anderson
    • Janna Peloquin 
    • UMMG- Pete & Kimberly Rhodes
    • Ethan Horace

    Simply humbled to have one of these beautiful trophies now in my office!

    Recognition also to the following:

    PERFORMERS

    EVENT SPONSORS

    • Twisted Hare Salon and Spa
    • The Family Tree Clinic
    • The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
    • Crown Lens Media Group
    • Fashion Odds Magazine
    • Tune Aria

    EVENT PROMOTER

    RED CARPET COVERAGE

    EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY

    • Valerie Lockhart

    This event included a silent auction with proceeds from the entire night benefiting Rare Productions.  RARE Productions is an arts and entertainment media production company. They promote, produce, and co-create opportunities and events utilizing innovative artistic methods and strategies.

    Visit their facebook page to learn more!  

    Making Their Voices Heard (and I get to capture it!)

    Today, I learned that I am to be an official photographer for the Women's March on Washington - Minnesota.  I am excited to support this event - not only as a photojournalist to document the day, but also as a woman who feels the time has come when we must again join and speak up. 

    Why do we march?  The fight for dignity and justice resides in all communities - especially in light of the rhetoric of the past election cycle which has insulted, demonized and threatened many of us. The Women's March is committed to ensuring that the voices of women from all backgrounds and identities are heard. In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.  Through active recruitment and engagement of diverse groups and individuals, we seek to forge new alliances that will enable us to work together for equal justice in the months and years ahead.

    To learn more about the Women's March on Washington - Minnesota, visit their website here or go to their facebook event page here.

    As of January, 9th 2017, confirmed confirmed speakers include: 
    • MN Senator Patricia Torres Ray
    • MN Senator Sandy Pappus
    • MN Representative Ilhan Ohmar
    • Sarah Stoesz (CEO & President of Planned Parenthood Minnesota)
    • Ann Bancroft (author, teacher, and adventurer. She was the first woman to successfully finish a number of arduous expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic)
    • MN House Minority Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman
    • Trista Matascastillo (Three Branch Military Veteran, Founder of Women's Veterans Initiative & Sexual Assault Survivor)

    Entertainment includes:
    • Ann Reed
    • Prairie Fire Lady Choir
    • K Raydio


    To see our official images, go to www.womensmarchmn.smugmug.com

    The Womens March of Minnesota Official photographers included Christie Rachelle, Juliann Itter & Angela Whited.


    To learn more about this and future events, go to www.womensmarch.com

    Happiness is a Great Beautifier

    Last night, I had a unique challenge. . . photograph a wedding  at night.  Panic set in when I realized I would have to choose between using flash to properly expose images, or make do with the natural light and what I my bag of equipment could make happen. 

    The wedding of a very dear friend was held at The Trellis - an impeccable garden spot in Stillwater.  It was intimate and beautiful with loving friends and family at a candlelight ceremony and garden reception.   Yep... there was no way I was going to destroy the ambiance of this moment with flashes firing off.

    As the evening wore on, I joyfully laughed and took in the perfect evening air, fighting back tears when I realized that everything under God's plan has a purpose and a schedule.  You see, the couple last night were high school sweethearts, getting married after decades apart and lifetimes of experiences.  

    I have known the groom many years and adore him like no other.  Seeing this wedding last night and the images this morning, I realized - happiness is a great beautifier and the love we feel brings so much not only to our lives, but to those who love us.  His smile and the way he held his beautiful bride, I know his heart is renewed and there was no better place to be last night than watching these two bind their lives together.

    To Randy and Debbie ~ thank you for letting me share in this joyful evening.  May you both enjoy a perfect future filled with joy, love, friendship and passion.

    Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Murphy!

    I told someone recently that you can't always expect to find your soul mate 10 miles from your house.  Sometimes, you have to act on faith and venture out beyond your comfort zone.  I never realized how true this was until I met this couple.

    Doug and Elizabeth met online (like many do these days).  She lived in Mexico, he lived here in Minnesota.  After some time corresponding online, he flew to Mexico to meet and spend time with her.  Only then did he realize she did not speak a word of English.  They found a connection and continued seeing each other.  When the time came for him to propose, he had her brother there to help with the translation.  Soon, she was living in Minnesota and they were building a new life and learning how to communicate with each other about life, love and experiences.

    Three years later, they are now married. Their families are merged and their life will move forward together.  Their journey to find what God has laid out for them covered many miles, a lot of patience and trust.  But, watching the glances they stole of each other on their wedding day and the simple smiles they shared in quiet moments alone, it is clear... they have found the one person in this world that God put on this earth just for them.

    Congratulations, Doug and Elizabeth!  

    How can you not love groomsmen?  They are always the most spirited, amusing and playful group in the bunch!

    Thanks for the many laughs, guys!

    Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Vermeer!

    There is nothing more humbling than being asked by another photographer to photograph their wedding day.  It is even more humbling when the big day comes and you find yourself in tears watching this couple embrace their future with God at the center of all things.

    Watching Madalyn & Logan step into their future together was such an honor and a true delight.  From the 75 clear and sunny day, to the loving friends and family that surrounded them, the wedding was perfect from the moment the morning came.  As a strong Christian myself, I was in awe seeing the many ways in which their spirituality was embedded into every moment of the day. Soon, I will post a full story of this day, but for now, here are a couple sneak peaks at their day.

    PS.  Thank you to Eimilie Chellberg for working with me as my second shooter!  You are a rockstar!

    A Day in the Presence of Love

    When I first started committing time to photography, my greatest joy was spent in the presence of young couples.  Seeing how they navigated the space between them, the gentle touches they shared and the glances between them told it all.

    Recently, I was given the honor of being asked to photograph the wedding of two beautiful young people, one of whom was a photographer herself.  As we moved through their engagement session, I delighted in the opportunity to see not only the vibrancy of true love, but also the fun of youth and two personalities perfectly matched.  They are destined to live a very blessed life with joy, love and caring at every turn.

    Please join me in wishing Madelyn and Logan a beautiful life together!

    Engagement_Madalyn_Logan_0010.jpg

    Mi by House of Nguyen

    In what has become my third fashion photography collaboration with the ever talented Mimi Nguyen, I was delighted to work this designer and this dynamic team on her latest line soon to appear at Showroom in Minneapolis.  

    Mi's work is easily recognizable for its wonderfully feminine and beautifully detailed style.  It showcases the beauty and shape of women, emphasizing a woman's grace, elegance and natural beauty.  (Check her out on facebook!)  If ever I had a fitness goal, it would be to actually wear one of her signature gowns!

    Thank you to the team that brought this shoot so seamlessly and beautifully together!

    Fashion Designer
    MI BY HOUSE OF NGUYENN

    Models
    LINEA HER
    NESHA DONNELL

    Makeup Artists
    TODDI RODGERS
    TEANNA MOYE

    Hairstylists
    DRE DEMRY-SANDERS
    MELISSA CABLE

    Photographer's Assistant
    ARIADNE SNYDER

    Videographer
    TREVOR KIMOTO

    Logistics & Planning
    JR WALKER, SR

    Looking for something amazing and unique to set your style off? Check out MiMi's Mi House of Nguyen line at Showroom (615 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408)!

    Walk, Waddle, Run!

    Today, I am happy to anounce that I will be a sponsor photographing the upcoming Officer Besser Memorial Sunshine 5k on May 14. This is a family fun run in honor of a fallen police officer, raising funds for Backing the Blue Line and the Officer Besser Memorial Scholarship Fund.

    Officer Besser died tragically in 2015 by unbelievable violent circumstances.  Despite the newsworthiness of his death, it is his life for which he will be remembered and on which his legacy stands.  Officer Todd Besser was a United States Air Force Veteran and served the Elk River Police Department for 16 years. He was highly decorated, well respected and loved by all. He was well known for his "Good Morning Sunshine" to everyone. His personal relationship with God gave him a positive, happy outlook on life that was infectious to everyone he interacted with.

    This May will be the first in an annual event called the Sunshine 5k - raising funds for Backing the Blue Line and a new Officer Besser Memorial Scholarship Fund.  It is an honor to be able to serve this event and I look forward to photographing the volunteers, participants and program this day along with my team.  You can learn more about this event and join me this day by registering here!

    If you would like to make a donation to this great event, or become a sponsor, that would be awesome, too!

    Fashion Odds Editorial: Men of Style, Influence & Culture

    2015 marked the start of a series of new working relationships for me, including the introduction to Fashion Odds writer and stylist Parker XL.  After a brief introduction on a prior fashion shoot, I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with him again -  this time shooting an editorial for Fashion Odds magazine with an article centered on men's fashion and urban style, as well as artists who represent Twin Cities arts culture.

    Combining the stellar designs of Blagk Customs with contributions from Macy's and the grace of several creative artists, the end result was a fantastic day strolling the streets of St. Paul soaking up the beautiful cobalt blue pieces against the crisp winter air.  I was delighted to have my world expanded to know these exceptional artists and see what amazing talents we have within our vibrant metropolis.   (And, being published again certainly didn't hurt!)

    PS.  If you haven't checked out Blagk Customs, do it.  Do it now!  Seriously killer destructive pieces that are evocative, interesting and unique.  (www.facebook.com/BLAGKCustoms)

    Thank you to this exceptional team for all that you brought to the table!

    Creative Director
    PARKER XL

    Project Manager
    JOSEPHINE REID

    Assistant Creative Director
    CHRISTIE RACHELLE

    Stylists
    PARKER XL, lead
    ANTHONY AIGBOGUN

    Wardrobe Provided By
    BLAGK CUSTOMS
    PARCS & PARKER
    MACY'S

    Make-up Artist
    CHRISTIAN YBARROW

    Models
    KENICHI THOMAS, DJ
    MOHAMED SAMATAR, Creative Planner & Performance Artist
    ROMATIS, Music Artist
    ANTHONY AIGBOGUN, Fashion Designer
    PARKER XL, Stylist, Editor, Designer
    ANDY FITTON, Musician & Electronic Artist

    Videography
    DESTINY ROBERTS

    Fashion_Odds_Men_of_Style_0002.jpg

    Part of the fun of seeing your work in print?  Collecting the tear sheets afterwards and seeing what images they choose to tell their story!  Click on the image below for a closer look!

    Scarlett's Free Spirit

    In my latest session for police families of Backing the Blue Line, I was delighted to have the opportunity to photograph young Scarlett as she celebrated her two year birthday.

    Watching her tender heart and free will, one thing was clear.  She was a daddy's girl.  Knowing what a great protector she has in her father, it was also clear that her big sister was also always going to have her back and that one day, those two were going to have a lot of secrets and adventures that mommy and daddy would never know about!

    Sessions with toddlers will never go as planned, but therein lies the joy!  Be it the adventure of running down sidewalk, kissing Elsa, spotting unexpected cats or curling up in daddy's arms to stay warm, this cool winter session will be one I will not soon forget.  We may not have gotten many smiles this day, but I cannot wait to see these darling girls again when we celebrate big sisters birthday this summer!  



    Welcome to the World - Baby Haven!

    Oh, how I adore working with Backing the Blue Line! 

    Am I joyful supporting the police and their families?  Yes.  Amjoyful meeting so many new people in this line of work?  Yes!  But, WHY am I most joyful?  Because this week I got to hold and photograph the tiniest and sweetest little newborn!

    Miss Haven Joyce Helen came into the world just one week ago weighing 4lbs 15 oz.  (Just ounces larger than my own daughter so many years ago.)  Working with this darling newborn was like working with an angel.  She lay so soft and still, simply allowing us to work.  When we put on her parents beloved Green Bay Packers headband, she even cracked a smile.  Now... how can you complain when this is what you do for a living?

    Work?  Yeah... right!

    Congratulations to St. Francis Police Officer Stemme and his wife Katie on the latest addition to their family.  Soon we will capture the family together with a proud big brother, but for today, I hope you enjoy some sugar and spice and everything nice!

    PS.  This session was another collaboration with my second shooter (and daughter), Caroline!  It was especially sweet as for the first time she got to see how tiny she was when she was born.   Caroline was the principal shooter on this session and did a great job!

    Sometimes, its Justice. Sometimes, its Just Us.

    When I first started working with Backing the Blue Line, I knew I would be spending a lot of time with wives as they supported their husbands in law enforcement and the communities they serve.  What I didn't truly realize is how much I would come to enjoy seeing into that world and meeting the families they live each day to protect.

    Recently, I traveled to Staples to spend time with Officer Maros and his family.  What made this day absolutely perfect was not his beautiful wife Tina, or their incredibly sweet and lively children.  But, instead at the onset of our 2-hour drive to get there, I got pulled over by the cops.  I haven't been stopped since my children were babies, but on the very day I am to shoot my first law enforcement family, I was speeding through a construction zone and got pulled over.

    It was almost comical, if not poetic! 
    (Fortunately for me, the officer gave me a very kind warning and let us on our way.)

    As I move forward with plans for other work with Backing the Blue Line, I am delighted to have this outlet to support law enforcement families.  Seeing Officer Maros in full uniform, I realized I suddenly became nervous.  (That same panic when you see them in your rear view mirror... oh gosh, am I speeding?  Did I miss a stop? Is that really a gun on his hip?)  Then, I saw him get down on his knee and smile with his children. 

    That is when I understood what Tina meant when she said 'Sometimes, its justice.  Sometimes, its just us.'

    And she said YES!

    I don't know if anything can ever compare to the moment you are standing with your camera waiting for that moment when one person will stand before another and ask "Will you marry me?"

    Last night, Caroline and I had such an honor when two high school sweethearts traveled from Bemidji to enjoy a vacation in the big city.  It was a surprise proposal and a moment when my being there would be a secret and a gift for her.  What Miss Amara did not know was that Nic and I had become old friends by then, talking many times via phone about his love for his girlfriend and the many plans he had for this important night.   Though it was incredibly cold and my camera lenses definitely did not like focusing in the frigid temps, it was a wonderfully clear and crisp night.

    When all was said and done, it was a moonlight stroll across Stone Arch Bridge and a surprise performance along the way by the band Timeless of "You Dance' by East Mountain South that brought Nic to his knee with the all important question.  Amara said yes, and it was a perfect evening as the musicians, Caroline and I celebrated with them in their joy.

    Congratulations to Nic and Amara! 

    PS.  Check out Timeless and their great music on Facebook or their website!
     

    Enchanting Light

    These past few weeks have been a snowstorm flurry of activity as I worked to wrap so many portrait, wedding and event sessions.  It is that time of year when photographers must put away their cameras and spend so many more hours locked behind a computer screen bringing to life the images that will become a legacy for each client's family.

    Today, as I spent yet another hour editing, I was captivated by the beautiful setting sunlight that came pouring through my window.  It has been such a beautiful early winter here in Minnesota, I realized that I had not taken the time to truly appreciate it.

    So, for ten minutes, I put down my laptop and picked up my camera.  It was me, my pajamas and the Mother Nature's golden light, but for one moment, I felt energized and remembered everything I love about being alive and being a photographer.

    Through the Eyes of a Lens

    I love Minnesota!

    I love that every season brings with it a new breathe of beauty, texture, color and details more breathtaking than the last.  Once the fire driven color of fall leaves have given way to the ground, there is a touch of sadness that life is passing.  Looking out over so many fields this time of year, it is easy to blow past the rolling hills of brown as sad remnants of summer.  I hear so many already yearning for spring.

    But, as a photographer, I tend to embrace this time and encourage everyone to pause and take a closer look.

    When I step to this field and lift the eye of my lens, it is this delicate texture that I see.

    On this perfect fall Sunday afternoon, I don't know what was more beautiful, the delicate pale textures that remained or the elegant beauty of Inver Grove Heights senior Alicia.  Working on this girls preview will definitely be a task I look forward to!  Until then, everyone... enjoy this most perfect Minnesota fall!