before and after

Kathy | 2019 | A Celebration of Phenomenal Women

“Confidence and intelligence will never stop being beautiful.”

-author unknown

I love hearing stories about women who have stepped out in huge ways to try something new and way out of their comfort zone. It is amazing to see how much that “new” and sometimes scary step turns into something so life-changing for them you’d never guess they had any hesitations in the first place.

Kathy is a devoted mother of 4, a nurse manager here in the Bay Area and a ballroom dancer with the sweetest of smiles. She shared with me that she never would have imagined developing such a love for ballroom dancing, let alone be competing in dance competitions. Needless to say, dance has impacted her greatly and I loved being able to capture Kathy in beautiful outfits she has used in competitions.

Most of all, I loved being able to capture the sweet smile of a woman who continues to celebrate, grow, and learn from the journey that her life has been and what it has yet to be.

Kathy, thank you for trusting me to capture you in this season of your beautiful life. The best is yet to come.

Images | Heartbox Photography

Hair & makeup | Becky Lau of Beautiful One Makeup

“In my real world I am a mom and a nurse. I have been a registered nurse for 31 years and a mom for 21 years. I have twin girls and two boys that bring me much joy and are the center of my life. I don't know what I would do without them!

In my fantasy world, I am a ballroom dancer although my teacher always told me it is not a fantasy anymore, it is my reality! Unfortunately, I had to leave an unhealthy marriage but the past seven years have been such growth years in my life. I've struggled with weight issues my entire life and focus now on healthy eating and exercising regularly. “

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“Balancing a stressful management career and family left very little time for myself and I found ballroom dancing to be my saving grace. It was my escape after a busy work day. It was something I had always wanted to do.

Entering that dance studio over 6 years ago changed my life. I have never been surrounded by so many positive, supportive people who, instead of being judgmental and critical were always uplifting.

I never imagined that I would be out there on the competition floor in those beautiful costumes, make up, hair and spray tan. But they told me I could and I did! The excitement is indescribable.

My mom died at the young age of 53. From her I learned that family is the most important thing in your life, you must do what is best for you, that life is short and you have to enjoy each moment.

From dancing, I learned that comparing yourself and your journey to others is the most damaging thing you can do to your self esteem. I've learned that your confidence needs to come from within.

I have learned that you have to love yourself and take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. I was convinced that I would die at this age as well and as I turned 53 this year, I am starting to believe that I will be living a long life.”

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“I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to learn and grow and now I am able to support and mentor others in their career and coping with illness. I appreciate that I have more strength to be uplifting to others.

I am honored to have my patients and their families share their lives with me and that I have the opportunity to make a difference. And I appreciate that I have a beautiful outlet - ballroom dancing - that connects me with a wonderful family of friends who support my journey. Above all I am proud that my children are thriving and doing so well now.

When I first separated from my ex, I purchased a silver band inscribed with the words "Ancora Imparo." It is attributed to Michelangelo and means I am still learning.

I have worn it almost every day since and it is my reminder to be kind to myself, that we learn from every situation and grow each day. It reminds me to not give up.”



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“Ballroom dance has challenged me to do things I never imagined I could do and that has boosted my confidence and self esteem tremendously.

Do I still struggle?

I think we all do but to be around people who support your journey makes such a difference. And nothing compares to that magical feeling of floating across the dance floor and connecting with your partner.

What looks so easy takes much work and that work is the most rewarding part, not the end result.”

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“The best advice I have ever received as an adult was to not quit dancing after my first instructor left - not because I am still dancing but because it taught me how worthwhile it is to challenge yourself and not run away when you are faced with a challenging situation.

Sometimes you must step out of your comfort zone to get better, to learn, to grow, to experience new things. You never get better if you give up. My favorite quote: "Inhale Confidence, Exhale Doubt"

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Eva | 2018 | A Celebration of Phenomenal Women

 “A strong woman stands up for herself.

A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.”

-author unknown

Eva is not only a wife and proud mother of 2, but she is a health advocate in the best ways. She is the owner of Eva’s Fitness here in the Bay Area and one of the things I think is especially awesome about her work is the obvious passion she has to especially help individuals who may be challenged in leading a fit lifestyle because of injuries. As I got the chance to learn more about her background, work, and family, it was clear to me that she is a woman using the education and experience she received to make a difference in people’s health and provide the best service for her clients. And perhaps that is why the quote that starts off this post is the one that I felt was most perfectly aligned with the work Eva dedicates her life to. In her own way, with the talents and abilities she uniquely possesses, Eva is helping to encourage people live the healthiest version of themselves and even more importantly, helping them see that it is indeed possible even through injuries or other ailments.

I always have been a firm believer that every woman has something to give, whether it’s in the daily grind of raising her children, to being that listening ear on the other end of a friend’s call, or being the head of a major corporation. And what every woman gives is not limited by her ethnicity, age, or size, but rather the unlimited grit and grace she possesses. Every woman is uniquely created, therefore has something unique to contribute to the table - that is what this series “Phenomenal Woman” celebrates.

It is my honor to share with you all these images and video that highlights Eva, one of the many phenomenal women out there I have been privileged to photograph.

Many thanks to Kalani Brown for the styling of Eva’s hair/makeup!

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“So far, my life has been very extraordinary and wonderful.

I come from a small town in Germany and was very fortunate to not only be able to pursue my dream career as a teacher of movement and health, but also to have met my amazing husband with whom I moved to quite a few new places in the world.

We have two beautiful children that we love and are extremely proud of.

Every day I am grateful for my husband and kids, my big family in Germany and in the US, as well as my friends and my clients.”

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“The beauty of a woman comes from the inside, her thoughts, and beliefs. But we [also] need to take care of our health, work on our athletic skills, and keep fit.

Rather than telling this to my daughter I have to be the best example that I can.”

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“Looking back, there is not much that I would tell my 18 year old self, except to wear sun screen and to keep dancing!”

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Daniella | 2018 | A Celebration of Phenomenal Women

“I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.”

-Michelle Obama

Women have broken and continue to break barriers. And as I write this post, I find myself reflecting on what I sense is a beautiful revolution today of women everywhere who are are being reminded of the positive influence they can have for change in their own home, own communities, and society as a whole. I want to always be a part of any movement that empowers women - from the young girls to the women who have walked the path ahead of them.

I recently launched a series titled “A Celebration of Phenomenal Women: Fabulous and Over 40”. This series was meant to invite women in who were over 40 years of age, proud of their story, their life, and most of all, proud to be a woman of today.

Daniella is 41 - a wife, a mother, and health, fitness, and nutrition coach. As founder and owner of DFitLife, she is a businesswoman in the Bay Area who continues helping and serving people live the healthiest lifestyle they can.

I am incredibly proud to share with you all these images and video from the first photoshoot of many photoshoots that will aim to celebrate these phenomenal women in our community.

Many thanks to Kalani Brown of Kalani Style for Daniella’s hair and makeup!

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What are you most proud of as the woman you are today and why?

“I have worked hard through many years of self-doubt and loathing to finally emerge as the woman I’ve always wanted to be.

I feel good that I am setting a strong role model for my daughter. I want her to know she should ask for the moon, because you might just get it!

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What advice would you give your own daughter as she grows up?

“Be kind to yourself and to others.

Don’t forget that life is full of laughter, but you have to choose to see it.

Choose happiness.”

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What do you believe makes a woman beautiful?

“Self-confidence for sure. This is where men have been ahead of us. Regardless of how someone looks aesthetically, if they are comfortable in their own skin, that beauty shines through.

Women of my generation have done a lot of catching up on this and I think our children will really own it!”

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What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

“Love yourself or no one else will! I would go back and try to embrace my quirks and imperfections.

I spent so much time trying to be perfect, that I lost sight of the moment. I was too serious for my own good. Now I try to find the humor in just about every moment of my day.”

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Preview | Eva, 2018 | Palo Alto, CA | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | A Celebration of Phenomenal Women

You know what’s incredible about a woman?

She has this unique ability to bring glamour anywhere she goes. And part of why I absolutely love this photo of Eva is that it just exudes an enchanting classiness - a fierce beauty all her own.

Image | Heartbox Photography

Hair & Makeup | Kalani Brown

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Preview | Azalia, 2018 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Santa Clara, CA

"Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful."

 - Sophia Loren

Azalia is a wife, a mother, grandmother, and sister - a woman who is as beautiful and unique as her name. We had chatted briefly a few years back when I had met her through a mutual acquaintance and it is my honor to now have her in front of my camera. I love when women step out and not only get dolled up for the day, but also make that decision to celebrate their life by choosing to exist in gorgeous images that will last a lifetime.  

The light was perfect for her shoot (that gorgeous, natural daylight was ahhh-maaazing) and below is just a sneak peak into her photo session. Be sure to stay tuned for more to come!

Special thanks to Kalani Brown of Kalani Style for Azalia's hair and makeup!

Preview | Thuy, 2018 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits

 

This woman is a proud mom, the founder of 923 Designs based here in the Silicon Valley,  and a woman who exemplifies what it looks like to hustle and hustle hard. 

Thuy is an old friend of mine from high school and as we took time to catch up on life as she prepared for her photo shoot (many thanks to Miranda from Love and Artistry for hair/makeup styling!), I couldn't help but feel proud. Proud to know another fellow woman entrepreneur, proud that she's a hard-working mom, proud that she is an example of a woman who doesn't give up. She talked about how she took that leap to start her own interior design company, how she's raising her son, and working with the challenges along the way. We laughed about the realities of growing up (suddenly, late night outings don't sound as fun as being home in your pajamas), the things we've learned along the way, and could not believe how much time had flown by in the blink of an eye since our high school years. 

It is an honor to share with you all a sneak peak into Thuy's photo shoot with Heartbox Photography - there will be more to share to be be sure to stay tuned!

 

Vicky, 2018 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Oakland, CA

 

Part of why I chose to be a photographer of women is because I believe that it is a unique way to not only bring out the beauty that I believe every woman possesses, but also because sharing their stories is a way to empower, inspire, and encourage other women and young girls. 

I was so inspired to get to know Vicky and learn more about her journey as a young, single mom to now a soon-to-be graduating DrPHC of UC Berkeley. And to learn that it was also another woman who inspired and mentored her many years ago to embark on this journey makes her story even more empowering. 

I am so proud to share with you all a few of Vicky's images and a behind the scenes look from her photoshoot with Heartbox Photography as well as the story of her journey through her own voice. 

Here's to celebrating the beauty, strength, and stories of all women.

Photography: Heartbox Photography

Hair/makeup: Kalani Brown

"Choosing to do be photographed is not something that comes naturally to me - usually I am the person who wants to hide in the shadows. For the past five years, I have been a doctoral student at UC Berkeley and I have had many challenges getting to where I am today. I haven't always had the confidence in myself that I should. The year of 2017 was about self-love and all I had to offer exactly as I am now. This new year in 2018 is about confidence and growing into the woman I know I have worked hard to become."

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"As a young, single mother at 19, I knew that I could not provide the life my son deserved if I did not receive an education. My sister was one of the first in our immediate family to attend and graduate college and I was lucky to follow in her footsteps. I went back to school when my son was a few months old and fell in love with learning again. I started at the community college level and made my way to a four year university. While at San Francisco State University, I met Dr. Velia Garcia and she told me that I would be Dr. Gomez one day. I laughed at her and said I wasn't even sure if I could graduate with my bachelor's degree. "

"It turned out that Velia saw something in me that I did not see in myself. She taught me the importance of mentoring others and helping them reach their goals in a way that honored themselves. In 2012, Velia lost her battle with cancer and it was the sign I needed to apply to obtain my doctorate degree. Over the past five years, I have mentored many students, particularly underrepresented students like myself to pursue their academic and professional goals in a new way that honors who they are."

"So many have sacrificed so much so that I could walk through these doors and accomplish my dreams and I want to continue opening the doors for others to reach theirs. This degree is not just for me but for those that came before me and for those that will come long after I am gone. I wanted to demonstrate to others that anything is possible even when you feel the deck is stacked against you."

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"My life's work is to continue mentoring others while teaching undergraduate and graduate students. My goal for this year is to take risks and be the best me I can be. Deciding to participate in this photoshoot with Maria was a vital step in my journey. I knew after seeing photos she did of a friend that she would bring out my natural beauty and confidence. "

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Preview | Vicky, 2018 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Oakland, CA

 

"If you educate a man, you educate an individual.

But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation." 

-African Proverb

She is witty, down to earth, and possesses a warm smile that immediately welcomes you. And did I mention she's smart?? As a soon to be DrPH graduate of UC Berkeley, Vicky is embarking on an exciting new season of her life and I am so proud to be able to help her celebrate.

Below is just a sneak peak into Vicky's photo session with Heartbox Photography. Stay tuned for more to come!

Hair/makeup: Kalani Brown

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Preview | Ana, 2017 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Santa Clara, CA

 

When I first started Heartbox Photography a few years back, Ana was one of the very first supporters of not only the work I got to create for women but the message behind it all. We were always wanting to schedule something, but the busyness of travel and life in general meant we needed to wait a bit. 

And the wait was definitely well worth it! I am so excited to have her finally in front of my camera and share with you all a sneak peak into Ana's own photo shoot! 

As always, there is more to come so be sure to stay tuned!

Many thanks to Kalani Brown of Kalani Style for Ana's hair and makeup styling on this shoot!

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April | 2017 | Glamour and Contemporary Portraits | Fremont, CA

 

I recently had the privilege to photograph this beautiful lady woman named April. We had crossed paths a few times through mutual friends (even being in the same fitness accountability group!)  and she had reached out to me about a photo shoot for the simple reason of wanting to celebrate her life. I read that and immediately smiled because celebrating life through photographs is, as you know by now, kind of my jam. :)

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This vibrant young woman willingly shares her heart, her talents, and embraces the victories as well as the ups and downs of her life. What I appreciate the most about April is that though the trajectory of her life has been anything but a straight and smooth line, the joy that radiates from her smile, her enthusiasm to share her story with others, reveals that ultimately, she knows God is continuing to work His perfect plan no matter what and that her purpose remains the same -  to embrace Him and show others who He is. 

I am proud to share with you all these images from April's photo shoot with Heartbox Photography! Be sure to also check out the behind the scenes video below that captures a glimpse into April's day with us!

Many thanks to the awesome Keziah Dauz of Beauty by Keziah for the styling of April's hair and makeup!

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"My parents divorced when I was 6 years old so my mom, older brother, and I moved to Hayward with my aunt and her family until my mom was able to buy a house for us. 

Growing up, I excelled academically and the only extracurricular activities I had were choir and dance class because I just love the performing arts. I also battled with childhood obesity so for the longest time I despised being in my own skin.

Fast forward to college, I was blessed to attend the University of California, San Diego, and I lived there for 4 years. I really love that city. I love the ocean, sun, and community events. After graduating, God has really given me the chance to visit friends like family twice a year there to reconnect. Part of me feels like it's a mission field because my friends and I often talk about our struggles when I am there and I'm thankful I can physically be there for comfort.

San Diego is also where I discovered Christianity at the Rock Church in Point Loma during my first deep heartbreak with my bf at the time of 3 years. We weren't together for 3 months after that, but I think it was the time where I learned that my dependence did not come from a human being. Because of my upbringing and broken family, I did not really know how to approach romantic relationships so I often became dependent on my partner, which was very unhealthy. We did end up getting back together after those 3 months and lasted for 6 years total (if you included that hiatus), which led me to an even darker place of depression (although not clinical). 

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In college, I also had the privileged opportunity to travel abroad for service in Costa Rica, Honduras, and the Philippines, which opened my eyes to the need of compassionate healthcare providers and confirm my desire to work in the medical field. I love volunteering and being of service to those in need.

My career plans are to apply to graduate school to get my master's in Physician Assistant Studies so that I can apply my experiences, skills, and talents to help under served communities thrive in life with a healthy approach. I also know that this requires me to constantly work on myself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This journey has definitely helped me to see God more in all of my circumstances!"

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"I believe what makes a woman truly beautiful is how many times she falls down to rock bottom, yet somehow finds the courage to rise up to the challenges and is stronger, vibrant, and more joyful than ever before."

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"I absolutely appreciate my singleness season. I used to despise being alone in this season, but I realized that singleness is truly a precious gift from God. This season allows me the freedom to dive deeper into devotion with Him and other believers without any unnecessary distractions. Through this time, God is teaching me invaluable lessons that will be beneficial for me in the long run, such as how to extend grace in tough times and even how to be more gentle, honest, understanding, patient, and loving. For the first time in my life, I don't feel like I need to fight this season, but instead embrace every single day as it comes.""

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"My singleness also allows me the opportunity to pursue higher education whether that is near or far from home and even travel around the world with friends without any agendas. I love being able to sit at a local Starbucks and read a book or take a solo trip to the movies spontaneously. I also like spending quiet time with my ultimate Provider who never gets tired of hearing from me. I have found that He is extremely humorous at times so it makes this walk with Him even worthwhile. Most importantly, my singleness has allowed me to take more risks in general and I think with or without a significant other, I am safe and loved in His arms."

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"If given the chance, I would tell my 18 year old self that a life pursuing academic excellence and trying to keep a complacent long-term relationship going will not fulfill you. Trust in God knowing that He has great plans for your life. Even though it does not feel that way right now, He is going to use you for some amazing plans. Embrace it!"

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"Some advice I would give young girls and my future daughter would be to focus not on what the world thinks you should do, but tune into your unique personality and talents. God has gifted you in order to bless others by spreading more love and joy in this world. We live in a time of much heartbreak, loss, abuse, and neglect, thus your mere existence in this world is proof that there is a living God. He can use you to help others know Him for His unfailing love is truly the greatest. Let His light shine through you to accentuate the true beauty that only comes from within."

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Preview | Faliha, August 2017 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Fremont, CA

 

"And the beauty of a woman
With passing years only grows."

-Audrey Hepburn

So many things make up this beautiful woman named Faliha - her love for adventure, for travel, for memories made that involve beautiful views of beaches and water around the world, just to name a few.

To anyone who meets her, you will see that her smile and enthusiastic personality radiates towards the camera and towards the fullness of life itself.  It was on a lovely and sunshine-filled day that I had the privilege to celebrate this remarkable woman through a photo session.

It is with great excitement that I share with you all a sneak peak image of Faliha's photo shoot with Heartbox Photography. There is more to come, so stay tuned!

Shoutout to the awesome Kalani Brown of Kalani Style for Faliha's gorgeous makeup!

 

Preview | Elizabeth, July 2017 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Fremont, CA

 

"She walks in beauty, like the night
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies; 
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes"

-Lord Byron

I recently had the privilege of meeting Elizabeth - a wife, the mother of two, and a local businesswoman who has used her skills as a massage therapist for the past 17 years to bring healing and wellness to her clients through Pure Heart Bodywork.

To me, Elizabeth exudes a beautiful and quiet strength that I often think about when I picture women who are devoted to their families and who have passionately pursued their goals in life as well. I am so proud and excited to share with you all a sneak peak Elizabeth's photo session with Heartbox Photography - be sure to stay tuned for more to come!

Happy Friday!

 

Photography: Heartbox Photography

Hair/makeup: Kalani Brown

Melba | 2017 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Santa Clara, CA

"She's got a light around her
And everywhere she goes
A million dreams of love surround her everywhere..."

-Billy Joel

She gives generously of her time and attention.

Her words are filled with an abundance of love and joy whenever you ask about her children, her husband, her grandchildren, her family....her life.

The smile that graces her face when describing places she has traveled to with her loved ones or recalling some of the best memories is a smile that seems to radiantly shine even brighter with each story.

Her laughter speaks of nothing but joy. 

Melba is a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend. I always find it so uniquely special about photographing a woman who has given of her time, love, and attention so lovingly to others for many years. Because suddenly she is at the center of attention and having a rare moment where she gets to stop and say yes, I'd like to celebrate it all right now. There is this unmistakeable and endearing shyness when a woman realizes that it is absolutely ok to take a moment to celebrate, ok to feel beautiful inside and out, and yes, more than ok to enjoy every minute of the experience.

I am so proud to share with you all a little sneak peak image into this remarkable woman's recent photoshoot with Heartbox Photography. There is more to come from Melba's photo shoot, so be sure to stay tuned!

Many thanks to Kalani Brown of Kalani Style for Melba's hair and makeup!

Preview | Rhonda, 2017 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Santa Clara, CA

 

"What we know matters, but who we are matters more."

- Brene Brown

There is a kind of beauty to behold in a woman's eyes when she has survived much in this life but is still unwavering in her faith that God has a plan and purpose for her life, despite the harder chapters she has recently endured her story. It is the eyes with a story that create a rare kind of beauty, rich with faith and beautifully displayed in her smile. 

Rhonda is such a woman.

In our initial correspondence in planning a photo shoot to celebrate her life, she had shared with me how she recently endured the major loss of several loved ones over the short span of two years. And yet despite this, she is unwavering in also sharing that she has "found God's joy - His internal, overflowing, abundant joy."

It is my honor and privilege to share with you all a sneak peak image into Rhonda's photo shoot with Heartbox Photography. There is more to come that will be shared soon here on the blog, so stay tuned!

Many thanks to Keziah Dauz for her styling of hair and makeup!

 

Preview | Angel, 2017 | Glamour & Contemporary Portraits | Santa Clara, CA

"Be confident enough to stand by what you think is beautiful..."

- Jessie Adore

I hope your 2017 is off to an awesome start! These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of wrapping up 2016, celebrations, and honestly, just trying to reintroduce a vegetable or two in into my meals instead of chocolate. Or cheese. Or cookies.

I'm not quite ready to give up having a cookie or two with breakfast, though. Ever bake an entire tub of chocolate chip cookie dough into one big cookie? No?! Well, let's just say that a ginormous cookie to eat ranks right up there with all things wonderful, right next to Target and YouTube videos of puppies. YES.

The potential and possibilities that lie ahead for 2017 are truly endless and my hope is to be able to continue to have the privilege to get to know and tell the stories of more incredible women this year. 

Angel is a nurse and mother whom I recently got to know and photograph. Her lovely smile radiated beautifully with each image captured and I am so thrilled to share with you all a little sneak peak into a photograph from her session. Stay tuned for more to come!

Happy New Year!

Many thanks to Becky Lau of BeautifulOne Makeup Artistry for her work on hair/makeup for Angel!

Preview | Rainia, 2016 | Glamour and Contemporary Portraits | Oakland, CA

 

As soon as you walk in, the shelves and walls of her home tell a beautiful story and make evident a love of history, art, travel, and culture. The morning sun shone brightly through the windows and onto the many photographs of smiling family and friends that lined the mantel, giving me a glimpse into the world of those she holds near and dear to her. The sound of Sade's timeless voice streamed easily through the speakers, adding a melody to the air that blended seamlessly into the already beautiful morning.

This sunshine-filled day in Oakland was the perfect setting for an outdoor photoshoot to capture images of this lovely woman named Rainia.

I am thrilled to share with you all a sneak peak preview below - be sure to stay tuned because there is more to come!

Many thanks to Keziah Dauz for her collaboration on Rainia's hair/makeup!

 

PREVIEW | Bina | Glamour & Contemporary Portrait | Santa Clara, CA

Smiles and laughter is wonderfully contagious and the afternoon was filled with it the day I got to photograph this beautiful woman, wife, and mother named Bina. 

I absolutely love how Bina's default expression in her eyes is one that is filled with a genuine happiness and sense of humor - and it is my honor to have been given the opportunity to capture that loveliness in the timelessness of a portrait photograph. 

Below is just a little glimpse into Bina's photoshoot - be sure to stay tuned for more to come!

Many thanks to the awesome Kalani Brown of Kalani Style for her lovely work on Bina's hair and makeup!