Minh and An, 2018 | San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, CA | Portraits

 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

- Lao Tzu

Minh and An are this really awesome and fun couple I had the honor of photographing not too long ago. Even after only a few minutes with them, I could see immediately that they were two people who thoroughly enjoyed laughter, love, and each other. I am so very excited to share with you all some of their images as well as a video of their session and time with Heartbox Photography. :)

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Minh and An, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to get to know you both and to document your love. May these images serve as a treasured reminder to continue celebrating your journey together for years to come.

And of course, many thanks to Kat Tinney for styling Minh’s beautiful look for this photo session!

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First impressions of one another?

I thought “tall, dark and handsome. An says he thought I was really bubbly (not sure if that’s true, I’m convinced I have RBF…) and smart (I think he meant I was a wise-ass.)

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Who is more organized? I would argue that I am! I organize my things religiously. Everything has its place.

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Who is the messy one?

An would say that it’s me, but I think we both think of the other person as super messy because we like our space a certain way. Haha, woes of living together.

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Who is more forgetful?

An - he can’t leave the house without asking me where his phone and keys are. I have to invite him to events via calendar because he forgets what I say a second later when it comes to planning social events. Men can’t plan but they sure can draft their fantasy football team with great finesse, lol!

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Who is most likely to be late? We both like to show up to things on time, if not fashionably late by 5 or 10 minutes.

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Who is the night owl? I am - I stay up until 1 AM while An tucks in at 10PM.

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Who is the better dancer? An can totally twerk. Watch out, he’s climbing on your tables!

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Who is more likely to get sick? I am. :(

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Who laughs louder?

We both seem really reserved in new settings, but we end up being the loud and rambunctious couple when we’re in a warm and welcoming space.

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Who is the better cook? No comment. We both can’t cook and like getting takeout, but I’ve been trying to be a good dutiful wife and finding recipes for the Dutch oven. An is really brave for even trying to eat my cooking.

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Who is more affectionate? We both are very affectionate people if we get to have our own time alone to recharge. Even after 8 years, I think we will have a lot of chemistry (read: really bad habit of PDA.)

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What you do you appreciate and love most about each other? I really appreciate that he takes care of the little details of day to day life for me, like washing my car or bringing me my favorite food, especially whenI have my head in the clouds. An appreciates that I provide him with support, even when days are dark.

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What are you both most excited for with regards to your new future together? We’re both excited to strengthen our long term relationship into a marriage full of friendship and laughter for the years to come.

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Time Flies. Like, for real.

 

Little did this kid know that she’d change our family’s life forever.

You know how some kids kinda come out of the womb looking like they need just a little time to grow into their head? (#letsbereal)

Yeah, well, not this kid. My eyes saw nothing but the cutest, pink faced baby in the nursery that day so many years ago. The minute she was born, it was as if she could have had the word “sweet” tatooed on her forehead - she really was a gentle little soul, a funny kid that grew in goofiness and now morphing into a young woman I have extensive eyebrow/Sephora conversations with.

WHERE. DID. TIME. GO? *insert silent weeping here*

I love this kid and am so proud to be her auntie.

Happy birthday, baby girl. You are so incredibly loved.

P.S. And yes, I know you’ll eye roll at this photo. BUT I’M YOUR AUNTIE AND IT’S PART OF MY JOB DESCRIPTION. :)

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Malia, 2018 | Senior Portraits

“Share your sparkle wherever you are.”

-Dodinsky

It’s official.

The class of 2019 is well under way to completing their final year of high school, a chapter of life that once seemed so far away and now is just around the corner.

This is Malia. She’s a beautiful young lady who is part of that soon to be graduating class of 2019. And if I could write a long ol’ post on what I wish and hope for her in this next season of life, it might be a list that looks just a little like this:

  1. I hope you life a crazy and adventurous dream of life. Full of the ups and downs but even more than that, a sense of richness that can only come from LIVING.

  2. I hope you get to not only see parts of the world that you’ve never seen before, but also remember that simply enjoying a moment in the sunshine right where you’re at is just as valuable, is just as worthy of your attention and awe. Especially when it’s shared with loved ones and friends that make the moment worth it.

  3. I hope you grow in confidence as a woman and fully see the unique advantage and opportunity you have in this world to make changes, big and small, within your circle of influence and beyond it.

  4. I hope you never stop being open to learn, to try, and to understand. In books, through people, through life experiences, both in the classroom and outside of it. It’s incredible and it’s available to you - take hold of that chance to learn, always.

  5. I hope you don’t settle for just making a living but instead always grasp how much more fun it is to LIVING LIFE.

  6. I hope you love and laugh hard. And that people can see that love and laugh in your eyes before you even say a word.

  7. I hope you take great care of your skin, drink a ton of water, and sleep well. Trust me, coming from a woman about twice your age, you’ll wanna remember this. :)

…and the list goes on, but I’ll save that for the graduation ceremony, kiddo.

Below are just some of my favorite shots from Malia’s senior photoshoot as well as the a video of all her images. Be sure to check it out.

You are almost there, class of 2019. GO GET ‘EM!

Happy Thursday!

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Love Hard.

 

"She's a strong cup of black coffee in a world that is drunk on the cheap wine of shallow love."

-JM Storm

She is a lot of things.

And if I'm honest - really honest -  ALL of us women are a lot of things. We are NOT just one way, one mood, one level of depth, one way of thinking, one way of seeing, one way of feeling, one idea or one thought.

No.

We are a myriad of something far more complex and far more special.

But one thing I can absolutely attest to is this: out of the many character traits of my mom one of them is that when she loves, she loves hard.  

Maybe it's because she had to figure out a majority of her adolescence without the help of a mom. Maybe it's because she was an immigrant to this country in her mid-twenties. Maybe it's because she hustled the raising of kids along with a full-time job, a commute, and an exhaustion level that only another mother could truly understand. 

And throughout this, all she knew to do to was to give it all she could to those she cared about and throw all her heart in along with it. And if that's not loving hard, especially in a world where shallow love is more common and popular, I don't know what is.

Proud to share with you all the very first portrait of my momma. 

Special thanks to Miranda Villanueva of Love and Artistry for lending her incredible talents to the styling of my mom's hair and makeup for this shoot! 

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Preview | An and Minh, 2018 | San Jose, CA | Portraits

 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

-Timothy Keller

What better way to start this weekend than with a sneak peak into this shoot with the beautiful couple, An and Minh. 

This photograph is only a fraction of the laughter and love that radiates between these two and to say that I am honored to be able to capture a glimpse into their lives together would be an understatement. 

As always, there is more to come that I am excited to share with you all so stay tuned! :)

Hair/makeup: Kat Tinney

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Preview | Natasha, 2018 | Portrait Photography | San Jose, CA

 “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent." 

-Madeleine Albright

Outdoor summer sessions with gorgeous light and the warm smiles of client's like Natasha are the best ways to spend an afternoon "working" as a photographer. :)

Hanging out with Natasha was more like hanging out with a friend and as we took a stroll down the dirt path of a San Jose park, ducking in and out of the summer sunshine, my heart smiled to see images like the one below captured onto my camera.

This woman is simply a sweet and easygoing individual and I am so excited to capture a bit of who she is in this sneak peak below to share with you all.

Stay tuned for more to come!

And many thanks to Kat Tinney for her styling of Natasha's gorgeous hair and makeup for this shoot!

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My Wimpy Dreams

My dreams, turns out, are way too wimpy. Like, insert the *womp, womp, womp* sounds right here wimpy. Upon this realization, amazingly enough, I didn't cry. :)

It's a little more than halfway through 2018 and also that time when I like to look back and forward all at once. To assess goals, to dream up new ones, and even to stop and awaken the parts of my heart that grow sleepy and comfortable with complacency when things still seem to have a ways to go. 

I'm reading this book right now called "All In" by Mark Batterson. In fact, I've already finished it and am actually going back and reading it a second time. Yes, it's that good and I highly recommend you stop reading this for one moment, go order it on Amazon, and then come back and continue reading my blog post. :)

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The one thing that stands out about this book isn't that it gives some new and improved way to do things, to structure goals, to make dreams come true - nope. In fact, the main reason this book is phenomenal because it's actually kicking me in the @#$ in the best way possible and in fact, making me see that perhaps, JUST PERHAPS, my dreams are a bit too small. It's making me frustrated, but frustrated in a good way, frustrated in a way that makes me see that IF I say I know God, do my dreams reflect that? Am I playing offensive or defensive in my career goals, my marriage, hell, even in the my daily THINKING?!? And so far, after evaluating my lovely and structured plans for 2018, the answer is bit of an embarrassed "uh, oops. Dang, I live and dream WAAAAY too small!"

In a way this book has fanned the flame of a a fight that's been awakened in my sleepy heart, a frustration that is birthing much needed change. It's a little scary and a little exciting and a whole-lotta convicting to know that a huge chunk of me FORGOT big time that it's about charging forward to FOLLOW Jesus, not charging forward and dragging Him along to follow me. It's getting me to suddenly dream up new goals that seem impossible to achieve, but moving forward with them because in God's world "impossible/crazy" is actually the norm. 

Today I am reminded that while the idea of "reaching for the sky" is awesome, a life given over in trust to the leadership of the Almighty makes reaching for the sky seem like child's play. His plans are far greater, far grander, and ridiculously more than I can ever imagine or dream of. And while the scared/excited/frustration/fight emotions are certainly still all present in me from this huge reminder, I am finding more confidence and wholeness in what He promises of my life than even what I can dream up of my life on my own. 

P.S. Just so you know, I learned about the book "All In" from the amazing story teller and spoken word artist Hosanna Poetry - someone ya'll need to follow as well. :) 

 

Preview | Malia, 2018 | Senior Portraits

"As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own."

- Michael Dell

This year seems to be filled with just a smidge more risk-taking, newer adventures, and a fresh-er (is that a word) perspective. In addition to launching the very first magazine for Heartbox Photography (whoo-hoo!), which I'll talk about more about in a later post, I am excited to now launch into senior photography and get a head start on the class of 2019!

All stages of a young woman's life, including her transition from high school into the adult world of college and endless possibilities are more than enough reason to celebrate - and what better way to do that than through capturing this moment in a story told through timeless images? :) 

And oooooooh, can I just say I LOVE this? As part of Malia's shoot, she wanted to integrate something that was a nod to her Polynesian background and to her faith - hence the haku headdress and the beautiful tattoo of Romans 8:38. Mix that with a bit of afternoon lighting and I swear even the camera smiled at the result.

This is just a sneak peak but stay tuned for more to come!

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

Azalia is a lovely wife,  mother, and grandmother. I had met her some time ago through a mutual acquaintance and I'm so excited to share with you all these final images from her photo shoot with Heartbox Photography. And yes, that shade of purple on her dress was beyond AMAZING and I loved how it just brought out her elegance so well!

Many thanks to Kalani Brown for her lovely styling of Azalia's hair and makeup for this photo shoot!

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Joy

 

You know that saying that says "dance like no one is watching" - well, it's Monday and I'm thinking, shoot, why not dance like EVERYONE is watching?

 

More and more I find that at the heart of this God-given life it is possible to have joy.  Because the God who created this life has joy in His heart when He created us.

So yeah, dance like everyone and their mama is watching. Maybe they'll join in. :)

Happy Monday!

 

She Is

She is a woman.

She has dark hair, she has light hair, she has mixed hair.

She's a mom, she's a mother's helper, she's an aunt, she's a grandmother, she's a great grandmother, she's a sister, she's someone's confidant, someone or several people's best friend.

She's the CEO, she's the homemaker, she's the entrepreneur, she's a student. 

She's the writer, the adventurer, the doctor, the techie, the gardener, the teacher, the assistant.

She wears her hair curly, she wears it straight, she cuts it to a pixie, she let's it cascade down her back.

She's from the United States, she's from Europe, she's from Africa, she's from Asia, and so many other places in between. 

She's a leader and she also serves. 

She is not one category - she instead is forever creating new ones.

She is a woman. 

#diversityisbeautiful #celebratewomen

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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!

Behind the Scenes

To see the final results out of a client's photo shoot with me is by far one my favorite parts of the process. I love finalizing edits on every image, be it the last touch of color or last bit of sharpening for printing at the lab. If I could describe the feeling, I'd say it's very similar to when a painter is putting the final brush strokes and touches to a masterpiece that's ready for the gallery. It's like the baker who is putting the final swirl of frosting and decor onto a sweet creation for others to not only enjoy the flavor but the aesthetics of it. It's even like the dancer who has practiced for hours and has finally, with an exhausted breath, perfected every move of the performance ready for the stage.

What makes it even more satisfying to see the images is to also look back on some of the behind the scenes images that capture the process of it all. And SOMETIMES, as in this photo below, I'm lucky enough to capture a behind the scenes shot that is just as exciting as the final portrait images. 

 
A behind the scenes glimpse into the shoot I was was fortunate to do with owner and founder of San Francisco-based company  Future Glory , Theresa Lee. On point for hair and makeup in this photo is stylist,  Tammy Do .

A behind the scenes glimpse into the shoot I was was fortunate to do with owner and founder of San Francisco-based company Future Glory, Theresa Lee. On point for hair and makeup in this photo is stylist, Tammy Do.

 

 

This light? Oh man. #swoon

Happy Wednesday!

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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Behind the Scenes

"Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back."

-author unknown

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I remember the excitement of finding my niche in photography. Before this decision, it was not unusual to feel like I "had" to do what I saw other photographers doing - weddings, corporate headshots, baby photography, etc. While there was nothing inherently wrong with any of these categories of photography, I simply wanted to create something more. Something that involved my love for fashion and my love for creating a styled shoot for the real woman  -  showing them a side of their own unique beauty they may have never seen or believed they had before. The way their eyes light up when they see their images is priceless and brings a smile to my own heart for being able to create that for them. 

Behind the scene images are just as fun to look at as the final images that come out of a shoot. It tells the fun story of the entire creative process, and I love how stylists have that same look of concentrated effort that I get as a photographer when finalizing all the tiny details to perfection.  I came across these old photographs that show the behind-the-scenes action of my first styled photo shoots years ago when I decided that women's portrait photography was where I was going to focus on. These photos still make me smile because the very first stylist I worked with was none other than my own sister. She's a whizkid at hair styling, while I can barely get my hair in a bun. I still remember planning details with her, reviewing images of ideas for hairstyles, even sharing in the same nervous feelings on the day of the shoots because it was the first time both of us were trying this out! (I even remember her staring at the clouds looming in the sky during a shoot and whispering to me "You sure we have enough light?!?" My hands were clammy, armpits were sweating (you're welcome), I was already scared we weren't going to be able to pull it off, but.....I just lied and said  we were fine (#BigSisterOfTheYear), ran with it, and ended up creating some of the very first images that launched Heartbox Photography. It was a proud moment of creativity and teamwork. :)

Since those first photo shoots years ago, I have had the privilege to work with many other talented hair and makeup artists who were not only beyond amazing at their craft, but operated with the same high-level professionalism. These stylists and the way they have taken great care of each of my clients is something I am beyond grateful for because it has helped propel forward the vision I have for Heartbox Photography. Simply put, I can not do it without them. It makes me even more proud that the people I have teamed up with are other women who are also doing what they love as they create and serve others.  More behind-the-scenes video clips and images of these women hard at work are going to be shared soon, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

Avoiding the Camera...no more

Everybody has got some hang up about themselves that makes them avoid the camera. For myself, I never was a fan of the fact that I looked like the mirror image of a deer caught in the headlights because my eyes were round or that I inherited my dad's jawline with a healthy dose of chipmunk cheek along with it. When I smiled, I swear my two front bunny teeth reached out and touched the camera to say what's up.

Aaaaand let's not talk about the two caterpillars  served as my uni-brow. I mean, eyebrows.

Now that I'm older, I'm not saying I'm over certain hangups about myself. No, no, no.....Not saying I don't have those days when I secretly cringe at a photo that's been posted on social media from a family gathering or a hangout with friends.  (How the heck does one of my eyes look bug-eyed and the other normal? Seriously.....HOW?!?) I see my age showing. I see the lines of white hair that stick out  more. Yes, man'm, I sho do see them. 

However......and you knew this was coming....even in that moment I am staring at an imperfect photo, already relentlessly listing all the criticisms I see in my face - well, it's then that I, too, have to scold that voice and also remember about the other things I ALSO see in that photo. A memory made. A crooked smile and a face that looks like I was weirdly constipated because my loved ones and I couldn't stop laughing long enough to take a "perfect" photo. The signs that show I am aging because it means I was basically given another day to live and another moment to remember with friends and family in a photograph. Eyebrows? They and my tweezers get a long just fine.

And shoot, those bunny teeth? If they're showing, it means I was smiling and happy. So yeah, I'll take 'em.

My point is this. Just because I'm a photographer, doesn't mean I don't understand the weirdness and hangups that come with avoiding the camera. It does, however, remind me big time of the more important stuff - that I'm fortunate enough to have moments like that in my life that are worthy of being captured on camera, that I got people to share those memories with, that I had lots of reasons to smile and celebrate and take both the cute and not so cute photos. 

These caterpillar brows and bunny teeth are avoiding the camera no more. And they're on a mission to remind others the same thing. 

Cheers to existing in photos - bunny teeth grins and all. 

The camera OBVIOUSLY loved us. 

The camera OBVIOUSLY loved us. 

 

 

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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Seeing Beauty

 

"Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld."

-Martha Beck

Cheers to 2018 and continuing to see beauty everywhere and in everyone.

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

There exists a unique kind of beauty that comes with the broken and the real. Ghia is a woman that possesses that kind of beauty - the kind that laughs out loud, tells it like it is in any and every situation, and is unapologetic about her own need for truth, grace, and love. One of my favorite qualities about her as a friend is that she always somehow reminds me that no matter how far I think I've fallen, I don't have the ability to fall too far away from God's constantly available love. From day one she is real about herself, her life, and how God's grace is constantly shaping her as well.

Ghia is a wife, a mom, a sister, a loyal and longtime friend who is loved by many....and it is my honor to be able to share with you all a glimpse into the heart of this awesome woman as well share  a behind the scenes look into her photo shoot with Heartbox Photography!

Photography: Heartbox Photography

Hair and makeup: Kalani Brown

"There are so many things that make a woman beautiful; her confidence in who she is, the joy she can spread with her laugh, how she looks, and the list goes on.

But what I think makes a woman truly beautiful is a gentle spirit. Kinda crazy, because I'm the exact opposite!"

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"There's beauty in women when they can build other women up, instead of tearing them down."

 
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"I wish I could tell my 18 year old self that the opinion I should care about most is God's.

I still have to tell myself this now, and remind myself that God seems me as His precious daughter, that I am loved the way I am, and not for what I think I could be."

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"As a young girl, I compared myself to the images I saw on TV and magazines, and it made me feel bad because I thought I looked so different.

I was also very quiet and shy, even awkward, and I thought that made me look more weird. I basically cared way too much what other people thought."

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"Today, although I am still struggling, I would tell young girls now to focus more on figuring out who they are, regardless of who they think the world wants them to be. Outward looks may come to mind immediately when we hear "beauty" but the word means so much more.

Being a woman is hard enough in this world, and I think that if we could encourage each other despite our differences, we would love ourselves more, and each other."

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"I think what I appreciate the most is how God continues to remind me just how loved I truly am, just the way I am."