Honoring MLK’s Legacy: Building Bridges in Brookhaven

“Sterling Sax” playing his heart out; an honor to MLK’s legacy.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the injustice and suffering in the world. We turn on the news, and our hearts break…we want to make the world better, yet we don’t know what we as individuals can do. 

Too often, we do end up doing nothing.

Building Bridges in Brookhaven is a “grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations seeking to cultivate friendships and alliances among the diverse communities of Brookhaven”, and this organization was formed out of a desire to DO SOMETHING about the hate and violence in our world.

From BBB’s Facebook Page:

“On June 17th, 2015, a young man, inspired by online white supremacist groups, opened fire on a bible study at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine victims lost their lives to hate that night. 
Following the tragedy, relatives of the victims moved our grieving nation as they called out for healing and forgiveness for the killer. Rather than igniting a race war, the tragedy inspired communities across the country to come together in the spirit of unity. 
When it was revealed that members of the Bethel AME church here in Setauket lost relatives in the massacre, a community prayer vigil was held. As church and community members reflected on the violence and its aftermath, questions arose.
How can we change in response to these events?  
How can we help prevent future violence inspired by hate in our own community?
How can we celebrate the talent diversity of Brookhaven Town?

In February of 2016, a follow-up meeting was held at which time those gathered agreed to meet monthly to create a network to examine those questions and take action. Thus, Building Bridges in Brookhaven was formed. 
Since then, representatives from faith-based and community groups, as well as concerned individuals, have continued to meet at various locations throughout Brookhaven town. As we share our stories, our resources, and our visions, we are discovering countless opportunities to connect with and support one another.” 

One of the workshop rooms at the MLK event.

On February 10th, 2018 I had the honor of photographing BBB’s MLK Unity Festival at Longwood Junior High School in Middle Island NY. 

The event was an awesome display of community, generosity, compassion, and creativity. There were wonderful speakers who engaged attendees by sharing their experiences in relation to discrimination, equality, activism, and the need to stay engaged in our communities:

After the speakers concluded, attendees were able to connect in intimate workshops and sharing circles in the classrooms nearby. My favorite classroom workshop was Herstory, a therapeutic and creative memoir writing circle for women:

But this event was about more than just connection and community: it was about FUN. Free-to-attend, volunteer-powered, family-friend fun for any and all residents of Brookhaven town:

Every person I met the MLK Unity Festival and kind and welcoming; photographing an event like this is so rewarding for me…instead of looking at the problems of the world, and throwing my hands up in resignation, I am inspired to take action and give BACK.

Just like the wonderful organizers of BBB:

Way to go! Hardworking volunteers :)

If you haven’t done so already, head on over to the BBB Facebook Page to get involved in your local community. Cheers!



Why I Never Wear a Watch to Family Sessions

Dogs are always wildcards in a photo session!

Good photographs require authenticity.

Authenticity requires comfort and ease.

Comfort and ease require TIME. It takes time to get used to a photographer being in your house, to forget (as much as possible) that you are being observed and captured through a little black box. As a photographer, I am efficient and energetic…but NEVER rushed.

I would rather shoot a long session and make beautiful, truthful photographs, even if that means I can only shoot one session that entire day.

Last week, I spent over 4 hours in the beautiful East End home of the P. family: I arrived at 7 a.m., and was greeted by sweet and funny Mr. P (awesome taste in music), beautiful Mrs. P (a talented floral artist; she styled a fresh garland for our shoot in less time than it took me to adjust my f-stop), Little Baby M (gorgeous enough to be a Gerber baby), two rescued dogs, and two aloof cats. 

Lazy, lazy pups.


Considering that it was early morning (still pajama-time), we decided to start with the candid, relaxed, lifestyle images, and to save the “posed” shots for later.

Sleepy at 7 am…

Giving kisses…

…and more kisses…

…and MORE kisses!

I see you!

Stealing a kiss when the baby’s not looking counts as a date night ;)

The first few frames of any session are often a little “stiff” as the subjects adjust to the photographer’s presence, but this family was quick to “drop-in” to the relaxed and genuine space in which all the best family photographs are made. With jazz playing on vinyl in the background (again, they had such cool taste in music) and a few silly jokes from me, the P’s were having a ball on the couch, and I was in heaven behind my lens.

This is probably my favorite shot of the whole session.

Or this one…

Despite the cold weather, we even ventured outside for a few shots; the overcast sky made for a soft, flattering light, and the snow blanketing the ground acted like a giant reflector. If not for the cold noses and fingers, we could have stayed out there all day.

Snow baby & Dad <3

I love how the little snowball matches the snow-bear outfit!

Mom’s hair looked so amazing that day!

Dad getting silly :)

We already had captured lots of great pictures, but mom and I wanted to create some more “styled” looks for Baby M. 

When photographing families with Little Ones, the babies set the schedule and flow of the session. Mom and I bonded during Baby M’s mealtime, capturing some beautiful heirloom nursing photos that I know she will treasure for years to come. 

I’ve learned from experience that a fed-baby and a rested-baby is a HAPPY baby; our patience paid off, and I was about to create my favorite images from our entire morning shoot…

Have headband, will travel…

I am loving this Rembrandt-lighting…

Mom actually MADE this garland. In, like, 2 seconds.

If I’ve learned one thing over and over again, in photography and in life, it’s that good things come to those who wait.

Good art can’t be rushed; investing time in my sessions allows me to create better work, to enjoy the experience more, and most importantly, to deliver a fun, stress-free experience to my clients. 

Amidst the chaos and busyness of modern life, I savor the timeless space which I enter when I get behind the lens. Investing time creating great photographs pays off in all the years that will spent enjoying those photographs, returning to them again and again to revisit the fleeting memories of a Little One’s childhood…

…or a sullen cat guarding the kitchen…

Actually, this cat was super-sweet. But I think the picture is cooler if we pretend it’s a TOUGH cat.



Stylish & Stylized: Cara & Yason’s Couple’s Session

Two very distinct portraits creating using the same backdrop, same light sources, and same colored gels, but manipulating direction, power, and exposure for wildly different results. Yason’s portrait in particular is heavily influenced by the lighting techniques of Nick Fancher, whose work I have been studying…

These are not your usual “couple’s portraits”.

Then again, Cara & Yason are NOT your usual couple.

Their BADASS LOVE called for a badass approach: a little punk, a little avant-garde, and a whole lot of cool. I had a total blast shooting this couple <3 

Usually, I shoot couple’s sessions outdoors, on-location, with gorgeous natural light. But this past week, driven indoors by the bitter Long Island winter weather, and shooting late after sunset, I pulled out some of my favorite tools from way back when I was shooting my daily self-portrait project (a grey vinyl backdrop, my speedlight, my softbox, various other lamps, and colored lighting gels) to give this couple something totally different: a stylish & stylized indoor studio session. 

It was so fun to PLAY and EXPERIMENT during this shoot: lots of “gobos” like string lights and prisms, and lots of FUN directing Yason to toss his epic hair for this action shot…

Even though this was a “couple’s session” (don’t worry; we’re getting to the sweet, romantic shots soon), Cara & Yason each have their own distinct personal styles, so most of this shoot was about capturing them separately as individuals. Cara had a colorful, playful energy that was fun to work with, while Yason (a talented photographer himself) seemed to emit a certain aloofness, and mystery that I wanted to explore with my photographs of him. 

Reviewing these images, I’m so delighted with the variety of looks and moods I created in a single small room, with a handful of lights, and one backdrop! Cara & Yason’s two unique styles really stand out…

I love the dreamy, feminine look of this portrait…

My admiration of Yason’s photography inspired this portrait of him at his craft.

But even my indoor studio photo sessions are about more than stylized art; Cara & Yason’s genuine expressions, candid moments, a loving smiles were the highlight of our shoot:

When I asked C&Y to hold up my reflector (which has a hole cut in the center for my lens), I was able to “spy” on these two lovebirds and capture these romantic candid portraits.

My favorite couples to photograph are couples who are REAL: authentic, creative, enthusiastic, and willing to work “outside of the box” (or in this case, INSIDE the box of an indoor studio space!) Cara & Yason were such a fun couple to photograph, and I can’t wait to work with them again soon <3

Too cool for school.



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