LGBTQ

Ashley and Melissa - An Old City Philadelphia LGBTQ Proposal and Engagement Session

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I always have a little bit of nerves before a session but when a session is actually a proposal? Oh ya’ll, that is a whole different level. We met up with Ashley and Melissa for a Old City Philly LGBTQ couples shoot back in February and Ashley was counting on me to give her the cue to propose all while keeping her then girlfriend in the dark as to the real motive behind the shoot. And I am happy to say, it all went down perfectly! I could tell Ashley was nervous but as soon as she dropped to one knee on that chilly day and Melissa started giggling and bouncing up and down, it was like the nerves for everyone melted to joy. Melissa was so excited ya’ll. I wish sometimes that photos could convey movement because the entire session, she just bounced up and down and kept checking out the new ring on her hand and smiling over at her new fiancée. It was ADORABLE.

After she said yes, we wandered around Old City to capture some engagement photos and while it was definitely cold, I think these two barely felt it. Their joy and happiness and excited was keeping them warm and they were just so easy to photograph. We snuck down little alleys and wandered down my favorite streets and by the time we parted ways, I too couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. And thats what I love about my job…getting to be apart of such exciting, life changing moments that just fill your whole soul up with goodness and getting to be around people who are just so happy and in love.

I am super excited to say these two will be making some more appearances on the blog as they have asked me to be their wedding photographer and I am SO EXCITED to get to work with them again next year. I already know their day will be filled with the same kind of happiness and joy that their proposal day was and Ic can’t wait to capture it all! So look for these two again and enjoy some of my favorites!

Lillian and Kate - Philly City Hall Elopement

What happens when combine beautiful florals by Bllomsbury Floral Design, custom suits by Bindle and Keep, a love of Giovanni’s Room Bookstore and the cutest lesbian couple eloping at Philadelphia City Hall? Well you get one hella cute queer elopement that’s what! Lillian and Kate were not only so incredible sweet but the whole day I was overwhelmed with the feeling that these two not only have so much love for each other, but also have so much love from their families too! Before their Philly City Hall Elopement, we wandered around Center City taking some portraits of them and then met up with three of their closest family members! These two had such huge smiles while they became Mrs and Mrs and it was just a joy to document!

Afterward we headed to a very special spot for them, Giovanni’s Room Bookstore by Philly Aid’s Thrift Store and they graciously allowed us to take some portraits there as well! I love how Lillian and Kate wanted to incorporate their love of queer books into their day and I really loved the way their suits and florals just popped in that space! We ended the afternoon by wandering through Washington Square Park and Old City and from top to bottom, this was my favorite elopement this year! And when you scroll through this photo’s you’ll see why! I can’t wait to work with these two again next year for their reception but for now enjoy my many favorites from their wedding day!

Nuriya and Jess - A Philadelphia Moshulu LGBTQ Wedding

I knew this wedding blog post was going to be a long one because Nuriya and Jess had the most spectacular LGBTQ wedding in Old City Philadelphia this past spring but I had no idea I was going to have this many favorite images!!!  I have wanted to shoot a wedding at the iconic Moshulu in Philly for years now and despite what ending up being a very rainy night, these two trusted us to take them around Old City Philly that afternoon for wedding portraits.  And they are some of my favorite photos from my entire career.  

This sweet lesbian couple hired us last summer and from the moment I met them, I knew they were going to be more than clients.  They are both so incredibly kind and look at each other in such a way that you can feel the love around them.  They both got ready at the same AirBnB in separate rooms before sharing the sweetest of first looks.  The photos show Nuriya's utter joy when she saw Jess for the first time and I tear up even now looking at them.  I also loved Jess's mom reaction to seeing Jess in her wedding suit!  So many parents struggle with seeing their children wear different than what has come to be expected of a bride or groom and seeing her mom’s face light up with joy and hear her gush over how incredible Jess looked, lets just say it was a really special moment.  We then drove over to Old City and I got to photograph them on the 18th floor of our apartment building BRIDGE over looking the Ben Franklin Bridge.  I loved how their outfits complemented both themselves and each other, Jess in a custom bespoke suit from Bindle and Keep, Nuriya in a gorgeous blush gown from Bhldn.  After some more photos in Old City, even stopping at our favorite coffee chop, United By Blue) we headed down to the Moshulu to do family photos and capture a few shots of their bridal party.  

As the guests gathered for the ceremony, the windows picked up and the dark clouds rolled in, forcing the ceremony into a different space than originally intended but I was struck by how calm Nuriya and Jess were.  Even when there were mishaps from the torrential down pour that lasted for several hours (the sound equipment got wet, water leaked all over the reception space, mics wouldn't work), these two faced it all with such calm and unaffected joy.  Jess had planned a surprise to sing to Nuriya and when the water caused the sound equipment not work, Jess grabbed a guitar and sang acousticly to her new wife.  And there were few dry eyes in the room after that! 

Thats what married life is about though.  Making it work.  Staying by each other when the figurative (and in their case!!) literally storms roll through.  Its making each other laugh, being present, finding joy and holding each others hand the whole way through.  And these two did that so so beautifully.  Listening to their friends and family give toasts about how strong, resilient, compassionate and kind these two are, confirmed what I already knew.  Nuriya and Jess are the kind of people who's love will not only last but inspire.  

And a HUGE shout out to their DJ and our friend DJ Jovi for working through all the craziness and being such an incredible DJ.  It is so fun to work with people we already love!  If you are looking for an LGBTQ friendly DJ and someone who knows how to keep your dance floor going all night long, Jovi is your girl!!!

It was my honor to not only photograph their wedding day, but to get to know these two incredible women on a personal level and I thrilled to now call them friends.  Jess and Nuriya, I hope you are enjoying every minute of this crazy thing called life and that you know just how honored I am that you chose Jordan and I to photograph your wedding day!  Enjoy my (many!!) favorites ya'll! 

Amber and Natalie - Fells Point Baltimore LGBTQ Engagement Session

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On the first snow of the year, it felt appropriate to blog this summer engagement session that was full of sunshine, warm weather and the cutest of couples! Amber and Natalie hired us for their lesbian Baltimore wedding next year and ya’ll let me tell you, from even just the first five minutes with them, I knew they were going to be a favorite of next year. For their engagement session, we wandered around the beautiful Fells Point neighborhood Baltimore and we found so many cute spots for photos. Amber and Natalie brought along their sweet puppy and one of their mom’s and they just were so easy going and sweet. These are the kind of sessions I live for, the ones where a couple just is themselves and laughter abounds and they just fall into poses so easily because they just genuinely love being around each other. And their photos show that!

Get excited to see these two again next year and for now, enjoy just a few of my favorites from their engagement session!

J & E - Old City Philadelphia LGBT Proposal

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Ethiopia thought they were coming to Old City Philadelphia for an LGBT couples session, but little did she know that her girlfriend Jennifer and I had been scheming a big surprise for the last few months.  It was a rainy Saturday in May and the hours leading up the shoot, I was checking the radar obsessively.  Since February, Jennifer and I had been plotting to set up a photoshoot that would start normal, but would end in a proposal I wanted everything to go perfectly and I was crossing my fingers the rain would hold off for us.  

When they arrived in Old City, we took them up to our 18th floor roof deck over looking the Ben Franklin Bridge and I could tell Jennifer was nervous.  Despite the clouds moving in quickly the rain was holding off and the view from up there was still spectacular!  After a few photos, I asked Jennifer to do the most romantic thing she could think of and so she slipped to one knee and asked her beautiful girlfriend to be her wife.  The look on Ethiopia's face was priceless and she of course said yes and we then spent the next 45 minutes capturing some images of them with their newly engaged glow!  We even took a few minutes to celebrate their greek life as well since the rain decided to hold off for us!  

Proposals are something so special to me to be apart of because they signify the start of a new chapter and two people making the decision that they want to spend their lives together.  Being able to watch a couple go from dating to engaged to married to whatever life brings, its such an honor as a photographer and I am just so thrilled Jennifer trusted me to capture this moment for them!  Scroll on to see some of my favorite images of their proposal session and then leave these two incredible people some love for me!  

Philadelphia Headshot Session - Sebastian

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I have had the insane pleasure of knowing this sweet guy for over 3 years now.  We met at queer photoshoot I was hire doing and I instantly found his down to earth, well spoken, kind ways the most charming fresh breath of air.  Over the years, I have witnessed him blossom into a man that puts others first, is humble and funny, cares about our community immensely and has a laugh and smile that will put anyone at ease.  He booked me for a headshot session and I have been looking forward to sharing these photos ever since!  He wanted a mix of all the important things in his life...his job, his interest in modeling (and he is one handsome dude so obviously he should pursue that!) and some photos that showcased his impeccable fashion sense.  To me, the results are perfection and I love that so many of the photos he is laughing in!  

What's even more exciting is he is moving in the coming months to the other side of the country, so before he leaves we are doing one more session and I can not WAIT for Saturday!  Sebastian, thank you for always being so kind to me and Jordan, trusting me vision and for making me laugh endlessly.  We are going to fiercely miss you but are so excited for what the next chapter of your life holds!  Enjoy my favorites from this session and get ready to see this handsome guy here again really soon!  

Layla and Meg - A Philly Lesbian Engagement Session

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These two are rockstars!  Their engagement session was rescheduled because of weather a few times and so when we finally met up, I was instantly so grateful they were so sweet because the weather was still not the greatest!  It was cold and SO windy but it was clear that their love for each other was keeping them warm!  That and their love for their adorable dog Mozzarella!  Cutest dog name ever, right? Layla and Meg choose one of my favorite spots for their engagement session, The Philadelphia Museum Art and Boat House Row, and we spent about an hour wandering around and talking about their wedding!  Which is why I love engagement sessions so much!  Its a chill way for us to get to know our couples and our couples to get to know us AND they get cute pics of themselves too!  A win win if you ask me!   

Layla and Meg, we cant wait for your Winter wedding and to get to hang out with ya'll again!  You are seriously the sweetest and we cant wait for you to married!!  Enjoy my favorites from your session!!

Photog Talk - Call Me Hypersensitive

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**Trigger Warning: The following contains talk of sexual assault and rape.**

I see it almost daily.  Photographers posting in groups asking for advice on how to attract LGBTQ clients or wanting to know what language to use or photographers saying that they "love gay people" or that want more diversity in this industry.  But when push comes to shove, these same photographers retreat to their white, straight, cisgendered, detail driven, magazine worthy worlds and label those of us that call them out "hypersensitive."  Same could be said for boudoir photographers who say that they see their job as one that empowers women, but in reality they are just interested in creating overly sexed images designed only for the male gaze, all while leaving their client to figure out what that says about them.  And I've had enough.  

Right now the photography world is exploding with women coming forward to report accounts of sexual assault and rape by well known, established male photographers.  These incidents are happening at photography workshops, conferences, and conventions, at private mentoring, online and at wedding industry events by men in positions of power.  And there are countless others who have yet to come forward because they know that naming their attacker could bankrupt their business.  

When I scroll through facebook, time and time again I see women saying something wrong is happening and those who reply ask for proof, dismiss it, discredit her, defend the accused, or just straight up ignore her.  We don't want our worlds disrupted, we don't want to believe people we care about our admire are capable of these things, until it happens to us.  And it happens in every area of life I participate in, so often so it feels even normal to me.  I have caught myself so many times questioning what someone says instead of immediately saying "how can I help?  Thank you for bring this to my attention.  I believe you."  And it is something I am working on daily to undo that mindset because I want to be the first person to say "I believe you."

As a wedding photographer who largely serves the LGBTQ+ community, I am ever trying to put myself in the shoes of those who are different than me.  Our community is full of people and experiences I can't relate to or understand and I know that I ever need to grow in how I treat others.  When a friend and client mentioned to me that her wedding photographer didn't blog her wedding (and she was the only wedding that photographer didn't blog all year) and that she felt it was because they were her only queer wedding, I shared that with a photography group I am in hoping that others would see how this made a client feel.  

When people tell me "this thing happened to me" I try to always believe them.  To not question it.  Not doubt it.  Not dismiss it.  Not lessen it.  Just believe them.  And to be better at that everyday.  

And yet, the photographers around me see this as being hypersensitive.  I was met with excuse after excuse as to why a photographer shouldn't have to blog that wedding...it wasn't their best work, didn't match their style of weddings they like to book, didn't have enough details, etc.  Only one photographer actually empathized with the couple and said that she hadn't considered how something like that might be perceived by the client.  Everyone was so quick to say that this person was overreacting, that I was overreacting.  And yet, these were the same photographers who were so quick to want to shoot an LGBTQ wedding when someone posted a referral.  They would say how much they loved love and believed in gay marriage, but yet didn't believe that love needed to be shared equally or that a queer clients feelings mattered.  

A client recently shared a story with me about how she had done a boudoir session with another local photographer and how she was really upset about the whole experience.  The photographer required her to have her hair and makeup professionally done, pushed this woman into wearing some of their in house lingerie collection and spent a lot of the session coaching her into poses that were super sexual and not anything she felt comfortable with.  She objected to everything.  She wanted to be natural (the photographer said natural makeup didn't photograph well), she said she wanted the photos to be feminine and strong (the photographer kept telling her how her husband was going to love these suggestive, masturbation-y, orgasm faced photos), she said she wanted the photos not retouched and then deliver her 50 photoshopped images where this sweet woman said she looked amazing but nothing like herself.  She emailed the photographer and said the photos looked great, but could she get the skin smoothing, retouched details removed, as she really wanted to see herself when she looked at the photos.  And for serious, the photographer replied "no, this is my art and this is how I saw and captured you and therefore is final.  You look beautiful this way."  Needless to say my sweet client was devastated, and felt as though who she was, wasn't right.  

When photographers  don't believe their clients and think that they know more of whats best for any given person, it reinforces the idea that women/folxs aren't to be believed.  That we don't know ourselves.  When we cant hear that we are doing something that makes someone feel uncomfortable or feels wrong or hurts someone and won't change our behavior, we are saying that we are right and that their lived experience is wrong.  That our art means more than their feelings.  

So go ahead and call me hypersensitive.  Tell me I am making a big deal out of something.  Cause damn right I am.  And all the "I love gay people" and "I'm pro women" in the world doesn't mean anything if you are dismissing those same people when they are bringing problems to your attention.  You can't be "all about #loveislove" if you don't believe an openly queer woman when she brings something to your attention.  You can't say you are an advocate when you aren't believing women and folxs who are coming forward with stories of abuse.  You cant call your work empowering to women when you are saying that they are only beautiful the way you want to photograph them.  We have to do better, photographers.  We have to do more than say the right sounding things and use hashtags.  We have to be better people.  And I won't stop being hypersensitive...because I know I will spend my whole life learning to be better and you should too.  

Andrea and Michael - A West Chester Horse Farm Elopement

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On a cool fall day, Andrea and Michael said "I Do" in the middle of a bridge surrounded by horses and their love for each other and they invited me along to capture it for them.  Elopements are something I treasure being able to photograph.  Vows are often whispered in a lovers ear, hands are held tighter, emotions felt stronger and the day is less about the trappings and more about each other.  And that is exactly how I would describe the day Andrea and Michael became husband and wife.  With only myself, Andrea's mom and their adorable chihuahua in attendance, we spent about an wandering the grounds of this beautiful estate together.  And it was perfection.  

Andrea and Michael have gone through a lot together, so I reached out my dear friend Lauren, owner of Bloomsbury Floral Design about putting together a bouquet for Andrea and she created the most beautiful fall inspired bouquet.  The pops of color went perfect against her custom black gown and his suit and I am just so grateful to Lauren for always having the most creative eye and giving heart.  

Enjoy just a few of my favorites! 

Andi - Old City Philadelphia Headshot Session

Summer is in full effect here in Philadelphia (did you see the forecast for the next week?!?) and so I figured I'd kick off one hot weekend with one hot queer Philly headshot session!  If you have been around for a while you've already meet Andi (you can check out her previous session HERE) but if you're new, let me introduce to this Philadelphia massage therapist and all around badass burlesquer.  Andi and her adorable fiancé Siona are leaving the Philly area later this summer but before she leaves we took a few minutes to get her some new headshots that felt like her. 

One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to work with so many different folks I the Philly LGBTQ+ community and that I can help them create images that feel authentic to who they are.  Headshots are so often seen as stuffy, rigid and uptight, but I believe that professional photos should speak to who you are, what you do and allow potential clients, bosses, colleagues, etc to get an idea of who you are, all before officially meeting you in person.  And for my LGBTQ+ business owners and professionals, that often means working to create space where they feel free to be themselves, not someone else's idea of what looks "professional."

And I think we nailed that with Andi's headshot sessions.  She looks every bit the vibrant, sassy, professional queer that she is and I for one am so happy for her and Siona and there next adventure.  Enjoy a few of my favorites from our headshot mini session!

Want a headshot session of your own?  Let's do it!  You can click HERE to head to our contact page to get started to talking about how I can work with you too!  

Alissa and Kim - Philadelphia Magic Garden Engagement Session

Alissa and Kim - Philadelphia Magic Garden Engagement Session

We started the shoot by walked around the area where Magic Gardens is, taking in South Streets cute side streets and cool murals before heading into the gardens!  Alissa and Kim are hilarious and so sweet, making it fun to photograph them together!  We shot between the other people also visiting the gardens but despite there being tons of people there, their images look like it was just them

Nuriya and Jess - Philadelphia Museum of Art LGBTQ Engagement Session

Nuriya and Jess - Philadelphia Museum of Art LGBTQ Engagement Session

These two showed up for their engagement session at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boat House Row and I was immediately jumping up and down because they are just so incredibly cute!!!  They both look at each other with such love and devotion and its really obvious how much they love each other from spending even 5 minutes with them.  And for a photographer, that kind of love is a dream to shoot!

Niki and Jen Fall Engagement Shoot at Ridley Creek State Park

Niki and Jen Fall Engagement Shoot at Ridley Creek State Park

There are some locations I will never tire of shooting at and Ridley Creek State Park is certainly one of them!  Niki and Jen choose this location for their engagement shoot and they showed up SO nervous for our session!  I get it though!  Having your photo taken is nerve wracking and a little scary especially as an LGBTQ couple but ten minutes in of showing them back of the camera previews and ooo-ing over how freakin cute they are, had these two relaxed and laughing.

Anna - An Edgy Lokal Hotel Philadelphia Boudoir Shoot

Anna - An Edgy Lokal Hotel Philadelphia Boudoir Shoot

I remember reaching out to Anna and asking if she would be willing to model for me while I was shooting my summer boudoir marathon at Lokal Hotel in Old City Philadelphia and was THRILLED when she said yes.  Often my clients choose to not allow me to share their images online so whenever I can I try to work with a few models here and there so I can show new work and I knew that I wanted to show something a little edgier and darker this go around! 

Kimberly - Dapper South Philly Headshot Session

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I have always thought Kimberly has the BEST style and so when I was able to photographer her as part of The Strong Catalyst's Queer Women of Color shoot, I was pretty excited!  These shoots go really fast and so often I am having to photograph each woman in a matter of minutes but Kimberly was such a natural that we got a lot of different shots!  The free sessions are to help showcase the diversity in the Philadelphia LGBTQ community and each of the participants get to have a few new portraits of themselves as well!  And rumor has it, that there is another shoot happening soon!  If you are a LGBTQ woman in the Philly area, reach out and I'll get you all the details!  For now, enjoy a few of my favorites of this dapper AF veteran!  

Harker - Black and White Old City Session

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Last week I shared that I am trying to blog more of my work that has been sitting on my hard drive for months and today I am sharing some of my favs from this shoot from last summer with Harker.  She's not only gorgeous (I mean do you see that smile?!) but also has a heart of gold.  Her passion for social justice and all around badassery is just two of the many reasons everyone should know about her, but what I love most is how highly her friends speak of her.  To me, there is nothing more telling of a persons character than hearing over and over how awesome, kind and loving someone is, and that's exactly the way people have described her to me.  Enjoy a few of my favs from our session together!!  

Eric and JeVon - A Sweetheart Session in Manayunk PA

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I have known Eric a little over a year and always found him to be one of the sweet men I know.  He listens well, is always so friendly, deeply cares about the Philly LGBTQ community and is the kind of person you want around when your having a rough day.  He has always been SO supportive of Jordan and I which means so much to me.  So when we got together yesterday with his handsome boyfriend JeVon, magic happened.  These two are so adorably in love and easy to photograph!  So much so that this morning while trying to choose favorites for their preview, I literally edited the whole session!  I just couldn't choose!  

Main Street of Manayunk made the perfect backdrop for their session and the glowy summer sun paired with the way these two look at each other made for some of my favorite images in a while.  After months of weddings, shooting a slow paced sweetheart session was a welcomed change of pace and I am thrilled to share some of my favorites with all of you!  

Eric and JeVon, thank you for allowing me steal ya'll for an hour and a half yesterday, for the beautiful flowers and mostly for the good conversation and your friendship.  You are both such wonderful people and I am so glad we have folks like ya'll in our lives.  

Malcolm Kenyatta - Philly LGBTQ Powerhouse

Malcolm Kenyatta is "north Philly's biggest fan" and after spending even 5 minutes with him, you'll be saying he is too.  This political and social justice powerhouse is the leader of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Democratic Party, Liberty City Democrats (click here to find more about what they are all about!!)  and also serves on the Mayor's Commission for LGBTQ Affairs.  But perhaps more impressive than his many accomplishments is that he possess the unique ability to make someone feel heard and seen, even if just in passing.  His passion for the Philly community seeps from his every pore and we had SO much fun photographing him!  We love the images of him talking and we are thrilled to share some of favs with you!  

Kate and Celeste - Styled Winter Elopement

On Tuesday I shared the beautiful boudoir images of bride Kate and today I am SO thrilled to be sharing their styled elopement!  This day is one of my favorites of my whole 7+ year career and that's because I got to give back to one of the sweetest couples I know by doing for them what was in part done for me when Jordan and I got married.   We planned our wedding in matter of weeks, relying on the woman who married us and a few friends to make our day special and when I look back at that day, I am reminded of how loved I felt and how much I wanted to pay that feeling forward.  

When Kate mentioned to me that she and Celeste were eloping prior to Trump taking office, I knew I had to be apart.  I had planned to photograph whatever their ceremony looked like but as I listened more and more, I knew that I had the resources, friends and skills to give her more than just images but an actual wedding day too.  I asked if they would be willing to somewhat blindly trust me to plan a styled shoot around them and then let them use all the pretty to get married as well and to my surprise, they said yes.  

These two decided to get married because of the looming inauguration of Donald Trump and the fear of what the next four years might bring.  They are both activists, passionate about our world and making it a better place, no matter how cold and hopeless things might feel right now. Their love was what would carry them through the next four years and whatever came after that and that served as my inspiration for the day I planned for them.  That love could keep us warm.  

With a red, white and blue color scheme, the help of some seriously amazing (and incredibly generous!!) vendor friends, a studio rented from another photographer and a whole lot of pressure to make this right...Kate and Celeste said I do in the single most emotional ceremony I have ever been apart of. It was political, beautiful, and so charged with raw emotion that several times I found myself leaning into Jordan, not successfully holding back tears, grateful for all that came together to make that possible for them.  

On Monday I will be sharing some behind the scenes photos from this day as well as some serious shoutouts to the people that partnered with me (scroll to the bottom to find links to their profiles though!) to make this possible + some words from bride Celeste, but today I wanted to just say to say I am truly blessed to have such giving friendors!  Oh, and one last thing before I share all of my favorite images!  Kate and Celeste...thank YOU for trusting me.  In a community and world where people are quick to judge you and put you down and not care about each other, you two reminded me that choosing kindness is always the right choice.  Thank you for allowing me the insane honor of doing this for you and for trusting my vision.  You two were stunning brides and I am so excited for this next chapter in your lives!!!  Know you will always be on of my favorite couples.