A Look Back At 2016

I always look forward to reading my fellow photographers "Year in Review" posts. Even though I run my own photography business, the behind the scenes photos are always my most favorite when scrolling through their entries. As I began to reflect back on 2016 in preparation for writing this post, I found I was at a loss for words. The last half of the year has been so full of sessions and clients new and old, that while I originally felt 2016 was a more humble year compared to others, in actuality it's been my most blessed season to date.

I can't think of anything that embodied or represented my year more than my trip to New York City in April. When I booked Larlee and Jeff's July wedding, Larlee explained to me just how much their city meant to them. Both calling New York City home, she asked if I would be willing to travel up north to capture their engagements. Um - does anyone say no to an all expense paid trip to New York City?? It was a dream to travel there someday, and another dream to shoot there.

I am very lucky that one of my favorite people in the whole world, Kelly, lives in Manhattan and helped show me the ropes before my session later in the week. We toured all around the financial district near her home, the 9/11 Memorial, we saw the Statue of Liberty, and of course - ate at Shake Shack.

One of my favorite stops while I was in New York was visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I received my degree in Art, and studied art history just about every semester it feels like. In what started as a required elective, actually ended up becoming some of my most favorite classes. I was excited to see some of the famous works I once memorized for tests, but I wasn't expecting this:

A real sculpture by Michelangelo. I can't tell you how many of his works we studied. I've grown a bit of anxiety when it comes to flying and traveling, so I don't know if visiting Italy will ever be something I will get to do. I became very emotional seeing this piece in the museum. Being so close to such a work of art, by such an amazing artist, and seeing something that defined such a great phase in my life.

When it came to shoot day, it was so wonderful to catch up with Larlee and to meet her fiance Jeff. I followed their lead as they showed me the city, traveling to Soho and Brooklyn for our session.

Each year I try to tick away at my "shoot bucket list". One item that makes the list year after year, is shooting a proposal. Though I'd received inquiries for them in the past, I was never able to make it work. Then, this past October, a proposal fell right into my lap. 

Jaclyn and her girls have been some of my best clients. I've shot them at least 7 times. She's a girl after my own heart - she loves photos and knows how important they are. It was no surprise when she booked one of my fall mini sessions, and I was happy to hear that her boyfriend, Brad, would be joining us for the second year and we'd be shooting family shots with his daughter. The morning of Jaclyn's session, I received both an email and Facebook message from Brad. He was blowing up all of social media, trying to get in touch with me. He had a surprise in store for their session - he was going to propose. I was ecstatic! 

We did some rough coordinating - we'd wait until the end of the session and I would do a few pictures with just her and Brad. That's when he'd get down on his knee and pop the question. 

When he arrived at the location, I tried to be coy and pretend I didn't know his name. I shook his hand and introduced himself, and all the while I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest with this secret! We started with group shots, I took some of Jaclyn and the girls, some of Brad and his daughter and at the end of everything, I said we'd take some of just Jaclyn and Brad and we'd be "just about done", which was more or less my signal to Brad that it was almost go time. 

So I took some shots of he and Jaclyn. And then some more. And then a few more. What was taking so long?! I wasn't sure if Brad didn't realize this was the end, so I tried to stretch it once more and ask if Jaclyn had any other poses she wanted, and she said she was good. I said, "Let me do just one more and then I think we're good." That's when Brad asked the girls to come back down the trail a bit so they could see what was about the happen - and that's when he finally dropped to one knee.

She said YES! Her hand was shaking from shock, and it was such an amazing moment to be part of, especially given my long history with her and her girls. During their session I also happened to have a shadow and assistant, Ivania, who captured this great image of me mid-proposal. She asked me if I knew that was going to happen, and I finally got to share that I had been in on the surprise all along. 

(Ivania Sieiro)

(Ivania Sieiro)

 This year I really focused on my families, and only had the opportunity to shoot a handful of weddings, all in the second half of the year. If you remember, my second shooter extraordinaire Chance moved out of the area last year. This pretty much sums up how I felt about it going into my wedding season:

(Chance Hammock)

Actually, in the above photo I am fighting a horrible headache just before the reception was to begin. But when I started booking weddings, Chance and I weren't sure if we'd be able to still make things work. Would I have to shoot solo? Would I have to work with someone completely new? I'm happy to say that Chance was able to shoot all but one event where he was needed this past year.

Team "Brewmock" Reunion for Anne and Jeff's Wedding

(Chance Hammock)

(Chance Hammock)

(Chance Hammock)

I don't think any of us could have predicted how absolutely frigid Jeff and Anne's April wedding was! We all thought we'd have gorgeous, Spring weather with green grass, bright sun and blooming flowers. Instead - we had snow. And wind. WHAT?? But Anne and Jeff were total sports. They wanted to grab photos, even if it was freezing cold outside. Even in her strapless dress, Anne never complained once. I kept asking her if she was done, but she was happy to keep going. Very few people can say it snowed on their wedding day, and even fewer can say that it did on their wedding day in April!

(Chance Hammock)

(Chance Hammock)

I certainly could not have shot Alison and Tony's September wedding without Chance by my side. A few weeks earlier when I shot Jeff and Larlee's big day, I came very close to blacking out. I posted about the experience in one of my Instagram behind the scenes videos. I attributed it to not eating enough and it being hot and humid in July. 

I remember walking up the stairs to shoot Jeff and Larlee's wedding rings while Bri and Jan, the videographers, did some video of the couple. I remember my chest pounding, my head throbbing and feeling like my muscles were falling asleep - that tingly sensation. I knew I had to sit down, or I was going to pass out. I also knew that I was panicking, because I was on my own without Chance, and there was no one to fill in for me. There was no time to rest and sort myself out, because we were in a time crunch to take formals before the reception. 

I am so blessed that Bri, Jan, Jeff and Larlee were so kind and patient with me. I tried not to let on how awful I felt, and after begging for water (I have no idea whose it was or where it came from) I started to feel better. I felt fuzzy a few times after that, but tried my best to keep downing Gatorade (which I stopped for between the ceremony and reception) and kneel down whenever I could. 

(Chance Hammock)

For Tony and Alison's big day, I made sure I had Gatorade. I made sure I had a more substantial breakfast. I had sucking candies for a sugar kick. It was hot out, but I was keeping hydrated and knew I'd planned better - or so I'd thought. 

Just as I was getting ready to start to shooting the formals of this beautiful - but ginormous - bridal party, I could feel it happening again. I'd dragged all of these beautiful girls out in heels to this spot out on the golf course. These handsome gentlemen in full suits, in late summer DC humidity. I could feel that tingly feeling in my head again, and I was becoming dizzy. And where was my Gatorade?? 

Back in the bridal suite. 

I alerted Chance and asked him to run and go grab it for me, sure that after getting some hydration I would be fine. The only problem? We were out in the middle of the golf course, and it was a good walk back to the clubhouse. My bridal party were being good sports about being out in the heat, but I knew they were uncomfortable, even in the shade. 

I really had to "fake it til you make it" with these formals. I tried to take a moment to bend down and fiddle with my camera bag to catch my breath, in hopes no one would notice. In all honesty, I don't know how I managed to power through this or how I didn't just burst into tears from anxiety. I just kept saying to myself, "Chance is coming, Chance is coming" and finally, he arrived with my drink. I chugged it down and prayed I wouldn't pass out during the ceremony.  

(Chance Hammock)

Why am I telling you this? As photographers - and especially those who shoot weddings - we can run ourselves ragged. Shooting weddings is incredibly demanding physically. I don't know how the full timers do it each weekend - it can take me a week to recover! But after the multiple additional episodes of dizziness and coming so close to blacking out at even family sessions, I went into the doctor. 

The verdict: I am severely anemic. 

I say I had no idea, despite chewing through 10 glasses of ice in a 2 hour time span. It completely explains why my body was reacting the way it was to the physical stress. My body simply couldn't keep up. I knew I was tired all of the time, but I figured what Mom wasn't, especially one also running a business. The moral of this story is to listen to your body, and make sure that you take care of yourself!

(Chance Hammock)

One of my last sessions was by far one of the most special of my career, not just 2016. 

I've had the pleasure of working with Carly's family multiple times in the past. I've done head shots for Andy, as he is incredibly talented on the trumpet and plays in the Army band. I photographed their sweet baby girl Addy a few weeks after she was born. The oldest of the many Allphins, Carly, shares my love of photography. As we were in the midst of trying to work out an opportunity for her to shadow me on one of my sessions, Carly was diagnosed with Stage IV Ewing Sarcoma - bone cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, she was only 14 years old. At Stage IV, no one really knew what to expect moving forward. With the future uncertain, I was honored to capture these family portraits before Carly began treatment.

The night of our session, Carly went home and shaved her head, in preparation for months of chemotherapy and radiation. Despite such a grim diagnosis, Carly thrived in the face of adversity. Her cheerful disposition aided in her treatment, because she's made remarkable progress. Doctors have been overwhelmed at how well the tumors have responded to treatment. 

When she turned 15 in October, Carly wanted to celebrate with a glamour photo shoot. When she and her mom Krista pitched the idea to me and sent some inspiration photos, I was all in. Carly and Krista took care of makeup and styling, and I reached out to a former vendor who welcomed us to their location with open arms. On Carly's exact birthday, we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day. We had the entire property to ourselves, and Carly's beauty radiated through my camera.

I am so incredibly grateful to share that after 14 rounds, Carly is officially done with chemotherapy! Her hair is beginning to even grow back - but I think we can all agree she rocks the bare head and she rocks it hard.

There is so much more from this past year I wish I could share. However, it would lead to a very lengthy post, and I already worry I've droned on for far too long as it is. I'll save more bits and pieces for my Instagram, and that's also where you'll be able to see all of the behind the scenes action for the coming year. 

I anticipate a lot of fun changes to Kelli Brewer Photography in 2017, but one thing that won't change is my gratitude for each of my clients, each of my followers, and each member of my family and group of friends that support me. I don't do what I do to support a lifestyle I otherwise couldn't achieve. I have a love of photography that stems back to my teen years. I thrive on meeting new people. I live for that moment when I can get a toddler to finally crack a smile. It's rewarding to know my own children see and understand how much I love what I do. 

(Chance Hammock)

For all the close calls this past year, the miles of driving, the evenings spent on the computer editing and watching Netflix into all hours of the night - I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to hoping 2017 is just as exhausting - and equally as rewarding. Happy New Year!

No comments

Post a Comment