In Sickness and in Health...

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In Sickness and in Health...

Hello again. 2017 has officially come to a close. I hope everyone has had time to reflect on the good, the extraordinary and the wonderful things this year has brought to you. I wanted to share with you (whoever you are that's reading this - hi mom!) a glimpse of what true love looks like in the "til death do you part" stage of life. We all have an idea of what it looks and feels like, and we all want it. This true love is thought to be the secret key to a life well lived. I'll begin by saying that it's an extremely rare sight to witness, much less be part of. 

I'm fortunate enough to have witnessed what true love is. My grandparents, Lee and Barbara, first met as kids when my grandmother first moved to a new neighborhood in Rochester, NY. The same neighborhood where my grandfather had lived and was an active "neighborhood boy" who would play touch football outside in the neighborhood streets (you know, back in the day when kids could go outside without adults). Their first encounter wasn't exactly love at first sight. My grandfather, at the time was around 14, ran up my grandmother's father's new car to catch a football that was thrown his way. He made the catch, but also earned himself a scolding from my grandmother, approximately age 12. "Get off my father's car before you break something!" she screamed at him. "Shut up, Fatso!" he replied.

See? True love doesn't lie to you even at the first encounter. 

They grew up in the same neighborhood for several years to come and kept similar friend circles, but just like most of the country in the mid-1950's my grandfather enlisted in the Marines and was shipped off to fight in the Korean war. They casually dated before he was enlisted, and my grandmother wrote him everyday while she finished her last year of high school, but it wasn't until one of my grandfather's trips on leave back to Rochester did my grandmother admit to herself (and to my grandfather) that she was in fact in love with him. 

They were married in August 1957, had four daughters, seven grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren to date. Nana was a stay-at-home mom, as well as CFO of my grandfather's family-owed business (bookkeeper is such a poor description of what she actually did - it's 2018, let's call it what it really is, mmmmkay?). Papa worked open to close at his service station before finally making enough money to hire employees to help run the business several years into their marriage. In his spare time he volunteered at the nearby fire station, and they both had a love for bowling. They raised their children in a traditional Catholic household, attended countless high school baseball games their daughters starred in, gave more time and money than they could afford to spare to their daughters to help raise their own children as they supported their family through the 4 divorces and two deaths their daughters endured, struggled to lose their business more than once, survived my grandfather's cancer twice, and left everything they grew to know and love to start a new life in retirement in central Florida in 1999.

Papa's military photo (It's easy to see why Nana fell in love with him...and where our entire family gets their vanity from. What a looker!)

Papa's military photo (It's easy to see why Nana fell in love with him...and where our entire family gets their vanity from. What a looker!)

Their wedding day

Their wedding day

The full wedding party (seriously adorable, right?!)

The full wedding party (seriously adorable, right?!)

From their 50th wedding anniversary party - August 2007

From their 50th wedding anniversary party - August 2007

Nana & Papa's 50th Anniversary - August 2007

Nana & Papa's 50th Anniversary - August 2007

The entire McNeely clan in August 2007

The entire McNeely clan in August 2007

This past December I traveled to a sleepy retirement community in central Florida for a holiday visit with my grandparents, and also to assist my aunt Jan and grandfather with my grandmother's rapidly declining health. A couple years ago she was unfortunately diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and even though at the time the whole family appeared to be in denial, including my grandmother who just chuckled off forgetting parts of stories or names with a "forgive me, I have the forgetful disease", we all knew this point in the journey would come and brace ourselves for our hearts to break over time. 

It didn't take very long at all for the disease to take Nana's mind away from us. For instance, in June she was able to have full conversations, remember (most) of her grandchildren's names, remember new introductions she had just made and recall stories to tell. By September she wasn't able to form full sentences, mostly used facial expressions to communicate her mood, and for the first time in my life I saw my grandmother without her teeth. She was however, somehow able to dance at my cousin's wedding with the bride for a brief moment. It was fairly odd, too. My aunts were helping her stand up and she led them to the dance floor to join Stephany for a half of a song. It was the only time she left her seat the entire reception. 

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Photos of my grandparents in June 2017.

Photos of my grandparents in June 2017.

A photo of my grandparents with their four daughters (L-R: Pam, Nancy, Janet and Karen).

A photo of my grandparents with their four daughters (L-R: Pam, Nancy, Janet and Karen).

Proof that my Nana was at the very least able to dance half a song in September 2017 with the bride, her granddaughter Stephany.

Proof that my Nana was at the very least able to dance half a song in September 2017 with the bride, her granddaughter Stephany.

This past winter my Nana had become bed ridden in a hospital bed placed in the center of the living room in her home, her communication had become for the most part non-verbal and she would require round the clock care mostly provided by my aunt Jan, grandfather and hospice workers that stop in for about an hour each day. My grandfather would ask her questions to trigger her memory, such as "What's your name, Barbara?", "Who am I?", "Do you recognize where you are?". 

Nana would respond with grunts, moans and the occasional verbal answer. When she did call out for someone it was for my grandfather. "Did my husband ever make it home?" she asked me. Papa then leaned forward on the couch to smile and make eye contact with her. He waved and said "Hello, beautiful. I'm right here, did you miss me?". He fed her, dressed her, made sure her pills were in order, made phone calls to her doctors, sang to her, and spoke to her knowing that the love of his life was still in that cloudy mind of hers. My grandfather has never been an overly affectionate spouse or father from my understanding. Seeing him be on call at 2 o'clock in the morning and all throughout the night for my grandmother; stroking her back, rubbing her feet, re-positioning her to give her more comfort all day and night at every motion or sound that she made - I'm now convinced that their private life held significantly more love than their public life. He could sooth her when she cried out of confusion, ensure that she ate or drank before he even fixed his plate and would be who she cried out for on most occasions. He insisted that she stay in their home to receive the best care she can have, because she would be cared for with love at home, that wouldn't be guaranteed in a nursing home. 

I took these photos not to remember the heartbreaking and difficult times in my family, but to share the imagery of what true love for one person can have for another looks like in the later stages of life. We all know what the wedding day looks like when vows are exchanged: a picture perfect day with two picture perfect people in front of the camera who have no idea of the obstacles that life will truly bring them that will continuously test their love for one another. We all desire that love of our life to have and hold, for better or worse, in sickness and health...til death do us part.

The following photos are my only proof that true love is not a myth. That is does exist. It only takes 60 years of practice to perfect. 

Special thanks to Chipper the dog for being a great assistant model.

Special thanks to Chipper the dog for being a great assistant model.

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Sam & Emily: A Denver Musical Love Story

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Sam & Emily: A Denver Musical Love Story

Sam & Emily are part of a much larger musical love story Denver is currently authoring among the several local acts that are shaping the sound of today. They represent the modern day artist couple that speak to a generation that not only idolize, but compliment the lifestyles of New York City's revolutionary music scene in the 1970's. Art was challenged and celebrated for it's diverse sounds - and thus making its mark on history for generations to come. Think of them as the real life characters of La La Land dressed in trendy hats, making their own musical history and their mark on this city. It's in my opinion that years from now people will be talking about Sam and Emily, and how they used to live in an old armory when they first started out. 

Last spring I had the opportunity to photograph some friends of mine who love, play and live music. Samuel Edgar & Emily Cooper of The Samuel Edgar Band, a musically talented couple - both professional musicians living and working in Denver, CO, allowed me to have an intimate look at what an artist's life looks like while living and working in a musical warehouse.

At the time of this shoot Sam & Emily were nestled in a cozy attic studio loft that they shared with their chi-weenie, Dani. The loft, located in the Five Points neighborhood, provided 360 views of the city of Denver, and is also the home of their recording studio and the rehearsal space for about 30 local Denver bands. 

Sam & Emily entertained me with some songs as I clicked away catching their faces beam naturally of love for their music, and each other. Their words and notes beat effortlessly to their songs, all originals, as they harmonize and share faint smiles to one another as they lock eyes unknowingly. Dani the dog and myself just stood back and watched in awe of the authentic relationship that was in front of us. Allowing the music to be heard and seen undisturbed. 

After Sam & Emily played a few songs for me in the attic loft, we then moved to the roof and then the full tour began of the decades old former armory. As we paced through the building, the halls echoed with other musicians rehearsing in individual practice rooms, filling the hallways with a constant white noise as we photographed in different nooks and corners of the unique space. In halls that were dark and unpainted, and large rooms filled with forgotten antiques, Sam and Emily acted as if they were in their natural element. And rightly so. Every person who we encountered during our short session they knew by first name and were genuinely interested in their ongoing musical projects. 

To get more updates on Sam & Emily and The Samuel Edgar Band check out their facebook page for their next performance. 

https://www.facebook.com/SamuelEdgarBand/

 

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Nadia & Blake's Enchanted Cherokee Castle Wedding

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Nadia & Blake's Enchanted Cherokee Castle Wedding

Nadia and Blake have the kind of love that you read about in a fairy tale: Girl goes through a heartbreak. Girl goes on an adventure in a far away land. Boy sees girl in this new far away land, falls in love with her and doesn't let distance come between them until they are united again. 

Nadia and Blake met during a girls' trip in Colorado while Nadia was living in Washington D.C. Over the course of several months Blake and Nadia fell in love over many calls, texts, emails, and a few visits back & forth to each other's cities, and other tropical vacations. Eventually, Nadia decided to take the leap of faith and move to Colorado to be closer to Blake and begin the next chapter of their relationship, which later turned into a proposal. 

Upon their fairy tale wedding, held at the enchanting Cherokee Ranch Castle in Castle Pines, CO on a perfect April afternoon in 2016, both families came beautifully together to wish this joyous couple with blended families, loving parents and step-parents, many siblings, cousins. and several friends. Even grandma had her dancing shoes on! The stars were shining upon them that night, no doubt. 

The newlyweds continued their love story and love of travel directly after their wedding to spend their honeymoon in the Mediterranean. A dream destination of Nadia's since she was a little girl. May Nadia & Blake's love story continue to grow as their fairy tale continues! 

Many thanks to my second shooter, Nicole Pettit of Nicole Pettit Photography for her assistance with this wedding. It's always a pleasure!

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Mike and Allie Got Engaged

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Mike and Allie Got Engaged

Well, it's been near a year since I've written a blog. I think it's probably time to do that. With 2017 quickly approaching it will be my goal to do that more as I shoot in real time.

This featured blog is part of an engagement shoot I had back in April. This adorable couple is Mike and Allie. I first met them unknowingly at a Halloween party I had my photo booth set up at in 2014. They remembered me and contacted me when it came time to take photos for their engagement. I was instantly honored. This couple had love's determination. They were college sweethearts and living in two different cities. Allie lived in Ft. Collins while she completed her Doctorate, meanwhile Mike lived and worked in downtown Denver. Both working towards their common dream to be married next year.

We had a fun time on a sunny weekend afternoon, first at City Park, and then off to the colorful RiNo art district. We also took advantage of the nearby location to get two classic Denver shots at Union Station and under the Larimar Square lights. It was a blast to be part of a shoot with a couple who wanted to see so much of the city, and who had as much love for Denver as I do.

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Love is Young & Alive in Denver!

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Love is Young & Alive in Denver!

Life is a series of funny, random, intertwined events.  It's almost daily that I take a look at my life and have to do a double take to make sure I didn't accidentally get cast in a rom-com, sitcom, or some sort of "New Girl" show that I wasn't aware of.  I love it!

I am more than proud to share these images with you, world.  These shots are of a beautiful young woman named Shantel and her equally gorgeous boyfriend, Daniel, that I met after a crazy, adventurous night on Broadway in Denver.  It was my husband's company holiday party in early December, and "the gang" went to an after party where there was a whole lot of bad dancing, a disco ball, drinks to be consumed (which Daniel was helping dish out), and Shantel sitting at the end of the bar, watching all the crazy happen.  She was absolutely beautiful.  I'm not a shy person by any means, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself and gave her my card.  I knew my camera would love her. 

Working with Shantel and Daniel was everything that I wanted it to be!  A winter-chic, young love photo shoot, where they are enchanted with one another in the city that we all call home.  Don't think for a second that these images are too posed, as there was very little direction on my part; they made my job easy.  I am in love with their love! It's infectious!  Happy early Valentine's day to all you lovers out there.  MUAH!!

Thank you to my models: Shantel Pollock & Daniel Francis

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Perry Xmas

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Perry Xmas

What a season it has been!  I've been a shooting machine!  I've had the pleasure of shooting a lot of holiday parties, social events, and corporate events, along with some special moments such as this shoot for dear friends, the Perry's. 

The Perry's are a rare couple that met and fell in love in high school, and their love for one another is just as adorable.  Not native to Colorado, this shoot was taken at Mt. Falcon on an early Saturday morning for their annual Christmas card to send Christmas cheer back home to loved ones in Indiana.  Furbaby, Ellie, accompanied the photo shoot (and surprisingly kept clean!) for the second year in a row.  It was a great morning, and one of my favorite shoots this season. 

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Holiday Shoot 2015 Announcement

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Holiday Shoot 2015 Announcement

It's that time of year again!  The hustle and bustle, the merry and bright, the crazy shopping sprees and the food comas!  The holidays have approached us.  This past Sunday I had the pleasure of photographing these little cuties, who are also known as two of the coolest little kids I get to hang out with from time to time, Fletch & Eve (my friend's kids).  Fletch & Eve were awesome models for their holiday shoot in Evergreen.  I kept telling their dad that he had two little Zoolanders on his hands.  I'll be truthful here, it's been a while since I've had a session with smaller children, but it helped that these two have such a beautiful brother-sister bond that it made photographing them as easy as dad telling a joke. 

For a limited time I am offering a discounted 1-hour rate for your Holiday Photos.  Normally my hourly sessions are $175, but until 12/19/2015 I will offer them for $100 for 10 digital prints.  Contact me soon to book a session.  Time is running out!

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Everyday Ritual

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Everyday Ritual

Oh, hey there.  For those of you who haven't known me for a million years (unlike my mom...hi mom!), I have been photographing musicians since I was 14.  My brother was in a punk band, and many friends of ours were in the punk/ska scene of Rochester, NY in the early 2000's.  Therefore, I was always known as "Matt's sister" who just so happened to have her film camera flashing away at shows, just hoping to catch awesome jumping shots.  It's no secret that I have soft spot for musicians (in case you missed it in my bio, I'm married to a professional bass player), and I love to capture the personalities and creative forces filled with passion on stage.  

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to work with a Denver hip-hop group that was not only built of four fun personalities to work with, but four people that love this city as much as I do.  I was honored to be able to capture their individual spirits as we ventured through one of Denver's growing art districts known as RiNo (River North), which, little did I know when I suggested it, the art has a lot of ties to one of the members!  How perfect was this?  Visit Everyday Ritual's website for upcoming events at www.everydayritual.com and tell them their new friend Laura sent you :)

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Autumn Styled Shoot

Autumn Styled Shoot

Ahhh..the fall!  In recent years it has come to surface (thanks, internet for letting the secret come out) that the "basic girl" LOVES the fall.  Well, as you may have guessed it, as a proud Rochester, NY native I fall right into that category. This styled shoot was an autumn romantic dream come true!  I'd love to give a quick shout out and thank you to our some local vendors in the Denver area: Wedding Treasures for the use of the dresses, and Amore Fiori for not only the gorgeous floral displays, but for owner Katie participating as one of our beautiful models (with her adorable pooch). 

Styled Shoot Contributors:  Wedding Treasures Bridal  &  Amore Fiori

Styled Shoot Contributors: Wedding Treasures Bridal & Amore Fiori

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30th Birthday Beauty

Here it is, kids. My very first blog post.  Whoa.  Don't worry, I'll keep it clean. 

For those of you who haven't known me my entire life (such as my mother who is probably reading this blog--hi mom!), I was an event planner in my career before forming Topsy Turvy in 2014.  With that being said, I LOVE birthdays!  My husband and I celebrate something called "birthday week" (Yes, it's a thing.  And it's better than Christmas and Hanukkah combined).

Rebecca contacted me for a fun, artsy 30th birthday shoot.  How could I say no?  I think I captured her inner artist and sweet spirit with these shots.  I hope you agree.

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