Posted on August 16, 2018
I was first introduced to Beauty Revived in the Fall of 2014. My daughter was a Senior in high school and we had just returned home to Virginia after a very challenging 5 years out of state. We had no idea what would be ahead when we left the area in 2009. We moved to the Midwest to be closer to family so that we could support my newly widowed mother from an easier distance. Our hearts were in the right place. Somehow, though, we didn’t see it. We didn’t see through the fog of friendly greetings as we met so many members of the church. We only saw the smiling faces. We heard so many “Welcome” greetings. I know there were some who were genuine, and I know that the entire congregation wasn’t “cruel”. But we soon learned that “grace and love” weren’t really a part of the equation. We thought we were in a loving, good place for our family. But the part that the fog hid from us came out of the shadows gradually at first, then more frequently as the months turned to years. What we didn’t realize in the beginning was that we were in a place that shunned. It wasn’t the stereotypical Amish shunning, but there were so many unwritten “extreme fundamentalist” rules. Those who didn’t follow the rules were ignored/shunned, belittled, and harshly criticized. Adults would warn their children to “stay away from the public schooled kids”. Before I continue, I must say that we are not anti-homeschool. In fact, we have several friends who have or are currently homeschooling their kids. We also chose to homeschool our daughter for most of high school (and our younger two kids for a year) because of the constant bullying at school. There are a lot of positive things about it if executed well. It is a choice that parents should have a right to make for their kids because of their own personal circumstance. It doesn’t make you a better parent if you choose to homeschool or if you choose to send your kids to public school. None of us are perfect, and parenting is hard enough without the judgemental criticism of others for an education choice.
What we imagined would be a closer move to family that included serving in worship ministry at a church (my husband was hired as the worship minister) turned into a disaster. Our oldest daughter who was in 7th grade at the time began being bullied brutally at school. She was called names at first, which isn’t uncommon in the middle school years. Of course it was hard for her. We encouraged her to respond with kindness, but to speak up and stand up for herself. It got worse, however, and became physical as well. When we spoke to administrators about our concern regarding how our daughter’s head was nearly slammed into a locker (thank the Lord a teacher stepped in to stop it from hitting her head), they made excuses for the boy involved. “He’s just quirky,” we were told. When she was punched on the bus and pulled hard by her wrist (two different boys), the administration spoke to the offending students, but also made excuses. Again, it got worse because of retaliation from the bullies. One school official told one of the bullies who made a complaint against him and asked him to write her a letter of apology which triggered more verbal attacks toward her. As she would get off of the school bus to come home, several of the offending students would throw trash at her. It was awful.
Meanwhile, at a church that we originally believed would show concern for our kids, life began to unravel month by month for our daughter as well as for our other two children. It was worse for her mostly because she was a teenager who spoke her mind and said what she thought. She was a teenager. Teenagers are going to make mistakes and that is just part of the deal. And, even she would tell you that she was one of those kids who, when told “don’t do ____”, she would jump over the boundary we set. Invariably, she would learn from her mistake, apologize to us, and we’d move on. Quite a few parents of some of the students, though, warned their kids to stay away from our daughter. She was called horrible names by several students and adults because she was a normal girl who was interested in boys (she was 15 at this point). Legalism was a revered way of life there. Although there were bright spots sprinkled in over the five years with some loving people who were our friends (we were so thankful for that), so many refused to try to understand her or accept her. How does a hurting teenage girl respond when she is 15 years old and believes that so many people, including adult youth leaders, are against her? She began to hate herself even more and take action on that sentiment. Self-injury, commonly known as cutting, became her go-to for relief. I know it may sound odd that I used the word “relief”, but we learned that when one self-injures, endorphins (feel good chemicals) are released in the brain. It is very easy for teenagers to conceal this with clothing and by acting happy, much to our dismay. We tried our hardest to love and support her the best we could as we desperately prayed for a way out of this dark period. Fortunately, God gave us a way out in 2014. Our house sold in 24 hours in an area where homes typically didn’t sell very quickly. He provided jobs for both my husband and I very quickly. There were so many answers to prayer during that time – so many, that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He never fails.
Eventually over time at age 16, we learned that our daughter had made a plan to end her life. Getting a phone call that your child just sent goodbye messages to one friend 30 minutes after you handed her the keys because she wanted to “get out for a little bit” is one of the worst feelings. It is difficult to put into words the helplessness, the anger, the despair we felt in that moment. How did we not see it? Our hearts were breaking for our daughter and the people who could have made a difference for good in her life made a choice. They chose to ignore her. They chose to withhold love and kindness. They chose to remain silent even though she was in the hospital three different times. It has been five years since that moment, and while our family has healed a great deal and learned to forgive over time (which is why I will not name the state, church, or names of individuals), I still ask the question “What if they had chosen to just be kind?” A place that should have shown the love of Christ ended up becoming a place that caused brutal damage.
It was because of our daughter’s recovery from severe self-injury and an eating disorder and her desire to care for other hurting teens that my sweet friend, Connie, nominated our 17 year old daughter for the Beauty Revived “50 Beautiful Seniors” campaign four years ago. She had a friend whom she met while living in another state who was a photographer. Meredith Ryncarz, an amazing photographer, captured our daughter for the campaign. For the first time, our sweet girl was able to tell her story. That experience really impacted our daughter and it meant so much to us as her parents. She felt pretty. She felt like she mattered. Most importantly though, she felt valued. No parent wants to see their child go through painful experiences. We know it is part of life, of course, but what if the adults and kids at that church and the school would have shown kindness and compassion instead of judgement and disgust toward her? Our actions, whether they are positive or negative, impact everyone around us. We all have the power to build others up or tear them down.
When I saw that Beauty Revived was accepting applications for the “50 Beautiful Children” campaign, I felt compelled to give. I was overjoyed in May when I got the email stating that I was one of 50 selected from around the country. It was truly an honor to be chosen to represent an organization which focuses on inner beauty. I had no idea who would be nominated or how many kids would be nominated, but I wanted to be able to give back and “pay it forward” for another family so that I could provide a positive experience that would build up and encourage a child. As a photographer, I have the capability to share stories and hopefully make people I come in to contact with feel good about themselves and feel cared about. Especially after the experience with our daughter, I desire to leave people feeling as though someone cares. After being selected as one of the Beauty Revived photographers, I set out to find a deserving child- one who makes a difference- to gift a session to. The nominations began coming in. There was one child who had multiple nominations. The theme of how “kind” this tiny 5-year old child was really stood out to me. Honestly, as I read her nominations, I began to get teary eyed. Meet Paisley. I’ve worked with primary students in public school as a classroom teacher. And while I have had some incredibly sweet students in my history as a Kindergarten teacher, I’ve never run into a child quite like Paisley. Her sweet demeanor melted my heart when I spoke with her for the first time. When I asked her why she liked to be so nice to others, she said, “I like to make friends. They are my friends.” She is sunshine. It was such an honor to not only photograph, but also to write an article to describe the sweet nature of this special gal. Being kind is a really big deal, and it is my hope that we will all learn a little from Paisley. She frequently puts others first, a trait which is usually not present in a 5 year old because of the nature of that stage of development. Even on the day I photographed her, after her mother told her that they would go get her a treat because she was doing such a good job during her session, Paisley told her mom that she wanted to get a treat for her baby brother too. She is a child to learn from and it is my sincere hope that we all pay attention to her message. I encourage you to check out her story on Beauty Revived here. Also, check out her feature on WTKR, News Channel 3: https://wtkr.com/2018/08/14/beauty-revived-national-campaign-features-local-child-for-kindness/
(Session Location: Williamsburg Botanical Garden, located in Williamsburg, Virginia)
Posted on August 1, 2018
I recently had the honor of touring this gem of a location in the Deep Creek Section of Newport News, Virginia. As I walked up to the office to meet Mary and Rachel, I took in the beautiful view of the marina. The calm water, the sailboats nestled into their spots neatly along the dock, and the pristine landscaping warmly welcomed me.
The reception hall, decorated with neutral colors, is lined with windows on the sides. This light and airy space offers a beautiful view of the marina. We love the covered deck just outside the reception hall that overlooks the water, perfect for cocktail hour or gathering with friends to take in a view of a pink, orange and purple sunset. We also loved the fact that it has a kitchen and a bar space that you can use for cocktail hour or for the D.J.
Keffer Hall has a lovely, spacious bridal suite complete with, makeup area, sitting area, and a restroom. The outdoor ceremony area is situated on a perfectly manicured green space. There, a white pergola stands where a couple can exchange their vows with a lovely view of Deep Creek.
We absolutely loved visiting this beautiful wedding venue and it is now on our bucket list of places we’d love to photograph weddings!
Posted on July 24, 2018
I was so excited when Kristen suggested having her engagement session at The Pagoda in Norfolk, Virginia. Torrential rain fell all day, but stopped just an hour before the most romantic, beautiful engagement session in the gardens which surround this brightly colored gem. The Pagoda, an Asian restaurant in the Freemason section of Norfolk, lends a majestic nod to the diversity in Hampton Roads. Also called the Marine Observation Tower, it originated in 1983 when the Taiwanese government decided to give it as a gift to celebrate trade ties. By 1989, the two-story building was constructed on pillars that originally supported a very large molasses storage tank.
At the beginning of our session as we were chatting, Kristen mentioned that the oriental garden is such a beautiful place to meditate. The hushing sound of waterfalls as the breeze gently moves the willow tree branches creates an atmosphere where you can just sit, read, and pray. This lovely garden has a variety of plants to admire, a koi pond, brick walkways and fountains which contribute to a tranquil and romantic feel.
Kristen and Chris looked fantastic for their session. Even with the occasional whipping wind, they were easy-going and full of smiles. Throughout the engagement session, I could see such tenderness in their interactions. I never grow tired of seeing a couple in love. The kindness, respect, and adoration they have for one another was apparent in the way they treated each other throughout my time with them. After nearly 7 years of dating, they have grown into a loving couple that supports the endeavors and dreams of each other. Selfless love. It was such an honor to capture their engagement session and I am excited for their wedding in Nags Head, North Carolina.
Posted on June 21, 2018
The historic Cary Hill Plantation is a beautiful wedding venue with a 275 year old main house filled with antiques. Seated on 60 acres in Charles City, Virginia, the house has this colonial charm that takes you back to an era of horses, brick floored kitchens, and civility. It was the perfect setting for our fairy tale styled shoot to unfold.
As a little girl, Cinderella was my favorite fairy tale. I remember pretending that I had the most beautiful ball gown on as I would dance and prance across my bedroom. Later on, when I was dating my “prince charming”, he proclaimed his love for me after we watched Cinderella one November night. This particular shoot tugged on my heartstrings quite a bit. As a wedding photographer, I love a romantic love story.
Annette Lindsey from I Do Weddings With Love was inspired after a conversation with a local military wife. Jenna and Gavin had a rush court house wedding ceremony because he would soon be deployed. She got married in a $5.00 dress from Old Navy and never had that moment of feeling as beautiful as “Cinderella”. When Jenna stated that she “wasn’t really model material”, Annette was inspired to put together this styled shoot with Jenna and Gavin as the models. “We are all different shapes, colors, and sizes. We should not judge people by what the outside looks like, but by what the heart is inside.” This is a military family, a family which has made and continues to make sacrifices for our freedom and country. Annette made this Cinderella dream a reality and it was a day that Jenna and Gavin will not soon forget. This styled shoot was the perfect opportunity to dress up and feel like a princess for this sweet bride. Hosted by the Cary Hill Plantation venue in Charles City, Virginia, this beautiful shoot had not only a lovely Cinderella, but also a horse drawn carriage to carry this lovely couple away.
Featured by Pretty Pear Bride! Check it out here!
Photography: Belle Eve Photography | Ceremony Venue: Cary Hill Plantation | Event Planning: I Do Weddings with Love | Floral: I Do Weddings with Love | Stationery: L & Z Homemade Crafts | Videography: Brian Charles Films | Wedding Cake: Kadi Bakes Wedding & Event Custom Cakery | Rentals: Rusty Cottage Vintage Rentals | Event Design: KK&S Events | Hair: LGB Hair Designs | Makeup: Dayna Cobb | Rentals: Arrivals in Elegance Horse Drawn Carriage Services, LLC | Model: Jenna and Gavin Lumb | Jewelry: Markie Jones | Event Design: exceptional events by elisa yu shan | Decor Items: Invitations Kalos Designs | Model: Tracey Fowlkes | Model: Stella Mora | Model: Bea Mazzonius | Model: Elaina Anderson | Rentals: D’ Caron Designs | Event Design: Fleur de Lis Event Consulting | Event Design: Sammy’s Rentals | Event Design: Signature Events by Jovy | Event Design: All For You Events and Design | Wedding Dress: Milk and Honey Bride | Bridesmaid Dresses: Celebrity Bridal and Formals | Bridesmaid Dresses: Miss Betty’s Designs |
Posted on June 5, 2018
If I asked you for the definition of “beauty”, what would you say? Would you list specific physical attributes? Hair color? Freckles or no freckles? Eye color? Or would you consider something else?
Recently, I was selected to be one of 55 photographers to represent Beauty Revived’s “50 Most Beautiful Children” campaign. This isn’t just a search for a cute kid. This goes beyond appearance, which is why I love Beauty Revived. This organization, which was founded in 2014 by Michelle Gifford, seeks to acknowledge and celebrate moms, women, Seniors, and children who stand out in their community. Their mission is to challenge the world’s view of beauty by revealing inner beauty. I have been blessed with the honor of gifting a session to a local child, age 5-16, who stands out in the community. This child has persevered and inspires others around them. This child tries to make a difference. The deserving child will be selected through a nomination process. Once selected, he or she will be gifted a complimentary session with Belle Eve Photography. This session will be featured in the Beauty Revived magazine for 50 Beautiful Children along with their story in August 2018, and will also be featured on the Beauty Revived blog.
How to nominate a child: Complete the form below to tell me about the child whom you feel deserves to be featured!
Preparing for an Engagement Session |Virginia Portrait and Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography
Posted on May 22, 2018
You’ve scheduled your engagement session. You’re really excited! But suddenly, you feel unsure about how to prepare. Maybe you have an idea about what you and your beloved fiance will wear. Maybe you are torn between 2 or 3 outfits. Should you wear your hair up or down? And….jewelry? Shoes? Nails? Location?
O.k., take a deep breath and relax, because here are my top 6 tips that will hopefully set your mind at ease.
- Choose clothing carefully. Your outfits should be comfortable, but not baggy, which can appear unflattering in camera. Consider what you envision your engagement photos will look like. Do you desire for them to be elegant with soft color? Or, would you like them to appear bold and colorful? It is wise to choose coordinating colors and patterns without being too “matchy”. Use patterns (such as plaids, stripes, polka dots, etc) carefully. If both you and your fiance wear “overly” patterned clothing, it will clash and become a distraction instead of an enhancement. Wear accessories such as scarves, necklaces, earrings, and hats if you are comfortable doing so, as this can add more texture and glitz to your images. For ladies, dresses with high heels will elongate legs, and gentlemen look masculine in well fitted dress pants with close-toed shoes. (Make sure to bring comfortable shoes to walk in, though, for outdoor location sessions.) If you’d like some inspiration, check out my Pinterest Board!
- Be prepared. Give yourselves plenty of time to get ready, and prepare any additional items that may be helpful during your session, such as a brush, lipstick, extra shoes that are comfortable to walk in, tissues, etc. Get plenty of rest and eat prior to your session so that you will feel like being cheerful participants. Stay away from foods or drinks with dyes prior to your session, since many dyes will stain lips and teeth. Also be sure to drink plenty of water several days prior to your session. Not only is it a healthy suggestion, it also helps to hydrate your skin which will give you more of a glow.
- Don’t smile. Or, smile a lot. It really depends on your personalities. Some couples love to laugh a lot, and others laugh occasionally or very little. Some are really affectionate, while others are not. My goal is to produce an experience in which you feel comfortable so that as a couple you can relax in front of my camera. These are images that you will cherish for a lifetime and should reflect your relationship.
- Have your engagement ring cleaned prior to your session. In addition to photographing people, I love to photograph the details!
- Have your hair and make-up professionally done. This is a great opportunity for your hair and make-up artist to do a “trial run” for your wedding hair and make-up. You will also look your best for your engagement session, which will help you to feel confident for your session.
- Location, location, location… Location is important because we like to surround ourselves with beautiful scenery when we have our pictures taken. I will meet you at a location of your choice, but I will also be looking for the best places for lighting, especially when we are outside. I try to avoid harsh mid-day sunlight when possible so that your images will be flattering without harsh shadows on your faces. The optimum time for sessions is about an hour or two after sunrise or about two hours prior to sunset. If those time frames are not possible, I will work to ensure “good lighting”.
Posted on May 8, 2018
One thing that really makes my heart soar is to photograph local creatives. There is a vast diversity of creatives in the 757, filled with a wide range of artistic talents. I recently had the privilege of capturing head shots for Kim of Coastal Star Decor. The warmer temperatures at Yorktown Beach in Yorktown, Virginia accented the beach theme for Kim’s session. Additionally, the beach grass that swayed in the sea breeze and the occasional sights of driftwood provided reminders of the beauty we find daily here.
Kim has been painting furniture for more than 20 years. In 2013, her love for coastal art and rehabbing furniture turned into Coastal Star Decor. She creates colorful coastal decor using furniture and other items. Her creativity is boundless and beautiful, and she uses her talents to also create custom pieces for clients. If you would like to see her work, visit her on Facebook, go to her website at coastalstardecor.com, or stop by her booth this coming weekend (May 12, 2018) at the Hilton Art Walk in Newport News, Virginia or Memorial Day Weekend at the Steel Pier Classic and Surf Art Expo in Virginia Beach, Virginia.