I started Project Memories because I wanted my work to mean something more than just a paycheck. Photography gives us the ability to take a snapshot of a moment in time, and in doing so we preserve the memory for as long as the image exists. The majority of my work is done during some significant part of my clients' lives, wether it be something as big as a wedding or a small family portrait session. Every moment captured puts a hold on the progression of time, preserving that instant forever. realizing this, I wanted to use my talents and influence to give something back, to make my photography more than just a job, but once a month set out with the specific purpose to find and capture something truly special, something deeply meaningful and worth capturing. I started by doing 1 job per moths with this idea in mind, and towards the end of the year I found myself doing multiple shoots each month because I was able to embrace the higher purpose my work had taken on. The following paragraphs are the breakdown of the most significant sessions each month. No photos will be included , only descriptions, as some of the sessions were sensitive and private matters that my clients wished not be known to the public.
Late in 2016 I volunteered my time to cover an event to be held mid January called Louder Than Wolves at the historic Colonial Theater in Sacramento. The event was a gathering of local performers who spoke out against sexual harassment and abuse in both the industry and in their own lives. All of the proceeds from the ticket sales were donated to WEAVE with the performers following suit, donating most of their merchandise sales to the charity as well. I donated my time and all of my images for them to use for promotion for future events and wrote an article for the Orangevale View two help the organizers get more attention in hopes of increasing future attendance.
The featured artists, both men and women, performed a combination of spoken word, poetry, interpretive dance, original music, and storytelling of their post encounters with sexual abuse. To hear the effects in these first-hand accounts was very moving, and even more so was the way each person spoke of how they were able to overcome their experiences.
Early in February I was contacted by a family who was referred by one of my clients. I have to say that I have the absolute best referral network, my clients are always so amazing and always take great care of me. The family member organizing the session informed me that they didn’t have a lot of money for family pictures, but they did want to invest in one of my Extended Family Sessions because they had recently found out that the family matriarch had just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and realized they did not have any family pictures with everyone together. I offered my services at half-price, and when the family session was processed and delivered I also included a surprise gift. This family values pictures and has decorated their house with many pictures of the grandkids, so I included with the edited photos a 20x30 canvas of the entire family together.
This assignment hit me a little close to home, as I’ve had so many family members and friends affected by cancer. I personally know the value of a photograph of a loved one. On my parent’s mantle in their house is a picture of me when I was an infant, surrounded by my dad, grandfather and great grandfather. These moments don’t come around often, and while at weddings or family sessions always try to capture them to preserve them forever.
Unfortunately, something that has happened a few times throughout my photography career is the fact that while shooting these weddings or portrait sessions the photos I take of friends and family are the last ones. Life is unpredictable and we never really know when we will lose someone, and it was at the end of this assignment I began to realize the gravity of what I was getting into, and the Project Memories began to form. At this point I realized that I had used my ability to take a photograph, to freeze time and preserve a memory, to really give back and help others in my community two months in a row, with no personal gain to myself, and I wanted to see if I could continue this for the rest of 2017.
In March I was offered a job photographing the Women’s Veterans Alliance Un-Conference in Sacramento. In trying to keep up my monthly act of kindness I declined payment and offered to attend the 2 and a half days of the conference and donate all of my images. I have a huge respect for veterans and I always try to help them when I can, I come from a family that has had at least 1 person in every branch of the service. I also come from a photojournalism background, and often I enjoy the specific challenges these types of assignments bring.
The conference featured vendors from at least 50 different companies and they lined the main hall of the event. Some businesses were hiring veterans, some were offering assistance for education and home ownership, and some worked with service animals. Beyond the main hall was a long hallway lined with classrooms where veterans could attend classes for things like creative writing and painting, retirement and PTSD management. The services offered at the Un-Conference were outstanding. The second day featured a ceremonial cake cutting and some guest speakers that spoke about the service and varying issues faced by women both during and after serving in the military. I was honored to be asked to cover the assignment, and donating my time was the least I could do give back.
April rolled around, and a wedding client from earlier in the year contacted me after I turned over their wedding photos with an issue she had hoped I could fix for her. On her wedding day she unfortunately marked up her wedding dress with some makeup, and as the day went on the makeup stains became more and more evident. She was deeply upset and felt it ruined all of her images. I rarely back down from a challenge, and I began to learn new editing techniques to handle this situation. After it was all said and done, I ended up editing nearly 500 photos from her wedding day at no additional charge. My clients take great care of me, and I take great care of them. I also wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that she was able to use her wedding photos without worry, and that this little speedbump wouldn’t be remembered in the photographs. After many hours of intricate editing, the new images were packaged and sent back to the client and all was well. Mission Complete.
Some of these random acts of kindness are lighthearted and fun and are actually really fun. The middle of May is usually when I take my finals before summer break, and in May of 2017 I couldn't wait to get through finals because my first gig of the summer was a destination wedding in Hawaii. I took my last final Wednesday, and on Friday I boarded the airplane. The couple are long time friends of mine, and while planning their wedding they joked with me back and forth about flying me out to over their wedding at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai. When I genuinely offered to shoot the entire vacation fr the price of a plane ticket they were both surprised and excited, and promptly booked my flight (which was surprisingly cheap, around 400 round trip).
Hawaii is always gorgeous, and with it also being my 100th wedding, I wanted to make sure it was amazing. After shooting the wedding day I followed them around the island for the next 3 days capturing their adventures. We ate some delicious local food, went free-diving near some reefs, and sat in the sand and admired the sunset. We spent an entire day driving to all of the nicest beaches on the island, and an evening at a Luau. The evening that I left we were lucky enough to get an incredible sunset and we spent about an hour playing in the surf taking some fun and romantic pictures. The wedding was also featured in an issue of Sacramento Bride and Groom Magazine for a Destination Wedding Feature. I couldn't have asked for a cuter couple in a more beautiful setting for my 100th wedding, proof that every once in a while when you do something nice the universe gives back.
Father's Day is always a special day while your children are young. For Father's Day I surprised a dad by taking some cute candid pictures of his son during a session that I set up with his wife. Their family has had a long history of niters and involvement in the automotive industry, and their son had already started to show interest at the young age of 2. Some of the photos included their son playing with his toy race cars, playing a car game on his dad's X-Box, and some standard but cute portraits of the little guy just being his fun and silly self. His wife made a few prints and presented them in frames as gifts for Father's Day. I could tell from the way he thanked me afterwards that he was definitely a very proud father.
In April of 2016 I had the pleasure of working with one of my all-time favorite couples at a very beautiful wedding venue in Brown's Valley for the first time. I found out later that the bride had been pregnant with twins and they were very excited but wanted to wait until after the wedding to make the announcement. I tend to become emotionally invested in the success of my wedding clients and, as life moves forward we continue to work together as they start growing their families, often our working relationship turns into a friendship.
Sometimes life will give us challenges that we do not entirely understand or predict, and I was heartbroken to hear that later in the year the family had lost both of the twins. It was a tough time for the family. A few months later in 2017 I was pleasantly surprised at their announcement that they were expecting a little one and wanted to set up a maternity session. I was so happy for them, and as a gift I wanted to do the entire session for free to celebrate. I am also happy to announce the new little one is dong very well.
Near the end of august I received a message from one of my very first wedding clients ever, asking if I still had their wedding photos backed up somewhere. I usually do keep everything store somewhere and I did indeed have their edited files and also their unedited camera raw files on a backup hard drive. They explained to me that while their home was undergoing some major repairs a burglar had broken in and taken almost everything, including all of their flash drives and computers. They were deeply upset about the loss of their family and wedding photos and hoped I could copy their wedding photos onto a new flash drive once they got settled. Since shooting this wedding 4 or 5 years ago I had learned a few new editing tricks and had my hands on some new and improved hardware. After a few hours I had re-edited the entire wedding and repackaged it up and mailed it off.
Its important to me that my clients be able to use their images and I back up all of my work just in case something like this happens to either my clients or myself. We never know when life will throw us a curve ball, its important to be prepared ad this was a reminder to stay vigilant in the backup and storage of personal items and important files.
I try to tell people that I do not do video production anymore as I rarely have the time and clients rarely have the budget to fund the project, but when a fellow CSUS student and friend asked me for help I agreed to help. the student, a CSU Sacramento alumni, was working on his PhD applications and needed some videos of himself playing some technical pieces of music. Initially this project didn't appear to be very difficult, but video projects can often escalate and become very complicated very quickly.
Some friends of mine had their fist child, as a gift I offered to shoot a newborn and lifestyle session in their home as an early Christmas present and welcome to life's greatest adventure, parenthood. I loaded up the car to the roof, packed with both my own equipment and a few things I had borrowed from a newborn photographer (I do not specialize in newborn photography) and headed to their home. Their son was very a very active and strong little guy and made some of the more traditional looks difficult, but we still managed to get many cute and adorable photos in various positions and outfits including a few in front of the Christmas tree.