Near the top of my, "things I want to experience as a photographer list" was birth photography. Some people say, “Why?” looking at me baffled, sometimes mortified when I share this aspiration. That response always makes me smile. It is a reminder that “beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder”.
On March 13th, 2018 for the very first time a live birth fell into place for me. On my way to the hospital I was freaking out with excitement and I’ll admit I was a little nervous too, being my very first time navigating the birth of a human being with my camera. I had never witnessed a birth outside of giving birth to my own child. Completely different experience. The raw authenticity of giving birth would be the same, but this time I would get to watch the miracle unfold before me through my lens and had no idea what to expect.
So what is it like to shoot a live birth? Intense. Those who know Kierstin know she has a heart condition that makes giving birth a very tricky event to navigate through. Birth is an incredibly intimate moment that has been placed on a roller coaster and everyone in the room is on that roller coaster. There are peaks and valleys. Triumph and defeat. Moments of uncertainty and fear. moments when mom wants to give up, she is done, she can’t do it, but then she finds the strength to breathe, to gather herself back together try again and guess what she COULD do it. I was there. It was beautiful. Forever grateful to my couple Kierstin & Blake who trusted me to be a part of this moment with them. I am truly beaming with pride over my first birth session and in awe still that I took these. That I was present in this moment.
This type of photography is not for every photographer nor every client, but it is the type of photography that showcases a real moment completely unscripted, posed or directed. A moment that changes everything for a two people who have created a life together comes full circle after 9 months of anticipation right in front of you. A moment you can’t redo or fake. I will always chase moments like this with my lens because they are the moments that tell every beautiful part of their story just as it is. When this couple looks back at these in 20 years my goal is to have exactly how they felt in this moment will wash over them. When I do that, when I am able to give my clients images that take them back vividly to a different chapter of their story I feel I have succeeded in the most important way as a photographer.
I posted my blogs a little backwards so if you haven't read about Summer and her wedding to Jarred you can find it here: www.katieostarlyphotography.com/blog/new-orleanslafitte-wedding-summer-and-jarred
It is long and I put a lot of heart into it. The story is worth the read in my eyes and her bridals were and are apart of the timeline. The story. Summer was grace with the Southern Hotel in Downtown Covington as her backdrop. Truly a pleasure, a bride and her story that will never be forgotten.
Thank you to Summer for allowing me to showcase a different take on The Southern Hotel and trusting the process. Those moments as a wedding photographer when you call the bride, YOUR bride. Summer was recognized immediately as one of MY brides in my brain. Referred to me by one of my favorite brides ever, whose wedding I had already shot, so good I knew it was a predetermined perfect fit. She slayed.
After having to reschedule this session twice due to rain the third time was thankfully the charm and I was given a beautiful spring afternoon with this beautiful family.
Their daughter Evie was truly all rainbows and unicorns, seriously the happiest and most outgoing nine month old ever hamming it up smiling every time I spoke to her as if she knew it's family portrait time.
As a new family behind my lens mom and dad fell perfectly into my relaxed and natural style. Instantly it was a breeze for me to capture the love this family of three shares as the sun set on the Bogue Falya River.
Two days before last summer officially began Summer contacted me about capturing her wedding day. How fitting right? I can only remember having known one other Summer she was in my 5th grade class and I can't quiet recall if she wore the name as well as this bride to be. After chatting and scheduling a video call to go over all the details and bonus see my phone call pacing in action Summer booked her winter wedding. With sadness I must admit that was fitting as well due to the circumstances surrounding the rushed planning of her wedding to Jarred. Sweet Summer was preparing to say goodbye and experience the winter ahead without the person who gave her life the woman she called mom and she wanted her mother to be there the day she walked down the aisle. Summer wears her name so well because she is literally summer. Warm, bright, and lovely. Through this entire process with her it was very clear although I did not get the opportunity to meet her she did in fact give these traits to Summer. The traits that make people feel at home when they are around you. The traits that left all who loved her in winter when she passed just before Thanksgiving. My heart broke when I learned the news. I sobbed that day I could not stop it was overwhelming. Thoughts of losing my own mother or father was something I would overthink at night as a kid and cry about. I couldn't even begin to imagine that type of loss being real and here I was with a bride who didn't need to imagine and her wedding day was a month away. I knew there was nothing I could say and I had no clue how she was going to hold it all together, but she did and she did it like a graceful summer day.
I would be meeting the bride and her crew at a home in New Orleans that belong to a family friend. It was gloomy and wet out only adding to my downpour of thoughts running through my mind as the day began to unfold. The New Orleans home provided a unique back drop and undeniably anything but ordinary as I walked though the threshold and took it all in. All I could think about was the bride, sweet Summer and all she must be feeling silently right now. Silently screaming. The painful scream of loss lodged in her throat, hammering at her heart and strangling her mind. I pressed forward mindful to not give her a look of sympathy like an asshole. I had taken her bridals just 10 days prior and just like that day focused on trying to keep her busy with wondering what she should do with her hands as I posed her instead of, "I wish my mom was here", but I knew nothing would remove that thought from the home it had now made within her. I thought about the night I watched my mom scream with heartache learning she had lost her mother. I thought about how it is always ever present for my mom and something always at the forefront of her mind in everything she does as life continues to move forward. I held back the empath in me as I watched my bride get ready pushing through the worst urge to put a hand on her and say, "I know this fucking sucks, that she was unable to be here with you today. I feel it all the way to the bone and I am not even her child. I am sorry it turned out this way" . It would only take one of those looks or someone to acknowledge the big pink elephant of loss in the room to release the flood gates and I knew they were cresting on this day as she put on her wedding dress and her bridesmaids surrounded her, but on the surface like a warm summer breeze she floated through the getting ready phase.
I had asked my boyfriend Eric to tag along as a second shooter for the evening. Summer had mentioned a second shooter initially when we first spoke, but with everything going on it just was not in the budget. Eric had some photography schooling background, but had never shot professionally. I had faith in his appreciation for the art of photography and the arts in general. I knew he would be a natural at capturing human emotion and I was right. I showed him some basics, put him on shutter priority and released him into his first wedding photography experience and he didn't skip a beat. It felt as is we had done this before together as we danced around each other on opposite sides of the room. The images he handed back to me on that camera at the end of the night made me happy for Summer that she had us both there.
It was an evening wedding at St. Anthony Church in Lafitte, LA. It was cold, but no longer raining and we headed inside. To get ready for the ceremony ahead. I was finally going to meet the groom Jarred. When I met him I knew in that moment what kept Summer going on this day. Jarred was quite and kind. You could tell he was nervous, but not afraid. He was ready. The ceremony began and it was clear he was in face her lighthouse not only on this day, but everyday. You cannot fake the way he looks at her. The camera caught it over and over again that night without effort. There were tears, smiles, and laughs throughout the ceremony, Father Luke was awesome and helpful offering to walk through the entire ceremony with me and Eric before hand. There were 3 speakers, but her Father is who stuck out to me. Like his daughter he was warm and as he struggled to get through his speech mentioning the wife and mother he loved deeply who could not be there. It was in his voice, his demeanor he will love her always and forever, he knows of no other way to love her.
After the ceremony we headed next door to the reception hall where Summer and helpers had spent hours completely redecorating the room they would laugh, dance, and drink the night away in as the celebrated love, loss, and life. Summer was happy, the love of her life smiling at her so big at her his smile took up his entire face. Summer had endured a loss more painful than words could ever describe, but that night I learned she had truly gained a love from another human that was bigger than words could describe.
As I sift through the images putting this Target portrait blog together I giggle to myself thinking that Brynlee will one day be all grown up and look back on these and it will always be one of those cool stories she has. I have been following Brynlee aka Queen B. with the camera for a few years and on her 4th birthday I recognize what a kind and friendly young lady she is growing into.
I remember when mom Casey booked this session. Booked long before even the party theme had been decided. Then one day Casey had a vision. A Target epiphany I should say. A true vision of red, saluting the "BASIC" alive in all of us.
Day of the session I show up to meet Casey and B. So Casey has two outfits I have seen both, help with shoes and bow decisions in the days leading up to session day. There had been a "bump" with the sequins skirt for outfit one after a seamstress misunderstanding. I was worried about the final option to just get a new one and pin it. Alas all was ok and turned out just fine. I freaked for nothing per usual.
We strolled through Target as we do any other day that we give ourselves the excuse to window shop the colorful isles because #targetgirlforlife. Finding joy in your everyday is where it is at yall. Life is an adventure and you can find it anywhere you choose to.
Huge thank you to the Covington Louisiana Target for allowing us to feel welcome through this entire process.
You can find the full gallery of this session here: Target Birthday Portraits