Janet & Co.

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Janet recently moved from Utah to Seattle and given the fact I had never been to Seattle (and wanted to see her, duh) I scheduled my flight.

I took on a few sessions while I was there, which turned out fantastic despite my mode of operation to practically drive myself into a panic attack beforehand. Both families were sweet as could be, a delight to photograph, and the images turned out great. I hope to open myself up to more travel sessions in the future… I gotta give my nerves some practice.

I spent the first day there entirely on my own, with intentions to explore the city, meet Janet for lunch, and pick her up at the end of her work day. I barely made it out of the shower before wanting to climb back in bed for a nap. I could blame it on first trimester or I could blame it on standing in line for an hour and a half waiting to pick up a rental car from Hertz the night prior. Seriously, don’t use Hertz. In any event, I didn’t make it further than Whole Foods – where I stopped to pick up some things to make for dinner – before taking a nap in the car; the windows down, the sun shining through the window. By all accounts, perfect car nap ingredients if you were to ask my dad (who himself is well versed in both car naps and face-down-on-the-hallway-carpet naps). I didn’t see much of the city and I nearly convinced myself that traveling, at all, while in the first trimester is a complete sham.

I felt better the next day. We packed a few things and hit the road for Portland, where both of my sessions were. The traffic reminded me of LA but we made due with good music and good conversation and a relatively good toddler that sat relatively quietly in the backseat.

We learned quickly that gone are the days that you can roll into a city, pull up at the first hotel you see, and get a room. Times sure have changed since the summer we spent on the road, driving all the way to Louisiana and back without a single reservation or even a hint of a plan. Needless to say, we opted for the Travelodge, which appeared to be the only option in town with only one room left and a front desk employee who had never even heard of a pack-n-play and proceeded to scratch his head when we described it as a “travel crib”.

We spent much of our time exploring the city and surrounding areas, stopping in at the occasional Denny’s which seems to fulfill whatever pregnancy cravings I’ve had thus far (hello magnificent butter-melted-belgium-waffles and french fries with those little salt canals engraved into their salty potato goodness). We met up with a few friends in the area as well, which makes this big world we live in feel just a bit friendlier. I shot my sessions and we headed back to Seattle, albeit sitting in traffic for much of the way, and I flew home the following morning, before the sun was even up.

I always longed for the day Janet moved from Utah; always assumed it’d be back to California. And yet visiting the path her life has taken her on has proven almost as fun. Almost. Still longing for the day…

Three

San Clemente Family Photographer-6 San Clemente Family Photographer-11Gosh, it was nearly a year ago that I first shared my thoughts on having a third. It was a discussion that weaved it’s way into many of conversations and debates between Willy and I.

I’ve debated sharing any news here until things felt more real and secure, but ultimately I’ve decided that I lean on this space heavily for support and encouragement and to deny the truth any longer feels weird. Especially because I can’t seem to stop talking about how tired I am.
I’m pregnant. And not that anything has gone wrong or caused any need for concern, somehow this pregnancy feels more fragile.
I’m past the first trimester now, with a due date in March – the first possibility at adding a Spring birthday in our family, which would round out the seasons so that we have at least one in each. Time has flown even in the midst of the worst throws of exhaustion and waves of uneasiness that seem to dictate much of the first several weeks of pregnancy.
Willy, second guessing that vasectomy…
Van, insistant on the baby coming out now so that he can hold it and show it his monster truck.
Hooper, concerned with the baby’s ability to breath while in my belly and innocently confused about how it’s going to come out as he makes a full circle around my body in hopes to discover this hole I told him about. He points to my butt and starts to laugh and all concerns prove fleeting and questions, answered.
And me, trying hard to slow down time to grasp all the changes that await… building a to-do list that includes “find a space for the new baby” at the top… a growing anticipation to know just who this little person growing inside me is going to be…
My dress is from Squashblossomvintage, on etsy

Visual Supplement: William Eggleston

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“A picture is what it is and I’ve never noticed that it helps to talk about them, or answer specific questions about them, much less volunteer information in words. It wouldn’t make any sense to explain them. Kind of diminishes them. People always want to know when something was taken, where it was taken, and, God knows, why it was taken. It gets really ridiculous. I mean, they’re right there, whatever they are.”
– William Eggelston, always known in my book as the father of color photography

An Interview

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In June, you may remember that we stayed with Willy’s Aunt Kathie in Montana. We spent a lot of time in the car and a lot of time cooking and drinking and watching the changes of weather and I knew in that time that I’d want to interview her here on my blog because much of what we discussed, I wanted to remember. And to share. Kathie has lived an interesting life, some may even say a life against the grain. Much of it has been in Montana, hundreds of miles from where she was raised. She’s worked on Indian reservations and has a story to match any crazy story I could manifest off the top of my head. She wears one earring because she believes in the beauty of asymmetry and she grows garlic partly for a living and partly because she enjoys it. She raised her son Joseph for much of his life as a single mom, but all of this is really just the bullet points. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy her point of view and learning a little about her as much as I did.

 

You raised your son in a very small town. Can you discuss your decision to do so and the factors that contributed to your decision?

I moved to Montana in 1983 and after moving around a bit, settled in to teaching social studies at Sweet Grass County High School in Big Timber after getting married in August of 1991. We moved to our home on the Yellowstone the fall of 1992 and I discarded the worn boxes I had been packing and unpacking since about 1980. When I found out I was pregnant in 1994, it seemed like a good idea to continue setting down roots and having grown up mostly in Phoenix, I was thrilled to think of raising my child in a rural place!
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Some say small town, small mind. What are your feelings on more progressive topics like the legalization of marijuana and gay marriages? Would your son agree? Do you opinions isolate you at all from the community you are a part of?

Ahhhhh, we do reflect our locale and the geography of place is real. I support the legalization of marijuana and jumped for joy this summer when the US Supreme Court decided in favor of protecting the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation! (Aside:  Jeannette Rankin was elected to US Congress in Montana in 1916, before women had the right to vote in US.) Montana is an interesting mix of “small” and “wide open” – haha!

I believe Joseph supports both, although he is personally opposed to indulging in alcohol and drugs.

Sweet Grass County is one of the most conservative in the State… Yes, my opinions could isolate me from the community. I taught US Government, History, and Geography.  All seniors are required to take a year of US Government and I did compromise my politics in an effort to teach students to think, analyze, and learn about democracy. Most everyone knew at some level that I am liberal but I kept my politics to myself…mostly.  Education is really a liberal idea.  Souther California Photographer-204

Speaking from hindsight, are you glad you raised your son in a small town? What do you think were the pros and cons?

Without a doubt, I am happy and grateful to have raised my son in rural Sweet Grass County.  

Cons:  lots of driving, limited exposure to diversity, not  “street smart”

Pros: great network of people who care and taught him firsthand about “community” and the ups and downs of everyone knowing everyone… (ie lots of eyes and genuine interest and concern for each individual, also gossiping nature of a small town where everyone knows your business, sometimes before you do – haha); living in the country, he had lots of room to roam in the natural world; he spent most of his free time at home… he learned basic skills of rural life, like tasks involved in heating with wood, fencing, irrigating, winter survival Souther California Photographer-28

You mentioned that you’re glad your son has left Montana for California. You’ve always encouraged your son to travel and live and explore. In a way I feel like you raised him in a small town, but ingrained in him big world ideas, which is really noteworthy. Please elaborate. 

The natural world is just that and we are a part of it– although our modern world tends to make us apart from it.  (We are animals you know.) Seeing the Milky Way Galaxy spread across the sky most nights helps remind us where we may fit into the picture of the universe. We are a small part of a tiny light in this great universe and yet each of our lives is a miracle and we are present for a short time, graced with life and gifts to cultivate and share. I wish for my son a full and beautiful life where he may grow and blossom and become one with the earth, not fighting with it always.  Knowledge is power and tends to bring light to the darkness. We need light and hope and love in our world, always, and my goal has been to raise Joseph with this in mind, well, in his heart, too.

We spoke about how technology allows us to be very individualistic; you no longer have to listen to music you don’t like or watch commercials you don’t want to because of things like playlists and DVRs. Can you discuss this further and the implications you feel it has had on society? 

Yes, we have become most individualistic and yet tethered mightily to electronic devices that allow us to forget that we are all connected in a very basic, cellular way (no pun intended, really!)  Even our language has duality… We must remember that we all are human beings who basically want to have enough food, shelter, and clothing to survive, we want to be loved and accepted, and we want our children to grow and thrive. Technology can be used to make our worlds more connected through communication and transportation; it can also separate us by spreading misinformation and fear. It is our choice and our responsibility to use it wisely.Souther California Photographer-301

You worked for years as an educator. I’d like to ask a few questions specific to this topic:

-What do you think the goals are of early education?

Education begins in the family unit – and “parents” and their immediate network start the process. Brain research suggests that years 1-5 are critical for developing healthy patterns, there are two more times when the brain establishes fairly critical patterns that tend to become lifetime habits! (I can look this up to confirm the two later age spans) Teaching values is a big part of this first period – like honesty, “good” and “bad” as defined by individuals and the culture in which one lives, most of this is taught simply by lifestyle habits of the family. Socialization occurs here, too, how to get along with others. Of course, reading, interacting, and playing are the ways that young children learn. Have fun with them and teach them along the way.  Everything counts and from the beginning until our kids are grown, they are always watching us and learning from our examples!  (great book – “Our Children Are Watching”) 

-Can you discuss your observations and experiences of/with children that were homeschooled? What are your general feelings on a homeschooled education?

Ha, trick question for a public school teacher who enthusiastically supports free, quality, public education for everyone.  Numerous homeschooled students I’ve met in high school are nowhere near their publicly educated peers, academically and/or socially.  That said, I can name some individuals whose families actively and consistently educated their sons/ daughters at home AND with the “outside” world – not simply their like-minded, homeschooling group (remember the playlists and DVR’s that let us block out what we don’t want to hear and see???)-and these young people have been terrifically successful as they move into adulthood. Life is full of adversity and I believe that it is at home that our children are best-able to process their early experiences with adversity if we allow them to experience life and if we communicate openly, honestly, and age-appropriately with them. Souther California Photographer-354

We talked briefly about ‘unschooling’, where children are kept out of school and are free to learn on their own at home, in the absence of any curriculum. What are your thoughts on this?

Well, if the individual is motivated to learn and the family has the means to support them if they choose to continue a life in this manner, I suppose it can work. I am skeptical of these individuals finding a satisfying life in society as we know it. Maybe this will change if there are more people who are “unschooled.” Remember, knowledge is power and if your kids don’t have knowledge, those that do will end up making the decisions for them. I do believe this and if you look at history, this has been the pattern…

-What do you think is the best way combine the freedom of homeschooling, the autonomy of unschooling, and the structure of standard schooling? 

Can you have your cake and eat it, too?  

Have your kids go to a neighborhood school. Actively support the school and/or work to make it better! If you take off for a long weekend or whatever, have the kids learn along the way.   Teach your kids when they are home or let them learn on their own, the unschooling part. My son played a lot on his own. We had a list of “bored chores” just in case he wasn’t able to figure out something to do on his own. As he got older, he had chores that were important to the household. He learned along the way. 

Parenting was the most important, challenging, and rewarding work I have ever done.  It is a short and fleeting time-savor this time with your children.  My Dad said that when there is a challenge or obstacle in my life to try to make a game out of it and figure out how to win the game… I think parenting may be a bit like this, if all else fails, make it a game and do your best to win! Of course, remember that you are the adult and it really isn’t you against the child, it is you and the child winning the “game” of life together☺
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You can view more pictures of our time in Montana by clicking here.

A Family Session, with The Gibsons

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That’s not to say this shoot was chaotic. Not for me, at least. Though Kelly and Roger may tell you otherwise. I captured this family, in their home and alongside the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington.
Interested in booking a session? You can visit my website for more information, or email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com. I’ll be in Northern California October 19-22 and have just a few slots left.

Childhood Unplugged, with Alain Laboile

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“Time goes by so quickly. I would like my photos to allow my children to dive back into their childhood when they are adults and feel past emotions. These photographs can be a good help to build themselves as parents. We understand our children better when we remember the child whom we once were and how we lived.”

There’s a fantastic interview with French photographer Alain Laboile over on Childhood Unplugged that I urge all of you to check out.

Sally Mann

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“I struggle with enormous discrepancies: between the reality of motherhood and the image of it, between my love for my home and the need to travel, between the varied and seductive paths of the heart. The lessons of impermanance, the occasional despair and the muse, so tenuously moored, all visit their needs upon me and I dig deeply for the spiritual utilities that restore me: my love for the place, for the one man left, for my children and friends and the great green pulse of spring.” – Sally Mann

Amanda Jane Jones + A Little Bundle + The Bee & The Fox

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Some time back, I was contacted by Annie from A Little Bundle about taking part in a bundle for new mothers curated by Amanda Jane Jones.

Amanda Jane Jones is a name I already knew well; she designed Kinfolk Magazine, for starters, and has also worked in collaboration with Artifact Uprising. She’s a freelance graphic designer and some of her personal work is my favorite; check out this and this. She’s innovative and unique, with an air of elegance that’s perhaps only matched by her gentle and genuine nature. To be recognized by her and chosen in a bundle curated by her, well, it goes without saying that I’m incredibly honored.

So what’s a bundle, you ask? Well, A Little Bundle works with many small businesses to offer unique bundles of items for both mother and baby. Each bundle consists of four or more items that are hand selected with special attention to detail.

Read More “Amanda Jane Jones + A Little Bundle + The Bee & The Fox”

Summer Concert Series

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Music has gotten me through the hard times, the good times, and everything in between. It’s always been my remedy, my go-to. When we moved to the area last year, we immediately became members at the Mission and jumped at the chance to purchase tickets to their summer concert series. This summer we’ve seen Fortunate Son (CCR Tribute), The Long Run (The Eagles), Jumpin’ Jack Flash (The Rolling Stones), True Willie (Willie Nelson), Cash’d Out (Johnny Cash), and The Fab Four (The Beatles). All were excellent.

Dana Point also offers their own dose of free (can’t beat free) summer concerts; we’ve seen Led ZepAgain (Led Zeppelin), Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen), The Petty Breakers (Tom Petty), and Turn The Page (Bob Seger).
It’s a booze sippin’, kids roamin’, music jammin’ good time, every time. If you’re in the area, I suggest checking both out.

A Family Session, with The Hillman Family

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I photographed The Hillman Family in their hometown of Portland, Oregon during my recent time spent up in the Pacific Northwest. They invited me into their beautiful 1940’s home nestled in a quiet neighborhood in the hills looking down on the city. We spent sometime inside before venturing to their backyard, which is something Aaron build himself and surprised Amy with on her birthday years ago. You better believe I came home telling Willy all about this new bar that has been set. Little Josie picked what was left of the blueberries, chased the cat, and picked some flowers for each of us. Her little curls as sweet as her smile. We finished the shoot at a park up the hill from their home.

I’d love to open myself up for more travel sessions. If you’re in the US and interested in having me out to your area, shoot me an email. It’s been such a pleasure traveling and meeting new families. And in case you missed it, I’ll be in the Northern California region October 18-21 and am looking to book a few shoots while there.

Thirty Seven

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A portrait of my family once a week, most weeks, in 2015

Willy: Tied for MVP at the bachelor party he attended in Austin last weekend. The person who returned to me resembled anything but an MVP.

Hooper: Pointed out that ‘P is for penis’; a celebration in sorts for tackling the ol’ alphabet but a defeat when you consider parenting styles, I suppose.

Van: Held up four fingers requesting four Mike & Ikes but when I asked him how many that was he said, “I dunno”. Made me want to go to my employer with my arms stretched out to my side and say, “I want this much of a raise”.

Me: Swallowed a little bit of Listerine during a failed attempt at multitasking; a reminder to self that you cannot sustain a good enough gurgle while attempting to return emails. Filed that under ‘regrets in life’ right behind accidentally using shampoo to clean my face instead of face wash… cuz’ that happened this week, too.

Jimmie: Hangs out with whoever is furthest from the front door. Allow me to translate: has major separation issues, still.
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A New Look

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You may notice that things look slightly different around here. Many thanks to my girl Janet for making what’s been a long time in the works come to fruition so beautifully. You can find everything that was here before in slightly new places, so have a look around – if you wish – and let me know what you think.

I have lots of posts planned and lots of photo sessions to share. I’ve been working hard with my designer and programmer on the backend stuff and now that it’s taken care of, for the most part, I’m looking forward to moving full speed ahead. I hope you’ll join me….

A Photography Series: Staying true to the artist in you

Taste is not something you can teach, it’s just innate. I heard an interesting interview with Jerry Springer on a morning radio program a while ago. They were asking him about Kim Kardasian and why he thought she was so successful. Jerry went on to explain how the entertainment industry has become democratized. Stay with me, I’ll tie this all together. He said, back in the day, people used to listen to radio programs because of the DJ. Then people started calling in and all the sudden people were listening to the radio to hear what the callers were going to say. Then talk shows became big and people were, once again, watching to see how the audience was going to react. Then shows like American Idol came along and all the sudden the audience had complete control over who was going to be the next star. Gone are the days where a bunch of big-wigs sit around an over sized table and decide who the next big star is going to be. So, ya see, it doesn’t always have to do with talent (or taste) so much as it has to do with appealing to the masses. And in so many cases, especially in terms of art, the general public lacks taste. Hence, why Kim Kardashian is successful.
Let me digress again. I’ve done a lot of traveling to a lot of poor countries where people idolize me for simply being American. Then, when I return home and venture to the middle of butt-fuck-no-where I look around in disbelief at what makes up a HUGE core of the US… people like honey boo boo… I think about those people from those poor countries who have this fanatical ideal of the US and feel sorry for them… someone has obviously pulled the wool over their eyes. We aren’t all we’re cracked up to be.
Back to my point. I will always value quality over quantity. I may get 20 more photography gigs if I start posing newborn babies on lily pads with pearls around their necks. But it’s not my style. Someone else can do it better in me and see the beauty in it. I don’t. And I’m okay with missing out on those 20 clients for the 1 that respects my approach/style/taste/work. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone is going to have different tastes. That’s what makes it all the more magical when you do find a client that is right for you. Like love, there is presumably someone out there for each of us. The debate then becomes are you willing to sacrifice your own taste to please a broader range of clients? What I’ve learned is that you have to follow your own instinct and try your hardest not to even look at what anyone else is doing, whether you like what they’re doing or not. Just do your thing.

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Childhood Unplugged

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I just went in to peak on the boys sleeping. You know how some nights you just have to do that to remind yourself of their innocence? A reminder, I suppose, that they didn’t mean it when they spit at you or told you that you’re not their friend because the milkshake you bought them with dinner was not, in fact, a dessert because it was served with dinner.
I’ve been so exhausted lately and this weekend was no exception. Willy was in Austin for a bachelor party and given the fact it was the first week of school, and the dreaded school schedules – which is relatively new to us anyway – it was a hard, long week. And despite having an immaculate house on Friday, by Saturday morning, just about every room was in complete disarray. The pizza box from Friday night’s dinner is still sitting on the bar top.
It’s been harder to keep the boys entertained in the house. We live in a townhome, so every time I have to tell the boys “no” to going outside or to riding their bikes, I feel like a chump. I wish it were as easy as opening a screen door and letting them run free while I watch from the kitchen window and, oh I dunno, throw away that damn pizza box.
More times than not, it’s just easier to pile everyone in the car – Jimmie included (because he’s still anxious as ever about us leaving) – and head to the beach. And so, we did.
When we got to the local burger joint, I realized I forgot Hooper’s shoes and instantly felt gratitude for the forgiveness shown by living in a beach city. I also laughed to myself as I looked at Van, fully decked out in socks and shoes (the kid is quite particular about what goes on his feet these days), and poor Hooper with his dirty, grungy feet (who never even pointed out the fact he didn’t have shoes because, well, quite honestly it happens often).
We got to the beach just a bit before sunset and lined up next to the regular campers that seem to line Doheny in the summertime, and year-around, really. The boys finished their milkshakes and made a haphazard attempt at eating enough of their cheeseburgers to make a parent feel adequate about calling it dinner before running off to touch enough things that made picking their cheeseburgers back up not really an option anyway (how’s that for a run-on sentence? I’m tired. Did I say that?).
We stayed just long enough for the calm to wash away whatever difficulties the weekend had brought and when the boys made the argument that the milkshake they had with dinner was not dessert, I had just enough to patience to hold strong and explain, albeit numerous times, that it was indeed a treat.
And now, as they sleep so peacefully, clinging to the blankets they’ve had since they were babies, side by side in a shared room, I can look back on the day and feel good about it. And even better about the fact that the nap I literally snuck in earlier today granted me the energy to stay up and put thoughts into words; which is a luxury I have not had enough of as of late. childhooduplugged1
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