the Shinnicks

I had vaguely mapped out some steps in a new direction — wanting to focus my camera on families, and wanting more from my photos. More soul. More truth. More light. I started dreaming of family portraits that may or may not seem “picture perfect” or like the classic “Kodak moments” — but photos that help families tell their stories. Their true stories. Desert seasons included — not ignored, and not waited out.

(Because really — how many of us would think, “Let’s invest in some fresh family photos,” right after a divorce or a diagnosis? But those are integral parts of the stories, too, and I think they are worth documenting. I want people to feel seen, to feel strong, to feel brave and beautiful in both the seasons of plenty and the seasons of trials.)

And then Caity emailed. Would I take some family photos, and did I have June 1st open? She bravely shared that June 1st would be two years since she had miscarried a baby. And two summers ago, she had gone to a quiet, safe place, a family friend’s farm, and dropped hydrangea petals in the river to grieve that loss. And part of her wanted to use their next round of family photos to honor this part of their story.

What an honor, what a joy, what a kind answer to my prayers, to be invited into this. It was exactly the invitation that my heart was craving, at exactly the right time for both of us. God is generous.

We took a few minutes to honor their sweet baby at the beginning of our time together — and then we walked forward. To bunnies. To strawberries and swings and sunlight. To cows. We explored and ran and laughed, and then we chased the sunset and the fireflies. It was glorious.

These photos with the Shinnicks feel like the first steps in that new direction I’m dreaming of. I’m hoping to seek beauty and tell stories with families, no matter what season they’re in — whether they’re overflowing with joy, or they’re clinging to each other for dear life. Or somewhere in between.

I believe every family is beautiful and every season is important. And if you believe that too — or if you want to believe that, but can’t right now — I would love to help you find the beauty. If you’d like family portraits, I’d love to hear from you. That “say hello” button is for you.

Grace & peace,

Shelby

an honest hallelujah

"There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers

Than those of us who are willing to fall

Because we have learned how to rise.

 

"With skinned knees and bruised hearts;

We choose owning our stories of struggle,

Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.

 

"When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we run from struggle, we are never free.

So we turn toward the truth and look it in the eye.

"We will not be characters in our stories.

Not villains. Not victims. Not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.

We write our own daring endings.

"We craft love from heartbreak,

Compassion from shame,

Grace from disappointment,

Courage from failure.

"Showing up is our power.

Story is our way home.

Truth is our song.

We are the brave and brokenhearted.

We are rising strong."

-- Brené Brown's "Manifesto of the Brave & Brokenhearted," Rising Strong


The good news is that she and I are learning how to rise strong - from Brené, from Mary Oliver, from Michelle Gardella, from Flannery and Joy and so many others. 

The honest part of that is - you have to fall down before you can truly learn to get back up. 

Honestly - she and I were both hurting. We found ourselves facedown, bruised and unsure, and looked around and said - "You too?" That's what fortified this friendship.

But hallelujah for this friendship. 

 And hallelujah that she and I are learning, and growing into braver artists, more merciful people, more faithful followers of Jesus. 

Hallelujah for this beautiful, strong friend of mine, who starts a new year of her life today, in more ways than one. 

 

Also - I have to thank and credit Michelle Gardella for teaching me the power of going to the River for portraits. She is the creator of River Stories, and is a force of empowerment and truth. Her work stirs my soul, and Melissa's, and we took these photos because we had to. I had to show Melissa the power and the beauty I see in her. Whether she knows it or not, Michelle helped create these photos, and I want her name written down with them. www.michellegardella.com

eucharisteo Tuesday

NE0818-7.jpg
NE0818-5.jpg
NE0818-17.jpg
NE0818-11.jpg
NE0818-14.jpg

6,126. seeing Lincoln's birthplace

6,128. train tunnels through mountains

6,129. the foundations of washed away bridges reminding me that so many came before us

6,130. American towns so old and hilly they remind me of Europe

6,131. putting a day on the calendar to come back to West Virginia with him

6,132. suppers of stew, beer, and bread

6,133. fourteen sweet, dark cherries for dessert

6,134. Mark on guitar, Lizzie on fiddle, all of us singing

eucharisteo Tuesday

3,622. leaning against his shoulder and feeling his heart pounding

3,623. my Lincoln coming down in front of me - with a ring

3,624. saying yes to what he and God are offering

3,626. calling loved ones to share good news

 

Today he is a year older, and Friday marks three years since I snapped this photo and numbered these graces on my list of blessings. 

Thank you, God. Thank you for this man.

eucharisteo Tuesday

Charleston-1.jpg

5,919. the first sunrise viewing in a long time

5,921. enough clouds to keep dawn cool, colorful, soft

Charleston-7.jpg

5,924. the only noises are the waves, the cicadas, and the birds

5,925. dew diamonds on dune grass

Charleston-16.jpg

5,914. spotting dolphins from the shore

5,918. black dogs running into the sea


Welcome, friends. 

Earlier this summer, I took a trip to the South Carolina shore with my friend Melissa. We spend a lot of time pushing each other toward our best selves, she and I. On this trip, we spent a lot of time in quiet - listening, writing, thinking. And I spent a lot of time thinking about the fresh start I needed for my photography. I knew I would come home and begin working on a new photography website - I wrote in a journal:

"What does this new website need to accomplish? It needs to revive some motivation in me and feel like a fresh start, a turning of a new page... It needs to help me continue good practices - keep me counting on my eucharisteo list, keep me writing, etc... It needs to spread light and hope and empathy... It needs to make my heart sing."

I started a photo blog in 2012, and I've had seasons of updating it regularly, and seasons of letting it gather dust. This summer, I've felt like I need a fresh start, maybe more than I ever have before. So I'm just going to let go of that old, dusty blog/website, and start fresh. But - in the past, I've really enjoyed "eucharisteo Tuesdays," a weekly post sharing entries from the gratitude list I've kept for six years. That's how I wanted to begin again. With gratitude, and with this soul-nourishing time with Mel. 

Whether you've ever visited my website or blog before, or if this is your introduction - I'm glad you're here. I hope you find courage here, and peace. I hope you find hope.

Here's to new beginnings, friends who make you better, and the dawn.