Ava | Hannah Park Beach Session | Jacksonville Family Photographer

Fellow New England transplants Nichole and Brian first contacted me last spring via Red Thread Sessions, a wonderful organization that connects new adoptive families with local professional photographers. As soon as we met (and I heard that Rhode Island accent) I felt like I already knew them. They were so familiar! It was like being home. Their beautiful (at the time) one-year-old daughter Ava had recently come home from China and I was flooded with memories of bringing my own adoptive daughter home six years before. We had a wonderful session with glorious light in a beautiful park filled with lush greenery.

Well it turns out that the now two-year-old Ava is quite a fan of the beach. No park this year. Instead, we decided to do the family session out at Hannah Park this time. We arrived about 75 minutes before sunset and watched Ava play with the sand and look for shells. About an hour later, that glorious light that lasts about 15 minutes cascaded over the sand dunes and I was in heaven. Ava forgot I was there and was having quite the time dancing, laughing, curtsying and spinning. I couldn’t shoot fast enough. It was perfection. My only regret is that I have to wait another year before out next session, but one I will look forward to with much joy.
Until then, enjoy the beautiful Ava and her parents Nichole and Brian.

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Kelly - April 28, 2014 - 12:55 am

These are phenomenal! Absolutely stunning. I love how you incorporate a lifestyle feel into portraiture.

dena Powell - April 28, 2014 - 1:43 am

Oh my, she is adorable! Love the light airy feel of all the pictures!

liz - April 28, 2014 - 1:57 am

These are amazing, I love everything about this session!

Melinda Bartnik - April 28, 2014 - 2:45 am

Absolutely adorable and breathtaking!

Laura - April 28, 2014 - 12:53 pm

She is just too cute!!

Janelle Awe - April 28, 2014 - 3:21 pm

Beautiful edits and captures but more beautiful is the little angel in all of the shots. What a sweetie…

Marisa - April 28, 2014 - 8:46 pm

Laureen – You always have the most meaningful sessions!! There’s always such a wonderful story behind them. This session was no exception! What a sweet girl! I love her dress!

Lora - April 29, 2014 - 1:35 am

These images capture everything a 2 year old is about – exploration, play, and love. Wonderful and timeless photographs, Laureen!

Monica Reynolds - April 30, 2014 - 12:07 pm

oh my goodness… these are amazing! Love the little girls dress… this is such a beautiful family and you captured them beautifully.

Cris Passos - May 2, 2014 - 8:44 pm

Oh Laureen, this session is beyond beautiful! Love every single image!!!!

Ashley Durham - May 4, 2014 - 1:12 pm

These are beautiful, I love how full of joy that she is.

Tracey - May 5, 2014 - 1:40 am

Beautiful work!

Christina Corneau - August 15, 2014 - 4:08 am

Beyond Adorable!!!

Rachel’s Heart | Adoption | Jacksonville Child Photographer

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There are few times in life when you feel like you are standing on holy ground. For me, one of those times was this past Saturday. You’ve heard of Six Degrees of Separation, right? Well, for me it was four degrees involving four adoptive moms from PA, MN, TX and FL, all friends of friends on Facebook. Last Wednesday night I received a message from my friend in PA asking if I would be willing to take some photographs of a little girl in the Jacksonville area who is in desperate need of a new heart.

Rachel-63Last week, this little girl told her parents she wanted to leave the hospital and come home to die surrounded by the family she has come to love these past 2.5 years. The young girl is Rachel Hope and she lives in a strength and faith that most people will never know. She spent her first 7.5 years living in an orphanage in China, hoping against hope that she would be adopted. This hope was against everything she was told. Being born with only half a heart, her caretakers told her no one would ever want her. And yet, in her heart she longed for a family of her own… to have brothers and sisters… and she never gave up hope.

Rachel-60She lives a life full of joy and faith and the chaos that come  with having three sisters within three years of age. Her mom’s request was a small one, to have some final photographs of Rachel before she dies, that show who she is… beyond the hospital bed and the tubes, beyond the blue lips and blue fingers.

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I have to say that while there was never a hesitation that I was called to do this, I was a little nervous about how I would react when meeting Rachel. She is almost the same age and size as my own daughter,  who was also adopted from China. However, any bit of fear vanished upon seeing her. This child is determined to live to the fullest whatever life she has left . She is spunky and full of personality. Not one complaint. I was in awe.

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We were originally going to go to a beautiful inn not far from their house but as soon as I walked in the home, I was overcome by the warmth. Not only of light. Of spirit as well. LIke I said, I felt like I was on holy ground. Now, I am not talking about angels and organ music. To the contrary, the house was full of noise, and laughter. Doors opening and slamming shut. Girls chasing each other and playing spy games. It was a ordinary house. And yet, so not ordinary. All rolled up in one.

Rachel-6I sat down with Rachel and showed her how my camera worked. How the lenses were used for different settings. We chatted for a bit and then I just started photographing her . Folks, this girl is definitely NOT camera shy. She had me cracking up and so enjoying myself that I completely forgot about the PICC line in her arm.

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Rachel-12We moved from the warm light of the living room to the soft light of the back porch, where we were joined by Summer, the retriever.  Laughing and loving in the beautiful light. I was in heaven.

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After about ten minutes, like any ten year old, she was ready to be done with the pictures and join her sisters outside. And so we finished up … her running out the front door and jumping on her bike; me sitting in awe of the glimpse of holiness.

Rachel’s time here on earth is short if a new heart is not found very soon. Please share this post. While Rachel continues to live each day the fullest with the half heart that she has right now, perhaps somewhere, somehow a heart will become available. Perhaps the heart is just six degrees away. After all, her middle name is hope. And hope remains.

To learn more about Rachel, read this beautiful post written by her mom Lori.
Click  * here *

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Melissa Mowrey - April 22, 2014 - 1:27 am

Beautifully written Laureen. Thank you for sharing so that more people can pray for her and it will lead her to receive the care she needs. I will certainly pray for her and her family. You captured her joy and her spirit, just beautiful.

Diana - April 22, 2014 - 2:52 am

Laureen,
Thank you for saying YES!!! You have given this family a priceless gift.. And, you did such a beautiful job capturing Rachel’s spirit and joy!!!

Thankful for the Red Thread that has connected us all together! You are a blessing!

Love,
Diana

Lori - April 22, 2014 - 3:58 am

I am the incredibly blessed woman whom Rachel calls “Mommy”… I stood behind you as you snapped these photos, Laureen! Yet I could not have imagined the spirit of our precious daughter that you would capture through the lens of your camera. Your spirit connected to hers and the outcome of that is a gift that I will treasure for a lifetime! Only God knows what plans He has for Rachel and how He intends to glorify Himself through her life… however short it might be! What I have learned since saying “yes” to Rachel 3 years ago, is that every single day holds a miracle- if only we have eyes to see them! The doctors all agree… Rachel should have never made it home to her forever family alive. Now two and a half years later, she continues to defy all odds and medical journals and she lives on! She shows us all what it means to REALLY live and to not be afraid of the beautiful life that lies beyond Heaven’s door. Through her incredible perspective, I am learning that HOPE has little to do with a new heart coming in time… HOPE is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ, and our lives are full of meaning, purpose, and miracles when lived for HIM alone! Walking this road with Rachel has been the most beautiful journey of my life thus far! Heaven seems so near… and yet we welcome it with open arms, knowing that we will all spend an eternity together there, celebrating the goodness of our incredible God! Thanking God tonight for the privilege to have witnessed the beautiful miracle we call Rachel Hope!

With Great JOY,
Lori McCary

Kelly - April 22, 2014 - 10:39 am

Wow, Laureen. Beautiful images of a beautiful child with an incredible soul that shines through. Praying for continued strength for her and for her family, and for an available heart to give her more time to spread her spirit, faith and hope to others!

Maura - April 22, 2014 - 12:52 pm

Laureen, this is such a beautiful post. You’ve captured this child’s true spirit in some amazing photos. This family is sure to treasure the photos forever. I’m praying for the family – you’ve been a true blessing to them.

Dena Powell - April 22, 2014 - 1:09 pm

I feel like these things happen to the most brave and amazing children and we in turn learn so much through their journey. What a beautiful session with an amazing little girl.

Mallory - April 22, 2014 - 1:15 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful child’s story. I’ll be thinking of this little one. <3

Lora - April 22, 2014 - 1:50 pm

Simply stunning images, Laureen, of this beautiful girl. Praying for her and her family.

Mandi - April 22, 2014 - 2:45 pm

Words just cannot describe the emotions I am feeling as I read this. Your pictures are breathtaking. This little girl is a true angel. Her strength and acceptance is truly inspiring. My prayers are with her and her family.

Cris Passos - April 22, 2014 - 3:18 pm

Wow, such an amazing post Laureen, she is a beautiful girl and you captured her soul, you are blessed!!! I will be praying for her and her family!!!

Ebonni - April 22, 2014 - 4:15 pm

I shared this post on FB. A lot of people I know did the same. My heart goes out to this family. This little girl is such a bright light! <3

Lisamarie - April 22, 2014 - 4:35 pm

There is no greater joy, no greater sense of worth than to glorify God with the talent He has blessed you with. You were the perfect vessel for His service, a true gift for Rachel!s family.
As always, God be with you
Lm

Caitlin - April 22, 2014 - 6:33 pm

Laureen, what you have given this family is an amazing thing! My heart broke into a million pieces reading this. My prayers go to this family <3

yvonne sanders - April 22, 2014 - 7:57 pm

Laureen! What a wonderful opportunity and blessing to be a part of this beautiful child’s journey! Love all your images and how appropriate is the pearl “heart” necklace!!!!

tracy - April 22, 2014 - 10:13 pm

What a beautiful gift, Laureen. And what a beautiful girl <3

Donna Musselwhite - April 23, 2014 - 12:35 am

Oh my word, Laureen! Such stunning pictures of a stunning little girl! What an amazing gift you have given to her family in the photographs! My thoughts and prayers are with Rachel Hope and her family. Thank you so much for sharing these pictures and more importantly, Rachel Hope, with all of us!!!

Marisa - April 23, 2014 - 1:44 am

Wow, Laureen! I don’t even know where to begin. First, I think it’s so wonderful that you did a session like this. This little girl is so strong and beautiful. It’s so tough to understand why life happens this way but it’s a blessing that you were able to capture her beauty! Stunning images!

Sarah Riley - April 23, 2014 - 3:34 am

Laureen,
Your pictures never cease to amaze me. I am in tears on this end and am so thankful that I got to spend a few moments surrounded by this beautiful little girl. Prayers to her and her family.

Carrie - April 23, 2014 - 5:15 am

Laureen what an honor to photograph this beautiful little girl and give this wonderful gift to this family. I am will be praying for them all! Also working on getting her story out we need to find her a heart!

Carrie - April 23, 2014 - 5:22 am

I forgot to comment about the pearls…completely fitting for this little girl to have those beautiful pearls! :)

Ashley Durham - April 23, 2014 - 1:44 pm

Oh Laureen … :( These images are beautiful. My heart breaks for her family, I can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through. I am praying for Rachel, for her family and friends.

Monica Reynolds - April 23, 2014 - 2:35 pm

Wow… such a touching story. My heart is breaking for her family. What a special gift you were able to capture for them. Lots of prayers to this beautiful little girl and her family.

ali - April 23, 2014 - 2:42 pm

this is beautiful! such a touching story and a beautiful little girl!!! you did an amazing job capturing these moments for her and her family.

Christina Corneau - April 24, 2014 - 2:01 am

Such gorgeous images of her Laureen. I’ll be praying for Rachel and her family. You’ve given them a gift beyond measure.

Janice and Ray’s Engagement | Avondale | Jacksonville Photographer

JW32Janice and Ray are such a warm and genuine couple. We first met at Panera’s and before dinner was over, I felt like I had known them for years. Ray is a navy man and is a wonderful photographer. Janice is a fellow Yankee transplant. She is also a two-time cancer survivor whose love for life is contagious. They are so stinkin’ cute together and had me smiling for most of the session. I am beyond excited to be shooting their wedding in August at Everbank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Until then, Enjoy!

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Jen - April 14, 2014 - 3:06 pm

Great session! I love the vibrant colors, and the couple looks so so happy!

Ashley McAlister - April 14, 2014 - 6:39 pm

This is adorable! Love love love her tattoo!!

dena - April 15, 2014 - 5:39 pm

How cute are they!? Their wedding will be so cool at the Jags stadium!

Karey Ronnow - April 16, 2014 - 12:49 am

What an ADORABLE couple! Captured perfectly! XoXo

Cris Passos - April 16, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Lauren, I love to see your posts and images, I really enjoy the emotion you capture through your lens 😉

Tina Joiner - April 16, 2014 - 7:45 pm

I love it! Such a sweet couple!

Julie - April 16, 2014 - 8:25 pm

They are so cute together!! Love these!

Christina Corneau - April 16, 2014 - 10:34 pm

Adorable!!! They are such a fun, loving couple!! Great work!

Monica Reynolds - April 16, 2014 - 11:02 pm

These are GREAT!!! Such an adorable couple :)

ali - April 17, 2014 - 2:28 am

such a sweet couple!!!

Ashley Durham - April 17, 2014 - 3:30 pm

Love her tattoo!

yvonne sanders - April 22, 2014 - 7:20 pm

OMG! They’re love! Great location!

Sister Session (and Mom, too!) | Avondale | Jacksonville Family Photographer

WM Kandi Blog6We are family
I got all my sisters with me’
~ Sister Sledge

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Maura - April 7, 2014 - 1:05 pm

Beautiful as always! This family will surely cherish these amazing photos!

Jen - April 7, 2014 - 3:10 pm

Beautiful!!! As always!

Nicole Gulick - April 8, 2014 - 4:24 am

So lovely! Love sister sessions and more so that mom jumped in just lovely

Ashley Durham - April 10, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Beautiful session!

yvonne sanders - April 14, 2014 - 2:15 pm

Sisters! What a great session! I need to do one of my two girls!!!!

San Marco Square | Family Session | Jacksonville Family Photographer

I feel all kinds of connected to this family.
The mom was a former student at the high school at which I teach.
And HER mother just retired from the same high school.
Scariest part? The oldest son is now in high school.
I, on the other hand, remain as young as ever!
*wink, wink*

Shelly Blog WM5Shelly Blog WM6Shelly Blog WM7Shelly Blog WM8Shelly Blog WM3Shelly Blog WM2Shelly Blog WM1

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Maura - April 7, 2014 - 12:50 pm

Always love looking at your photos and this session is no exception! Great work!

Nicole Gulick - April 8, 2014 - 4:18 am

What a super adorable family! Such gorgeous images they will love forever

Ashley Durham - April 10, 2014 - 12:01 pm

What a great looking family!

yvonne sanders - April 14, 2014 - 2:14 pm

Girl! You rock at family sessions!