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Today I am 28, I was born in a blizzard, married in a blizzard, last year got snowed in with all my dearest friends in the blizzards, and it has snowed every year on birthday even if only a few flurries.  In 28 years, I married the love of my life, have two of the cutest, funniest, most beautiful children who are healthy and happy and wonderful {not that I’m at all biased}  We bought our forever home, close to family, in the right school district, and both the hubby and I have fantastic careers that we are passionate about and enjoy doing.  I have made some excellent friends, have fantastic clients, and amazing mentors that have helped push the studio to unimaginable successes this year.  I own not only my own home, but my own studio, and have an incredible assistant that keeps everything running smoothly and is one of my best friends.  All my very oldest and dearest friends got engaged or married this year, and my very favoritest girlfriend and sister in law gave me a beautiful little nephew that I adore.  My birthday very often gets roped in with Christmas, which is ok because it is my favorite holiday, and I am so lucky that counting my blessings would be like trying to count each of the many christmas lights I am going to make Michael hang later tonight…

All that being said, there isnt much on my wish list for my birthday/christmas this year, so instead of getting gifts I’d like to give some.  So if you go to http://www.facebook.com/JessicaLarkPhotography, you’ll be able to keep an eye on the statuses and see what we are giving away, everything from prints, portrait sessions, and studio time, to portfolio reviews, studio consultations, and free admission into one of our seminars.  I want to give you what you want, so feel free to make a suggestion, it’s hard coming up with 28 ideas off the top of my head today.

My thanks to you and the parts you play in my life that make it so wonderful ❤

 

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I’ve been trying to find the words for this post… sometimes I think we become photographers so we can say things words fall short of accurately expressing.  The source I can’t recall at this moment, but heard somewhere, someone say “there must be a separate heaven for children.”  Last year I joined Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, but conveniently ‘forgot’ to send in the agreement after paying the donation because I wasnt sure it was something I could do.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the organization they are a collection of photographers that provide memorial portraiture to families whose infants will not, or did not survive.  We essentially provide the very first and last portrait session for that child and family in hopes that the images might help with the grieving and healing process, and give them a way to hold onto those few, precious, fleeting moments.

I actually consider myself to be a pretty good source of strength in a crisis.  I tend to fall apart afterwards on my own, but in the moment I am often very calm and collected momentarily until the worst has passed…perhaps it just takes that long for my mind to process what just happened.  So when I received the call from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia I was both apprehensive and honored to be a part of such an intimate and personal experience, and to be able to preserve those few stolen moments they had with her, so they could hold onto them after.  No one should have to watch their children die… Just at CHOP alone they have on average 2-3 a week.  I can’t imagine a pain more deep or cutting.  It has been agony for me, and I am just the photographer.

I consider myself very lucky that this sweet little girl’s ailments was entirely interior, and outside she was just a beautiful little cherub of a baby, I know some of my fellow photographers have had some really intense sessions with children who have injuries and other disfigurations that are very hard to see, let alone photograph in a manner that allows people to see the beloved little souls the parents hoped for and not their wounds or illnesses, I’m not sure I’d have had the courage for such an undertaking in my first session, it has been haunting me on it’s own, and she was perfect looking.  My heart aches for all the parents that have lost their children…  so much.   I dont think I’ve ever held my kids as tightly as I did that night.  There was a few minutes where I slipped into my familiar photographer cloak, and it felt momentarily like any other newborn session I have photographed…the mother cried the entire session of course, and I have no words for my admiration of her courage and strength in those few hours we spent together.  At one moment it completely overwhelmed her, and at her request I took her sweet little girl to take some photos of her by herself, in the maybe 5 steps from her mother’s arms on the chair, to the pillow we had laid out for her, the photographer armor melted completely away from me and the vulnerability of being a mother myself ached to just set the camera down and hold her.  She reminded me so much of Cadence when she was born, probably more of a psychological than an actual physical resemblance.  She only lived about 15 minutes off life support, which she had been on since she was born.  Her mother had never gotten to hold her freely, and in the midst of all that agony, and heartbreak, and sorrow, there was a moment when her mother took her in her arms and looked at her for the first time without a breathing tube and wires, and she opened her eyes and looked back, and new her mother, recognized her; even though it was the first time she was really getting to see her.  That, and her father’s lips on her forehead, her little hand wrapped tightly around her mother’s finger, and the immense love, and peace of being in their arms, I photographed all of it, and was grateful that any part of my being there, or anything I could give them might bring them even the smallest comfort, even if not for some time.  I suppose that sentiment, is what inspired the creation of the organization, and what fills the hearts of the volunteers with enough strength to photograph session after session.

I of course felt an immense sense of despondency the entire way home… it didn’t help that I borrowed Martha’s car, and promptly locked the keys and my cell phone in the car at the gas station after the session, which resulted in a 45 minute wait and $75 fee to get the car unlocked.  I was exhausted when I got home, snuck quietly upstairs to tuck my kids in a second time, kissed Cadence and Steven, went in my room and cried until I heard Michael climbing the stairs to see where I disappeared to.

I talked to my dad about it the next day, he told me it was a pretty version of death, and something that should make me consider if I took this so hard would I be able to handle Uganda when there aren’t sterile hospitals, and I watch children laying in the dirt sick or dying, and filling me with the same sense of hopelessness that I can do nothing to change their situation… I guess, just like these moments were captured and preserved for her family to have in their mourning, and their healing, so they could hold some piece of her always, I feel that photographing children, people; who have no voice of their own I can give them one through their images, to say the things words do not convey.

I am grateful for the experience, although it has been haunting me, my grandfather told me, whenever you feel sorry for yourself do something for someone else who is worse off.  It certainly does change your perception on your own situation.  It’s also reinforced again how important our photographs are, because these moments are just that: moments.  And then they are gone… This may not be the last photo you’ll have of them, but it’s the last one you’ll take at this moment, this time, this age, this memory.

It’s not about the photos, it’s about what they represent, what they capture, and that the emotion and essence of that moment will come right back to you every time you see the image… what matters more?  What are you waiting for?  Would you be more inclined to pull out your camera, to hire a photographer if someone in your family was terminally ill?  Was dying?  Was leaving?  How many more moments would you have to cherish if you treated every moment like it was?



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I realize thanksgiving is an american holiday, but the concept should be a humanitarian concept not nationality, a day to really stop and reflect how blessed we truly are. I think this may be especially true for americans, because honestly we are really spoiled, and we feel sorry for ourselves so often I think it a tragic character flaw. That is not to say that our sorrows do not cut us, or that we do not feel suffering, and that it may be grand in scale when compared to all other experiences in our lives, but still incomparable against other places in the world and souls that find hope in places we do not know the name of and could not find a trace of happiness in. I wonder how often we pause to find much deserved gratitude for the dirty dishes in the sink that attest that we had food today, for the piles of laundry that we are clothed, for the bills and nearly empty bank accounts that we have a home, electricity, plumbing… can anyone say, hooray for toilets? People keep complaining about our economy, about the lack of jobs and yet I hear those same unemployed people turn their noses up saying that they would never lower themselves to working in fast food or bagging groceries… or here’s my favorite: “I can’t survive/support my family on $8.00 an hour”… so don’t take the job because obviously it’s more honorable to not have a job at all, and not enough money is obviously worse than no money at all? Then these same people complain about immigrants ruining our country by stealing our jobs and working for nothing… because they have been places where there is no money to be made and people are starving, because they are humble enough to work hard for little return because where they are from this is an incredible gift, why do we have such a hard time seeing our blessings? I think we should each have to spend a month in a terrible place in the world. Not Iraq or afghanistan where war is publicized and the facts are bent and molded to fit the media’s spin on it and pull at our heart strings and wallets… I mean a really terrible war ridden 3rd world country at war with it’s neighboring entities, with itself, with no government, no aid, plagued by famine and disease with no resources to remedy any hardship or trial. No shelter, no nourishment, no joy, no peace, no promise of deliverence… I wonder how that would change the shape of our perceptions in our own life. If we would be better able to weather hardships knowing how our lives could be in the face of unspeakable hardship, if we would learn to be a bit more humble and remember to be grateful for our small blessings like the fact that we can walk, use our fingers, see. How about being grateful for every single time the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, is teething, or for every instance in our lives where someone we loved has irritated us, been insensitive, hurt us, infuriated us, or completely shattered and broken our hearts, because it is as simple as if we didn’t love them so much we wouldnt be affected.
I tend to pay attention to small moments in people’s mannerisms, a character flaw in some sense since I tend to tune out conversations I am supposedly participating in, at the same time I think these little shards of character I find are what helps me to find the threads that link their souls to the world through photographs I take of them. In the midst of one of these character observation trysts today between my daughter and her great great great aunt I realized children and the elder both tend to simplify faith. They believe in earnest and thus it is as they believe it to be. Their love their faith, their existence is sincere and simple. I suppose through our lives as we are met with opposition and disappointment, and people we love and trust fail us we become cynical, skeptical and disenchanted with life… I wonder why and when we regrain that innocence and awe with life. When we start to find wonder in the ordinary again, if there is a point where we stop and realize our lives are coming into the last chapters of existence and that makes us more appreciative in the same way that we were at the beginning of our lives because it was a novelty and everything was a new experience. I try very hard to remain conscious of my many blessings and how fortunate I am to have the liberty to consider those blessings a chore at times, I’d imagine at the end of life if we could look back and say we truly did understand the magnitude of all we had in life and how genuinely lucky we were that we would consider our life well lived and have no regrets for things unappreciated and people we loved deeply and neglected to express our complete humility for being bestowed with such wonderful lives…
a quick snap shot from today… I suppose a family portrait if you wanted to see more than just a face:

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No lengthy musings today, went to the wonderful world of Mr. Scott Church today, hung out with some beautiful fun girls, took some beautiful fun photos, Sara rocks my world, and happy birthday Robin!
Got to bring along my sister in law for the festivities and got a free ticket to play a bit in the studio so here is one of her today, she’s a natural.
The studio is coming along, we’re putting in the wiring and outlets tonight and scrubbing down the walls, we’re getting to the fun part now, no time to type have to get cracking so I can slow down my growing list of clients waiting to shoot.

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Sometimes I have to laugh at us as a species, almost everyone of us thinks so many others have it all together, while we are just trying to keep our heads above water. The longer I live the more I find it to be true that the people that “have it all” is not because they are fortunate, or things just click for them, or they were lucky enough to find the right person, or be in the right place at the right time with the right people… it’s because they work really really hard for it. It’s because when they have times where the odds are stacked against and everything is crumbling and people are being cruel and ignorant towards them, even the people that are supposed to love them; they didnt quit. Not that they didn’t come close or were at the door with it open, one foot out, or even stepped through it entirely, letting it slam behind them… but they returned, picked up the pieces and continued to fight until it became what they knew it could be when they first embarked on the adventure.
I think marriage especially is a difficult journey, not for the meek. Those of us that are or have been married having the luxury now of saying, if I knew then what I know now, would be less inclined to blindly agree for better or worse with no limitations or exceptions on the worse. What about affairs, addictions, adultry? Are we really signing on for that? What if we were too young, silly impulsive? What if we just simply change our minds, meet our soulmate? Want to take a path our spouse is unwilling to follow us on? How do we perservere?
Simply: you make the choice. You can offer explanations or excuses but in the end, justified or not you simply made a choice to stay or to go. I am not saying there are never circumstances that warrant us leaving; to the contrary I have known many relationships that were unhealthy to the point one or both souls within it were withering in its existence, desperate for love, and attention, and some common ground to stand upon together. Adversely I have also known many that simply leave from boredom, or to make the other chase after them, only to crawl back if that person does not pursue.
Marriage is by far the most challenging thing I have done, and it is in some manner comforting to see others I know that are strong and share love as strong that at times falter in their steps towards forever. One thing I will defend is my belief that no matter what you can have apart you can always have more and often achieve it easier together. Obviously when you become adversaries this is not the case, but I doubt any person can say when we shared love and happiness and were in pursuit of the same goals, I still could have achieved them faster and easier on my own. A home, a family, a career, a life. Stop and remove your significant other and all that comes with them from that. Their financial contributions, or even their credit score, in home nannying every day you go to work that leaves you peace of mind your children are safe, not to mention saves you close to or over $1000 a month in childcare expenses. Splitting birthdays and holidays and missing memories of your children, trying to date as a single parent and having those dates ruined by the baby waking up or the sitter calling with a problem. Having only half as many resources at your disposal for every single thing you try to do, the emotional and financial strain of proceeding through a divorce. As a child of a broken home I have seen what that does not only to your children, but relatives, friends and loved ones, always having to tiptoe through conversations, pick and choose who holds the right to attend what events and dealing with the tension and uncomfortable situation of having you both at important events…
So it is warming to me to see that sometimes people who are at the brink of losing or throwing away everything, have committed destructive harm to themselves, each other and their marriage, and destroyed faith and trust in one another, can still get off their knees, swallow their pride and make that next step a step towards eachother instead of the often easier steps away from each other…
…often times we are creatures of habit, and second chances don’t matter because people make the same choices in the same circumstances… but that doesnt mean that with enough love and everything at stake, some people wont prove themselves stronger than either they or their spouse thought them to be and change… and often that point that was assuredly the end transcends into a beginning of something better than it ever could have been had they not undergone that tribulation… I am blessed that my marriage is made of the strong, and am full of hope that those I love will find similar strength in themselves and each other

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I love you all, I miss you all, I am not ignoring anyone. We successfully settled on the new house/studio we have 1.5 acres, and they are so beautiful right now with the leaves changing colors that I cant stand it. We have a beautiful hardwood deck that overlooks the grounds and I sincerely hope and believe that the calming and zen-like effect that overcomes me when I am on it looking out will not fade for me. It is quite possible that the next time I leave this home will be when they take me to bury my body at the end of this life. The house I assumed would be confined being that we lost almost 700sqft of space, and though we are having an amusing time of attempting to find each thing it’s own place in our new lives; it feels cozy and welcoming…and it’s less to clean. Proximity to every other part and person in our lives is so welcomed after feeling so far away, and I am water right now trying to find my own level in this new chapter of my life. Still there are things that tug at me and momentarily shift my resolve to rebuild from the ruins here… I have never turned from the face of a challenge.
For all of you this simply means in more abrupt informative attire: I will not have internet installed until thursday, and doubt I could even find my computer in the midst of the chaos that exists right now. As such, if you are not already scheduled for a shoot, studio time is delayed currently while we build a newer better location for you that I promise is worth the wait. I may have an open house studio day for all of you I’ve already shot so you can marvel and appreciate the difference from my dark basement dungeon you were previously painted in. I have engagement photos today and a wedding Friday, and inbetween them I hope I will be relatively close to contorting this disarray into some kind of semblence… So call me if you need to speak with me immediately or on the otherside, have patience in my reply time if you message me internet-ically

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