Best of 2013

Holy mother, what a year.

There were definitely times that I thought I wouldn’t make it.  You would never know, looking through these images, of all the moments I wanted to throw in all the towels and drive to the ocean with a case of wine in the back seat.  An artist I deeply respect says that when launching new endeavors, you learn who really has your back and who doesn’t.  Jeremy Cowart, you speak so much truth.

Almost one year ago, I decided to make photography the only job.
What a year.
Bestof2013101

Cameron Robinson knew he wanted to propose and have a photographer on hand to capture it, as he’s a photographer himself!  Insert me and the most nervous ten minutes of my. entire. life.  My friend Brian joined me at the table in Charlotte, just feet from Cameron and (his now wife!) Joy.  We had some time with them after the proposal and they are two of the most radiant souls walking the earth.  I can think of no other way to spend Valentine’s Day.

Advance 2013
Music has this magical way of resonating through the chambers of my everything.  Even more so, when I am immersed in it.  Some of my most favorite memory clips involve loud voices and drums.  Advance13 was an Acts29 conference hosted in Raleigh for many of their leaders and pastors.  As many of those within the Acts29 network are men, I found myself holding my little metal box in Memorial Auditorium amongst a sea of men singing praise to our Jesus.  There are not many moments that cause me to put the camera down and just soak it in, but this was one of them.  I simply stood and listened in complete awe.  In a society that speaks so much negativity over men, it was moving to be in the midst of this.  I hope to carry this one with me forever.

Printed
My work got published for the first time ever this year and not just once, but twice!  A piece from Prague was put in the NC State Design School’s magazine at the end of the 2012-2013 year.  Simply titled “Egg & Bread” many folks have asked if they might print it for their kitchens or something similar and it is now available as a print!  Then, my *amazing* friend Jen Bonchak & her Slingshot Coffee got featured in Southern Living.  “If anyone can pull something like this out of their ass, it’s you!” <—Might be one of my biggest compliments ever.  My portrait of Jen graced their July issue!

MiFamilia_302
Meet Renee’.  Look familiar?  If you guessed this is my sister, you would be correct!  She’s in this year-end recap because this might be the first time she has ever, in the history of ever, voluntarily graced my camera.  My sister is a takes-no-prisoners type of girl and I love her for it.  With many a bride, I’ve joked that whenever I get married, Renee’ will be the point of contact for the details because she’ll handle it all before I even know there’s a problem.  She’s amazing and also a creative.  We help keep each other sane.  If you haven’t met her, you should make that happen!

Rosalie
Ohhhhh, Rosa.  This pretty girl came home after two years in Uganda only to stay for a year and go right back!  Rosalie has this radiant spirit that infects you and I am so so thankful to call her my friend.  Her emails are like small novels and I save them in my inbox for times when I can grab a snack and settle in for what I know will be a great read.  If your heart has ever been pulled to Africa or missions, in general, click her name and get in touch.  I can’t wait to visit her at her second home.

Hartweg
Chelsea & Dana Hartweg have to be two of the most generous and understanding people walking the planet.  I captured their wedding in fall 2011 and, like most wedding days, things were hectic and crazy.  My skills also weren’t anywhere near where they are now.  So, when all three of us learned we would be in Charleston, SC on the same weekend, I emailed them.  “This will sound crazy, but you want to bring your wedding clothes and get dressed up again?  I’ll bring my camera?”  I could almost audibly hear the “YES!!!” that was the reply.  We grabbed some flowers, they got dressed, and we walked around the beauty that is downtown Charleston ’til our hearts content.  I’ll be offering these sessions going forward in 2014, as couples that do them all think they’re amazing.  The Hartweg’s have been believers in me since the beginning of this ride and I’m so thankful for them, their hearts, and their constant encouragement.

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Beau.
To be honest, we first met online through a series of Skype calls.  Our mutual friend, Ben, was all “Hey you’re both in Europe! You should hang out!”  Beau was in Barcelona and I was in Prague, so the connection was crap and we could only use audio.  The internet in Europe laughs at video connections!  We met in real life when I went to Barcelona for a few days and then intentionally went to New York City for a holiday weekend this spring.  He walked my ass all OVER the place and I am the better for it.  There are people that come along who make your friendship easy and support you, no matter what crazy happens.  This is one of mine.
And I’m so glad he’s here.

Tabitha
If you’ve ever met Tabitha in real life, you would have a hard time realizing that image on the left is her.  But, it is.  We partnered together to tell her story of redemption through a series of portraits and I. love. this. woman.  Her support this year has been incredibly kind and I’m grateful that she’s coming more and more into understanding just how beautiful she is.
“I had never held photographs that made me feel pretty before”, she said.
“But, now I have.”
Blown away.  Absolutely blown away.  I am.

Minnesota
Minnesota.
I had never been before July and, because I’m not entirely mentally stable, I decided to drive.  Yes, from Carolina.  It was great on multiple levels.  I started taking random pit stops with my car when I thought it was pretty out.  What kind of rush am I in anyways?
The world’s happiest baby, Hope, graced my lens for just a few moments as I got to know her parents and her favorite uncle.  That uncle is a man that brought me back to health.  He loves me and supports me and returned me to stable ground in ways I doubt he even knows about.  Minnesota was one of the most refreshing times of my whole year.
You should go.

Brodie
Yep, that’s me in the middle.  That crazy fool on my left is Luke.  And the crazy fool in the glasses?  Justin Brodie.
These two guys bring joy to my life on a level I cannot even explain.  We get together for food and we wind up singing Lady Gaga at the top of our lungs.  People will stare at The Pit because we are laughing so hard there are tears.  More than once, I’ve had to walk away to catch my breath.  And the three of us are all wired the same in that we will do whatever it takes to get things done.  Luke has shown up with a milkshake on a crappy day as many times as he’s helped me move something.  When my train didn’t show once, he told me to get my ass in the car and drove me to Charlotte.
Brodie left us to go serve in Romania, where he still is, and with all things going well, I’ll be leading a team from the states to his non-profit in Romania next July.
Come with!  Must be ok with singing at the top of your lungs and laughing ’til you cry.

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The McClure’s!
God, I love these people.  They are living in Prague with their ah.DOR.able daughter Heidi Marie and kicking so much tail at it!  When I had the chance to capture a wedding in the wine country of Italy, I asked Brian if I could come visit on my way.  Without hesitation, I was invited into their home and picked up at the airport.  They love Love and it shows.  I can’t wait to capture a wedding in Prague next summer with Brian as a second shooter.  It is going to be amazing.

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Welcome to my crazy family.
Right after Europe (no, literally, ONE DAY after I got back from Europe), I was on a plane to Vegas to see my baby brother and his long-time girlfriend tie the knot in Vegas, complete with Elvis!  Two weeks later, they held a reception in downtown Charleston.
We don’t do anything boring in this group.
And I love them.

Parish
“I’m sitting in this class for the state department on some medical training and for, gosh, at least half an hour, Rob taught with a piece of tubing hanging out of his ear – with the other end coming out of his nose!”
Yep, that sounds about right.  Somehow, even with mess like that, he won over the student in that class for the state department and Mandy is here to stay.
And all of us rejoiced!
She’s beautiful and the perfect compliment to him.  I was overjoyed to be asked to capture their January DC wedding.
Yep, they’re getting married next month.  Currently, they’re wandering Central America somewhere.
Haha, I love it!

Doing an end of the year recap forces me to look back at all the incredible opportunities I’ve had.  It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Over 150 of you graced the other side of my lens this year.  In October alone, I clicked the shutter button 28 days out of 31.
For a girl that doesn’t advertise, I’m so *so* grateful.  Thank you doesn’t come close to covering it, but is a start.
Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Have a beautiful holiday!
In so much Love,
Amaris

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An incredible Christmas miracle.

The (new & improved!) Bell Family.

The (new & improved!) Bell Family.

Miracles happen.  It’s true.

Like, how I spent half of 2013 in 16 other states and 3 other countries, racking up nearly 30,000 miles on my car and yet there are families that stay in touch through a variety of ways.   They ask me to do really really fun things when I do find my two feet on Carolina soil.  The Bell’s are one of those families.  Their first two kids, Noah & Hannah, graced my camera nearly four years ago.  This whole team is fantastic.  When Mom, Kathy, reached out and asked me to capture their newest addition, I was so excited.

Because miracles happen.  And through a lot of petition and prayer and provision, they are officially a family of five!  The rambunctious Josiah Cole joined their ranks in the eyes of the state just this week.  Read (and see!) more about the new & improved Bell Family by visiting Kathy’s blog here:
http://charis30.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/introducing-josiah-cole-bell/

Adoption has been something I believe in for years.  I am always happy to capture new additions, whether through biological or adoptive birth.  There’s something about spending time with families as they come closer to completion.
Maybe it’s the miracles.

May you go slow enough in this season to notice them.
In Love,
amaris

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Martin + Barbora – Brno, Czech Republic

After living in Prague for a few months in 2012, I had become friends with a family – the McClure’s.  Brian & Ali are some of the BEST people you’ll ever meet and I’d say that even if they weren’t incredibly generous.  When I knew that I would be traveling to the continent for a wedding in Asti, Italy earlier this year, I knew I wanted to go back to Prague.  Go in a warmer month, hug the neck of Adad, and see the McClure’s!  Brian offered to pick me up from the airport and as soon as I walked into their apartment, Ali was offering me food and tea.

Previously, when I told them the weekend I wanted to visit, Brian laughed.  “I’m photographing a wedding that weekend – want to help?!”
Um, YES.

Within hours of landing in Prague, my jet-lagged self and the McClure’s were off to Brno to capture the day of Martin + Barbora.  I learned a whole pile of things that are unique to European weddings & almost felt like a new photographer in a lot of ways.  And when I walked into the house to spend time with the bride as she got ready, I remembered one of the things I loved the most about the Czech Republic.  See, many from the States don’t understand the personalities of those living in eastern Europe – if you’ve been, you know that we Americans are quite loud and sometimes obnoxious comparatively.  Only after spending time with people of the region do you realize that most are actually really really lovely.  This rang true the rest of the day.  At the end, I was pretty exhausted (I hadn’t worked a 14 hour wedding day in a while!).  But, given the circumstances all over again I would do it all over again.

On my way back to America, I returned to Prague for just one day en route from Italy.  We took some pictures with the McClure family and then I did a few portraits of the single staff working with them from Louisiana State University.  (They probably all just fist pumped.)  It was absolutely refreshing to be in Prague on a warmer day with people who laugh as hard as I do.  Starbucks certainly didn’t hurt.

Děkuji, Praha!
It was SO great to spend some time with you. 🙂

xoxo & objetí!
amaris

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Portraits give worth.

Love Wins.  October 2012.

Love Wins. October 2012.

This couple overcame homelessness.  With four kids and against all odds, they pulled themselves out of the quicksand that can be life on the streets with a lot of help from community and quite a bit of hard work.  It is possible and, in the midst of it, they found each other and found love.  On a gorgeous October afternoon, they got married.  Just that week, I was asked to capture it.  “They have no money”, the email said.  “Could you do it?”
YES.

My raving positive opinions of the organization who did the asking aside, I regularly work with people to achieve win-win situations.  Wherein they get wonderful memories and I get to be a part of their story.  So often, it is absolutely beautiful.  Throughout this entire journey, I’ve learned that capturing someone’s portrait is a way to show them how worthy they are.  It’s a reminder of how much beauty they really possess.  There’s a reason I laugh so much during a session – I’ve found it’s the best way to help others relax.  When you’re relaxed, I get a shot to show the world how great you really are.

Like this couple, portraits aren’t always in the budget.  Sometimes, they are so far out of the budget that they’re a dream.  There are quite a few deserving families in highly impoverished situations that would benefit so much from some time with a photographer and a print that reminds them they still possess beauty.

There is an organization that strives to close this gap and they are incredible!  Each December, I hop on a team with other photographers, make-up artists, and stylists worldwide to contribute to Help Portrait.  It is an experience I can’t properly give a voice to.  Through much generosity, folks who might not have ever had their picture captured get a chance to have their portrait done by a professional.  Often, there are hair cuts, food, and sometimes even clothes up for grabs.
And the only hitch is that it must all be free.

As Help Portrait rocks the planet, I’m grateful to be involved.  However, as money for prints is quite limited and the event is only one day each year, the reach is limited.  Prints are, too.

This tiny little project right here is a chance to change that in Carolina.

For a donation of $100, an individual or family will receive a mini-session with one of our photographers and a $20 print credit.  Their images will be hosted in an online gallery where we can access their images for up to two years.  If they lose a print?  We’ll happily replace it.  There are non-profits that have come forward in both Charleston, SC and Raleigh, NC with deserving folks.  I definitely wish we could spend time with each of them, but supplies and prints and gas come at a cost.  Your donation covers just that – costs.  All of the labor will be given out of Love.

We are super excited about launching this and especially at such a special time of the year.

If you can, give.  If you can’t, let us know if you know of a family that could benefit.  Above all else, we hope you show kindness to all this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!
Thanks for being so stinking awesome.

xoxo,
amaris

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We have cancelled Professional Headshot Night.

It’s true.
Due to a mix of things, we’ve had to put Headshot Night on the back burner to another yet-to-be-determined time.  As someone who values people and their efforts and loves a great cause, I hate to do this.
However, if something won’t be profitable for all parties involved, then we just won’t do it.  Corral is a great organization and we love them and their mission.  It saddens me to not be able to help their current campaign.
But, in the words of a friend who is a Vice President of a local company, “Sometimes, even great ideas take time to catch on.”  We get that an event like Headshot Night is unique and new to an area like Raleigh.  Novel things sometimes don’t click for everyone and we must adapt accordingly.
Sitti Restaurant remains so supportive and gracious.  They are full of solid people who take care of others really well.  It is for this reason that we partnered with them and we are grateful for their kindness.  If you haven’t visited them yet, you should make that happen!
To all who have purchased a ticket, please get in touch (you’re welcome to just hit “Reply All” to this email) and we’d love to make sure you’re taken care of regarding portraiture.  For the price already paid, we are happy to schedule a mini-session with you – a value of $180.  You’ll receive at least a dozen images, rather than just two, and our eternal gratitude.
If you were thinking of paying at the door, we’re happy to extend the same arrangement to you.  Simply get in touch with us!
To all of you, thank you very much for believing in crazy ideas and in small business.  Thank you for sharing with your people and for your support.  It means everything.
Tons of Love,
amaris

Good to see you, America.

A few thousand images are currently finding their way to my non-mobile backup & I am sitting here in the new studio space on my fifth official day.  There are two other meetings going on, I had a salted caramel mocha this morning from our in-house coffee shop and a new Mucha calendar officially graces the wall.

It is so nice to be back in America.

If you follow us on social media, you’ve seen some of the amazing folks I got to spend time with while abroad.   Asti, Italy is gorgeous.   Prague was, too.  Vegas isn’t my cup of tea, but I am so so glad I got to be present for my baby brother’s wedding day!  I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities I had while on the go.  And breakfast with my family is never a boring time.  We laughed so hard.

The past five weeks of wandering have been good.  Really hard, too, on quite a lot of levels.  But, as I told Alison earlier today, take mistakes and be better for them.
I’ll let the pictures in the gallery below tell the rest of the story.

Now home, there are a lot of absolutely wonderful things on deck for the next month!  Two beautiful & really close friends are marrying their loves and we have been invited to capture both weddings – which I cannot even tell you how excited I am.  Engagements in the mountains of Virginia (yeah, Juliette & Dave!), quite a few families to spend time with, and two big events.  The first is a Professional Headshot Night at Sitti in downtown Raleigh.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit one of my favorite non-profits on this whole big earth, CORRAL, and who doesn’t love a beer on someone else’s tab?  (Hint: That’s my tab.  Just for the record.)

We wrap up all that is beautiful in October with a visit from one of my favorite people and my very first gallery show!  Approximately 25 of my images will grace the walls of City Gallery in downtown Raleigh and I would really love to see you.  Plus, you’d get to meet the favorite in town. 😉
Come visit.

In Light & Laughter,
amaris

A few favorites from the wandering:

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Love makes the world go ’round.

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that I love my job.

As I told Brian earlier this week, it is an addictive gig and especially so if you love people.  Fantastic clients are what make the sweet moments that much sweeter & we are so thankful for this path, however long it winds up being.  Watching relationships grow as we walk with them is a joy and I started young.  My wonderful everyone-loves-them parents are married 37 years today!  If you know them, go say congratulations!!

I mean, seriously.  My parents are adorable.

I mean, seriously. My parents are adorable.

Occasionally, incredible opportunities come up that I just can’t turn down.  In less than 48 hours for example, I will board a plane for the Czech Republic and have the privilege of second shooting a wedding for that same Brian mentioned earlier.  I am so so excited. 🙂  Then, just a couple of weeks later, I’ll travel from Milan, Italy to Asti – wine country.  Fabrizio & Alice will pledge their vows and have invited me to be a part and I am equally as excited!

Quite a few of my most favorite people are scattered around the world.  My sister lives in Houston (and we still aren’t sure why – have you driven in Houston traffic??), a favorite resides in Minneapolis, Faith up & moved to England and a girl who makes me laugh harder than almost anyone else calls Washington, DC home.  It’s difficult sometimes, when the people you love the most require an hour train ride, a long plane ride, and a passport to spend time with.  It’s worth it, though.

And so, when I got an email from Rachel announcing her engagement (after I read it on Facebook, of course, because what isn’t on Facebook?), I was totally thrilled!  And when she asked me to photograph her wedding, I promised to do anything I could for her.  Rachel is one of my best friends for well over a decade.  We bonded over our experiences as members of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and while I decided to not return to the organization, she is still with them in Chiang Mai.
Yes, Thailand.

Engagement_EmaRachel108

Photo ©Paul Nunavath

Asia has been her home for quite some time and we have chatted for *hours* on Skype about boys.  It’s one of our most favorite topics!  As women entering our thirties and still not married, there’s a lot of things folks like to tell us to remind us that we aren’t getting any younger.  The boys have evolved and we have, too.  The older we get, it seems, the younger they get.  Anyone else have this problem?  Just us?

But, there were other plans in the works.  Along comes Ema.
Emmanuel.
Tanzanian and tall and outgoing and wanting to become a part of YWAM.  Literally walked right through her door.  He completed a YWAM school at Rachel’s base and went back to be on staff as he felt like he was not done with his talents in Chiang Mai.  Of course, Rachel was there, too.

Photo ©Paul Nunavath

Photo ©Paul Nunavath

And there lies the rub.
As Rachel & Ema are missionaries, a wedding is hardly in their budget much less a wedding photographer.  Much less one from the States!  But, my friend would like her day photographed by her great friend and so I will do what I promised and do anything I can to go capture her big day.

Photo ©Paul Nunavath

Photo ©Paul Nunavath

To this end, all non-wedding sessions booked through October 1st will receive 15% off in an effort to generate extra funds so that I may board a plane to Thailand in December.  Plane tickets to Asia are not cheap, y’all.  If you would like to take part of this promotion, please get in touch with us via email at talktous@amarishames.com and mention Thailand.  Sessions must be used before June 1st, 2014.  If you’d like to donate miles or to the cause directly, simply let us know that, too.

Every girl deserves to have beautiful photos of her big day.  Especially when a lot of the people she loves the most require an hour train ride, a 14 hour plane ride, and a passport to come see it.

Wouldn't you want to get married here? Photo ©Paul Nunavath

Ema & Rachel’s wedding venue
Photo ©Paul Nunavath

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New seasons are like fresh air.

Welcome!

If you’ve been around for one hour or one year, I hope you feel welcome here.  This is something I’ve always wanted to say about my work and my home.  My extrovert personality and hospitality wiring means there’s a good chance we’re going to get along.  I love people.

It was this personality and wiring combination that led me to here, I’d say.  Photography began as an elective at college so I could transfer into NC State University.  Once at State, a professor saw my work and believed in me.  My parents did, too.  And then friends who were willing to stand in front of my lens as I figured out what I was doing.  I was a design minor and anthropology major at State and the business officially “launched” while I was still in school full-time.  A study abroad program in photography in Prague, six months at a job that was a bad fit, and here we are.  So far, the plane has (mostly) flown.  And it has all been a result of a lot of grace and a lot of people believing in me.  It’s not something I take lightly.

If this is your first time here, I hope you find something you love.  Creating art, for any artist, is like taking this little piece of ourselves and putting it out on display for anyone walking by to criticize.  Or praise.  Or ignore.  It can be a difficult place.  But, photography gives worth to people.  It never fails when I walk into a living room or an office or watch someone’s wallet open and I am brought face to face with images I captured.  They’re printed and tangible and alive.  The owner of these loves them and cherishes them and I am always a bit speechless.  It’s incredible to create something that has such an effect on others.

We’ve got a ton of new things for you to discover!  All new galleries that are brighter, cleaner, and easier to navigate.  If you are a previous client, don’t worry, your links and passwords still work. 🙂  This blog has been created specifically for all things business related.  You’ll find us bragging about our clients, other artists, and tips on lots of things.  Later this week, I’ll give you a few ways to take better photos when you’re standing in front of the camera.  I’ve got a couple of my favorite tricks that nearly every client deems crazy at the time – then they see the results.  On the whole, we want this to serve as a place where we can connect with you and share with you!

Part of the new season is an addition of a permanent administrative assistant.  Please welcome Alison Kendrick to the team with all the kindness you normally extend to me.  You’ll see her around a little and, if you email us, you’ll certainly talk to her a lot!  She is an absolute firecracker and I am so so excited she’s here!

Say hi, Alison!

Say hi, Alison!

All things going well, we will be moving into our very own studio space in downtown Cary by the end of the month!  Keep an eye out for the open house party announcements (can we say food trucks?!) so you can come meet Alison and see some other great local artisans.  Unfortunately, I (Amaris) won’t be able to attend, so y’all – please go in my place.

However, the reason I must miss it is kind of incredible.  All things going well, I will be somewhere in Europe as I travel to Milan, Italy to capture this amazing couple’s wedding day.  World, meet Fabrizio & Alice.  Yes, as of this fall, we are an international photography studio.  I cannot wait for these images.

There’s some other amazing things happening this fall, as well, but we’ll save them for another time.  It is a new season and I am trying to take it all in one day at a time.  Thank you for cheerleading!  It means everything in the world.  This plane flies because of your investment and adoration and I am unable to properly put my gratitude into words.

We are so glad you’re here.
Let’s get started, shall we?

xoxo
amaris

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