Wendy VonSosen Photography » childhood. beauty. life

Photographing repeat clients is one of my favorite parts of being a bay area high school senior photographer.  Samantha’s fantastic family has been in front of my camera before.  As has her talented sister Kira when we shot a few of her album covers.  So I was thrilled when Sam asked me to photographer her senior portrait session.

When you think of Samantha, these words might come to mind: fun, happy, positive, sunshine, laughter, silly, kind, friendly.  She’s all that and more.  When you’re with her, you can’t help but laugh.  And that’s pretty much what we did during her entire session.

Her home was the perfect location for her session.  Since family is important to her, there was no better place to photograph her than at her beautiful house.  I love photographing seniors at home because they will soon be leaving it to begin life on their own.  Home is a huge part of their memories of growing up and documenting that piece of their story is priceless.

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As a Bay Area Senior Photographer, I get the chance to photograph an important milestone.  That short window of time before teenagers leave the safety and comfort of home to become independent, honest-to-goodness adults is priceless.  Many times these photographs are the last that will be taken of just them until their wedding or until they start a family of their own.

I’ve launched two of my own kids off into adulthood now.  I absolutely treasure their senior portraits now that they are no longer living in my home full time.  Kids this age have so much to look forward to.  I love photographing them just on the brink of starting their lives on their own.  You can see the excitement, the anxiety, the hope, the hesitancy, the expectation in their eyes.  I can’t imagine sending my own kids off without documenting this unique and fleeting turning point through photographs.

Maddy and I met in San Francisco on a beautiful sunny afternoon.  She wanted photos on the beach so we headed to Baker Beach. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot.  The old barracks are the perfect backdrop for a senior portrait session.  The variety of colors and brick walls and flowers are wonderful. The beach was a popular destination that day. We were able to clear out some space to get some beautiful photos of Maddy. With the Golden Gate Bridge in the back, I hope she’ll think of the Bay Area every time she looks through her portraits.

I’m so excited for Maddy as she begins college.  I know she’ll be successful in whatever she sets her mind on.  And I hope these photographs remind her of this exciting time in her life and all that’s ahead of her.

Contact me to book your bay area senior portrait session!

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Alamo was the perfect spot for this year’s holiday family photography sessions.  I was thrilled to photograph this family since they have never had their family portraits taken.  I run into that often.  I know how much of a hassle it is to get everyone dressed and ready to go and get to the location without someone having a complete meltdown in the car.  I know.  I’ve been there.  But I can attest that it’s entirely worth it when you get those photos back and have that visual record of your family, all together, at that point in time.  And I can promise that nobody but you will know about the meltdown in the car.  I’m magic that way.

Don’t put off getting your family portraits taken.  Often when you have little ones.  They grow and change in the blink of an eye and there’s no going back.  Trust me.

 

 

 

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This family is not only sweet but incredibly photogenic.  I was thrilled when they contacted me for a Walnut Creek newborn photography session.  I had photographed their daughter Olivia when she was a newborn. One of her images ended up being front and center on my facebook page for a long time.  They also have incredible taste and their beautiful home always reflects that.  They had recently moved and I was so excited to see their new home and meet baby AJ.

I’m always happy when the entire family shows up for a newborn session.  I love photographing a family in their own home, comfortable and natural, interacting together with their new baby. This newborn window of time is so fleeting. If you don’t plan ahead and schedule photos, you might just miss it altogether. I think you’ll agree with me that this session is full of beauty in every sense.

 

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In the past year I’ve found that there’s power in vulnerability as well as getting out of my comfort zone (even though my comfort zone is cozy and warm and makes me really happy).  This post has been rattling around in my brain for the last week and I feel like it wants to come out and I need to share it.  Often we fear what we don’t understand.  I hope the vulnerability and discomfort of this post brings more understanding and kindness into the world.

Last week I was made aware of a negative tweet that a conservative vocal blogger Matt Walsh made about Manny Gutierrez, a Youtuber and Makeup artist eluding to the idea that the reason Manny wears makeup is because he doesn’t have a father figure/male role model.

“Dads, this is why you need to be there to raise your sons.” Matt Walsh

Normally I don’t give this type of negativity much energy in my attempt to look for the good in the world.  But this story really hit home and has been marinating in my head all week.

My husband and I have been married for almost 24 years.  We have 4 kids.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and part time photographer throughout their growing up years.    My husband works during the week and is home every weekend.  We have dinner together every night.  We’re weekly church goers.  We love watching movies together, playing board games, going on family vacations, taking the dog for walks together.  I don’t believe there is a “typical American family” but as far as families go, we’re pretty ordinary and involved in our kids’ everyday lives.

This is Erik. He’s our third kid.   As a sophomore at an academically competitive high school, he works hard all day, comes home and does homework for a few hours, spends an hour or two on his internship for a software company, practices the piano, does his household chores, and on the days he doesn’t have a Youth & Government meeting or a youth group meeting, he has an hour or two of free time to spend doing what he loves to do.

What he loves to do is makeup.  Just like Manny.

I’ve always told my kids, “Find something you love, get really good at it, and someday someone will pay you for it.” Well, this kid took my advice to heart.  He found his passion, is extremely talented at it, and is starting to make money doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, when Erik first confided in me that he wanted to wear makeup, I was super uncomfortable.  I freaked out a little inside. “But he’s a boy.  He can’t wear makeup!  Boys don’t wear makeup.  Boy George does but he’s not Boy George.  Why does he want to wear makeup?  Is he transgender?  Does he want to be a girl?  If he wears makeup he’ll get bullied and teased and it’s my job to protect him.” So many things were going through my head and some of them were coming out of my mouth.  Luckily Erik was patient with me and my lack of understanding and my strict conformity to gender roles and societal expectations.  He assured me that he was happy and confident being a boy.  He was gay (which we already knew) and not transgender.  This was his creative outlet. He loved the idea that we can transform ourselves into something completely different just with makeup, that no two looks are ever the same, and that he could express himself through the art of makeup with his own face being the canvas. He assured me that men have been wearing makeup since the 17th century, it was nothing new, in fact almost every actor on television wore some sort of makeup. Why should makeup be limited to women? He’d been watching makeup tutorials for a long time and really really wanted to play around with makeup.

If I was uncomfortable, you can imagine how uncomfortable this idea made my husband who had never embraced even the tiniest part of metrosexuality when it was trending.  He’s a “guy’s guy”. Well, it’s amazing how much empathy and understanding can take place when you try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a bit.  My husband really wanted to understand this interest of Erik’s.  He really wanted to be supportive but he just didn’t “get” it.  So, I suggested they take a few hours on a Saturday and head to our local Sephora so Erik could share his knowledge of makeup with my husband and so my husband could begin to understand this passion of Erik’s.  So they did.

That day Erik ended up with a new eye shadow palette and my husband ended up with a greater appreciation for and understanding of Erik’s love of makeup (along with a few tips on taming his own errant eyebrow hairs).

It’s been a few months and now we no longer gasp when Erik comes down the stairs with a face full of glamorous makeup but rather appreciate what amazing new look he’s come up with.  I happily photograph and edit his looks so he can post them to Instagram.  He then removes his makeup, gets ready for bed, and prepares for another full day at school doing what needs to be done so he can eventually pursue his interest in brand management, merchandising, and marketing for the beauty industry.

Manny’s father recently responded to Matt Walsh’s bigoted tweet. I loved his choice of words.

 

Matt’s tweet made me very sad.  And angry. It was ignorant, judgmental and unkind.  He obviously doesn’t know the first thing about Manny.  He made an erroneous and hurtful assumption simply because of the way Manny looks.   There was nothing good about his tweet.  Everyone goes through life wearing a “costume”of one kind or another.  That costume may look like a bun-wearing millennial, or a yoga-pants-and-Uggs-wearing soccer mom, or a tattooed-mustachioed-biker.  Our costumes have very little to do with who we are on the inside.    Erik is the same intelligent, kind, somewhat unorganized, motivated, honest, funny, fabulous kid with a face full of beautiful makeup as he is after he wipes it all off, and at the end of the day, that’s essentially what counts the most.

Matt Walsh, anyone can sit behind their phone or computer and tweet negativity into the world.  It takes a good person to take the time to walk in someone else’s shoes and make the effort to understand them. Luckily, our family knows many good people who have taken the time to get to know Erik.  I hope we can all be less judgmental, more responsible, compassionate and understanding instead of making assumptions about one another based simply on our outward appearances.

Now I’m off to restock our household supply of makeup remover wipes!

 

 

 

  • January 20, 2017 - 5:04 am

    Lisa Hatlestad - Just came across this on my FB feed via a mutual acquaintance. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  • January 20, 2017 - 7:36 am

    Lauren Harris - I loved reading this post and getting to see a tiny glimpse into your love for your family. It is easily apparent how much you love them and how amazing you two are as parents. Your son is a remarkable young man! Love the makeup looks he put together – so talented!

  • January 22, 2017 - 10:25 am

    David Cunningham - Love this post and loved your husband willingness to open up and seek to understand. My wife and I are two professionals who do not want for much, together we make a very good living. A couple times a year we may take a vacation on the Harley. We pull up to 4 or 5 star resorts and asked by the valet if we are lost. This is where I start to have a little fun with the judgmental person in hopes he will have a little life lesson. I park the Harley in the middle of the entrance and ask if this is the ???? Resort and they say Yes I then say no not lost I give him key and say park it please and warn him that the throttle some times sticks. My point is we should never ever judge people by their skin color the way they dress or by any other means. Erik your son is far more a mans man then most of the so called men I know. It takes far more courage to pursue you dreams and passion when it is met with the resistance and ignorance of society.

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