Monday, December 20, 2010

The Youngsmas: Oak Glen/Yucaipa Family Photographer

Derek, Jess, and their kids are one of the hippest families that I know; Derek is super laid back and the drummer for Bleeding Through, Jess is uber fashionable, an artist, and a star of the blogging world, Zoe takes after her mama with her beauty and keen fashion sense, and Ezra is nothing short of a total sweetie pie, pinchable face and all.  Best of all, they are family so having the opportunity to do their family session for them gave us some time to catch up and hang out.  Josh came along on this one too, which is always fun because it gives me the chance to see the same things that I saw, but through his eyes.  We met at one of my favorite locations in Oak Glen and spent a perfect afternoon strolling the trails and trying new ideas to keep Zoe interested.  I love that girl. She is so much like Ava (which is funny because they are nearly exactly a year apart) in her independence, her curiosity, and her ability to keep us and her parents on our toes.  I think the result is some really fun shots which, although not portrait perfect in their poses, really exemplify the family's style and personality.  In addition to loving spending time with them, I look forward to the next time I get to snap some photos of them!!

The Farshads: Banning, CA Family Photographer

As I think I might have mentioned, somewhere in this jumble that is my cyber world, I will be updating this  blog with thoughts on photography, as well as thoughts on recent session, along with a couple of my favorite image from that session. So with no further ado... here is the Farshad Family!

My friendship with Tiffany and Abraham actually started during the process of them buying a home from me.  Tiffany was pregnant at the time, and not always feeling so hot, but they were such a fun couple and it was super exciting when they found a great home to start their family.  Fast forward a year and we have baby Hassan, who is now a year old!!  In honor of the big 1, Tiffany and Abraham contacted me for a photo shoot!  How did a year go by without me having met the baby?  I'm not sure, but it was such a pleasure and I am SO pleased with the images that I was able to capture. We had the perfect combination of elements: late afternoon sun and shadows accompanied by clouds, my favorite location, and of course a squeezable cutie who wasn't afraid to sit in a box or get dirty.  I can't wait to capture his 2nd birthday or maybe even 18 months if his parents are up for it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Van Grouw Photography: Southern California Children's Photographer

Unless they were against the backdrop of an exotic landscape, children were once the last subject I fancied myself wanting to photograph.  In fact, I think that I have one photograph from college which features was taken in the court yard of a forgotten church in Mexico,  off a dusty path made colorful, like a highway flanked by wildflowers, by the socks of Tarahumaran women selling crafts.  But I've noticed that being the mother of a child tends to change more than just the size of one's hips.   I LOVE taking photographs of children, babies, and newborns.  In the words of Socrates, "An honest man is always a child".  Photographs of children do not necessarily need fancy backdrops or scenic beauty to make them memorable, nor do they lie.  Photographs of children also have the ability to remind us of what we tend to miss, forget, or get too busy for in our everyday life: spontaneity.

When I was in college we were all on a journey to live life as if there was never a care or a worry, to seek the adventure around every corner and to worry about the consequences later, to "fly by the seat of our pants"so to speak.  While we were able to stumble upon some truly memorable moments, we were never truly satisfied and sometimes, it seems in retrospect, never truly happy.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if our lack of satisfaction and our lack of happiness wasn't intentional, a way of giving us something to write or sing or draw or talk about. A way to keep life "interesting". I have often attributed my lack of written creativity in recent years to the fact that I've been happy. No one wants to read about that, right?

Photographing children: chasing them around any given setting, laughing when they laugh, making silly faces when they don't, watching as they explore the world or create their own, focusing on the sparkle in their eyes or the honesty in their expressions, has given me the real opportunity to live spontaneously, if only for the few hours that I have them for a session.  Henry David Thoreau in his Walden wrote, "Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.".  The last few months I have had the honor of some very wise company... and here are some of my favorite moments from it.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have had the pleasure of photographing some amazing people and landscapes recently, but by far my favorite subject is my Ava. From the day she was born she has inspired me with her golden girls, her lengthy lashes, her perfect complexion, and her doll lips.  I might be a tad bit partial, but my girl is the most beautiful thing that I have ever or will ever photograph.  She isn't always the most willing model, but sometimes I get lucky. All parents have fears of something happening to their child or of something happening to them (the parent) that will affect the child's life.  I have to admit that one of my biggest fears is losing my eye sight. One, being a photographer might be slightly difficult and two, I would never be able to see Ava's face again.  Here are a few of my favorite shots from the last few months. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Van Grouw Photography: Studio and Gallery

Nearly 15 years after I took my first photography class, I am thankful and blessed to be the proud owner of a photography studio and gallery.  Our business started on a "grass roots" level, with sessions as favors or gifts for friends and family and a Facebook page, and is now a bonafide business: license, building inspections, sellers permits, and all.  We even have a microwave.

Stop by and see us! If I'm not on location, I'll be hiding behind my camera at 1255 W. Ramsey, Banning, CA.

Let's Start At The Beginning...

I nearly didn't graduate from high school because my truancy count entering the middle of my second semester of my senior year was somewhere around 84. I hadn't missed 84 days, but 84 classes. Still my mom was furious.  I told her that she should be proud that a number of my teachers would ultimately "vouch" for me because I was an otherwise 4.0 GPA student and that I was pursuing some "independent studies", for which she should praise my ambition and initiative.  She wasn't any more amused than she would be years later when I showed her the tattoo that I'd kept hidden for more than a year.  Nor did she appreciate my candor in explaining to her that it was imperative that our school have an underground newspaper and that I discuss and write its contents in the library or at the local coffee shop.  She maintained that I should have been in class.  I maintained that I would never use calculus.  She won.

By then my independent streak had become some cause for concern with my parents, who didn't understand the money that I was saving by shopping in thrift stores and weren't thrilled when I opted to leave my hair rainbow brite red after a hair dying mishap.  Thankfully I had an ally in, amongst others, my guidance counselor, who gave me literature about the University of Redlands' Johnston Center for Integrative Studies when I met with him to discuss college options... and to have a portion of the truancies signed off.  I was instantly intrigued. A school where I could design my own major and receive evaluations over grades?  It wasn't New York or LA, where I had ultimately envisioned myself landing, but I gave it a shot and submitted my regular U of R application and the Johnston Center supplement.  The center only accepts a limited number of freshman per year, so I was ecstatic when I received the letter saying that I had been accepted.  My parents when they discovered that there were co ed bathrooms in the dorms? Not so ecstatic. But away I went. 20 miles down the road from my hometown, close enough for my mom to bring me a gigantic birthday cake on my 18th birthday, but far enough away for me to create my own niche.

I knew that I wanted to be a writer and have often reminisced about my Kerouactic dreams.  What I didn't know was that I would find the safest of my havens behind a camera.  My first photography class was a whim for which I had to borrow a camera. After a semester the camera became a gift. And now, nearly 15 years later, the camera remains one of my treasured possessions, despite its gentle decline into antiquation due to the emergence of digital photography.  I loved photography from the first click and advance.  I loved the smell of chemical soaked hands, the eerie beauty of a safety light, and the calm respite of a darkroom at midnight. I loved closing one eye and emptying what I saw with the other into an orderly black frame, then watching the memory emerge again, drowned in developer then fixed for posterity.   My grain focuser was like a magical monocle, allowing me to see deeper into a moment or to give my life more clarity.

I have now forgotten the actual title of my degree, although it had something to do with telling stories with words and photographic images and might have been more lengthy than was entirely necessary.  Following graduation from college, I found it increasingly difficult to find my way into a darkroom and, although I continued to snap photographs, it didn't seem the same without developmental control. I briefly pursued a freelance writing career, watched as rejection letters slowly began to wallpaper my apartment, and then realized one day that I had been a college graduate for 5 years and only had a number of waitressing aprons to show for it.  Having sought all through college to capture and hold life with words and images, I found that once I became adrift from my creative port, life stopped pausing for me.

My husband, Josh, daughter, Ava, and I recently made a trip to Utah (a state that I had never asterisked for a planned visit) to visit family. Pleasantly surprised by the diversity of landscapes and seemingly endless horizons of perfect clouds, we opted to take a detour through Zion National Park on the way home.   Exiting the park, we followed the navigation system's directions for what we thought was the quickest way back to the highway and home.  Apparently the system was set to guide us to the closest route to where we were, as we found ourselves on a 10 mile stretch of dirt road surrounded on both sides by wildflowers and plateau framed vistas.   It was a stunning stretch of beauty uninterrupted by power lines and mailboxes, asphalt and sidewalks.  To make it even more idyllic, the sun had begun to set, casting National Geographic shadows across the land. At the same time, it was a dusty stretch of rutted road that made talking difficult and that agitated Ava, who was trying to put stickers in her coloring book.  My journey as a photographer has taken similar detours.   I have bemoaned digital photography and sworn that I wouldn't participate in it, as if doing so would be akin to selling my soul to the photography devil.  I have gone for weeks where the camera is practically glued to my face, like a fake moustache.  I have used a dead 6 volt lithium battery as an excuse to allow my camera to gather dust. And now, nearly 15 years later, I am back on paved road and sure of my direction.