Flow, Grow, SHIFT, Breathe, Rest

I met Jennifer on bar stools over a latte for her, an Americano for me. Our conversation was supposed to be a consultation; an opportunity for Jennifer and I to get to know one another, to find out if my skills were well suited for her needs. Any formality that comes with a consultation was not present; all canned, surface level questions were evaded. We talked about much more important things: Jennifer’s way of life, her story, her passion; what it means to live a life led by wellness; travel, silent retreats, family, food, love - the good elements of life. I explained my process, my passions and my mission. Jennifer described her new app (which she developed last Fall) called ‘The Shift’, a platform dedicated to mindfulness. The clean, sophisticated, effortless, beautifully designed screen reflected Jennifer’s aura entirely. And as soon as I got home later that day, I downloaded it.

The app seamlessly takes you through an airy, abundant journey filled with options to suit your present needs. Do you need love? Clarification? Grounding? How do you want to achieve that? With food? Meditation? Movement? The Shift is a wonderful tool for those of us who want a little more structure to our self care. And it’s founder, Jennifer, is a great example of what it looks like to give oneself ultimate attention.

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After we decided to move forward with a photoshoot, I began to prepare. Since we initially dove deep into conversation; our visual collaboration emerged with ease. While making the mood board, I could easily imagine her essence and aesthetic. Visuals were just pouring out of my mind. My imagination was delighted. I thought of all earthly elements but especially the sky, water, desert and wide open spaces. When it came to wardrobe I recalled what Jennifer had worn when we met: white linen pants and a white cotton t-shirt; elegant, casual, organic and easy. When sending her wardrobe ideas, I gave her descriptive words such as ‘classy’, ‘earthy’, ‘whimsical’, ‘free-spirited’. I provided her with color concepts and general thoughts on appropriate pieces.

Ultimately, I would not have been able to pick a more perfect wardrobe. Jennifer’s choices were stunning and totally complimented the mission of our shoot. And still, the clothing she wore merely complimented the raw beauty she already possessed. It simply emanated. She didn’t wear an ounce of makeup (and if she did, it wasn’t noticeable). She didn’t need anything to look beautiful because she simply was!

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We had planned on a few location spots; her home, Jo’s Coffee and Barton Springs (my number one outdoor studio). When I arrived at her house, she had already begun playing a sweet, relaxing (yet rejuvenating) playlist. Fresh produce was laid out across her dining room table letting me know this was going to be a great day. Her space was thoughtfully decorated, sparkling clean; giving off loving, warm, spacious, airy vibes. It was intimate and pleasant; delicate and personal. I felt honored to stand present in its company.

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Our time shooting in Jennifer’s home really set the tone for the rest of the day. We were able to take our time, discuss our mission, take a gander at her clothing options and eat some peaches. At Jo’s Coffee, a public space, the mayhem fell away while we focused on headshots and expressive postures. The heat of summer was not a factor for either of us and if it was, we didn’t show it. Time flexibility allowed us to take a break over coffee (perks of booking a half day session) while checking in and talking more about each other’s backgrounds.

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This all rolled into Barton Springs where we caught magic hour which perfectly reflected her feminine, dreamy Beatrice Valenzuela dress. We played in the bath house and toyed with yoga postures (while still in the dress). Eventually, a more practical look emerged allowing for more space to flow and grow and breathe and rest before we were finished and Jennifer joined her partner, Jacob (also, an amazing human) to take a dip in the springs.

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Gosh, what an experience. One of my favorite shoots to date. We couldn’t have gotten any more from our time together. And that’s when you know it’s perfectly imperfect. Jennifer’s spiritual evolution was simply undeniable and it led us through frame by frame - the resulting images a forever stamp. I’ll stop gushing but one more thing - I feel beyond blessed to have met someone that inspires me to be more spiritual, more connected and more purposeful with my life choices. It’s not everyday you meet a woman who makes you want to be a better you.

OH. By the way. My images of Jennifer were featured in a Parisian magazine (inspiring female empowerment through community, creativity and movement) called Inside Out. You can check that out here.

Pizza Beats Modeling

Sam and I met in a courtyard on a warm, pleasant evening while sipping on delightful, herbal tea. (I feel like this could be an excerpt from Watership Down, I promise it's not.) She was gorgeous in the most unassuming way. I'm amazed by people who can be so beautiful and yet, not quite know it. It wasn't as if she was insecure or even shy. She may actually have one of the highest self esteems I've ever photographed. But it was intrinsic, effortless. It wasn't as if she was trying to exude confidence. She just did. 

We talked about her past and where she'd come from. We had the commonality of travel - not the kind you seek but rather the kind that is naturally laced throughout your childhood and therefore seeps into your adult life. She had lived in London and Egypt. She spoke French and Arabic. She understood worldly issues and wasn't afraid to scratch below the surface even though we had only just met. She loved documentaries and dreamt of libraries. I thought, This is a client?! She so easily could have been a long lost friend. And who knows, maybe she was. 

Sam needed head shots but not the stiff, tacky, outdated kind. She wanted to represent class, sophistication and authenticity. Well, THAT should be easy. She told me that she used to model as a teenager..."but after my agent told me to lose two inches I sent a picture of myself eating a box of pizza and was like 'Bye'!" This girl was legit. Naturally, we went to happy hour post shoot and ate two bowls of pasta. I can thank this business for that.

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Song in Springs

One of my favorite places to shoot is Barton Springs (in Austin, Texas for those of you unfamiliar). It is a magical place filled with varying light intensities, whimsical elements (you know, like trees and flowers and plants) and of course, water. 

It was an obvious choice to choose this magical place as Song's studio. 

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We met, for the first time, at Austin Java before caravanning down the street. Shooting with Song was easy, fun and seamless. Her on camera experience was undoubtedly a factor but her ability to be vulnerable was even more astounding. I rarely needed to shoot an image twice. I truly believe this had nothing to do with modeling but rather a free spirited way that lent to spontaneity and not an ounce of inhibition.  

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Even her wardrobe selections were chill. She was like, "Yeah, this green jacket is my dad's. I borrowed it. I think it's pretty dope." 

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Creating imagery with Song was joyous. We hung out like a couple of long last friends. Who said having your portraits done had to be stuffy, awkward and lackluster? Not us! 

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Barton Springs, am I right?

Are you ready to be awakened? If so, drop me a line! Let's be best friends and hang out and take pictures. :) 

Hi, Stranger

This business is still up and rolling, believe it or not. I took a bit of a hiatus from the social media/internet grind which, admittedly, isn't such a great look. However, I promise you my reasons are pure. As a creative, my energy has a tendency to oscillate between highs and lows, lefts and rights, yes's and no's. And, well, I'm working on it. So much, that I've finally decided to set in motion my vision for a podcast...hence, my hiatus. 

I'm still keeping my first love close (shooting) and this blog will indeed continue...but...if I've learned anything in the last year, its that I love expressing myself, in every way possible, and most of all via voice in the form of curiosity. My podcast will tie right into this platform. I'll talk about self improvement/awareness/realization, how to slow down in a fast moving world, why it's important to develop personally in a competitive society. You'll receive resources, stories, my very own streaming thoughts and best of all; you'll hear from powerful women (*I love*) making waves in society.

So, yeah, much more to come, beauties. 

Stay woke,

Riley

A Different Kind of Senior Portrait Session

We've all been there. Sitting on a stool in front of a drab back drop, staring into some big, aggressive, blinding light, listening to a complete stranger say, "Ok, now...tilt your head left...no - right...chin down...hands in your lap...good...ok, that's fine." CLICK. That's fine?! Oh, I hope this doesn't look stiff. Do I have something in my teeth? I forgot my lipstick. Am I pretty? This is awful. Never again.

The AGONY! Why oh why. Here at Woke Beauty we fiercely believe in a different type of senior portrait session. The type that is liberating, beautifying, authentic and fun. We want you to feel beautiful because you are...duh! 

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See what I mean?! ^  Vero arrived at my home in the morning; we had planned on shooting some inside, some around the neighborhood - but first, coffee. Talking was fun and easy. Vero has an unmistakable charm, a laugh that echoes and a unique elegance. We sat outside on my deck and chatted about the happenings in her life. We talked about her summer, her future plans, college, food (obviously). We digressed. Vero's primary goal in our session was: "to feel beautiful and confident." I knew it would be easy to translate her aura to an image. 

We frolicked through Travis Heights, walking down alleyways, admiring the breeze, the flowers, the trees. Vero's hair danced with the light. She told me she didn't know what to do with her face. But she was doing it! I encouraged her, "Spin around! Smile big! Now kind of smile!" I love it when my subjects move; it loosens them up and eventually aids them in finding a space that feels right. Vero found hers with ease. 

Vero has so many sides to her personality - sweet, silly, sultry. Somehow we managed to share them all. The glasses were helpful... (hint, hint, props encouraged)

We had so. much. fun. We told silly jokes, danced around and shared stories. Whenever I saw Vero looking a bit unsure I brought her back. I have no problem looking like the kookiest girl you've ever seen...anything to get you into your comfort zone. Because I know the result will be everything you were looking for. Maybe more. Especially if you're Vero.

How's THAT for a senior portrait session? ;) 

Road to Marfa

I wrote about my trip to Marfa with Katherine Squier last year - gosh, almost exactly a year ago...time, I command you to stand still! (Time does not obey.) I was so inspired by our road trip, Katherine's unmistakable elegance and a quaint, little town I had never been to before. I wrote about how places are just like people, there are so many of them yet we meet so few. And even fewer will touch us in a way that makes us pause with admiration. As I reflect now I think of how lucky was I to be dually struck with awe. 

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We were supposed to arrive in Marfa in 6 hours and 19 minutes but we're both photographers so...naturally, it took us 8. The aesthetic of the desert gripped us like little kids watching an ice cream truck pass them by. 

Photographing Katherine was just easy. That sounds so trite but really, there's no better way to say it. Katherine's essence comes through on camera, in a really authentic way. Which is crazy because, I mean, having a large device stare you down isn't very natural. I've decided its her sweetness, humility and overall generosity that makes her so approachable. I think this directly correlates to her love for dogs and dogs' love for her. I swear I'm not getting off topic. Between almost every picture I took of Katherine, there was a moment (or 2 or 3 or 4 or 50) of her with a dog. 

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She would say, "Ohhhh myyyyy goodnesssss look at that one. Look at his eyes, they're so blue and red. Wow. And his tail and those markings ohhhh I just have to meet him. I have to." I heard exclamations such as this countless times. It was awkward and precious and revealing. And let's be real, any girl who loves on dogs like that has a flawless soul. 

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I've had a really hard time getting away from these images. You're probably thinking what does that mean. I know, right. Well, I just keep sharing them and using them. I think that's why they are my very first blog post on this platform (I sound so formal). They speak to me and they accurately portray our trip, how it felt, what we did. 

Katherine and I had met once before. Once. On Instagram! In my defense, Instagram has been an incredible way to make friends. Once I get past all of the superficiality (which, I might add, exists everywhere), I come across these people (or they come across me - both very exciting) and we connect. Maybe it's mutual viewpoints, a love of similar things, or wow, you seem amazing, let's be friends. In our case, it was immediate friendship. 12 hours in a car? So what! Leaky tent? An adventure! 

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This is what I love about photography: people. It's always been people. I'm just not that shy, cool (ok, well admittedly, sometimes I'm cool), quiet art kid. I always envied those people, they just seem so suave. I know you know what I mean! But no, I'm talkative, outgoing, excitable, outwardly passionate. Because people are incredible. Women are incredible. They possess so much complexity, fortitude, kindness and beauty. They are magic. And photography allows me to study that magic, hold onto it just a bit longer. 

Katherine is the perfect example of what I'm trying to say. So if you don't get it, just look at these images. They say everything. 

Want your essence captured?? Girl, I can make that happen. Let's chat!

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