For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taking pictures and filming the world around me. It started with my dad constantly filming us with one of those giant 1990s video cameras. I always wanted to be behind the lens with him. When I was four, I photographed everything on my little Barbie sticker polaroid camera. Every disposable camera in our house was also filled with my “creations”. When I received my first point and shoot camera (a bright blue Nikon CoolPix), I knew then and there that photography was on my life journey. I annoyed the crap out of everyone, constantly asking them to model for me. It became worse with my first DSLR in 2009. But, none of this is why I’m a portrait photographer in Orlando today. To me, portraits held a much bigger meaning.
For those who don’t know, I was born in a small town in New Jersey and spent the first 5 years of my life there. All of our family lived close by. My brother and I each have a god-family, and Cory’s just happened to live next door to us. We were very close with them growing up, particularly to their youngest son. Cory and I both looked up to Johnny. He was older than us, but always wanted to spend time with us and play with us. Some of my fondest memories with him were swimming in the pool together, going on Easter Egg hunts, and learning to play Super Smash Brothers.
We moved to Florida in 2000 and occasionally went back to visit. The last time we saw Johnny and the family was Christmas of 2004. I remember watching Cory and Johnny playing NBA Live 2004 and Johnny pulling pranks on his dad. On this trip, he may or may not have set a parental control on his dad’s favorite station: Animal Planet. We had the best time with Johnny.
On June 14, 2006, we found out that Johnny had tragically passed away in a car accident. He had just turned 17. I really never knew why it hit me as hard as it did. On his one year anniversary, I went through our old photo albums trying to find some photos with him to share. Do you know what I found? 5 images of us together. 5 images in the 11+ years we had with him. It was no one’s fault. Photography just wasn’t as big back then. There wasn’t constant access to cameras as there are today (those 90s and 2000s cellphones had nothing). On that day, I swore I would never let this happen again. I was going to capture all of our family’s memories and I wanted to do the same for others. I wanted to be a portrait photographer.
Flash forward to New Year’s Eve 2018. Our family’s life changed forever. My dad was admitted to the hospital with end-stage kidney failure. He was fine just a week ago. After a week or two in the hospital, we learned the reason for the kidney failure. My dad was diagnosed with end-stage Multiple Myeloma cancer. I’m not going to rehash everything in this post, but you can read about our first year with cancer here. I was devastated. We all were. We didn’t know how long he’d have left and honestly, we still don’t. But, it was our goal to make the most out of it all. My personal goal? Photograph every single moment we have left together. I took this goal and not only made it for our family, but for my clients.
The first stop on my “document EVERYTHING” tour was updating our family photos. If these were going to be the last photos we had, I wanted us captured being our true dorky selves. We hired a colleague of mine to update our family photos when Cory was in town. They are some of my favorite memories of my dad to date. Seeing him smiling and so happy with my mom just brings me so much joy, and we didn’t know at the time if he’d be that same smiling guy soon. From there, every holiday, birthday, and occasion was captured. The biggest one was my wedding day. Almost our entire wedding budget went to the photography because we didn’t want to miss a thing and wanted the best of the best. Having the memories captured with my dad was and will forever be priceless.
I’m a portrait photographer in Orlando because of Johnny and my dad. The two of them showed me how important photographs are, especially when you’re gone. Being able to show your future generations the best people in your life and the best memories is amazing. I only wanted the same for those around me. I wanted to give the same opportunity and freeze time for others.
Are you ready to start your “Document EVERYTHING” journey? Allow me to help! Click here to read more about my portrait experiences and send me a message to set up your first portrait session! Did you know that I don’t just photograph in Orlando? I love to travel and no place is too far! Let’s chat about options for your portrait session.
In the meantime, check out a few of my favorite portrait sessions to date from being an Orlando family photographer!