I’m counting down the days until I meet these two in North Carolina for their wedding, which I know is going to be absolutely stunning! This engagement session feels like a lifetime ago but it was so wonderful to fly into Colorado and meet these two as strangers, but then leave as friends! We drove into the beautiful wilderness of Colorado, spent the night out at a ski resort, and celebrated Ziggy’s birthday in the morning! It was such a fun trip and I can’t wait to travel again with these two and all their friends and family in just a few weeks! See you there lovebirds!
I moved to Portland in the dead of winter with zero photographer or artists community. Amidst learning how to function in snow and cold weather I felt stuck and lost creatively (as I always do at that time of year), and felt intimidated to have to start over here, to build an entirely new client base, and to also find my work “people”. And I don’t just mean trying to find vendor connections, but the desire to find other creative folks that were either also Queer or at the very minimum, badass allys. Making friends as an adult is hard. It feels like dating almost. It’s scary and vulnerable and breaking into a social scene can feel impossible at times. A friend of my partner’s connected me with Arielle of Small Yard Flowers, and I was immediately blown away by her kindness and generosity. She told me about a flower-filled, gender-fluid, spring shoot that she was envisioning and asked me if I would be interested in being a part of it. Talk about a dream! She already had 2 other photographers on board and we all met to talk about the shoot and ways to make it a creative push for all of us.
I’m so grateful to have worked alongside Micky Bones Photography, Marissa Solini Photography and to let myself unfold creatively in a way I haven’t let myself do in a while. I played with film and digital, and experimented with shooting dark and moody and also bright and colorful. Studio work is not my comfort zone, so it was inspiring to push myself and create images that I’m so very proud of.
A huge thanks to all the models involved, to Ringed Portland for providing such beautiful jewelry, and of course, to Small Yard Flowers for not only growing all the stunning flowers, but for providing the space and the vision for me to express myself and photograph in a way that I want to do so much more of.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Jace is a queer chef living in Long Beach and this session celebrated his newly healed chest after top surgery last winter. I first met Jace when he hired me to do a surprise engagement and proposal shoot for his partner, and I instantly fell in love with his kind heart. I’m so glad to see him representing and advocating for more QTPOC visibility in the media, which is something that is so needed. Jace, thank you for sharing yourself with me, for opening your home (and your heart) with me, and for your strength and vulnerability. I am so grateful for you.
Studio XIII Stripped sessions are intimate portraiture sessions designed for LGBTQ folks and allies. For more info or to schedule yours, read this blog post.
We spent the late afternoon and early evening, climbing down the cliffs of Malibu and reveling in the gorgeous coastline until sunset. I’m so excited to photograph their wedding in September, Molly and Noelle I just adore you!
As wedding photographers, we uphold the great responsibility of capturing someone’s “best day of their life”— and the focus is, as it should be, on the couple and their love. We are taught to story tell their day back to them through a collection of photographs that artfully show how the day unfolded. We are trained to shoot the details: to set up shots of invitation suites, florals, the shoes, the rings, the decor. We are told to make sure we always get photos of the couple at golden hour, and how to do it. But no one’s writing books or blogs about how to capture moments of the guests and family in a way that means everything— because someday, these photos will be all that the couple has of that person, that family member, that moment—- and they will cling to them harder than you ever could imagine.
Except that I can imagine it. Because I photographed my little sister’s wedding, while my mom was on Hospice care. She had a big wedding in the works, and I was planning on taking off the photographer hat and handing it to someone else until cancer had another plan for all of us. We sat at the foot of my mom’s hospital bed, while doctors told us not to wait for the wedding because time wasn’t guaranteed. In under a week we planned a wedding in the backyard of our childhood home, scaled a guest list down from 150+ to 14, and my mom was able to walk her down the aisle.
The power in capturing those moments with my mom was so incredibly special. Those photos mean everything to me, and to my sisters, because they are some of the last photos of my mom— smiling brilliantly, dressed up and looking so beautiful—- before things took a turn and we weren’t taking as many photos anymore because we were swallowed whole by grief.
I get at least one email a year thanking me for taking the photos that someone has of their special person who has passed away since their wedding. Sometimes I get an email sharing that someone has used one of my photos for an obituary or printed large scale at a memorial service. This past year, I got more emails than I ever have before. And this week I lost my best friend’s Dad, and I’ve found myself going through wedding photos from when I shot her sister’s wedding, cherishing the ones of him that I have.
I don’t photograph weddings anymore hoping to be an award winning wedding photographer or with hopes of getting enough detail shots to publish the photos. I photograph through the lens of grief. And I don’t mean this in a morbid way, but the experience of losing both of my parents by the time that I turned 28 has made me, for better or worse, highly sensitive and aware of the fragility of life. I know first hand, that at the end of it all, you will hold photos of the people who were with you on your wedding day tighter to your chest than ever before and wish you had taken a million more. I know that a photo of you hugging someone can transport you back in time and make you feel like you’re hugging them again. I know that in the long run, you won’t frame or care much for the stylized photos of your shoes. You’ll want the photo of your mom, your grandma, your sibling, your best friend. That’s what’s going to go on your walls. That’s what you’ll feel thankful for. I believe it is miraculous to have all your favorite people together at one place and one time, and I want to capture all of that for you in a way that you’ll cherish forever.
Photographers— this is where our real responsibility comes in. We owe it to our clients to tell the stories of their wedding days in a way that feels most meaningful to them. It’s up to us to photograph the people at their wedding just as much as the beautiful flowers and the table decorations. It’s reminding ourselves to get photos of grandparents on the dance floor and hand squeezes between parents, and capturing guests in quiet moments too. Yes, the focus is forever on the couple who is getting married, but don’t forget to focus on the moments that make their wedding day unique— the community of people surrounding them that they chose to share in their day with.
I’m always humbled when I think about the comfort and simultaneous heartbreak that my photos can provide for someone and their family, and I’m continually reminded of why I do what I do— beyond advocating for the Queer community through my business, I’m advocating for a stripped down, real and vulnerable take on the wedding industry. I’m pushing for photographers and other vendors alike to connect with their clients and their people in a deeper way. And I’m gently reminding anyone who is getting married that the photos of your wedding will someday mean everything to you… so find someone you trust to photograph your wedding and the people around you. This life is short and nothing is guaranteed, but the impact we have, especially as photographers is enormous. Cheers to photographing with more heart, more room for grief, more joy and more capacity for the human experience than ever before…
I’ve been asked a few times if I do “Boudoir Photography” and my immediate response is somewhere between yes and no. I’ve ended up creating some beautiful portraits with clients but I struggled with how to market the kind of work I was producing because it didn’t really ever feel like boudoir.
One of the first sessions that I can remember doing was for a friend after she lost her mom, and wanted to feel seen and feel beautiful again. We filled my bathtub in my home full of flowers and chatted and created some really stunning photos.
In the last 2 years I’ve documented a close friend through his transition and use of testosterone. We photographed not only photos to show the changes that a body goes through, but also the intimacy and sacredness of a T shot routine.
I realized that I wanted to offer something in-between what I would call a creative portrait session and “boudoir”. The photos that I want to offer to create for folks are intimate portraits that can only be pulled from a place of pure vulnerability and trust, but without the need or goal of “sexy photos” (unless thats what you want and I’m so down for that!). Don’t get me wrong, I love boudoir photography and I know so many amazing other photographers who do it beautifully, but if you look at a lot of tips online for boudoir photography, it’s a lot of “poses” and angles for how to shrink bodies into “flattering” forms. And to me, part of what makes the LGBTQ community so resilient is that we constantly defy the norms that society tries to hold in place for us.
So here we are. Welcome to Studio XIII Stripped. Where you strip down (literally or figuratively), and bear your soul, your heart, your skin to celebrate the resilience and beauty of being purely human.
Whether your’re celebrating the body you’re in, documenting scars, wading through grief, or gifting yourself the ultimate “love myself” appreciation gift, I’m here for all of it. I want to take the time to hear your story, to reflect back to you the incredible person that you are, through a collection of images that feel like you.
So how does this all work?
When you book your session we are going to chat about the goal and the purpose of the photos we are going to create. By knowing this, I can help guide you through conceptualizing a shoot that is completely tailored to you. It could be as simple as being naked in the woods or as complex as bringing in stylists or florists and renting a studio. This is about you, and I want to make it completely yours. We’ll create a collaborative Pinterest board, or you can check out my inspiration board that will be ever growing for ideas. On the day of the shoot we will take time to make sure you’re at your most comfortable—- some folks have set the energy of the room using incense or candles, others just want a drink and a killer playlist. We’ll take time at the very beginning to sit down and talk, check in, and open up to each other. I’m here to make this be a super fun, empowering and special experience for you.
The nitty gritty: These intimate portraiture shoots are $500 for 1-2 hours, with at least 30 high resolution images delivered via online gallery. For these shoots I offer sliding scale for queer folks. And as always, kick ass allies are always welcome to book a shoot.
Below are some self portraits I took yesterday, along with a few of the beautiful images I’ve created in the last few years. Because of their vulnerable content, not all images I’ve shot I’m able to share. But these ones really grab at my heart.
So let’s strip down and get to the raw truths and depths of ourselves. You in?
This beautiful, touching, and so very special intimate wedding was the last wedding that I photographed of 2018 and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end the year. Two days after Christmas, these two and their immediate family gathered at San Francisco City Hall for a sweet and simple ceremony, and then boarded a shuttle to North Beach where we walked around and took some portraits before a stunning dinner at Park Tavern. The emotions in the air were palpable, and Kelsey and Natalie couldn’t have been more surrounded by love. Congratulations and may you have many more wonderful family celebrations and joyous adventures in your future together.
2018 was a big year—- both professionally and personally. I photographed weddings in Mexico, NYC, and all around California, I was published in some big publications (including print magazines!) and made it to Huff Post’s 35 Best Wedding Photos of the Year! I met a lot of amazing and talented photographer friends, I taught a selfie class at a nude beach, and I photographed KEHLANI! (Freaking swoon!) I traveled to Italy and Greece with my partner, we spent the summer playing in the river and camping as much as we could, and in the fall we drove out to the middle of no where to have a 2 lady burning man and she asked me to be her wife! I said goodbye to my home in Oakland and moved to Portland all while shooting more weddings and more family sessions than ever before.
As I look back, I’m so grateful for all of the beautiful humans who allowed me to photograph them… I can’t say it enough that it means everything to me to be able to photograph love— and especially queer love in this way.
2019 is going to be a real year of transition for me and my business as we settle into a new home and a new state…. I feel like I kind of get to start over in a way, and I’m trying to figure out my place in Portland…. who I am and who I want to be here. And maybe along the way I’ll fall in love with myself all over again. I chose “connection” as my word of the year for 2019 and my hope is to rekindle or foster stronger connections in my life—-from family to friends to clients and even my connections to my art and to myself. I think it’s going to be a really interesting and challenging year, and though I’m sure I’ll bumble through it as I always do, I hope to do so with an ounce of grace and a lot of vulnerability. I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for your support, for your kind words—- I cherish it all so deeply.
*This blog post is a reflection of a real conversation between the 4 of us as friends and colleagues in response to an image being widely shared of two straight women labeled as a “same sex elopement”. We hope that this will serve as an opener to a greater conversation about LGBTQ+ representation and why authenticity matters. We recognize that we are a small population of LGBTQ-identified wedding photographers and we want this to be a space for open and honest dialogue, education and reflection. We would love to continue these posts and have more voices amplified---we welcome opinions and perspectives from all folks and would love to hear from you.
These are questions that we have received after we each posted on Instagram asking our communities to reflect on queer representation, promoting yourself as an LGBTQ friendly business, and thoughts about stylized wedding shoots using models over authentic LGBTQ couples. Our answers reflect our own experiences.*
Q: I’m not LGBTQ identified, but I want to show that I am LGBTQ friendly to future clients, how do I do this?
Steph: Hold a full day of mini sessions for LGBTQ+ people in your area. Here’s the kicker…give the sessions away for FREE until you have a solid portfolio. Better yet…ask for a donation from couples and donate to a local LGBTQ+ organization. Once upon a time I gave a free wedding away to a special couple to celebrate marriage equality. There are so many ways to do this you just have to get creative and have fun in the process.
Tara: Tara: I completely agree with Steph! Yes! Reach out to your community and “shoot what you want to show!” It’s important to show that you are inclusive of all walks of like, and not just pretty, skinny, white people. To have a diverse portfolio you must also be shooting a diverse group. If you’re in a part of the country where you think that there aren’t many LGBTQIA people around, just put out a message on your social media accounts…we are everywhere!
Kelly: I completely agree with both Steph and Tara. And even if you don’t live in a country, or town that has any LGBTQIA around, there are many on social media. So even beginning to follow some top queer influencers and commenting on their IG asking if they’d like to shoot is an amazing place to start.
Jamie: LGBTQ+ clients are often most attracted to photographers that outwardly show their support for the community via copy, content, and imagery, consistently. The most important and impactful way to do this is by showing LGBTQ couples consistently in your portfolio. This means not just having one photo of a queer couple on your website, but putting them on your landing page, in your galleries, and regularly on your instagram. It shows prospective clients that you are not only inclusive and accepting, but that know how to work with their community. It allows them to see themselves reflected in your imagery, and will make them more inclined to want to work with you. And of course, the more diverse the better! The LGBTQ community is filled with so many amazing folks of all differing identities, ethnicities and backgrounds. That’s what makes us so beautiful!
Q: How can I make my business more LGBTQ friendly?
Tara: I believe that inclusivity goes beyond just your business. Becoming vocal about your political views, and your morals on your business social media accounts will help show to your followers that you’re a legitimate ally. It’s not enough to just post a photograph you’ve taken of an LGBTQIA couple - no matter how beautiful it may be. Being vocal is always better than staying silent.
Kelly: Tara said the biggest, be vocal. State your openness to the community. Reach out and be friendly. I think also what you can do for your business and your community is go to a Pride in any nearby city. Take pics of the couples there. Tag the pictures in pride. That would absolutely show the LGBTQ community that you are wanting to be a part of it and are LGBTQ friendly, better yet, an ally.
Jamie: Be a better ally in your everyday life. Make sure your language/contracts/forms on your site is inclusive-- especially if you are a wedding photographer. Language is so important and it can be very hetero-centered which can make some couples feel uncomfortable. Explicitly post something on your “about me” page. I have a company values piece in my “about” page, because even though I think it’s pretty blatantly obvious that I’m queer and my business is revolving around LGBTQ folks, I also want anyone who comes to my business to know exactly what I stand for. It’s so intimidating for many LGBTQ couples to reach out to vendors, and saving someone that anxiety by simply stating your values in your business makes the world of difference.
Steph: Remind them that you are there for them and that they are loved.
Q: What if I don’t know any LGBTQ couples? How do I get them into my portfolio?
Kelly: I see photographers doing giveaways, or searching for couples for their “mentor” shoots all the time. It is so simple to specify what kind of giveaway or couples you are looking for by simply saying, hey doing a giveaway to any beautiful queer couples looking to get married, tag your friends, share…etc. I guarantee you will have an overwhelming amount of responses to those posts.
Tara: I agree with you Kelly! This is a wonderful idea! We have ALL done so much stuff for free when we are starting out. Even if you have a 10 year strong, successful business you may need to start “at the beginning” with new markets. Do stuff for free - advertise that you’re searching to expand your portfolio! Be honest about your intentions!
Jamie: Yes yes to all of this, model calls are the way to go! These are my dos and don'ts of searching for a real couple:
-Create a call out on your facebook/blog/instagram
-Ask friends/family/people you know to photograph them
-Specify that you’re looking for an LGBTQ couple
-Throw out your ideas of gender norms. Get to know your subjects well. Direct them instead of posing. Ask them questions about how they would like to be photographed.
-tokenize the LGBTQ community or play into stereotypes. Let the couples be authentically who they are.
-use two straight models to try and look like an LGBTQ couple
Steph: Heck..shoot me a message. I will do my best to connect you with awesome people in your area doing big things to make the world a better place.
Q: Are all styled shoots bad?
Kelly: Personally, I am a bit on the fence with them. It matters so much to me how you execute them. I feel we have surpassed the age of fake advertising, fake news, fake Photoshop… We can be a part of that old age perspective or be better - higher, and make shoots and moments as real as possible, all the while advertising how your wedding can look like. That’s all what styled shoots are for - to help create a vision of what you can imagine your wedding to be. So let’s try to make it as real as possible. Because finding out that something isn’t real is misleading and in someway heartbreaking to the couple who wish they could be that. We want to tell them that you can.
Steph: Well said Kelly! See, I get the point…artist collaboration, maybe building a portfolio or possibly wanting to grow your following. No matter what it is be honest with yourself about your intentions then have that be reflected when you post the session. Sure they’re pretty to look at but I’m not really all about styled shoots. I’ve never done one before because it just seems like too much work for overly posed photos. I try to do everything in my power to have my images capture the complete opposite of that I encourage my couples to have their wedding & elopement represent their personalities and style…no need for a styled shoot when you have the real deal right there. What you see is what you get. They’re not a right fit FOR ME. I think if it makes sense for you and your business then heck yeah. Run full force with it…but please do yourself and all of us a favor and 1. get real life couples. There are so many out there. Your photos will turn out better and I can guarantee a couple will be stoked to get some gorgeous photos in return. 2. If you insist on hiring models don’t be misleading about it in any way and you won’t have to worry about anything.
Tara: I think styled shoots can be really fun, and an awesome way to collaborate with other wedding photography vendors! I also think that they are misleading to couples who are searching for wedding photographers. During a styled shoot everything is controlled. Everything is perfect. Everything is going to look amazing! However, on a wedding day, things can go wrong. So I think it’s really important to be showing actual work more often than a styled shoot. Show that you can be a badass under pressure if something goes wrong. ALSO - If you’re going to do an LGBTQIA intentioned styled shoot then PLEASE use actual LGBTQIA humans + couples! Would you want a white person to be playing a person of color in a movie?! NO!
Jamie: No, not at all. If you’re a beginner photographer and you need more work and practice for your portfolio, styled shoots can be a great way to do this. They’re even great for more seasoned photographers to collaborate with other vendors in the industry and work together to feed creativity or to establish trends. It can be hard because just like ads you see online, it’s not real. So for me, if I’m going to do a styled shoot, I want to have as many “real” elements as possible…. Especially if I’m going to photograph a couple. It’s so important to get real people in front of your camera, especially if you want to have more experience photographing folks who aren’t models, which are going to be primarily your clients if you’re going to be a wedding photographer. In any route that you go as far as a styled shoot, it’s important to maintain transparency about the photoshoot and be honest about your sources, models included.
Q: What do I do if someone else is planning an LGBTQ styled shoot and wants to use straight models/or use culturally appropriative elements in the shoot?
Steph: Offer advice on how you can make it more inclusive and REALISTIC and take that opportunity to educate.
Tara: Yes Steph! Exactly! Suggest that they search for a real LGBTQIA couple, or real LGBTQIA models. Representation + exposure is so so important.
Kelly: To me it’s common sense. If you’re creating a styled shoot for LGBTQIA. Then the models should be part of the community. Try reaching out to any LGBTQIA on social media. Take that extra step in making the styled shoot look as best as it can be.
Jamie: Stick with your gut. Speak out. Offer up other suggestions.
Q: What’s the big deal with hashtags? Aren’t photographers just putting huge blocks of them anyways?
Steph: One of the main reasons I have the following that I do on Instagram is because of hashtags. People are looking for LGBTQ+ wedding photographs and inspiration…because it’s important. We need to be visible and vocal for those who cannot. This is how they find us. Sometimes what we post has the power to save a life, to make a couple feel comfortable and most of all spread authentic love to give others hope. I do not take that lightly. Obviously, which is why I get so passionate and worked up about what I do. Truth is, I have messed up on Instagram. It’s easy to do. I have been called out by clients before for not using the appropriate hashtags under their photo. Here’s what we do: IMMEDIATELY… check yourself. Apologize and have them educate you. Explain your thought process and make sure you have clarity. Remedy the situation. Thank them. Educate others to do the same. The most dangerous place to be is when you think you already know everything and have no room for mistakes and growth.
Tara: Hashtags are incredibly important when promoting your work + trying to the found by others on The Gram. Selecting your hashtags could make or break who sees your stuff. I have a bunch of hashtags I use over and over again because I usually just post my wedding work. The importance of hashtags in this conversation is that if someone who is searching for imagery that will inspire them, and heal their hearts in some way (maybe they are coming out of the closet for example) and they search for “LGBT Weddings,” they will find a ton of photographs. How HEARTBREAKING would it be for that person coming out to find out that their favorite photograph of an “LGBT couple” was actually a lie.
Kelly: Hashtags have come a long way from the pound sign for sure. Sometimes hashtags are now just used for specific communities to go see a photo. For example I’ve used #vsco or #fearlessphotographers just to show others in that community that I’ve posted a photo. However, some hashtags also explain the photo, I try my best to curate what hashtags I am using otherwise one may certainly get called out. So double check those hashtags for what you’re trying to portray for sure - they are another line of a caption.
Jamie: Yes to all of this. Hashtags are so important for getting your work out there, but they only do their job if used appropriately. Like many, I’ve screwed up before and assumed or put hashtags on photos that weren’t aligned with my couple/subjects identities. The best thing you can do is change them, apologize, and do better. I suggest to photographers who are working with vulnerable communities to make sure and check with their clients about what hashtags they feel ok with. If you are unsure or don’t have that information, stick to what you DO know. Hashtags may feel harmless or mindless at times, but it’s important that in this age of social media that we are intentional about the work we put out there and how we do that.
Q: I got called out. I feel guilty and I’m sensitive to the criticism. Now what?
Steph: Welcome to real life. That's part of it...part of being visible, part of having a massive following and being human. We put content and our thoughts out in the world. Trying our best every single day. Sometimes we slip up. Above all else OWN IT. Listen to feedback. Do not...I repeat, DO NOT delete comments/block people for asking basic questions about your work. Address them. Reach out for help if you need it. I have had 81,000 people on my site in one day... commenting like wild on this specific wedding that went viral. Negative comments, positive vibes, questions, voicing their opinions and some attacking...it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do but you have to be prepared to explain your intentions then hold on tight and brace yourself for the ride. It will be done a lot sooner if you try your very best to check all the ways you could've made things right. But the second you start deleting, blocking and going silent on your people you've started backpedaling which makes you look like you did something wrong. Chances are maybe you did and that's ok. O W N I T. Do better. Move forward.
Kelly: I get it - no one likes to be told that they’re wrong. BUT, we have to always keep an open mind, and realize not all of us have the same perspective. It is a sensitive thing to experience. But you’re human, the person calling you out is human, so connect with them, apologize wholeheartedly, and begin the open dialect.
Tara: Growth is a part of life. If you made a mistake and you’re being “called out” for it then the best thing you can do is own up to your mistake sincerely, and apologize sincerely. It’s important to be humble, stay human, and continue to be open to growth. Also, like Steph said, if you’re posting things on social media you should automatically be open to criticism. It’s going to happen!
Jamie: The best apology that you can give is action. As someone who holds a lot of privilege as a cis, white queer, I know that I will be called out/called in and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We are all learning and doing the best that we can. I always want to be the best person I can be for my community and for others. We all do our best until we know better, and then when we know better… we do better. Try not to get caught up in over explaining or justifying…. Hear people out, invite in constructive conversation, listen, make changes, and learn from your mistakes.
Q: What’s the best way to be an ally to the LGBTQ community?
Kelly: The most important thing first is to being open to befriending anyone part of the LGBTQIA community. Once you do connect and establish a friendship, don’t be afraid to ask them the hard questions. Educate yourself about their life, views, likes and dislikes,..aka be a friend. That’s the best and most heartfelt way of becoming an ally.
Tara: There’s nothing worse than someone who wants to be an ally because it will benefit them in some way. That is wrong. So, be sure that you actually love + respect all walks of life, and all LGBTQIA humans. Make sure that you’re an ally for all the right reasons, and not just because you could make a buck. LGBTQIA humans are still discriminated against, and we need our allies to be 100%.
Jamie: Be open minded and listen in all forms. Leave your stereotypes behind. Wholeheartedly believe that all peoples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity deserve respect, compassion and dignity. Confront your own prejudice/privilege. (Especially if you are cisgender and straight. Confronting this can be uncomfortable, but in the long run it will make you a better ally). Speak up. Anti-LGBTQ comments and jokes are more prevalent than you think and are hurtful and triggering to our community. Learn about LGBTQ history and culture. Ask questions, look up articles and information, don’t rely solely on LGBTQ people in your life to educate you. Support QUEER BUSINESS OWNERS. Collaborate with them, buy their products, work in their coffee shops. Lead by example. Share your support on social media channels, and in your everyday life. Talk about things that are happening in the world with the LGBTQ community, and speak out against discrimination regularly.
Steph: Sometimes a video tells my exact response because I filmed and edited this story on the importance of vocal allies and an inclusive workplace.
Q: I’m scared to come out in my business or to post images of LGBTQ couples because of fear of backlash from my more conservative clients… how should I handle this?
Kelly: Honesty, you’d just have to take that leap of faith and be courageous. Try not to care about the unfollows or the backlash. If you feel something is right and you’re passionate about it, then that’s your motive. You’ll gain the following and support back from the people YOU respect more and who respects your work. As for the comments I’d just say you’re right to your opinion but I post what I feel is beautiful and full of love.
Tara: I think you need to come to terms with the fact that you will probably lose followers, you’ll lose some business, but the business you will gain + the followers you will gain from “coming out” will be incredible! You’ll also feel more free to share the work you really want to show, and be more vocal about personal subjects too!
Jamie: If you lose followers or clients, they aren’t for you! Sometimes this is hard, but I promise you that you will attract clients who align themselves with your values and vice versa.
Steph: I had zero confidence when I first started. I was terrified when I booked my first LGBTQ client. I was nervous about what others would say when I posted the images on my blog. I worried that not only would I lose clients but then have to explain the fact that I was gay and might also lose a lot of my family and friends that I had grown up with in church. I knew they would judge me for supporting these wonderful couples and sure enough I got some pretty hateful messages which I took to heart. At that point it was bigger than my photography…these people didn’t know that when they were throwing out hurtful words they were also talking about ME. I took those hateful messages and used them to fuel my energy into doing something positive. I’m sure glad I did. I learn something new every day. Most of all, through photography, I have learned how to be myself. I have figured out how to take what I am passionate about…what is close to my heart and run with it. That is truly when my career started taking off. I am now photographing the very thing that scared me & what I hid from when I first started.
Q: How about styled shoots that use TQ+ models in place of a real couple? What if one identifies as bisexual and is in a relationship with a man?
Jamie: That’s again where being transparent about the shoot comes into play-- if you are going to use models, even if they are individually queer identified, disclosing that it is not a real couple is important. It’s easy to do in the caption, such as “stylized shoot”, and then name/tag the models. But I encourage anyone who wants to photograph an LGBTQ couple to find a real couple….not only will it alleviate any stress of how to talk about the shoot, but you get the authentic chemistry between 2 people who are actually in love.
Kelly: I feel we can find real couples for styled shoots. Let's go that extra mile you know. But if all else fails and we can't, I agree with Jamie and we can and should be completely transparent to the viewer that this isn't a real couple but created only to showcase the dress, shoot, etc.
Tara: I think that there are all kinds of LGBTQIA matchups that don’t look like a gay couple or a lesbian couple. It’s incredibly important to represent everyone, and every matchup. I had a couple this year that identified with the LGBTQIA community because he was bi-sexual and she was straight. I think that this is where detailed, honest, and clear captions and hashtags come into play. Exposure of all types of people within this community is so important!
Steph: Transparency is key. With a big following comes big responsibilities. Lots of eyes on us expecting us to lead the way as experts in our specific field. So do everything with love, speak up for others who cannot, allow yourself to feel your emotions and don’t back down when you believe you are doing the right thing.
To continue or add to the conversation, please contact us via our social media channels or leave comments on this blog post. We would love to hear from you!
About the contributors:
Jamie Thrower // 31, Currently moving from Oakland, CA to Portland, OR to marry the love of her life. Photographer, plant enthusiast, and lover of love since she was in diapers, but working as a full time photographer since 2012. Queer Femme, forever and ever.
Tara Beth Robertson // 30, from West Chester, PA, residing in Asbury Park, NJ. Photographing LGBTQ+ love stories since 2012.
Every year I'm astounded by my community. It is such an honor to go out with my camera and document the beauty that I see-- pride has been and will always be an act of resistance, thank you to all the souls who paved the way and to all who continue to uplift our community in resilience and love.
2017 was a year of the highest of highs for my career (I traveled, I got a magazine cover, I was published in a book and I had more than one art show!), but personally was a tough one. It was a year of sweetness mixed with pain and growth and change and went by so incredibly quickly, it all feels like a blur. So without further ado, here's a TON of highlights from my year, in no particular order. Enjoy!
Fall Mini Sessions are here! I'll be offering October Dates for Seattle and Oakland and November dates for Sonoma and the larger East Bay.
Mini sessions are a quick way to grab some family photos to use for holiday cards, gifts, or simply to update your family photo walls. We here at Studio XIII believe whole heartedly that LOVE is what makes a family, and we adore photographing all kinds of different families what makes your family uniquely yours.
Here's the need to know:
Dates for October:
SEATTLE: October 8th at the Arboretum
OAKLAND: October 21st at the Gardens in Lake Merritt
Time slots are first come, first served, and deposits must be paid for the time slot to be held. Don't see your city? Gather up some friends/other families who might be interested and email me so we can set up a mini session date in your area! I travel ANYWHERE :)
To book your mini session, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Mini Session-(your location)" and specify which time slot you would like. After your spot is secured, I'll send over all the details and specific locations.
More dates/cities to be announced for November!
Business Name: Jessica Sabogal
Website and Social Media : www.Jessicasabogal.com ig: @jessicasabogal
Location: Oakland, CA
Tell me about your business: Women Are Perfect has taken on it's own entity. What first began as a public mural project turned into thousands of women of color wearing a shirt or holding a poster that expressed how they felt about themselves. It's incredible. Sometimes I'll walk into a party and someone I don't know will be wearing a WAP shirt. It's incredible. Nonetheless, I'm a muralist, printmaker and designer.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? Being a lesbian is everything. But it doesn't come over being a woman or being Colombian, or being the daughter of immigrants, or being born in SF. You can't experience one without the other. They exist within me all at once all at the same time. Mostly I think it just causes me to push boundaries because most of the things I want to create don't exist in the world yet.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? Growing up I wanted to be the president of the United States, which led me to studying political science in college. I wanted the job that would bring the most social change, and I thought the president could do a good job at that. I wanted to learn all about how our government worked, and about what laws are in place, so that I could change them. Once I graduated, I wanted nothing more than to bring political change to an ever broken system, but I didn’t want to be a politician to have to do it. I knew I had to go big. I knew I had to create something large scale that could grab the attention of a mass audience. Muralism does that—it's a disruption and public confrontation.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? It's not perfect, but for the most part we work to uplift each other's sacredness, whom history has forced to believe are less than human.
What does community mean to you? It means showing up. It means listening. It means asking where you're needed and how you can best serve the folks around you. It means asking for help. It means being helped without being asked.
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? Fear.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? Your fears will never amount to reality.
The Proud Business Project is a photography project highlighting LGBTQ business owners and entrepreneurs in the Bay Area who honor their identity in their business to serve their community in a bigger way. Do you know a proud business owner? Email email@example.com with the subject "Proud Business Project".
Business Name: Ampersand
Website and Social Media (if you have one): www.ampersandsf.com // insta: @ampersand_sf
Location: 80 Albion Street, San Francisco, CA
Tell me about your business: We are a flower shop and design studio specializing in all aspects of flowers; selling stems by the stem and along with full wedding/event florals. People are welcome to come build a bouquet on their own, or we can always design on the fly as well.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? Benjamin and I built the pop-and-pop shop with an understanding that our relationship would be a major role in the culture of what the shop was and we always wanted it to be a place that welcomed all members of the local community in the Mission, especially that of the LGTBQ community. We are often reminded of how lucky we are to be gay business owners in a city that loves and celebrates our efforts as a couple.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? Some of our proudest moments have to be seeing the growth of our own little flower family that we have in the shop; there are a total of 7 of us now and we are a diverse group of people that are creative, generous, hard working folks to be around every day. I’m also so proud of the amount of quality and heart that everyone brings to everything that we touch.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? I am very proud to represent the small-business hustle in our community and live an authentic way of life every day with all of our clients and colleagues. There are so many talented artists in our community and I’m especially enjoy queering up the flower world in SF.
What does community mean to you? Community truly is backbone of our company; we originally set out to be nothing more than just the local flower shop, where people could buy affordable blooms to treat themselves or just to hang out with us. We’re blessed to be in a community that loves to shop locally with small business and we like to think that we’re a neighborhood staple now :)
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? Honestly, opening up a retail business was one of the hardest tasks we ever took on because the work never stops. There’s always something to improve upon, there’s always growing pains, there’s always your own personal fears of failure that will haunt your sleep in the beginning. It took us a while, working seven days a week, 14 hour days, but we eventually hired help and now with a full staff, the work feels more manageable for sure. It’s actually amazing that we’ve never had the luxury of slowing down or not having growing pains!
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? Self. Care. You must learn self care, as soon as you can. Get enough sleep, do that yoga class even if you’re tired, and have that glass of wine. The sooner you take time to really care for yourself, your business will thrive even more. Entrepreneurship is not an easy journey, but it sure is satisfying.
The Proud Business Project is a photography project highlighting LGBTQ business owners and entrepreneurs in the Bay Area who honor their identity in their business to serve their community in a bigger way. Do you know a proud business owner? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Proud Business Project".
Business Name: Prism Integrative Acupuncture
Location: currently subcontracting at The Wellness Principle on Saturday mornings, 330 41st St, Oakland, will be renting my own space hopefully in the next few months
Tell me about your business: Prism Integrative Acupuncture offers holistic hormone support for all of life's transitions: teens and puberty, fertility and reproduction (especially for queer and non-traditional families), transgender transition, menopause and mid-life transitions, as well as PCOS, endometriosis, and other hormonal conditions. I work with acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition to balance hormones, prepare for and recover after surgery, soothe anxiety and depression, and create a sense of balance and ease during times that can otherwise be very stressful and difficult. I developed this focus during the four year clinical internship of my acupuncture masters program and now am continuing it into my private practice.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? As a lesbian with transgender and gender non-conforming loved ones, LGBTQ health and wellness feels especially pertinent. Even in the bay area, I see a deficit of options for holistic support during transition, especially for trans women. My personal connection to queer and lesbian communities has, and continues, to guide the focus of my practice.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? Fighting to be who we are despite opposition, hatred, and violence. The amazing courage of our queer elders, coming out and supporting each other at a time when it was unsafe to be gay. The tenacity of visibly gender non-conforming people everywhere, the grit of queer folks who lost the support of their families by coming out, the fierceness of femmes who have to deal with not only homophobia and sexual harrassment, but also have to fight for their queer identities to be recognized. Our strength and bravery, even -and maybe especially- when we don't feel very brave, makes me so proud to be queer.
What does community mean to you? Community, to me, means a group of people who support each other, who depend upon each other, and who have some sort of commonality that connects them. For queers, this is especially wonderful and important: we don't have to know each other to see each other, to call each other 'family'. When I travel to small towns and run into queers there, we recognize and affirm each other. Simply by being out, being visibly queer, we are supporting each other. We don't have to know each other to fight to protect one another. When one of us takes on homophobia at work. or asks our conservative relatives to accept our queer relationships, or intentionally comes out when we're assumed straight, we are fighting for all of us to be accepted and safe.
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? So far, the biggest challenge for my practice has been maintaining my focus on hormone regulation and transgender health while going through school, studying for boards, and learning how to start a business. This is already a lot to handle, and the addition of a speciality has been a lot of extra work. The importance of this work, though, has kept me motivated and focused on my goals.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? I think that all of us start out thinking that we know what the queer community needs because we're a part of it. However, you can fall into a trap of only serving queers like you with this thinking. Do some research, talk to people, start broader intentions and see what works for the people you serve. This has been especially important for me as a cisgender person focusing on working with trans folks. I can't know from personal experience how best to serve that community, so I have to remain open to suggestions and criticism in order to be an effective provider. I started out thinking that I would be serving mainly other 20- or 30-something queer folks that I would be referred through community connections. In fact, I've ended up mostly reaching those who have not yet found queer community, especially trans teens and elders coming out later in life. By remaining open and flexible I've been able to serve people who need my services the most.
The Proud Business Project is a photography project highlighting LGBTQ business owners and entrepreneurs in the Bay Area who honor their identity in their business to serve their community in a bigger way. Do you know a proud business owner? Email email@example.com with the subject "Proud Business Project".
Business Name: Restore Midwifery
Website and Social Media: www.restoremidwifery.com // Facebook: Restore Midwifery or Marea Goodman Midwife
Location: East Bay
Tell me about your business: I am a midwife providing queer and trans competent care in the East Bay. I provide complete prenatal care, homebirth services, and postpartum care, as well as general gynecological care, STI testing, and in-home inseminations. I believe in our ability to reclaim our humanity through birth.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? I love working with and supporting queer families. More than that, I think my queer identity sets me up to fight for opportunities for people to be fully themselves outside of oppressive institutions. For me, midwifery is all about self-determination. I work hard to offer my clients an opportunity to experience their births and bodies outside of the Western medical system. I want to create a space for my clients to feel completely themselves, and to help them have an experience of birth and their bodies where they feel empowered, safe, and connected.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? The fact that I get to earn my living doing the work I love to do.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? I love that we are all connected in one way or another, by no more than 5 degrees of separation. I think our community's collective capacity for connection and intimacy is amazing!
What does community mean to you? Community, to me, is an inter-dependent web of people fighting for our own and each other's wellbeing and liberation.
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? Fighting to be myself. Unlearning the pretense of professionalism and getting to show my full self to my clients and the community.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? Be your full, queer, authentic self! Know that your community is here to support you.
Business Name: $MONEY WITCH$
Location: San Francisco, CA
Tell me about your business: I catalyze change for clients in their financial lives by offering practical and spiritual tools to shift their relationship with money. My premise is that what truly shifts behavior and habit is simultaneously addressing the root of it from a standpoint of healing while building practical skills and resources. I engage the tools of my intuition, astrology, magic, emotional intelligence, tax and bookkeeping knowledge, and business sense to craft creative and individualized solutions in order for people to achieve their financial and business goals.
I do this through Intuitive Financial Coaching sessions for individuals, couples, and business partners. I also offer tax preparation services and teach workshops. My goal for this year is to get my workshop offerings online so that more people can access them.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? Mostly my Femme Business Lady Swag is off the charts.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? Connecting with clients in a space of healing and truth really feeds me. When people I've never met reach out via social media and say they identify with my work, that it resonates with them, and that it brought impact and healing to their life. I had a client write me a card that said "my quality of life has increased a lot since I met you". I am proud when I can feel the impact of my work through my communities' response to my business.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? When we work hard to do better as we know better. When we make space for those most oppressed to come to the center of our movements and our priorities. When we use our style and our complexities to create language that helps navigate human incarnation on this earth more successfully. When we transcend and evolve.
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? It has been, and continues to be, internally hard for me to come back from mistakes. When I make a mistake or a client is unhappy, I go immediately to questioning my own value, and questioning the value of my business. So I work really hard to try to respond to mistakes with curiosity and gentleness. What really happened? How can I do better next time? What can I learn more about so that I don't make a similar mistake next time? And, always relevant, did I set my self up for the situation by allowing my client to have expectations that were not ones I would be able to or interested in meeting? The longer I am in business, the more I learn the value of working with clients who truly want exactly what I want to offer. That being said, I think it takes a few years to reach that level, and as baby businesses we often need to open up to a wider range of clients in order to learn more about what our business is truly going to become. And to just get that cash flow! No shame in the hustle. But reaching the discernment stage is a beautiful thing.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? When running a small business or growing a soloprenuer type situation, it's easy to get consumed by the admin and the actual providing of product or services. There's always a million things on the to-do list and it seems absurd to build blank space and time into your business. It seems anti hustle. But it's so essential to non-negotiably make space to space out, read about, think about, and be creative in and about your business. A business needs to be a responsive organism, one that listens and changes and doesn't become stagnant. That is what can give small businesses an edge- they are dynamic and exciting and niche.
Business Name: ARIELDRAWS! I’m a freelance illustrator and artist. I’m also an art curator at Blackbird barin San Francisco.
Website and Social Media: www.arieldraws.com IG: @arieldraws
Location: I recently relocated after to downtown Vallejo after living in SF for over 13 years. My studio is in my house.
Tell me about your business: I do a variety of things and I like the mix of projects I get to work on. Constantly changing it up keeps me interested and excited about everything I’m doing. I focus on realistic pen and ink illustrations, with a focus on portraiture. I’ve worked on everything from specialty cocktail articles for clients like Liquor.com, food issues for magazines, commissioned pieces for local icons like Juanita MORE!, commissioned portraits for private clients and personal projects for solo and group shows.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? I try to highlight and give back to the queer community as much as possible in my professional and personal work. For the past decade I’ve been working on a queer portrait series, SWAY, which I was honored to have displayed on buses across SF as the winner of the city’s first Muni Art in 2015. This ongoing series highlights a variety of people from the Bay Area queer community and has been an amazing way for me to stay engaged. As often as I can, I try to participate in queer events, like presenting at the Radar Productions reading series at the SF Public Library or donating and creating works for events and non profits. Recently, I had the honor of creating a portrait for the 1-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre. Projects like these both hit on a personal level within the queer community and act as reminders of why I love doing what I do.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? Feeling like I’m doing something that makes a difference makes me proud to be a queer business owner. Connection. Whenever I can create pieces that connect the viewer with the subject – when the work creates an emotional response – I am reminded of the true purpose of my work. I feel proud to be creating work that speaks to people, that highlights the queer community and that incites a conversation about queers.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? I am so proud to be part of such an amazingly diverse community of people. The LGBTQ community is ever changing and evolving – we are at the frontline of major issues and we fight for change. There is a bond in the queer community that is unlike any other group I’ve been part of. There is so much respect, unity, desire for growth & education, and a sense of family that many have never experienced. More than any other group I know, the LGBTQ community fights for social and political justice, equality, self-expression and individuality.
What does community mean to you? Community means people have your back and you have theirs. Community means we’re in this together. Community means no one suffers in silence or alone. Community means if you reach out, someone will be there for you. Community means you have a place to see and be seen.
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? Being a disabled, queer woman, I have gone through a lot to be where I am today. I struggle through daily chronic pain since an accident when I was 19 and have battled Lyme disease for the past 5 years. I’ve often wanted to give up and have struggled to keep my chin up and have a good attitude. Ultimately, these challenges have made me stronger and they’ve enriched my work. I believe you can see my experience through my illustrations -my ability to anthropomorphize objects and to portray people with honesty and affirmation. My experience and the challenges I’ve faced have forced me to stop drawing for a year or more at a time. When I stop drawing for such long stretches, I feel afraid I won’t get it back. It also teaches me to observe, to have compassion and ultimately be more sympathetic and empathetic with others and myself. If we are gentle with ourselves, our biggest challenges can become our greatest assets.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? If you have a passion, run with it. There will be people to guide and help you along the way, but no one will make your business or dreams happen for you. Reach out to people you admire for advice and guidance and educate yourself as much as you can. Take opportunities that are presented to you and seek out opportunities that will help you grow. Creating a business is a constant learning curve and you have to be pro-active and find ways to keep building and getting better.
Business Name: The Queer Gym
Website and Social Media: http://thequeergym.com instagram: @thequeergym fb.com/thequeergym
Location: 2706 Park blvd Oakland, CA
Tell me about your business: We're the first queer gym ever. Our mission is to make happy, healthy homos by providing a safe space with a community that gives a damn about you.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? It's the bread and butter of our business. i started this as just a really good lesbian and pretty ignorant about the rest of the queer community. As the gym has grown, so has my understanding of how to best serve the entire spectrum of the queer community.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? That im still here. anyone can open a business, few can keep it going.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? I'm proud of how far we have come and how we are no longer taking any shit from anyone.
What does community mean to you? community means giving a fuck!
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? As the business grows as I grow as a person. Self work can be a scary mother fucker, but it will plateau not only your business but who you are if you do it. If you don't, you won't go anywhere.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? If u wanna help the broke, u cant be one.
Business Name: Queer LifeSpace
Location: 2275 Market St. @ Noe, SF, 94114
Tell me about your business: Our mission is to create a safe space for the LGBTQAI community and our allies. Our client centered integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment is designed to empower, inform and provide a platform for healing and growth. QLS also trains queer-identified mental health professionals to provide compassionate support to members of our own community.
How does your queer identity play a role in your work? It's a bit tricky as a queer high femme - people assume I'm straight, so I have taken to wearing pins on my lapel so I get visibility and I don't have to keep coming out of the closet ALL DAY LONG. haha. I also have a tremendous amount of privilege as a white, middle class woman and I have devoted my life to serving others and using my privilege to advance the issues that face women and folks of color.
What makes you most proud as a business owner? I am less proud and more humbled to lead and serve my staff and community. I am incredibly moved by the staff and board members of QLS, all of whom are volunteers. Their generosity and work ethic is beyond measure.
What makes you most proud as a member of the LGBTQ community? Our ability to expand and grow, the tenacity with which we've clung to life throughout the ages.
What does community mean to you? Personally and professionally, community is everything - they are my family, my support, my inspiration, the reason I get up in the morning....
What has been one of your biggest challenges getting to where you are? Juggling single motherhood, harassment due to my identity
What is one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming queer entrepreneur? Always lead with a service heart, ask yourself how you can serve others and show up and do it. Incredible opportunities will follow.