#OwnYourVoice Youth Empowerment Project

You know those mysterious holidays or national/international days of *insert whatever* that keep popping up — those days that gives us space to honor and celebrate things like donuts, polar bears, and random acts of kindness? Well, there are some very special observances this week that I’d like to draw some attention to because, you know what? They are important to me.

On Thursday, March 18, we celebrated Absolutely Incredible Kid Day and I know my kids have certainly earned some encouragement this year. When I try to imagine what it would have been like in my formative years to stay home, go to school online, and not see my friends for the better part of a year, I get pretty sad. I know so many children, including my own, who are struggling with extra anxiety and sadness — all of it on top of navigating the complexities of relationships with teachers, classmates, and friends almost wholly in an online space. I don’t know about you, but it took me a long time to understand that people who ended e-communications with a period weren’t angry, it was just the end of their sentence. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s a lot!

I took a few extra minutes on Thursday to share with my kids what makes them special to me and thanked them for being my *mostly* willing companions on this COVID-19 journey. They’ve made it both easier and harder — and although part of me dreams of two weeks alone in a cozy cabin with zero interruptions, I am so thankful for this extra time with them and for our general health and happiness.

Speaking of which — today, March 20, we observe not only SPRING, but an International Day of Happiness, established by the United Nations in 2013 to recognize the importance of happiness in our lives!

Tomorrow we celebrate World Poetry Day, honoring the written and “linguistic expression of our common humanity.” I have a special place in my heart for poetry and I see my love for photography as an extension of that. Just like poetry uses words — or even pauses — to capture the fullness of a moment, photography uses light and dark, compositional balance, and positive and negative space to capture the fullness of things that we might normally rush past. And then there is the incredible power of poetry in spoken word. The first time I heard Amanda Gorman speak, her words resonated so far into the depths of my soul that l wept — and felt hope in a time that otherwise felt pretty dark.

And last, but certainly not least, tomorrow is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Established in 1979 by the United Nations, this day is observed on the day that police in Sharpeville, South Africa, killed 69 people who were peacefully protesting apartheid “pass laws” in 1960; laws which have since been removed. “Youth standing up against racism” is the theme for 2021 and the goal is to engage the public, “foster a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination and calls on each and every one of us to stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes.” So much work has been done worldwide and yet, as all-too-recent events continue to show us, there is so much more to do. My heart stands with those who feel the full weight of racism, prejudice, and hateful actions that happen far more often than any of us could ever know. I see you and I hear you. Let’s keep working together to make things better.

And it’s not just about fighting racism, but also about removing stigmas around mental health issues and eliminating the barriers that prevent people from accessing important mental health services. Which brings me to my idea…

The #OwnYourVoice Youth Empowerment Project

I’ve wanted to host a day of youth empowerment sessions for a while. My goal is to take some really cool photos of absolutely incredible young people. The images would include a textual element — a line from a favorite poem, a powerful song lyric, an intention word, or a fear that they want to flip on it’s head. It could be something they’ve written, heard, read, or even some inspiration selected from what we provide. My hope is that this combination of words and images will allow each participant to go forth with a deeper understanding of the power of their voice and the positive changes they can inspire with it. That they will stand taller in their role as the strong, intelligent, change-making humans they are.

The cost of a session is $85 for 20 minutes (multiple sessions can be purchased, if you want more time). It includes access to 3 final digital images and, even more importantly, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the therapy scholarship program at the Bloomington Center for Connection, a local organization that is already doing important work in our community and beyond (read more below).

If your child is interested in participating in this project, please fill out the form here!

The Bloomington Center for Connection is an organization that uses Relational-Cultural Therapy (RCT) to promote social change through connection. They explore how culture supports our relationships and how cultural barriers can drive us apart. They provide parenting workshops, individual family therapy, and trauma-responsive mental health services to all ages, using a variety of modalities from play therapy to mindfulness, for people of all ages. The BCC also publishes a podcast called ”My Racist Friend,“ through which long-time friends, Don Griffin, Jr. and Amy Makice explore the messy parts of relationships through the authentic lens of their friendship and the relational-cultural methods that Amy practices in her work.

SIDE NOTE: For those of you with fifth and sixth graders who could use some extra support, the BCC is offering a six-week relational group for fifth and sixth graders. The meetings will be on Tuesdays from 4:30-5:15, on March 23, 30, and April 6, 13, 20, and 27. Cost for the group ranges from $10-30 and includes craft supplies. Scholarships and sliding scale are available! Details here.

I am thrilled about the opportunity to provide scholarship support for individuals as well as programs like this one. If you want to be part of it, consider joining us for this project!

The Power of Human Connection

Over the past year, we’ve all come to understand more than ever the distinct value of human connection. As we meander through our lives, we flow almost seamlessly in and out of circles. Along the way, there are those with whom we forge deep, meaningful, and long-lasting connections. “True blues,” as my dad would say. They become our besties, soul mates, life partners, spouses, kindred spirits, confidants, etc. No matter what you call them, these relationships deserve to be celebrated!

Below are a few pictures of my old school BFF: our first pic at age 5, together in a North Iowa High School production of The Sound of Music, and us after climbing a mountain in Finland on a college choir tour. We’ve joked in the past about doing a couples session just for fun — but seriously, why don’t we? This woman knows more about me and my life than my husband of 15 years! Just yesterday we realized that right now is the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing each other. Even when we do see each other, it’s always more about us wrangling kids these days than anything else. How fun would it be to be silly and celebrate us? I think it’s high time we made this fun idea a reality!

So here’s an idea. If you happen to be looking for ways to celebrate a special relationship — romantic or not — consider having some photos taken together. It could be to celebrate a life event, like an engagement or birthday; or perhaps you’ve helped each other through some tough times or a season of personal growth; or just maybe — now that things are opening back up — you need to finally reveal that top-secret COVID romance you’ve been harboring from your family and friends. Why not do it with some flare?

As we continue to grow and evolve through our lives, I believe photos like these become some of our most cherished possessions. And my hope is that the time spent together, laughing, crying, and honoring your friendship, will become some of your most cherished memories.

No matter what you’re reasons are — I would love to be part of it. ❤

International Women’s Day

I was caught a bit off guard (as per usual, these days) by the celebration of International Women’s Day. I have so much to say and so little time to say it before this day is done! But I can’t not say anything, so here we go (better late than never).

My journey to wholeness has been long. I know, I know. Not as long as some, but long enough. And I don’t say “wholeness” to imply that I am complete. There will always be room for growth and I struggle every single day with that all-too-familiar and horrid inner critic who works so hard to keep me small. By “wholeness,” I mean that I am at least able to acknowledge the beautiful work-in-progress that I am, and always will be. I’ll continue to strive each day to embrace my imperfections as willingly as I accept them in others; to understand that my stories, experiences, emotions, perspectives, and my words have power; and to keep exploring ways to share my voice with the world.

As a photographer (hold on while I silence that inner critic), I recognize the amazing opportunity I have to build up, to work with, to empower, and to guide. To learn about people’s ambitions and joys and explore ways to share all of these things with the world. I don’t take any of this for granted. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t get started on this journey sooner — but I am here now and our time is precious, so let’s just keep moving forward. ❤

To celebrate, I just want to share a few of my favorite things with you. I’m not sure how I missed this song, but I just heard it recently for the first time and it is basically everything…

And here are a few quotes from some of my favorite women!

“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”

Brené Brown

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Maya Angelou

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

Madeleine Albright

And last, but not least…

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Imogen Cunningham

In the Studio – Saturday, February 20, 2021!

I recently picked up keys to a fantastic shared studio space in downtown Bloomington, and to say I am excited is an understatement! I am thrilled to be a part of the Untitled Light family and look forward to not only the consistency of a reliable workspace, but to the inspiration that comes from working in a creative community. I cannot wait to get started!

To properly warm-up the space, I’m be hosting my first in-studio portrait day on Saturday, February 20, from 10-4 pm. Info and booking details are below. If you want to stay in the loop for future offers, consider joining my mailing list! (I promise I won’t bombard you.)

Please see my COVID-19 page to learn about additional steps I am taking to keep everyone safe.

“There are plenty of people who take good pictures, but Sarah’s seriously got the touch. She is a conduit for emotion and can translate the feeling of a moment into a photograph, capturing a living situation in a way that speaks to people. Her photos have depth and emotion. It’s more than just an image; it’s a gift.”

Holly Hooper

60 Minute Portrait/Headshot Session

This is a standard 60 minute photo shoot. Limit is two outfits, but feel free to bring jackets, hats, scarves, jewelry, or other details that can be quickly added for visual variety.

Personal Branding Session

Personal brand photography is a fantastic blend of portrait, documentary, and lifestyle that captures not just you, but your passions, purpose, and story. It’s a bit more involved, but the goal is to get a variety of images that can be used on your website, social media, blogs, emails, album covers, etc.

30 Minute Portrait/Headshot Session

Thirty minutes is never quite enough, but I keep this option available for those on a tight budget. Since time is so short, there is a one outfit limit and you’ll definitely want to come with hair and makeup ready!

“Sarah’s work is true to life without taking the beauty out of it. Some photographers go for straight realism and some go so far in the opposite direction that the images don’t look real. Sarah has an eye for that perfect middle. Real life, beautifully.”

Amber McCoy

Kiss 2020 Goodbye with a New Look!

I don’t need to make a list. We all know that 2020 has been ROUGH — in ways that we never could have imagined when we greeted it with open arms just nine months ago.

And yet, there is a calm in me. I find that I am worrying less about what is expected and focusing on simply doing the best I can. When things get hard, I acknowledge it with as much grace as possible (sometimes none) and then double down on gratitude. I’m also making space for JOY by spending intentional time with the people, projects, and experiences that are most important to me. It’s a work in progress.

Speaking of JOY…

Photography is one of those things that brings me great joy. While I haven’t been able to take as many pictures as I had planned this year, I was finally able to upload, organize, and share some of my work from the past 1-2 years on my website. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Now that things are cooling down a bit out there, I am planning to set up some photo sessions — safely distanced and masked, of course. I realize that things are still uncertain, especially in the performing arts, but the need for a strong online presence with quality images has never been greater and I would LOVE to help you greet 2021 with a brand new set of images for your website, blog, podcast, social media, etc.

Everyone needs something different, so I’ve put together a few options here.

A few are basically standard headshot packages, but the top one is a bit more involved as it includes some consultation and planning work and additional photos.

Helping people explore their personal brand and figure out creative solutions to whatever problems they are facing is work that I am SUPER passionate about and want to do more of, so if you’re intrigued but feeling unsure, please reach out. I am always happy to help. Find me on FB, IG, or contact me.

Until then — just keep being your beautiful self!


P. S. I’ve also been exploring some ways I can contribute to the positive and important changes I want to see during my one wild and precious life. To follow me on this journey, subscribe to my mailing list! And always feel free to share your ideas with me.