Meet Annika | Playground Garden Senior Portraits in Denver

Annika... one of my boy's first friends in 6th grade...

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Allow me to start by saying that I adore this young woman. I have adored her since knowing her as a precocious, hilarious and strong young middle schooler. She has always possessed a keen sense of comedic timing, immeasurable talent, and the kind of grounded, fiercely independent strength that you know will drive her to all kinds of interesting places in life. An actor, friend and beautiful young woman, she’s got it going on.

I had always pictured her wanting an edgy urban session so it was unexpected when we met for her consultation and she revealed that she wanted to do her senior session in the gardens at her old elementary school. She wanted to revisit who she was through the lens of who she is now. Being a senior is full of different kinds of nostalgia for different people, and what a wonderful opportunity senior photos are to explore where you’ve been as a diving board for jumping into the unknown.

And out of this very personal desire, a warm and fun photographic story was born as we discovered different sides of Annika’s personality amidst the sunflowers and summer light.

And then there's silly Annika... still so beautiful.

A few months ago when I was chatting with Annika about plans for what's next, she answered that she was “ready to be scared again.” I love that.

Here’s to that attitude of bravery and bold choices as the perfect approach to graduation. And life, really. Cheers to honoring where you’ve been and boldly writing new chapters into the unknown. What an exciting time to be a high school senior.

Annika… Gabe and I are thrilled to know you (and your family!)


NOW BOOKING Senior Portrait Sessions for CLASS of 2019! Session times are booking quickly so don't wait (sessions are first come first serve, currently booking summer and fall photoshoots).

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving, Award Winning Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!

Moving through Still | Dance Photography and the Paintings of Clyfford Still in Denver

The arts run deep in my family. 

Growing up, I thought it was really cool that my grandfather was an artist. I earned an Art & Art History major in college before becoming an architect and eventually a photographer. Within a few generations we have a concert pianist, an interior designer, a jewelry designer, painters, writers, architects, actors and a photographer. 

I've always felt most alive with a creative tool in my hand -- a pencil, a camera, even a computer (to write or design) or a paintbrush. Creative spaces of all kinds excite me -- museums, galleries, theaters, libraries and studios.

Artists and creators are my muses, my subjects and forever my inspiration. 

I mention all of this because several people asked both Valerie and I why we were doing this project. And the answer is quite simple: it was born in this space -- this love of creativity.

We just decided to make art. Art for Art's Sake.

And I mean really: Art combined with dance and photography… it sounds like a dreamy mix, doesn't it?

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My creative collaborator -- my "partner in art" -- for this project is my treasured friend Valerie Madonia, an accomplished dancer in the world of ballet (seriously accomplished -- check out her bio below).

I have known Valerie since our days of living in Telluride and have wanted to photograph her for years. When I first approached her I only knew that I wanted to photograph her, but the details were still murky in my head. I wanted to create striking images that involved her dance background and her graceful presence as an accomplished, poised and beautiful woman. 

Enter the Clyfford Still Museum. My background as an architect made me quick to fall in love with this unique space when it first opened in Denver. Huge abstract artworks on display in a building designed specifically to show this artist's paintings. The museum is impeccably detailed with beautiful proportions, overlapping spaces, strong architectural materials in natural earth tones, and architecturally designed to take advantage of Colorado's consistent natural light to illuminate the artwork.

When I learned we could photograph inside the museum (with special permits), I suspected I’d finally found the location for our first shoot. Valerie and I toured on one of her visits to Denver. We set it up with proper permits and got to work planning our photoshoot, still not altogether clear on an end goal -- other than to make art for the fun of it.


BEFORE I CONTINUE... A FEW WORDS ON ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM: If you're not familiar with the roots of abstract art, this genre of art is non-representational. Expand the photos below (from inside the Clyfford Still Museum) to see the evolution from more representational art to abstraction in both Clyfford Still's artwork, and in the larger context of art history.

In these demonstrations (which I photographed at the Clyfford Still Museum), you can see that while elements of abstract art are often derived originally from figures, landscapes and more traditional still life subjects, in their final form the compositions may be openly interpreted by those who experience the art. 

It is this idea of artistic interpretation that most excited me about photographing Valerie in this space.

I anticipated that her breadth of experience as a dancer and choreographer, along with her vision as an artist would all lend themselves to compelling choreographed movement in her reactions to the motion she felt in viewing Still's paintings. My own instincts on this were not wrong...

As I moved around the space with my camera, watching her move, I asked simply, "what do you see?" and directed very minimally, only reacting for compositional or framing purposes. Together we moved through the museum, creating and capturing, from painting to painting. My perspective kept switching from the physical space and relationships between gallery, painting and dancer, to the framed composition within a photograph.

During my years as an architectural photographer, this interplay between three dimensional design and two dimensional photography always excited me, but the opportunity to play with these parameters -- now with a moving dancer -- was creatively satisfying on a whole new level. 

My heart leapt right with Valerie's movements as I watched her improvised choreography transform the artwork before my eyes. Paintings came alive in ways I hadn't previously perceived as she danced with them. Sometimes in quiet contemplation.

Other times it was as if she leapt right into the compositions and became a part of the paintings themselves.

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In this block of creative, "art for art's sake" time we were transported into a world of imagination, color, movement and the beauty of dance. A world of where dance choreography meets improvisation. 

This is a world where three dimensional space can flatten into a framed composition in a celebration of the human body and art -- where photography allows something frozen in time to remain full of life. 

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After finishing this shoot, Valerie and I sat at a coffee shop and scrolled through the collection of images. Exhilarated and filled with satisfaction and inspiration, we realized this would most definitely be the first chapter in a larger dance photography project...

So stay tuned...


ABOUT VALERIE MADONIA (DANCER): Valerie Madonia began her dance training with Maris Battaglia at the American Academy of Ballet in Buffalo, NY and left home at the age of 14 to continued at the National Ballet School of Canada, graduating in 1979. She was a recipient of the prestigious Peter Dwyer Award for Dance Excellence. She danced professionally with the National Ballet of Canada 1979-1981 (under the direction of Alexander Grant), at American Ballet Theatre 1981-1986 (under Mikhail Baryshnikov) and at the Joffrey Ballet 1987- 1997 (under Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino).
 
Ms. Madonia began as a member of the corps de ballet eventually establishing herself as a leading ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet. She had the honor of dancing as a company member with Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet, Armitage Gone! Dance, Complexions Dance, Configuration Ballet and as a guest artist with Alaska Dance Theatre, Russian Ballet Theatre, Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet, and at Le Gala des Etoiles numerous times in Montreal and Greece. She performed the role of the Princess in Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 2001 and with the New York Philharmonic in 2005, conducted by Alan Gilbert and accompanied by Pinkus Zuckerman. Madonia appeared in six PBS Dance in America Specials and is featured in four dance books, most prominently in, Classical Ballet Technique, by G.W. Warren. She performed the role of Madge in Colorado Ballet’s 2015 production of La Sylphide and as the Queen in it’s 2017 Swan Lake.
 
Her choreographic credits include the full length Ballets: Cinderella for Louisiana Delta Ballet, The Nutcracker, Polar Express and Appalachian Spring for Telluride Dance Academy and Ames Conservatory,  Shapeshift for Boulder Ballet in addition to new works for the NYC Dance Now Festival, Sunday Salons and Les Patineurs for Colorado Ballet’s Pre -professional Division, Solo works for professional dancers in  Colorado Ballet, YAGP competitions, Ballet West and Dayton Ballet. In 2016 she staged staged Gerald Arpino’s Light Rain Pas de Deux  for Colorado Ballet.

ABOUT JENNIFER (PHOTOGRAPHER): After a ten year career as an architect, Jennifer is currently an Award Winning, Denver based photographer, specializing in actor headshots and high school senior portraits. She is also an accomplished theatre and dance production photographer, having worked with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center Theatre Company and Denver School of the Arts. She specializes in creating a positive experience and helping clients find their value through photography, fostering a sense of connection in her work, and bringing out personality in her clients while celebrating THEIR work. Her published theatrical photography work has run all around the world, and has appeared in American Theatre Magazine, The New York Times, Playbill.com, Broadway World and the Denver Post, to name a few.

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FINALLY: A special thanks to the wonderful staff and curators at the Clyfford Still Museum for a lovely experience. I highly recommend a visit to this unique museum in the heart of Denver's growing arts district.

Photographers, please note that a photography permit is required in advance to photograph subjects in this space.

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"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

- Pablo Picasso

Oops We Did it Again | 3rd Annual Silly Blossom Shoot

Ok so yes... there’s something about these blooms in springtime that I find completely irresistible. There's a melancholy to their fleeting beauty. Their wet, pink scent. The way they filter light. Perhaps living in the mountains for those 13 springs, where the world is nothing but mud brown and rushing water and no green until late May makes these technicolor trees I find in Denver, particularly vibrant to my eyes. I think of Doctor Suess as the hues buoy my winter mood.

Whatever it is, I'm almost grateful their time is short so that we are urged to stop and appreciate. AND have an excuse to do something silly in their midst. To create something joyful in the name of art.

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A few words on the random nature of this different kind of session. This particular series came to be quite by accident. I was taking a women’s portrait class three years ago and wanted to practice my posing and directing. My available subject? My then 16 year old son. It just so happened that the trees were in bloom and we were forecast to get hit with a winter storm which I suspected would freeze the flowers. I had a hunch my boy's sense of humor might find this idea amusing, so grabbed some fabric from my backdrop collection, promised him a pizza, and into the flowering trees we ventured.

The teasers from that first session went silly viral and a springtime tradition was born.  

And so here you go... the third installment of our silly blossom with fabric series!

Always gotta let the boy be himself, too. Perhaps you can discern which poses are all his?

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If you’re curious, here are our old silly blossom posts:

YEAR ONE

and

YEAR TWO.

Before we left these trees, as is also tradition, Gabe and I traded camera positions and he got a few shots of me, too... so... yeah... that's me!!

Later this summer my boy will be college bound. I'm already anticipating flying out to Savannah (where he'll be going for his BFA in Performing Arts at SCAD!) for next year’s installment. From what I see in photos, the trees out there are spectacular. I'm quite excited!

There are a few flowers left to bloom this spring -- want to do a blossom session? Drop me a line and we may still be able to squeeze in a happy, joyful flowering session with you!

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Oh... and last but not least, I've included one final parting photograph that takes me back to my landscape & flower photographer days, back when I lived in Telluride and chased sunsets and great light all across the San Juan Mountains.

That light at the end of the day in behind these spring flowering trees, even right here in the heart of Denver, is truly extraordinary. 

Cheers!


This photograph is available in various print sizes (Mother's Day is coming right up!) through my   Fine Art Photo Gallery  .  Navigate to: Art Prints & Landscapes.

This photograph is available in various print sizes (Mother's Day is coming right up!) through my Fine Art Photo Gallery.  Navigate to: Art Prints & Landscapes.

Global Photo Contest - Top Performing Photographer!

On a bit of a whim (meaning, the night before the contest entry deadline) I decided to pull together a batch of this past year's photos and enter them into a global photo contest called Shoot & Share.

The photos collect votes over the course of 4 weeks (last year's contest gathered over 81 million votes and I think this year got even more!). Most of the photos were in the "seniors" category, in which there were nearly 30,000 entries.

And this is cool... the RESULTS!

I had 5 photos make it to the top 10%, 4 more in the top 20% and 9 more in the top 30% of entries from all over the world!

Here's a video that one of the contest sponsors (Vivi) made for me, of my top performing photos:

Honestly, as I watch this, all I can do is smile and think is how HAPPY these photos make me, for the wonderful people I've been able to meet, photograph and work with this year.

I truly love this work for the connections I get to make!!

Want to book a session or set up a consultation?

Meet Riley | Urban Senior Guy Portraits

When my son arrived as a wee sixth grader at Denver School of the Arts, he and this amazing young man forged something of a brotherhood. At the time they were both only sons (although Riley ended up being an awesome big brother to two little boys), and they forged one of those friendships which has produced laughter, immeasurable growth and has inspired gratitude over the years.

And now... they are high school seniors. All those cliches about time flying? They are TOO TRUE!

In any event, we're thrilled to have this kid (and his whole family) in our lives. Riley is truly one of the good ones. Huge heart, kind soul, tons of talent, the kind of charm that just makes you want to giggle when you're with him, a quirky sense of humor and an overall very adorable human. 

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For Riley’s session, we decided to go a little artsy/urban. So we set out to discover photo opportunities in one of my favorite parts of town. I’m not sure it has an official designation but I think of it as the Museum District in downtown Denver, not far from Civic Center Park. Full of vibrant color, gorgeous light and a striking, eclectic mix of architecture, this whole area is a dream in which to photograph portraits.

And I just love photographing a guy with a sense of his own style. Riley’s style in this location was a perfect fit. Classic, colorful, fun. We were able to find great backgrounds and light for each look -- from sleek and modern to more edgy and artful.

We laughed… A LOT… on this session. I like to laugh on every session (it's hard to get great photos if you're not having fun, after all), but there’s something about relaxing into a session with great people like Riley and his fabulous mom that really does remind me again that I've got the best job in the world!

Riley's mom recorded a few iphone videos on our session and some great behind the scenes photos, so here's a quick glimpse behind the scenes... with sincere thanks to my dear friend Kimberly for the great shots! Gabe and I are happy to have your family in our lives and we look forward to watching Riley's next chapter unfold!

NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019! NOW'S THE TIME to set up your session consultation and details for your session even if you want to shoot later in summer or fall (those dates are booking already, and I had to turn away too many end of season clients last year -- it broke my heart!)

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving, Award Winning, Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!