Thursday, January 14, 2010

Five Ways to Help Haiti

As a former photojournalist who was in Kenya right after the bombing in 1998. You can make a difference from over here. I have seen the aid money helping people get back on their feet.

Five Things You Can Do to Help Haiti:

Text $10 to help the Red Cross Earthquake Relief Effort

Donate to Doctors without Borders

Support AmeriCares

UNICEF Earthquake Relief

Partners in Health(PIH)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Live the questions

Umm long time no posts. What have I been doing? Lots. But I am going to get back into this I promise. I had an amazing shoot on Friday and these clients just walked into my life and basically changed me forever. How great is that?

We were talking about making the decision to have children with your partner and how to go about that. Their advice was to just explore the possibility together. EXPLORE. What an amazing gift that was. That word is. Just explore it. Try it on. Ask each other what it will look like, what our fears are, what are hopes are. It actually can apply to anything.

Matt and Mary Ellen told me of this quote that they keep on their refridgerator by Rilke that helps them remember. They live by it. And so will I.

Here is the email from Matt with the quote:

Hi Jenny Loo!
First of all, thank you for an amazing experience on Thursday! The photo session, atmosphere, conversation, critters, everything...delightful. Following up on our conversations, here is the quote from Rilke that has been a such great source of comfort and guidance for us:

“I beg have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. and the point is, to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer..."

Rainer Maria Rilke

With clients like this guiding you through your life and love, I feel like the luckiest person ever.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Judy Kaethler: The Blessing of the Monks

Many years ago we found out that we could not have a baby without medical intervention. Being a mother was something I wanted for so long, but surprisingly, getting the news was not as devastating as I would have expected. In fact, it was almost freeing. It was as if someone or something had simply pointed me down a different path. There was an odd peace about it.

Years passed and I became fulfilled in my career and the joy of being an aunt. I suppose I looked for other ways to "mother" and felt I was contributing to the world in ways other than by raising a child.

Through a series of coincidences, I ended up volunteering to assist a group of Tibetan monks while they were visiting and touring the U.S. They stayed in our home while they were teaching and performing in the Seattle area. As we pulled up to our driveway, I remember being a little embarrassed at the size of our house, especially given what they are used to; sleeping multiple people per room with a dirt floor in India. I apologized for the size of our home and explained that when we bought it, we thought we'd have a family, but that it wasn't possible.

We had a lovely couple of weeks. We took them to schools and churches and community centers to give talks, and we hung out at home when there was downtime. They did their daily prayer and meditation practice in our living room. It was incredible to see the circle of monks chanting, and luckily, they welcomed us to sit in on their pujas. The sense of peace and compassion was amazing. I don't even have words for it.

A couple months later, I started feeling a little "off". You know where this is going. I, of course, had no idea. I hadn't thought about pregnancy for years and years. In fact, I made an appointment with the doctor and asked if I could be starting peri-menopause because of the odd symptoms I was feeling. My husband and I joke that after we told them of our troubles of having a family, the monks must have said some special prayers. We have no idea what they were saying - it was in Tibetan.

Whether it was a specific prayer on our behalf, or just some kind of energy-altering response to the experience, we do think that at some level they had something to do with Daniel coming into our lives.

We are blessed and I am quite happy with the long winding path that I took to motherhood.

Judy Kaethler

For more stories about pregnancy and birth, check out my new book, Portraits of Pregnancy: The Birth of a Mother available-signed- from our website or from Amazon


We also have amazing stories on our website under "Our Mothers' Stories."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jodi's Story: I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes

I met Jodi and her husband Mark in Seattle in May of 2009. I was in the middle of a crazy travel schedule that was a combination of book tours, photographing clients in my different studios and caring for my father who just had surgery and lived in a remote part of South Dakota. Fourteen airplanes in less than two weeks was pushing even my limits to stay centered. And while I was having a great time, I made sure to keep up with my morning dog walks, meditations and workouts at the gym so that this frenetic energy didn't spill over into my studio time with my clients where I like to be calm and relaxed.

Jodi and Mark came into the studio like a breath of fresh air. They were calm and centered. We sat down, they on the couch and me in my chair, my pen in hand taking notes about who they were and what they liked. I sensed they were special people, but it took us our second meeting at their proof edit, before I realized how much Jodi had been through and how strong they are.

I always ask my clients about their pregnancy, it helps me to get to know each person better. Jodi briefly touched on the fact that she had a difficult pregnancy. After photographing more than 1500 women, I know getting pregnant, staying pregnant and the actual pregnancy isn't easy for many of my clients. Expectations are sometimes vastly different from the reality of the pregnancy and birth. So this wasn't new to me to listen and empathize with a mom having a particularly difficult time. Jodi didn't elaborate and seemed to take it in stride. She emanated a grace and strength that she was just going to get through it, and not let it bring her down.

I saw Jodi and Mark 10 weeks later to show them their proofs from our session together. It wasn't until they returned with a beautiful little girl that I realized how truly special and inspiring a woman Jodi is, AND what a truly difficult and challenging pregnancy, birth and post-partum she had endured and was still enduring.

I asked her, as I ask all my clients, how her birth was. With Mark at her side nodding, Jodi smiled radiating a sense of loving calmness and said "Everything that could have gone wrong during my pregnancy and birth, did." She then modified it to say, "I'm not sure I'd say everything, but it was very challenging and lots of things I didn't expect to happen, did. It has been one thing after another but now I have this beautiful little girl. She is perfect." What made me pause was her genuine smile. What made me want to tell her story, was her positive outlook in the face of tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.

Jodi was plagued by nausea starting at six weeks that lasted most of her pregnancy. She couldn't tolerate the smell or taste of the normal healthy foods she was used to and had headaches almost daily. Then her right thigh went numb, and became excruciatingly painful when standing for any length of time, eventually making even sitting, walking and sleeping difficult. Anemia caused periodic episodes of extreme fatigue, light-headedness and heart palpitations. She didn't feel up for exercising, which was a core part of her life and well-being. There was some bleeding early on in the pregnancy that was misdiagnosed as a miscarriage by a midwife who Jodi decided to fire, leaving her looking for a new midwife at 10 weeks pregnant.

Her due date came and went, and so they decided to try a few things to begin labor, one of which made it difficult to urinate leaving her very uncomfortable. Contractions began but after three days there hadn't been much progress. They brought in a birthing tub, but she was having severe back spasms that were being treated by a special machine with an electric current so she couldn't get in the tub.

After four days she was able to get into the tub, but several hours passed and labor stalled. Before heading out to walk stairs to get things moving again, her midwife checked the fetal heart rate and it was dangerously low. They called 911 and she was rushed to the hospital. They were ready to do an emergency C-section, wheeling her towards the operating room. Her midwife halted the flurry of activity, because the baby's heart rate had stabilized. Monitoring of the baby's heart rate continued, while Jodi breathed through the contractions.

After almost five days of labor both at home and in the hospital, Jodi was exhausted and had not progressed beyond eight centimeters. She and Mark knew at this point that they were most likely heading for a C-section. But they wanted to make sure they did their best to try every other alternative. They decided that Jodi would start pitocin to strengthen her contractions. In case the baby did not tolerate the contractions and an emergency C-section became necessary, they also decided to do an epidural. This gave Jodi a chance to get some rest and eliminated the potential need for general anesthesia during surgery. Her mother and Mark watched the monitors as she slept.

After several more hours, the baby was still in distress and Jodi's cervix had not dilated any further. So the anesthesiologist was called in. And the story continues, from too much anesthesia making her arms numb so that Jodi feared she wouldn't be able to hold her baby, to a nurse not honoring her plan of wanting Mark to cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. Each step of the way, she was being challenged by her own body and the medical staff around her. But she persevered and her daughter was born Friday, June 19th at 10:05 AM.

"As I was going through this ordeal, Mark was extremely supportive and always very positive," she said. "I also kept reciting one of the mantras from my hypnobirthing class in my head 'I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes. I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes.'"

"As much as that experience wasn't what I wanted, it is what it is." She said. "You never know what to expect in pregnancy or birth. You can plan for the ideal birth but you just have to do your best and be accepting of what happens."

She continued, "I know we did our best and although our birth wasn't what we wanted, now we have this wonderful outcome, our lovely little girl."

- Jodi Burick

For more stories about pregnancy and birth, check out my new book, Portraits of Pregnancy: The Birth of a Mother available-signed- from our website or from Amazon


We also have amazing stories on our website under "Our Mothers' Stories."

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Tips for making pregnancy portraits you will love

Taking snapshots of your growing belly can be a fun way to document the evolution of your pregnancy, especially during your last trimester. But it can also be tough to capture flattering shots. Here are a few suggestions I have come up with on taking maternity snapshots at home.

While you may not want to hang these homemade photos on your wall, as you would with professional ones, you and your baby can still appreciate them for years to come. More importantly, use the experience of photography to have some fun with your new body. It won't be like this forever. Capture it.

1. Enlist others - It’s almost impossible to take a good photo of your own belly. Ask a friend or your partner to help you, both with taking the photos and coming up with creative ideas for them.

2. Set the stage - Choose your backdrop. If you are at home, find a simple, uncluttered scene, like a wall or a window. Remove distracting elements like plants or other items that won't really add to your photo.

3. Lighting - Make sure you have adequate lighting. If the room is too dark, then your photos might appear out of focus. Using natural light, such as near a window, is ideal, but be careful to avoid direct sunlight because it creates too much contrast. Use the flash only if you must. But I recommend turning it off if you can and use indirect lighting. Silhouettes can also be fun because of the shape of the new mom.

4. Clothing – When choosing what to wear, remember you want to expose your belly. I recommend form-fitting clothes without any obvious branding or patterns. Or, be a little bolder by getting your wedding gown out or pulling out that feather boa that you thought you'd never use.

5. Make-up - When applying make-up, focus on evening out your complexion. Don't go too heavy, because on film everything appears darker. Just make a little effort. Even a small amount of makeup will make a difference.

6. Poses - Experiment with a variety of different poses. Do you practice yoga? Pilates? Try posing with your hands on your belly, but also lift your arms up. Why not include your dog, cat or child in a few frames? Take a risk. Be unique.

7. Photo Composition – This is your final step. Here is where the photograph is made. It is helpful to answer a few questions. What is the primary subject of the photo? Should the focus just on the belly or the whole person? How is the head angled? How does the chin look? Hide those areas that are uncomfortable for the model, such as stretch marks (unless you want those to be part of the composition). Putting some thought into composition means that you will get a much better photograph.

8. Timing - If you are only going to do it once, the I recommend photographing 6-10 weeks before your baby is due. If this is something you really like and want to document your changing belly, then I recommend photographing every four to six weeks. And if you want a fun idea, try doing it in the same place with the same background. you could even put a tape mark where to place your feet.

More fun ideas. Try photographing the belly every month in the same spot and then you can put the images together. If you have an interesting dream during your pregnancy, think about using it as inspiration for a photograph. Are you craving certain foods? Add them into your photo. Are you having issues with your pregnancy, like extreme exhaustion? Photograph it. You are the artist here and now it is your turn to make a photo that not only is of your belly, but I encourage you to make a photo that also imparts some other information about where you are at emotionally, physically, and mentally during your last trimester. The pregnant body is beautiful, capture the memory. You only have nine months.

For more inspiring photographs of pregnancy see my book, Portraits of Pregnancy: The Birth of a Mother, available signed on our site at OR on Amazon.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How to do a live television interview?

There are several components to consider when you are about to have a live television interview, at least for me.

Number One: What do you wear for a live television interview?

I am not sure. I still have clothes strung about the studio that I brought in and tried on for Joelle to critique. We decided on simple jeans and a black top.

My rule of thumb is stay simple, but make sure you feel great, dare I say, sexy even. I stick to the same rule that I use photographing. Stay away from white and NEVER wear patterns, stripes or branding (this is key unless you have a high paying sponsor).

This was my second or third live television interview, and probably my tenth time on television. It does get easier each time, however I get older and don't feel as cute or bouncy. But each time I go through the same motions, in what now could be called a ritual. I always panic about what clothes to wear and worry that my makeup looks appropriate and not drag-queenesque. I have nothing against drag queens and several friends make ravishing women, however I am 5'4" and a straight female, so if I am looking like a drag queen, it’s not pretty. This time I think I looked OK. But again my general rule of thumb for TV, is makeup will always look darker so don’t load on the dark eye shadows, lipsticks etc. BUT there are the lights, they are brutal and so you should have a good foundation (men and women) because you don’t want to look washed out, and you want to define your eyes, lips etc.

Oh and a word about jewelry. Don’t sparkle like a Christmas tree. You want people to pay attention to your face and your words and, in my case, my book. Not be staring at the diamonds or large pieces of jewelry hanging from your neck.

Number Two: What are the questions and what do you want to talk about?

The interview was about my new book, Portraits of Pregnancy: The Birth of a Mother, and I got to talk about how I got started in all of this. It turns out the producer was pregnant. She was a cute petite blond who was super sweet. This was going to be her second child. Fun! I hope I can photograph her! She came up with some great questions for the host. I was impressed because if the questions aren’t done well then well, you stumble and it can be awkward.

I always get nervous, I mean it is live, so who wouldn't get nervous? If I should accidentally sneeze or pull a Janet Jackson move, that might be bad, then again it might be good. But as the second or third time live in front of a camera, I was relaxed when I got on there and just answered the questions.

Interviewers know this so they sometimes actually send you the questions or ask you what questions they should ask ahead of time. Surprising isn’t it? Well it does kind of take the spontaneity out of it all but there is an element of safety there too. But the truth is, you can’t really memorize the answers, and I always like to speak from the heart because those answers sound better anyway. I never spend a lot of time memorizing. I just like to think, well what did I do? How did I get started? How do I make the pregnant women feel beautiful? And then I pretend I am talking to a new friend about my business and forget about the cameras. It really works. I pretend I am at a party or something and get really interested in talking to them about my stuff.

I remember the first time I was ever on TV, I was living and working in Japan. The interview was in Japanese. Hello. First of all I did speak Japanese but didn’t have the eloquence I thought I needed. The TV station sent the questions, and my friend (Japanese) who was a PR person helped me write out the answers and I literally memorized the Japanese. I do not recommend this style at all. The interview was great, but I was probably very stiff. Flash forward 14 years - I was on a local Seattle TV station. They came to film a shoot at my studio and did an interview. I had no warning of the questions. I just answered them. It was a great interview, straight from the heart and full of passion (you can see it on my website It launched my career, quite literally. I have Tom Bishop at King 5 to thank for that.

Number Three: How to stand or sit and where to look?

Don’t fidget. This seems obvious, but don’t do it. Stand up or sit up tall, don’t lean back in your chair and don’t sway or swing your arms if standing. I tend to talk with my hands which I am told is a little too much motion, but I can’t help it. My hands are well, the tools that hold my camera and a very important part of my self-expression. But I try to limit their activity when I am being interviewed. So be calm and focus on the interviewer. There is the temptation to look at the camera or the monitor which is set up so the interviewer can see what the audience is seeing, in other words what is being broadcast. It is tempting to watch that too. And if the interviewer wants you to be staring into the camera –which is rare – they will tell you.

Mary who interviewed me with KOMO did a great job. We had a great rapport. And better yet, she really liked the book. That is the best part, having something to talk about that you really like. That makes it easier.

Now I am all dressed and with some nice make-up. I am going out with my boyfriend to some friends’ BBQ. They will all comment, I know it. Have a great night!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I am in LA

I am in LA. Whenever I come to LA, it always takes me a day to get settled, to remember I am in LA. It isn't that I don’t like LA, it is just that I have to mentally adjust to LA. I have to mentally adjust to NY, Seattle and SF but I go there more frequently so it is a quicker adjustment.

Joelle, my studio manager, is here with me. She keeps me sane when I have big parties or openings because she keeps everything organized so I can basically talk to people and make sure I answer questions for the media and sign books and actually be present at these parties.

Our day started at Freestyle where I am having my opening tomorrow night from 5:30-7:30 at their Creative Center for Photography. I am on their advisory board for maternity photography. Their website says “Our Advisory Board is comprised of some of the most talented and influential professionals in the Photographic Industry. They share Freestyle's passion for the advancement of the creative photographic process. Together with Freestyle, we are committed to offering you only the best in products, expertise and customer service. We also offer "Ask The Experts", a unique opportunity to get answers to your questions from the foremost experts in the industry!” This is a huge resource for photographers trying to learn about anything. Plus I like them because they are still very committed to film, which is what I shoot.

We arrived to check out their idea for displaying my photographs. We had come up with a diagram, but Michael did such a great job of arranging the work we decided to go with his suggestions.

I have to say I NEVER thought in all my years of doing maternity photography that we would actually be in gallery shows. Ten years ago when I really started to commit myself to bringing this work in to the public eye, it was a struggle. Now we have had five different book launch parties/shows in four cities, and all of them have been packed with people. The book “Portraits of Pregnancy: The Birth of a Mother” which has no real marketing budget continues to amaze me on Amazon. It pops in and out of the top hundred in Womens Studies/Motherhood.

There are some inspiring stories of inner transformation in my book and I hope, hope, hope that it will get read by Oprah or her crew. I heard she doesn’t do much on pregnancy, but these stories are about finding hope in the darkest hour, gleaning support from your partner, and finding the inner strength to continue to pursue your dream. Pregnancy may be the conduit, but the stories are much deeper allegories for living your dreams, finding your passion, and overcoming challenges, and realizing that some times your deepest fears or frustrations are actually better teachers than you can ever imagine leading you to a happiness that you never thought possible.