It is with seriously mixed emotions that I formally close this chapter of my life. It has been such a whirlwind to this point that it feels kind of sudden. But with so much to look forward to and so many blessings to look back on, I can't find any greater emotion than gratitude to express at this time. I feel so cliche saying the same types of things I hear so often from others in this business...things like, "I have the best, most beautiful clients in the world!" and "I couldn't have done it without you!" But the truth is, I truly feel these things to my very core. As I think through each person I've met or each relationship that has grown through photography, I feel exceptionally blessed. I couldn't feel more lucky if I had met a thousand Rock Stars! Each person I've photographed has inspired me so much! And trusted me so much. It's not always easy to let go and see yourself through someone else's eyes, and relax in the process. I feel as if each person who trusts me this much is giving me the greatest compliment I could ever recieve. So many of my clients are now friends...some of which I'm looking forward to spending more time with next year! I can't recall EVER having a "bad" client...we've worked through some tough circumstances, but the people I've been blessed to meet have been INCREDIBLE. This year in particular my jaw has dropped and my heart has swelled because of my clients, students, and colleagues...some have sent me baby gifts, many have gone out of their way to accomodate my pregnancy and closing business, students have been VERY patient with me while I worked through excessive delays, and EVERYONE has made very sure that I know that my presence in the industry will be missed. I feel as if the love I have for all of you is returning to me tenfold. So thank you!!
I want to take a moment to thank a few people who I've never publicly acknowledged in one place before. As I think back to how my interest in photography started and developed, there are people along the way who have marked a distinct change in me. I almost used the analogy of rungs on a ladder, but I don't want to give the impression that I stepped on them or left them behind as I went. :) I feel more like they were each a helium balloon and as I met each one, my journey became lighter and easier.
My parents -- for buying me my first camera and for keeping their promise to develop all the film I could buy, even when it went a bit farther than they expected!
Melita Quance -- for being my willing subject so many times and for making me jealous by taking photography classes in high school! :)
Jennifer Feeney -- for becoming my muse and inspiration in high school and for telling me for the first time that I remember, "You should do this professionally."
Mom and Dad Sturm and Mrs. Ager -- for taking my senior pictures and completely changing my perspective on photography.
Andy and Mickey Sommers -- for loaning me my very first SLR and enthusiastically being some of the first people in my portfolio.
My church family at FBC-- for being my first clients, my biggest fans, and my friends.
Erin Prichard -- for being one of my first photography friends, for 2nd shooting, for equipment sharing, information sharing, and learning together.
Eileen Dimino -- for being the first professional to tell me my work was really GOOD and giving me the confidence to forge ahead. And for introducing me to Josef Samuel.
Jasmine Star -- for teaching about branding in a way that allowed me to move past the confusion and proceed with confidence.
Josef Samuel -- for approaching me with the idea for The X/Stop Project, encouraging me to network more, and for providing a constant source of inspiration and friendly competition. :)
Jerry Ghionis -- for truly transforming the way I see light and the world around me and for teaching me the true keys to success.
Pamela Speck -- for being an oasis in a desert, a moment of clarity, and showing me that God is still working in my life.
Rebecca Lily -- for being my friend the longest, and my fastest learning student EVER, and for being a focused and upbeat 2nd shooter this past year in spite of having so many more important things on her mind.
Jennifer Budzinski -- for being an inspiration in business ownership and management, and for giving me a place to stretch my creativity and display it. For helping me LOOK like the artist I felt like.
Tim Cocanower -- for being truly reliable in an age when reliability is hard to come by. For driving in Chicago. :) For somehow always being one step ahead of me and never once complaining when things went wrong. (and thank you Stephanie for all the time you spent without him after work hours so he could help!!)
Bridget Dix -- for being my right arm, and sometimes my left. For sharing my excitement, for being my favorite model, for saving me from myself sometimes, for putting up with my oddities. For synchronizing your vision with mine and loving it almost as much as I have. You are fantastic and I am going to miss you SO much.
My husband, James Nelson -- for being my hottest model EVER, for always believing I could do anything I set my mind to, for sacrificing so much of yourself on behalf of my dreams, for working SO hard to support me in both my decision to start AND to stop shooting, for always being a reliable and patient father to our children even when you should have been too exhausted to do so, and for loving me in spite of all my craziness.
There are many others to thank, I could go on all day. It's always scary to thank some specifically for fear that I've overlooked someone very important unintentionally. But I think it would be even worse if I let the fear keep me from thanking these people who have influenced me so much. It is because of the generosity of these people that I have been inspired to help others, so if you have been influenced or helped by me in any way, I hope you'll thank these people as well.
Many have expressed concern at how permanent my decision sounds sometimes...am I coming back? When? I have to say, I honestly don't know the answer to either of those. I DO know two things. 1) I need to feel complete freedom from timeframe and obligation. I need a break with no expectations so that I can sort some things out in God's time, under no pressure. 2) If and when I do come back, I want to have the ability to move the business out of our home, for many reasons, one of which is that our family has filled it! There are many factors that will determine if and when this can happen. I have no idea what the personality of our third child will be, how our familiy dynamic will change, if home schooling will be the best option for my children long term. All of these factors can only be determined by time, so there is really no way I can predict a return date right now.
For those of you (some I have already spoken with) who are hoping and praying that I will return in time to shoot your 2012 wedding, I will decide sometime around June of 2011. Until then I will hold your date on my calendar, but I won't sign any contracts as I take my comittment to your wedding VERY seriously. Those interested may continue to inquire about availability as long as you understand that nothing is set in stone or guaranteed without a signed contract and downpayment!
I wish you the very best year (or more!) in my absence...take care and God bless!