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My Stimulus Pledge to You…

 

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Dear Friends and Family,

Who would have imagined that in 2020, our lives to go from this…
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To this…
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So I wanted to check in with you, because we have been through a lot of life together.
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Over the past 15 years I have photographed close to 200 weddings, and at least twice as many families, one birth, and one almost birth (thanks to rush-hour traffic crossing the Bay Bridge on a Friday). I’ve documented birthday parties, anniversary parties, before and after cancer journeys, and most recently I photographed a couple who just learned one of them is facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.
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I’ve photographed a documentary film, 20 books, dozens of small businesses, artists, non-profits, and some of those for over 10 years.

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It has been an incredible honor to be invited into so many lives, and a gift to be able to support my family through photography.
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To those who are struggling during this time, because of health and or financial reasons, I am sending my deepest love. This is the hard. Really hard.
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My family has been lucky (so far) to have our health, but because both my husband and I are self-employed, we are likely not receiving much help from the government, so we are definitely nervous about the future. We are trying to figure out what jobs are fire proof, recession proof, drought proof and pandemic proof. (Let us know if you have any suggestions that would work for a photographer and a musician/farm educator.)
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But we are the lucky ones. We have an incredibly supportive and encouraging family and community… we know we will be ok. This is a challenge for us to get creative, downsize and try new things.
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We know that so many other people have a much harder reality and are struggling with much bigger challenges. If you are struggling, please know I am here for you, for your family, for your business, if you ever need me. Together we will make it through this.
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If you need photography for any reason, once the shelter-in-place order has been lifted, please let me know. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. I want to help artists, small businesses and non-profits, who have struggled the most, get back on their feet.

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This time has made it very clear that our teachers, doctors, nurses, grocery workers, farmers, garbage collectors, postal workers, and first responders keep our bodies alive.

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But our artists, musicians, authors, dancers, comedians and nature keep our souls alive. Our bodies can not live without our souls, and our souls can not live without our bodies.
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I am excited about the stories of wildlife making a come back, air pollution clearing up, animal shelters being out of animals, and local farmers finally getting the recognition that they need. It gives me hope that because of this pause, we will see what is broken and take the time to fix it.
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This article really inspired me and I encourage others to read it and I’d love to hear what changes you’ll make when life eventually starts up again:
This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullsh*t and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We care deeply about one another. That is clear. That can be seen in every supportive Facebook post, in every meal dropped off for a neighbor, in every Zoom birthday party. We are a good people. And as a good people, we want to define — on our own terms — what this country looks like in five, 10, 50 years. This is our chance to do that, the biggest one we have ever gotten. And the best one we’ll ever get.
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And now for my Stimulus Pledge to YOU. For those who are financially secure during this crisis, and who anticipate getting a stimulus check and can afford it, please consider pledging some or all of your coming stimulus check to prevent homelessness, hunger and illness for our hardworking immigrant families through the Stimulus Pledge: https://stimuluspledge.org/
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I don’t have the money to donate right now, but for those who donate, please send me an email with proof of your donation and I’ll put your name in the hat for a free all day photo shoot. That is up to eight hours of photography for whatever you want! Or you can donate your photo shoot to a non-profit of your choice (in the SF Bay Area).
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I am grateful that we are all in this together. As my middle school motto taught me. “Together we can.”
With love and gratitude,
Paige
ps: check out our friend Christian’s drawings. He’s making them again and that makes us happy:
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so much more than a haircut…

Huck and EZ have been hanging out together every week since they were 6 months old, and their babysitter would walk around with one of them strapped on her front and the other one strapped on her back.

Now at age four, the boys share a mutual love for Star Wars and Legos… preferably Star Wars Legos.

In the weeks since EZ was diagnosed with cancer, the boys have only seen each other two times. And that has been hard on both of them.

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So when the time came to decide how to deal with EZ losing his hair from chemotherapy, the moms agreed that the best way to help EZ feel better about shaving his head, was for the boys to shave their heads together.

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And seeing as Huck had always wanted a buzz cut, this seemed like the perfect plan. So we had our date scheduled. Celebratory hair cut presents were purchased and wrapped. I arrived and picked out the best spot for light in front of a big beautiful mirror. The hair stylist arrived and we were all ready.

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But when EZ arrived, we learned that he was in a lot of pain and he was not having a good day. It became very clear, as Huck was in mid-shave, that our perfect plan may not work out the way we imagined.

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The adults tried to reason with EZ, letting him know that shaving his head was a much better option than having his hair fall out in patchy clumps every day.

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But it wasn’t until I was driving home that I could really understand how this was about so much more than a hair cut for this four-year-old little boy. This little boy has had his life turned upside down and inside out… he can no longer walk, he can not use the bathroom without pain, he hasn’t eaten in days, his bones hurt, he gets poked, prodded, taped and needled every day.

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And in the middle of all this change, he lost his father, the only person who had ever given him a hair cut in his life, to a heart attack. It makes perfect sense that the last thing EZ wanted was to shave his head.

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So he very clearly said “no,” and they got back in the car with his beautiful curls untouched.

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Despite the tough morning and the head shaving protest, Alex did have some very good news to share about EZ’s progress with chemotherapy. Since so many people have so generously sent their love and support to this family, I wanted to share Alex’s update:

EZ’s last two scans reveal that the chemo has currently stopped his cancer from progressing. It has also reduced his tumors by 50% in size. This is a good start to a very long marathon of treatments that EZ will endure.

Dr. Month, EZ’s oncologist, shared that while his lungs and spine look worse to the eye, the bones will take the longest to heal. His lungs just look worse because he had a chest tube (from original biopsy) and he just got over a terrible cough and cold.

She reminded us of how important keeping him in his little Frida brace is, so his spine is protected. Meanwhile, we are pumping him with bone broth, probiotics, wheat grass and other homeopathic remedies.

To all sending your distant healing and prayers, we are deeply grateful and thankful for each and every bit of support, hope and love we are receiving. The children and I, as well as our extended family, are missing Roneil deeply. EZ is very clear on what has happened and shares that he misses his dad everyday. LU also is being very expressive and sharing her grief. We are pursuing different grief support measures.

A million thanks to all. XO, ap

And then the unimaginable happened…

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Just when this family had returned to their home from the hospital…

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And just as they were starting to come to terms with what their new life would be like fighting the rare form of cancer that was discovered in their four-year-old son…

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Ron Powell, EZ’s father, died suddenly Sunday morning on February 2nd, 2014.

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He died in his sleep, with his family around him. They believe that he suffered from massive cardiac arrest.

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Along with the entire West Marin community and anyone who knew Ron Powell, I am in complete shock and utterly heartbroken for this family. Ron was an incredibly kind person, with a beautiful smile and he was truly loved by everyone.

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Please consider helping this family, as they now face an even harder road than they could have ever imagined possible. Ezequiel still has a long fight ahead without his father’s support.

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And on top of learning her four-year old son has cancer, and then two weeks later losing her best friend and husband, Alex has to figure out how to financially support her family while remaining strong for both children.

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Overcoming this nightmare seems impossible… but there is hope… over 30,000 people have visited this blog post in the past two days… if every person donated just $10… that would be an incredible gift of love and financial relief for Alex, Lu and EZ.

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Donations can be made via PayPal or at any Wells Fargo branch by referencing the RONEIL POWELL MEMORIAL FUND. Please denote “Gift Donation” on your transaction. The Federal Taxpayer ID # for the Roneil Powell Memorial Fund is: 46-4722983, Wells Fargo, County of San Francisco, Ca.

The RONEIL POWELL MEMORIAL FUND was established for the deposit of gift donations by the community for the sole benefit of the Powell/Porrata Family during this cancer crisis. The RONEIL POWELL MEMORIAL FUND is not a California 501(c) nonprofit organization. Please consult your financial professional for tax advise regarding your gift.

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Thank you for sharing this post and for supporting this family. Now please go tell your family you love them, because life is insanely short and it doesn’t give you any warning… the majority of the above photos were taken in March 2013… less than one year ago.

one very long year…

When you have a child, a single year suddenly has a whole new meaning.

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0-1 = your needy sack of pooping potatoes turns in to a happy, wobbling and babbling miniature human.

1-2 = your happy, wobbling and babbling miniature human turns in to a laughing running firecracker holding a match just under their wick… seemingly delightful yet threatening to explode at any minute.

I am just at the beginning of 2-3, so that is as far as my brilliant analogies go for now. But having experienced two years with a little human, who is a hilarious blend of my husband and myself, I can only imagine how much more intensely we will love this Dr Jekylle and Mr Hyde character by the time he is four.

Which is why I lose it every time I think about this family who just found out that their four-year-old little boy has stage four cancer and that they will have to spend the next year hoping with all their hearts that chemotherapy and radiation will be enough to cure their son.

Until I heard the news about this family, I didn’t realize that discovering something is terribly wrong with my child has become my biggest fear. You just don’t think something like this will happen to someone you know, and you certainly don’t think it will ever happen to you. Arann said tonight that he couldn’t do it. He doesn’t think he is strong enough.

Luckily the Porrata-Powell family is incredibly strong and they are extremely well-loved by their community. But it is going to be a very long year as they try to make life as normal as possible for their little family, while simultaneously fighting the biggest fight of their lives… so any extra love and support they can get from outside of their community will be hugely appreciated.

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To learn more about this lovely family and to see how you can help, please click here: http://www.ezpowell.org/

Eight months strong…

This was Elizabeth on day one of her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer…

This is what happened next…

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Eight months later, Elizabeth is doing great. She is more beautiful than ever and her positive attitude is inspiring… but her trip through cancer is not over yet.

Day One is Today…

This is Elizabeth.

Last month Elizabeth found out that she has advanced breast cancer.

At 10:30am this morning Elizabeth received her first treatment of chemotherapy.

Today, she said, she felt sad.

But she says, this is not war, this is just something that happened and she will live through this.

Because with a six-year old daughter and a three-year old son…


…she has a whole lot to live for.

And just 3 hours after her first treatment ended, I met Elizabeth and her family in their favorite local spot, to document who they are today… because from today on, every day is a very important day.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your day with me. I am so grateful.

I’m going to be sad for awhile…

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The greatest canine love of my life died today.

Pancreatic cancer.

The disease transformed my…. strong, healthy, vibrant, squirrel chasing, pond swimming, flop to the floor and cuddle with you anytime… love into skin and bones in only three short weeks.

Luckily I made it home just in time to hold his head as he took his last breath.

So… needless to say I am a little bit sad today.

It doesn’t seem fair that “man’s best friend” does not live as long as man.

I am in search of Puff the Magic Dragon to be my next best animal friend…

because I don’t know that I can go through this again.

Sarah and Zach… a quick peek…

This is just a glimpse of a few favorites from the wedding I photographed two weekends ago in Greenville, South Carolina, the town where I mostly grew up. The wedding was for my best friend from high school, Ann’s, little brother, Zach, also known as Baby Zach, which is how I remember him… so the idea that he was getting married was hard to get over.

The timing was perfect, I was coming home for my annual family reunion beach trip and Zach was getting married the Saturday after I arrived, so I just stayed in Greenville an extra night and joined my family the next day.

I met Zach’s soon to be bride, Sarah, the night of their rehearsal and was very excited to find that she was down to earth, fun and beautiful… the perfect kind of bride, and wife for my best friend’s little brother. And the two of them have a heart wrenching love story that started after high school and grew stronger through Sarah’s cancer that was discovered a few years after they started dating.

It was amazing how openly her cancer was discussed throughout the events, and without the fear that normally surrounds the C-word, but needless to say the tears were not far from everyone’s eyes during their vows to care for each other through sickness and health.

I felt honored to be there and to help document their day for them… and it is not often, as a California based photographer, that I get to photograph in a big fancy traditional church… which proved to be a challenge and a fun creative tool.

I loved the contrast between the two preparation rooms…

I didn’t intend this photo to show off Sarah’s left shoulder where she had her cancer, instead I noticed it during my editing. It is one of my favorites because I think it has a calm and beautifully strong feel to it and I hope she feels the same way.


I wish I could say I planned this photo to look this way, but I didn’t and it was quite a fun editing surprise… although it has a surreal dream feel to it that may not appeal to everyone, so luckily I have normal ones as well.

The Presbyterian Church had a rule about not photographing during the ceremony, which in some ways was nice because it meant I had to be more creative.

And there is so much more to come… but the editing is a lot slower since I am on the road…. so stay tuned for more of Sarah and Zach.

And here is Ann again… I love friends who love being photographed… it is so much fun… this was entirely her idea.

A Documentary Photographer’s Perspective on Weddings…. candids, candids, candids

First of all, I need to define Documentary Photographer, so this is wikipedia’s definition: The photographer attempts to produce truthful, objective, and usually candid photography of a particular subject, most often pictures of people.

That definition basically says enough about why I like photographing weddings and the way I approach photographing them, but I am still going to say more.

It is odd because within the documentary photography world, there is some snobbery about photographers who photograph weddings. But if you are a documentary photographer (see definition above) then there is no reason not to love photographing weddings… there are usually 50-200 people to photograph and that means lots of moments, stories and emotions everywhere you look. And generally, most everyone is in a good mood and happy to be photographed (although I have definitely learned that is not true for everyone!)

As for my approach to photographing weddings, I love telling the story of weddings through photographs.

I would so so so much rather take candid and truthful photos than any posed photos. Posed photos make my stomach flip with nervousness. I am getting better at directing, but at the weddings I photograph, I can’t wait until all the formals are over and I can get back to taking candids. I feel like a wedding should be about enjoying the day and living in the moment… not stopping the moment, and leaving the moment, so you can go and freeze a false moment. (Although I know that formal portraits are important too… but I keep them to a minimum, and my philosophy is: the faster, the better.)

The one formal part I do look forward to, is stealing the bride and groom soon after the ceremony and photographing them alone and happy being brand newly married… but I try to make them forget I am there.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the wedding I photographed a couple of weekends ago. It is the story of Jodi and Dan. Their story is more emotional and complex than some; it involves Dan’s 8 year old son, a considerable difference in ages and Jodi’s mom who is living with cancer, all coming together on this one day to celebrate.






And then… the ones below are some of my favorite extras and outtakes.


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