nourish – all the pieces

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Last night as I climbed into bed exhausted and sick after a long day of 2015 work that I had finally pushed out, I had the very defeated thought,

I really have no idea what   nourish   looks like.”

This morning, while I took a rant into my journal to sort, I was reminded of a workshop I attended a few years ago, led by a woman who encouraged each woman in the room to identify and embrace the different “women” that made up who she was. At the time, I had rolled my eyes a bit. The language was unfamiliar and it didn’t translate easily into my conservative training. But today I found myself identifying pieces of me, and I remembered the workshop and didn’t find it so far-fetched to recognize and name pieces of a self.

No pretending
No more lying to myself
No more fighting
No more trying
To be somebody else
No more running
No more hiding
No denying what is true
This adventure, it was never about me
It was You…

– Ana Laura

I’ve unearthed the pieces unintentionally: my sensitive side, my artistic side, my spontaneous side, my perfectionist side, my mama bear/warrior side, my spiritual side, my pragmatic side… I recorded them in my journal, and gave them names, feeling a bit silly and very schizophrenic.

When I am healthy and rested and in a good place, my mama bear side exists to protect my sensitive side; my artistic side balances my pragmatic side; my spontaneous side assists my perfectionist side with new ideas, and my spiritual side connects all the dots to the “God made me this way; He must have had a reason.”

When I am unhealthy, living out of fear, and doubting God, these pieces of me add up to one big level of frustration. My childlike, artistic side whines like a petulant toddler unable to communicate what I really want. My sensitive side suggests full-on agoraphobia, prompting my pragmatic side to put me unhealthily into social situations and override potential hurt. And of course, when the hurt comes – or my ideals are threatened – my mama bear side roars up and starts hollering to SHUT THE WHOLE WORLD UP BECAUSE WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE A PEOPLE ALREADY!

It’s a madhouse in my head some days. Sorry about that.

My friend Laura has a wonderful newsletter, and in her most recent installment, she shared about “talking to your rash,” a technique that her therapist encouraged her to use to sort out a symptom she’d been having for years. Paying attention to something she had simply written off helped her realize that her physical symptom was tied to a deeper emotional need.

I’d been turning this over in my mind, trying to figure out why it resonated so deeply with me, and this morning, I made the connection that giving “the rash” the attention it needs so that you can thrive is a way to nourish. As I sorted out my pieces in my journal, I began asking each piece what it needs to be what I was made to be, in healthy balance with the other pieces. I felt like I was taking my side for the first time in a long time. I felt like I might be giving God room to be making – or remaking – me.

I don’t have the answers to my “what do you need?” questions yet, but I think maybe I’ve wandered my way into a good place to start understanding how nourish works as it gives attention to things that shouldn’t be ignored.

Credits:

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Styling: Lacy Geary
Gown: Alexandra Grecco
Model: Devan Walsh, Tout Talent

PUBLISHED – Utterly Engaged, vol. 4

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So this happened in December, a publication that was so long in coming, I’d almost forgotten how good the shoot was! Utterly Engaged treated this shoot so beautifully in Volume 4, pairing my images with a beautiful article on intimacy.

I’m so excited about this release, even though I’ve hardly had time to give it attention with everything else I have going on, and I cannot wait to show you more from this shoot!

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P.S. I’d love to bring on another intern so that I could do things like plan a newsletter I want to launch in 2016 and update the blog with more of my current work! Anyone interested in helping me out? I’m willing to play to your strengths and offer experience where you want it.

CREDITS

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Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Styling: Lindsey Shanks, A Charleston Bride
Florals: Jillian Manger, SYG Designs
Model: Katherine S.
Gown: Heirloom
Makeup: Prime Time Pretty
Hair: I Du Pretty
Silk Ribbon: Silk & Willow

COVER BY ELIZABETH MESSINA

nourish – uneasy

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I have always been a bit leery of the concept of “self-care.” I think it may be the way I was raised, or my perfectionist’s take on “consider others better than yourself.” It wasn’t ever a good thing to think of oneself as important. There was always something else that took precedence.

Until I became chronically ill. Until physical depression and heightened stress levels threatened everything and everyone in my world. Until my being human got up in my being spiritual face and said “God made you this way, and you need to care for you.

“Nourish” is hard right now. I have a to-do list already. All of my big goals and my macro life are screaming at me that they are on the line. It is easy to feel that the micro things like eating and showering and getting dressed are getting in the way of the rest of my life. But I can’t have the rest of my life if I don’t nourish myself. If I don’t give me food to eat and space to feel refreshed. I can’t pour myself out without being refilled.

I know that I am taking responsibility for my life, but I feel like a child again, having to relearn the grownup stuff, being so limited that I have to say no again when I really want to say yes. You should see my bucket list this year. I’m scared that I won’t get to do anything on it. I’m scared that I’m going to run out of time to experience everything I want to experience.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that I need rest. Sabbath was created for this, though, to remind us of eternity and how time doesn’t run out when we live the height and depth and width and breadth of our moments. The clock runs on, leaving me uneasy in this space, eating my breakfast and putting down the restless words, making something out of this nothing if I can.

There was a weird sort of pride in what I used to believe about self-care. I didn’t suspect my hidden aspiration to be superhuman. I didn’t realize that taking care of oneself is really an act of humility, an acknowledgment of limitation and a deep need for a Creator-God who can provide what is needed on every level.

Mood Board – soft and clean

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I woke up an hour earlier than usual after falling asleep by 8:45 last night, and I got through my wakeup routine in time to finish off a huge editorial shoot I have been processing and put together this pretty little combination of elements and style for this week’s mood board.

I’m trying to make sense out of how the clean lines speak with the soft for me as I’m identifying these elements within my style. It feels right, whether it makes sense or not, so I’m going to go with it, even if I can’t define it. This is a direction I think I’d like to grow this year.

CREDITS:

1. Sasha Luss in Valentino, by Giacomo Cabrini
2. Unknown, via Pinterest
3. Unknown, via Pinterest
4. Eric Dufour

nourish – light and dark

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“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole.” ― C.G. Jung

I’ve been looking at a lot of my work lately, and I’ve been uncovering a pattern I’ve known was there but that I never really thought to work on. I’m finding a truthfulness in my images that denies the trendy “no-contrast, everything-overexposed” approach to photos and embraces both light and dark. I like it, and I am looking forward to nourishing that element more fully in my 2016 work.

I’m not just looking at my work, though. I know that I have a dark side, or at least an introverted side, a part of me that can only grow softly with silence and needs just as much attention as my “light” side that is always out there doing things. I think this darker side of me was better cared for at the beginning of my days with my baby, when I had to create time for her and for me to simply be, when nothing else could be done in our world or our house because nourishment was the only important thing for both of us in those moments.

I’m missing the space now even though I’m the one depriving myself of it, thinking that now that the baby is older and more independent, I should be able to do all those things I put off. But in order to live from that “shadow” side of me, I need to nourish it, give it what it needs to be alive.

It is getting more difficult to determine what is required to nourish all the things. The more I think about it, the less I understand what is needed, and the more I see that needs to be nourished. I’m going to have to sit with it a while before I understand it, I think.

PUBLISHED: Saint Isabel Bridal, a little French cottage

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer

Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it, I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape, to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.

― Alan Bradley

This one was worth waiting for. I did a four-set personal shoot at River Oaks Charleston last year with a beautiful girl, a beautiful gown, gorgeous lighting, and not very much obligation at all – I was purely playing. This is how I learned that I need to make space to purely play on photo shoots. I make better images that I really like to look at, and my creative direction comes together with my photography to draw out things that I didn’t even know I had in me.

This set at the “cottage” at River Oaks Charleston, featuring Saint Isabel Bridal’s “Ivy” gown is live at Elizabeth Anne Designs today, and I am so happy to get to finally share these pure Kelly-Sauer-Not-Like-Anybody-Else images.

(Now. My next lesson to learn is not to submit all my personal work for publication. After all, a girl’s gotta have some really good current work to put out publicly.)

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CREDITS

PHOTOGRAPHY & CREATIVE DIRECTION: Kelly Sauer
VENUE: River Oaks Charleston
GOWN: Saint Isabel Bridal
MODEL: Sophie Belhassen

mood board: when the rain won’t go away

mood board by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.” ― Vladimir Nabokov

Somewhere along the way, I think I have learned to like the rain, even though it sometimes means I can’t do all that I want to do. Discontentment with my circumstances pushes me to look for ways around it, just to prove that “yes, it can be done.” I’m ornery like that.

And ornery is good sometimes.

You shouldn’t be nice about things that are trying to shut you down. You might miss the exquisitry that is beauty born from pain.

CREDITS

1. Studded Hearts

2. Luisa Möhle

3. Never House

4. pinned via Otis and Frank

little things, a lifestyle

by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” ― Andy Warhol

Composition sets a tone for the story, lighting and color give you its mood. Landscapes and portraits show your setting and characters, but the depth of the story is in the details, air whuffing warm steam from a horses nostrils, a sheen of light on an upper lip, goosebumps trailing across an arm. These are the things that make you feel.

I have been learning to work outward from the details, to start small and gradually stand back farther until I have captured a full story, livable on every single level. I’m not very good at it yet, but this is my 2016 photography goal, to keep pushing forward until the little things are accounted for in every detail of my images. I want to make things matter to my camera that haven’t mattered to me before, to be curious enough to make beauty with things I haven’t previously noticed, and to be thrilled with the stories I’m telling because I know their depth.

It’s what I’ve been learning here at home too, simplifying, focusing on the details that are making up my life. I haven’t let myself notice details for a long time (having three kids and being chronically ill will do that to a person. If you don’t look, you don’t feel quite so behind!), but I’ve started noticing again, and making changes that have helped to suddenly thrill me with my own story. We took the microwave out to make our kitchen feel more open. We added wheels to a table to raise it up two inches and let it be an island for some extra counter space. We’ve placed and re-placed furniture, and I’m looking at textures and linens and curtains and paint colors to make our space tell one story that we can live in and share with others.

It has taken some extra effort and some concentrated thought, but I love how much more I feel at home in my home (I never mentioned that we bought a house in 2014, did I?), and how much more ready I am to engage outside of my computer. I feel like a more complete person, just because of the notice we’ve given the little things. I may show you here sometime, or you can pick up snippets at my Instagram, if you want!

It’s funny what photography teaches a person, isn’t it?

P.S. The image above is a preview from one of the shoots I’m working on this week. I kind of love it, and I am hoping to give you a full blog post with this special story soon!

One Word 2016 – “Nourish”

by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Sometimes the sun comes out and I realize I’m a little better at what I do than I think I am on the cloudy days. I’m encouraged this morning, coming into my workspace and finding photos I really like and ideas that are ready to go in this new season. I have a lot of work to do this week, and to tell you the truth, I am still too tired to do it. My health collapsed unexpectedly last month, and my focus over the last few weeks has been on doing what it takes to get back on my feet and move forward again.

Because running a business from my home and keeping up with three kids isn’t exactly a slow job, I did a lot of neglecting to take care of myself last year. I didn’t set boundaries I should have set. I didn’t make time to nurture my artist (I’m totally going to need to start over in earnest on The Artist’s Way now…). I pushed myself too far in places I didn’t need to push. I actually forgot to feed myself and didn’t even know I had forgotten until I realized I had lost my appetite and had dropped without thinking into clinical anorexia.

So it isn’t exactly surprising that my word for 2016 emerged as “Nourish.

I have been buying living things for my house without knowing why. I want to see the fresh green, the florals, the obvious life. But I bring them home feeling as though they will only have a short lifespan with me. I don’t think I have a green thumb, so I’ve detached myself.

But I think I’m going to try to keep them alive, even though it may not work.

When you realize you are starving on almost every level of your existence, you begin to think a bit differently about life. I have a friend who reminded me that I need to put on my oxygen mask before I put on the oxygen masks for those in my care. If I can’t breathe, I can’t help anyone else breathe.

“Nourish” means giving a thing what it needs to be alive – a plant, a body, a dream, a belief, a family.

In 2016, I plan to nourish my body, my heart, my artist, and my relationships in 2016. I’m going use my resources to bring the life back into my world and take things a step further than obligatory showers and meals and contractual deliveries and shoots.

It’s funny, being a grownup and having people who know my word telling me that “yes, this word is perfect for you right now.” It makes me feel a bit dumb, that maybe I’ve been missing the obvious for quite some time – but I guess you only know what you know sometimes, until the thing gets up in your face and makes you pay attention.

I’m glad for a word I wouldn’t have thought of, and glad for a thought to guide my goals and my boundaries and my investments this year. I have a bit (<--- okay, that's an understatement - HA!) to catch you up on, but I'll be getting more breakfasts here and making some time to do that.

the last day of the year

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The sun rose red this morning. I saw it in one window, playing with crimson in the gray of the cloud cover. It always surprises me when the red sky comes in tandem with a stormy weather forecast. It shouldn’t surprise me. Sailors had to know about red skies and what they meant. They couldn’t be foolish with their lives in coming unprepared to their work.

The red sky comes on New Year’s Eve morning, bringing warning for the day, but wouldn’t it be fun to consider that the red sky on the eve of the new year could mean delight for the next one? I suppose I’m looking for poetry more than I am looking at reality, but it’s a nice thought as we turn the corner into 2016.

I’m going to start blogging again in 2016. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a necessity. I have to sit long enough to eat my breakfast, and I don’t like to eat alone, so here I will be, as often as I can think of something to say. It would be fun to feel things out in writing here again.

This next year is going to be interesting. We are making some major lifestyle changes in our home. Paring back, adding in. We are interviewing people for help with childcare and homeschooling. I am starting over again after some serious health issues. I am trying to sort out my word for 2016, but it isn’t working quickly. All I can come up with at this point are words to leave behind:

chaos
clutter
orange
envy
neglect
behind
should
noise
fear

I’m thinking about words I would like:

hygge
story
possible
brave
believe

And words that would be smart for me:

health
family
read

And one to do again:

GO

But nothing has leapt out at me except this one quote that my sister-in-law sent to me on a canvas print for Christmas:

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

– A.A. Milne

I’m wondering if instead of one word this year, I’m going to need to hold onto this whole thing and walk out on faith that God knew what He was doing when He made me the way He made me, and that He gave me my dreams and my abilities and my limitations because He is good and He had something fun to do with me.

I guess I will think on it some more and let you know over breakfast tomorrow.

mood board: flow, and ice

flow, and ice | la joie, la vie by kelly sauer

on the days that you feel
frozen
remember that under the ice,
the river still
flows
in winter

12/29/2015

This happened on Pinterest one morning recently. I didn’t even realize I was pinning the same pattern over and over. It makes me laugh, but it’s also really cool. I look for these things when I shoot, and when I plan a shoot. I can still see it, even when I am tired and overloaded and too busy to feel like I can create.

CREDITS

1. Unknown
2. Mary McCartney
3. via MoodMail
4. Eric Sauvage
5. Unknown

Wanted: Clarity

kelly sauer at river oaks charleston

I like photographing food. Who knew? I don’t want to do it for a living (I’d rather eat it for that), but I discovered recently that I really enjoy doing it, and I’d like to do more of it. But this leads me to a interesting and frustrating dilemma:

I CAN photograph anything and everything, but what do I WANT to spend my life on?

I have multiple answers to this question, and they depend on the day. At some point, things have to come clear, right? Does anybody know of a photography job that would let me shoot food and fashion and weddings and landscapes and architecture and details and portraits?

This is what I get for wanting it all.

I suppose I shall figure it out someday. And then I will have a grownup brand.

Or ten.

Now seeking clarity and conversation, since things don’t make sense to me unless I get to talk them out.

CREDITS:

Photo: Kelly Sauer
Food Styling: River Oaks Charleston

Coming Soon – Shoot for Wedding Paper Divas

photography by kelly sauer | for Wedding Paper Divas

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
― Edith Warton

I can’t help wondering if maybe there is a way to be both…

The image above is from a shoot I did this week that was the culmination of months of planning that got scrapped and restarted and re-planned and unplanned and completely changed up at the very last minute with a location change because of a rainy day. Experiences like this shoot teach me that it is okay to breathe, that perfection doesn’t mean everything happens as you plan, that God is more in control of all the little things than we think He’d care to be.

I had forgotten that He uses the weak and the fool, that “extravagance” only comes by way of living a life – not by getting all the things you want. I had forgotten that grace means I don’t have to be in “the right place” to ask Him to be with me. I am learning that confidence and humility can go hand in hand, and that limitations merely offer a chance for rest in the busyness that would otherwise consume me.

I feel as though I am coming alive again, as though I am finally able to fuse my work with the voice of my heart instead of the “X would shoot this like that” or the “Y would want to see this” in my point of reference. I’m excited about the authenticity that is beginning to emerge, and I don’t feel as driven to compete as I used to feel, now that I am beginning to see my passion in my own work.

I waited years and years to make some of these images. I cannot wait to show you.

CREDITS:

Photography & Creative Direction: Kelly Sauer
Art Direction & Styling: Type A Society
Location: River Oaks Charleston
Makeup & Fashion Styling: Dannon K Collard, Like the Yogurt
Models: Marissa R. & Micah, Millie Lewis Models & Talent
Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas
Calligraphy: Elizabeth Porcher Jones
Silk Ribbon, Scarves, & Candles: Silk & Willow
Ring Box: The Mrs. Box
Hatbox: Trousseau & Co.
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Gown: Jill Jill Stuart via Rent the Runway
Floral Source: Whole Foods Market
Jewelry, Table Settings, & Linens: Anthropologie

Wedding Peek – Kevin & Katrina

exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer

It’s been a couple of years since I had a wedding as magical as Kevin and Katrina’s wedding. It was the kind of wedding that made me take back every thought I ever had of quitting my job, the kind where I felt respected and empowered to make the beauty I wanted to make with it, the kind of wedding where the love was so palpable, I couldn’t help leaving with it plastered all over me. I waited and waited and hoped and waited for a wedding like this one, and then it came, and it was better than I could have believed it would be, and it made all the dreams I’ve had about being a wedding photographer come true.

Now I can’t show you any of the details yet because it is a wedding meant for sharing, but this one image should cover my feelings about the whole thing. Y’all, it was simply wonderful…

Preview – Aisle Society for Plum Pretty Sugar

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | aisle society for plum pretty sugar

This week has been the most intense week of my photography life, shooting with Aisle Society for Plum Pretty Sugar.

If I had known beforehand how much work two full days of shooting would be, I might have turned down this opportunity, but discovering that in the middle of it all (as I do – ha!) meant that I found out wayyyy too late to be cautious, and I got to throw myself into the whole thing because there just wasn’t anything else to do. And oh my word, was it ever worth it to get to work with an amazing team of people behind me and incredible things to shoot in front of me. I am so happy that I just said YES to people who believed in me, no matter how much my feet hurt afterward!

Thank you, amazing people who were in and out of my world over the last two days. My several thousand words are still coming to tell the world how you all blew me away. I will never, ever forget this experience.

Event Design – Aisle Society
Event Planning – Easton Events
Venues – Legare Waring House, Cannon Green, Zero George
Florals – SYG Designs
Wedding Gown – Modern Trousseau
Suit – Berlin’s Clothing
Bridesmaids’ Dresses – PPS Couture
Designer Robes and Loungewear – Plum Pretty Sugar
Hair – Charlotte Belk
Makeup – Prime Time Pretty
Models – Taryn B, Venita A., Elizabeth C., Natalie H., Molly M., Greg K.
Jewelry – Susie Saltzman
Headpieces – Brides & Hairpins
Clutch & Shoes – Kate Spade NY

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Photography Assistant: Kim Graham Photo

And a SUPER thank you to our hosts and directors, Aisle Society members Ami of Elizabeth Anne Designs and Gillian of Charleston’s own A Coastal Bride.

we just have to have the courage

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“Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time… and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

“You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

“My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”

― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

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The Road She Traveled

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“…The road that ran from the edge of her forest gleamed like water, but when she stepped out onto it, away from the trees, she felt how hard it was, and how long. She almost turned back then; but instead she took a deep breath of the woods air that still drifted to her, and held it in her mouth like a flower, as long as she could.”

― Peter S. Beagle

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Saint Isabel “Ivy” – A Lowcountry Romance

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | La Joie, La Vie-26

I remember that she was there, and the breeze, and the light, and the wet sheen of the humid morning on her lip. I tried to get her to smile, wished for more wind, for something to release her from her Mona Lisa composure. I didn’t speak her language – she didn’t speak her own language, I don’t think. But I do think she was waiting for day, for love with the day, like a goddess out of reach, or a serene sort of nymph who had not yet wakened to the passion of the summer that already surrounded her.

Her eyes were limpid, pooled with calm, but I saw a spark. She didn’t know she had it, but there! I had found it, the fire that love would waken, the heat that would not be burned away as the sun absorbed the dew. The light came over the horizon, and she blinked in the day, a new born; she was coming alive now…

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Someone told me last year to find a girl, a gown, and a good location with good light and shoot until I found my voice. So I took a deep breath, and I began a series of shoots to create images for my portfolio that speak my heart and not merely “what is expected of a photographer.” I have held onto these images for a long time while trying to decide about publication (it has felt like breath-holding – I’m a little afraid to exhale now), but I came to a decision after several publication rejections that these images need to be for me, and not for any blogger or other brand out there, except the brands with whom I shot.

I recognize that my work is not industry-standard photography. It has a feeling all its own, and I believe it can be easily overlooked by bloggers who are checking off a “portrait-gown-flowers-venue-details” inspiration post list. I shoot with both film and digital, and I often shoot only with a simple set and a big feeling that I am trying to put into the thousand words a picture affords me.

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | La Joie, La Vie-14

I love my images. My clients love my images. I know I am not less because I am not getting published. I know there is a place for my work. Right now, I don’t have the energy to find that place. I want to keep growing. I want to keep pushing myself beyond my defaults to make really amazing images that will eventually take me where I want to go with my camera.

Where do I want to go? I am still creating that picture, still looking at my dreams and my reality and praying about how they come together. I think maybe we will see it emerge as I keep posting here and doing what I love. It’s a risk for me to be quieter. To not clamor for attention and compete with the entire industry for money. To trust that God knows what He is doing as He is bringing me to life through my photography and my very messy life.

I hope you don’t mind walking with me as I take another deep breath and try being me, here with you, sharing my favorite things.

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | La Joie, La Vie-30

Credits

Photography & Creative Direction: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Venue: River Oaks Charleston
Gown: “Ivy,” by Saint Isabel Bridal
Silk Ribbon: Silk & Willow
Florals: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.

Bridal Story – Seaside Morning

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

“The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.”
― Cornelia Funke

I forget how to feel sometimes. It isn’t a good thing, but it is part of my life with lots of people in it. I crave solitude that I don’t get most days, and a little time to do nothing but feel the wind on my face and let it take me somewhere new.

This shoot, published at Hochzeitsguide a few months ago, was my way of capturing that desire and feeling that feeling. The pictures take me back there so I can feel it again, so I can remember what it was like to breathe in the beauty that I got to photograph.

Things are beginning to move again for me (did you see my blog re-design?!). I feel as though I’m coming out from a long silence, as if it has only been preparing me to walk out with faith, believing that I do have something to bring to life with my photography, even if it is only the depth of my own feeling, even if that is all I was ever meant to do – to show you the way I am learning to be alive.

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer-3

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie
Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie
Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie
Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, a vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie
Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photographer: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab
Florals and Styling: Kelly Lenard
Gown: Aire Barcelona from Ebrada Atelier
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Model: Vera of Millie Lewis Models and Talent
Blanket wrap: Kohls

Publication: Once Wed & Signora Mare

image by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Y’all, I got published at Once Wed. At least, my photography did. It was one of my very favorite “headshot” sessions ever, and it was such a cool gift to get to take these photos, and getting this publication was just the icing on the cake for me.

I promise you more images from the shoot here as soon as I can get them together. I am so far behind on blogging, I can’t even think about apologizing. I think it has something to do with doing the work on the back end and keeping the family going on the front end, and I miss it like CRAZY, but for this season (which I hope will be shorter than I feel it will be!), I have had to take a blogging break while I recover my creative energy and rework my brand a bit to accommodate a new direction for my photography business.

I hope to be back soon – I’m getting a more permanent redesign ready to show off, and prepping for a full relaunch with some really, really amazing stuff. So. There I am teasing you again. While you wait, though, go over to Once Wed and see some of my pictures, or hang out with me on Instagram, which is getting the bleed-off from my reviving creativity.

CREDITS

Photography: Kelly Sauer
Venue: River Oaks Charleston
Set & Prop Styling: Ginny Branch
Hair & Makeup: Claudia Mejerle
Hand Lettering, Handmade Paper, Leather Pouch: Signora e Mare
Dress: Elizabeth Suzann “Artist” Dress
Shoes: Bryr Studio

Publication – Provence-Inspired Bridal Shoot

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | provence-inspired bridal shoot

He play’d an ancient ditty long since mute,
In Provence call’d ‘La belle dame sans mercy.’
– John Keats

Honored to be at Hochzeitsguide with Kelly Lenard for a lovely feature today. These images will always be some of my very favorites, in spite of all I know now that I didn’t know then. Here’s to beautiful growth, on a day when I’m feeling the growing pains a bit more than I like. Happy Thursday, friends.

CREDITS

PHOTOGRAPHY: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
FLORALS AND STYLING: Kelly Lenard
GOWN: Aire Barcelona from Ebrada Atelier
SHOES: Ivanka Trump
WRAP: Kohls
LOCATION: Charleston, Soth Carolina
FILM LAB: Richard Photo Lab
MODEL: Vera of Millie Lewis Models and Talent

the art of being

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

There is a line of thought within the wedding photography industry that if you have a strong visual brand, you can attract the clients you want to attract and make the money you want to make. It’s a good thought, I think, if you can be a business person interested in earning money with your camera. But though I embraced the idea early for my business, I have come to see that as an artist, I had no business trying to slap a brand onto my work so soon. I think this is one of the reasons I have not yet come to a clear brand, and this is also one of the reasons I have stepped back from my design/branding here and made everything so extremely simple for now.

It takes years to learn the technical aspects of photography, and still more years to learn who you are as an artist. I used to ask what people saw in my work, thinking they could help tell me what I was doing – but I have to be able to understand what I am doing myself. I feel my work, and I often find myself intuiting my images, but defining and explaining them in a way that can be encapsulated into a brand? The business has held me accountable for learning how to do this, and while I feel like I am still learning what I am doing and why I am doing it, some things are beginning to come clear.

The images I make that attract me the most are the images that hold a subject that is just so at home with itself/themselves in whatever context I find them. There is nothing contrived and nothing projected – it is something that just *is.* Images like that delight me. I want to make images like that. I want to be like that.

The world is going to push you through so many doors so quickly. There is always some new trend, something that everybody else is doing that has to be copied. There’s always pressure to get ahead of everybody else. But you have to give yourself time to grow. You have to be patient with your process, and be your own advocate. You have to honor your voice, and believe that you do have something unique to say, even if everyone else is “taking your ideas.”

The art of being feels like a lost art in our crazy culture and in the photography industry, but I can’t help feeling that if we can dare to not be “successful” for a little while, we’ll start being the unique kind of people we want to be, and maybe success will come along with it.

white sheets – a study

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

So I’m kind of on a photography business sabbatical right now, the not-getting-paid-but-have-to-shoot-anyway sort of sabbatical. I’m backing off most of my marketing and publication submissions to make some space for myself to figure out what I see and how I see it. I’m learning that I don’t want to photograph everything I love, and that some things I love are just a jumping-off point for what I *do* want to love. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed bigger and farther than the place I am. It’s a talent of mine, a perk of my personality, this rich inner life that can make me feel better, even the bleak and cluttered places in my world.

I expect I’d make a decent prisoner somewhere. Hm.

Anyway.

So I was where I am on Saturday morning, rocking the baby in my room and looking at our unmade bed, sighing happily because I finally scored a bedding system that I love on sale at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (the simple BACK side of a duvet cover over a down-alternative comforter). I had a gift card that could only be used there, but BB&B doesn’t carry a lot of the textures that I love, and I have to say I am soooo pleased to have figured out a way around their styles to make something work for me.

I decided to photograph it, and I called Pete in and give the sheet some lift and flow so I could use both hands to focus my manual lens. And now, because my blog is my place to sort out my thoughts, I’m sharing it not as a product push but as a photographic study. A way to say “this is my style” and “I love this, do you?”

This isn’t anything wedding-related – but it’s the “fine art lifestyle” photography that I’ve always danced around – something in real life that can become fine art if you record it that way. So. Without further ado, I give you white sheets with flow and texture, in my photography style.

(Okay. Actually, I give you pictures of them. Because I’m not really giving you the sheets that I like.)

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Cottage Hill Feature – A Lowcountry Bride

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

YOU GUYS. The first part of my inaugural shoot in my new studio has been published at Cottage Hill Magazine this morning! There is so much story behind this shoot, but I need to save it for when I put my own post together soon. You’re going to need to just go over and look at the TON of images that Katie O’Selvidge has shared today, and be content with that for now. I am soooo happy to see these go live!

CREDITS

CottageHill_Primary_7562

Photography – Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Styling – Alise Taggart
Florals – Stephanie Gibbs
Hair and Makeup – Dannon K. Collard
Collette-Naomi Dress – Rebecca Schoneveld
Gown Source – The Sentimentalist
Silk Pieces – Silk and Willow
Jewelry – Kristen Hayes Jewelry
Heirlooms and Set Pieces – KS Ltd. Co.

Behind the Lens – On Being a Human

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

When I was growing up, being human didn’t seem like such a good thing. I always wanted to do everything right – and I was GOOD at it. But keeping all those plates spinning wasn’t good for my heart, and eventually, I found myself seated – not so neatly – in the middle of a pile of shattered plates. I learned to stop lying. I learned to set boundaries. I learned to say no. I learned how to choose my yes. I learned to be human, and to walk more humbly than I had previously believed was okay.

Before you think that I think it’s a glorious way to live, let me tell you about my cluttered house that only gets fully picked up about once per month, about the dishes that sit in the sink all day, about small budgets and giving shoots away just to get opportunities to photograph people. Let me tell you about eking beauty out of a very real life with three children and homeschooling and breastfeeding and trying to get thirty minutes to myself in a given day. Let me share about mistakes I make, about panic attacks when I inadvertently forget something or fail amazingly, about very honest phone calls and emails to people who really don’t need me for their brand anyway, especially when I have let them down. Let me tell you about putting my foot in my mouth, about embarrassing moments and no no no no no…

There’s something about my being a photographer that can feel a little bit… inauthentic, especially when I edit and edit and crop and adjust and cull and retouch and sort and organize and reorganize and set and reset on any given day. But because I am an artist, every step reveals a bit more of my true self, because being an artist means bringing a vision to life. That means I’m not just capturing what is in front of my lens. I am processing it on every level, interpreting and almost re-communicating my own experience within your experience.

i carry you with me into the world, into the smell of rain,
and the words that dance between people
and for me, it will always be this way, walking in the light,
remembering being alive together.
– story people

Being human and being alive means that you take risks – to have the babies, to ask for the opportunities, to try new things – and you shoulder responsibility that you wouldn’t otherwise shoulder if you had just said no and kept your life small. And being human means that you’re going to drop things and feel things and treasure things and make messes, and IT IS OKAY.

I have to tell myself that a lot.

God has to remind me that I am dust. A lot.

And usually He’s reminding me that He remembers it, whether I do or not. He’s got all the grace for me that I need, whether I’ll receive it or not.

What you find here at my blog and on my website and in your home and inbox after I photograph it and send it out into the world – there’s a human behind those images. There is out-loud laughter, there is giddiness, and tears, and thoughtfulness. I breathe in and out as I process, giggle and squeal when I shoot (and sometimes, I just ooooohhh and aaaahhhhhhh too), and I hold my breath every time I hit “send” or “publish.” Everything I share makes me a little more human, a little more open to criticism, a little more vulnerable to rejection.

But as I share, I am learning what my voice sounds like. I am learning that I have things to say that are important for me to say, whether they are heard or not. I am learning that I don’t need anyone else to give me permission to be a person in the world, and I am learning to deeply value the people who see me as a person. It’s why I still share here, because I hear from you who are still reading and cheering me on as I grow.

I love being a human. I love the curiosity and the anticipation. I love the exquisitrie of suspended chords, the breath before the kiss, the curve of the petals in the blush. I love the dirt on my boy, the non-stop chatter from my Pip, the warm cuddles from my baby. I love watching the light play in different ways around my new house. I love the smell of frying bacon and the yeasty-warm scent of fresh bread. These things come with being human, and I am so very glad God thought to let me experience them when He made me.

I am so very glad I am not so perfect that I am missing my life.

The image above is a preview from what may possibly be the most perfect shoot of my career, and I can’t share more of it because it is has been submitted and is awaiting a response from a publisher. I love what it says. I cannot WAIT to show you more.

A Simple Session

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Last week, I had scheduled a test shoot with a model to see how a wedding fashion editorial I’m planning would work with her. I was coming off a wedding and travel and being sick again (this vitamin D deficiency is NOT my favorite thing), and I was almost embarrassingly unprepared for the shoot. But in my typical fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants fashion (and with the help of a new intern – I’ll be introducing her soon, I hope!) I threw something together with this sweet girl, shooting two sets of photos, one in my sister’s simple black dress and one in a textured white gown that I happened to have in my styling closet. (Yes. I have a styling closet. This habit might be growing.)

ANYWAY. When you’re uninspired, it never hurts to start with simplicity. Black and white and light and dark make for some of the most beautifully elegant images, and these experimental headshots did not disappoint.

I have to wait to show you what we did with the white gown, but I can’t resist sharing these here, even if they were really just a test shoot. If you follow me on instagram, you already got a sneak peek last weekend…

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anthropology – an experiment

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

anthropology – the study of humankind, in particular.

As I have been shooting for the sake of shooting and uncovering more about myself and the direction I want to go with my art, I have discovered that not everything I want to shoot is clean, clear, innocent, and hopeful. For instance, my Black Dress Diaries said something different than I have said before (there are still a few installments to come there, stay tuned!), and similarly, this little set within a shoot I did last week stepped out of my normal photo zone into something quite different and almost daring.

I almost never shoot in direct light, as I prefer more filtered, softer lighting for my portraits, but when you try something and it does something fascinating, it’s sometimes better to say yes and see where it takes you. And then when processing something fascinating takes a different turn, it’s okay to go with the mood and let it express things that you didn’t know you wanted to say. These looked incredible in color, but when the black and white hit the images, I couldn’t turn back.

As a person, I have BIG feelings, and I am finding that photography is one of the best tools I have to help me not fear my feelings. The more I dare with my photography, the more okay I find that I am with my feelings in my real life. So I study others’ feelings through a filter of my own, and I am learning so much more about what it means to be human as I experiment. It is really so very fun!

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory
photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory
photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory
photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

photography by kelly sauer | patchouli gown by claire pettibone romantique | dress source  The Dress Theory

CREDITS:

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Gown: “Patchouli,” by Claire Pettibone
Gown Source: The Dress Theory
Location: Charleston, S.C.
Model: Ashley Cox

Preview – English Garden Bridal Fashion

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | bridal

So my blog has been AWOL for a week or so because of some issues on the back end, but it was probably okay, because I had two shoots and a wedding last week, so it’s not like I’ve had time to blog anyway. And I have some really pretty stuff to share this week while I get myself back together before the next round.

Shooting is so GOOD for me. I have finally been shooting what I have been wanting to shoot, and I’m starting to uncover creativity that has been in hiding for much too long. It makes me happy, and I’m loving what I am seeing, loving that I’m coming to the end of each shoot with the sense that “I have more to give” and “next time, I can push a little more and a little harder and a little farther.”

I can’t wait to show you more from this shoot, but for now, I’m just giving you this glimpse with one of my favorite pictures ever. Here’s to doing what you love, taking chances, and giving yourself time to grow.

CREDITS:

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Gown: “Patchouli,” by Claire Pettibone
Gown Source: The Dress Theory
Location: Charleston, S.C.
Model: Savanah H.

Breathe Deep – A Bridal Moment

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On the morning of her wedding, she needed the sea. She thought she might sail away on it, disappear into the distant horizon lit by the sunrise bringing her joy. She stole away for a quiet moment, a simple girl in a simple gown with a simple need – just to be.

She strolled barefoot where the waves met the sand, and she gathered her wedding bouquet as she went, leaving a few blooms behind for the mermaids. The morning birthed a breeze that played with the wisps of her hair, that reminded her how breathing felt as it tangled the sun up with the golden strands.

She would be married today. She would be a wife. She would finally be one with the one her heart loved.

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since this shoot. It was a collaboration that began as an opportunity to photograph some of Kelly Lenard’s beautiful work with florals, and then it blossomed into one of the most enchanting bridal stories I’d seen after we discovered the simple silk lining on the gown we intended to photograph.

We took this shoot to the sea, and we paired larkspur and gold in the model’s hair (her name was Vera – she is one of the sweetest, loveliest people I have ever met!) and Kelly paired barefoot sandals with her foraged, windblown florals at the shore to create a simple, inspired morning moment that only needed sunrise and a beautiful girl to carry it off. We shot through the cold of the morning (40 degrees for this early morning set!) but when the photos came back, we never would have believed it was as cold as it was.

Wedding Sparrow published this shoot last year when I was on maternity leave, and I am only just now getting it up here at my blog, but I am sooooo happy to finally have it here! It is one of the loveliest things I have ever photographed!

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CREDITS

Photographer: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab
Florals and Styling: Intertwine by Kelly Lenard
Gown: Aire Barcelona from Ebrada Atelier
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Model: Vera of Millie Lewis Models and Talent
Blanket wrap: Kohls

WANTED | Models, Intern, Stylist

kelly sauer photography | help wanted - stylist, intern, models

 

Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. is GROWING, and it is time to bring a few new faces make up a very small team. We are moving forward with some big ideas, and these ideas require a bit more energy and investment than I can bring to the thing myself. We have a few positions opening for some talented creatives to help take this business to the next level. Following are descriptions of what Pete and I are seeking as we move forward with our business.

 

MODEL CALL

In spite of a fantastic response to my recent call for couples, am still searching for real people in the Charleston area (or willing to come to the Charleston area) who are willing to model for me – male, female, and/or couples – and help me create a portfolio that will push the Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. and Exquisitrie imagery out of my habitual defaults into a fresh, authentic approach to things I’ve been shooting on auto-pilot for a while. All models will receive photos/headshots in return for sitting, standing, laughing, or playing under my camera. If interested, please email a head shot or portrait of you or you as a couple to kelly@kellysauer.com for potential shoot dates.

INTERN/ASSISTANT WANTED
(unpaid position)

I need a reliable someone (local or non-local) for about 12 hours per week to help support me on the back end of the business.

Qualifications: Must be at least 16 years of age, must have an interest in and passion for photography and design, must use an active Instagram or Flickr stream, must possess strong writing/storytelling skills, natural people skills, and good fashion sense. Interest in set-styling and design a bonus.

Duties: Will include (local or non-local) post layout, email sorting/correspondence, industry research, submission creation, album design, conversation. May also include (local only) shoot assistance, coffee dates, and set creation/assistance.

Benefits: Intern will receive monthly mentor sessions, basic entrepreneurial inspiration and business tips, one-on-one shooting and training opportunities, and personalized skill-strengthening assignments in collaboration with Kelly Sauer.

If interested, please contact me at info@kellysauer.com. Please include your phone number, a paragraph about why you feel you would be a good fit for Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co., and a paragraph about what you hope to gain through an internship with me.

STYLIST WANTED
(partner position)

All of my strongest work has been done in the company of a fantastic stylist, because it has freed me up to focus on what I do best – SEEING. I am looking for a female stylist to join my team who has a vision and aesthetic that will complement my own aesthetic as I push Exquisitrie and my lifestyle photography further out into the world. I don’t want to do this alone anymore, and with some changes that Pete and I are embracing in our own lives, it has become necessary for me to look at embracing someone else’s vision alongside my own. I have worked with stylists like Ginny Branch, Type A Society, Rebecca Gallop, Blue Eyed Yonder, Alise Taggart, Carlee Sizemore, Mary McLeod, Amy Osaba Events, and Lindsey Shanks of A Charleston Bride to make some really lovely images, and I would like to carry that work forward with an Exquisitrie “dream team” that would both strengthen my photography and give a stylist partner exposure and opportunity to create work that they really want to create on a level that would put Exquisitrie into high demand.

A qualified stylist should possess a knowledge of set and prop styling, fashion styling, and floral design. Exquisitrie will adjust our pricing structure to accommodate stylist on the shoots she works. Stylist should have her own business and a desire to grow it in partnership with a fine art lifestyle photographer, though I am open to someone who does not have a business if her aesthetic and direction matches or complements my own. I need a creative who is good with give-and-take in a team setting, someone who is a bit extraverted and other-centered, someone whose vision is as strong as my own for not only their own work, but mine as well, believing that Exquisitrie is its own thing and willing to give it the wings it is asking to have.

If you are a stylist interested in becoming part of Exquisitrie, please email me at info@exquisitrie.com. Please be sure to include something about your styling vision, a link to an online gallery with your work, and a paragraph about why you think you would be an amazing fit to work with me and why you think I’d be an amazing fit to work with you.

NOTE: I am looking for a real friendship out of this idea, not merely a business relationship. I expect a partnership to be an equal, mutual pairing, and I won’t work with someone who is not bringing themselves to the table to strengthen me as much as I plan to bring myself to strengthen you.

 

P.S. The image above is a preview from my Saturday morning shoot that is trying to decide whether or not it wants to go see a publisher. I’m just beginning to track down lifestyle publication options, so it may just show up at my blog, but it’d be fun to see if it could find a place to live elsewhere!

South Carolina Castle Wedding – Shelbi & Barend

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Barend, our groom, moved to the United States with his family from South Africa over ten years ago. He grew up with his two brothers in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, and after college, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he met Shelbi, the girl who would change his life forever with her ready smile, her sense of humor, and her tender heart. At their wedding, guests told how they had seen him fall in love with her and how much joy she had brought into his life. I have rarely seen a couple who so genuinely adored one another.

Shelbi had wanted to elope, but Barend wanted a wedding, and the location they chose was Atalaya Castle, the one-time winter home of philanthropist Arthur Huntington and his artist wife, Anna. Barend had spent his summers there, first as a teen, then lifeguarding during college, and he could think of no better spot to bring his past and his future together for an intimate wedding that honored both his South African heritage and Shelbi’s American roots.

The wedding, envisioned and styled by one of Shelbi’s best friends, Mary McCleod (who was also a bridesmaid!), brought together elements of the sea and the island, mixing modern and medieval textures together in the almost-exotic coastal setting of South Carolina. The sound of the sea carried on the breeze over the ceremony, and the full moon that rose late over the reception lent a mystical quality to the very down-to-earth celebration of this couple’s love story.

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)
Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)
Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)
Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)
Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)
Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

Shelbi & Barend (Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer)

I’ve shared only a small selection of my very favorite parts of this wedding here, but if you want to see more of the story, please go and visit Snippet and Ink, where we were honored with a publication last Monday. There’s a gallery there with additional details and moments.

This wedding post marks a change in my approach to weddings going forward. Last year, I launched Exquisitrie as the wedding side of my photography brand, to hold all my wedding-elopement-bridal-wedding-editorial related things. In the next few months, I am going to be refining that side of my business and scaling it back to accept only three or four intimate weddings or elopements per year, along with more bridal portraiture and some wedding fashion photography. In the meantime, I am getting ready to launch a new (or not-so-new!) lifestyle branch of Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co., built purely out of my desire to tell stories and ready to be filled up with the fun I’ve been having lately. Stay tuned for updates – I can hardly wait to show you what I’ve been thinking!

CREDITS:

as seen on snippet and ink

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Venue: Atalaya Castle in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Event Planning & Design, Floral Design: Mary McLeod for Amy Osaba Events
Officiant: Rev. Benjy Simmons, Simple Wedding Day LLC
Dress: Allure Bridals
Shoes: Nina Shoes
Jewelry: Anthropologie
Bridesmaid Dresses: David’s Bridal
Groom’s Suit: La Spalla from Suit Supply
Tie: Tie Bar
Groomsmen Attire: Perry Ellis
Stationery: Wildblumen Ink
Calligraphy: Ink & Honey
Silk Ribbon: Silk & Willow
Hair, Makeup: Sandy of Beautiful Salon and Spa
Rentals: Eventworks
Ceremony Music: Bren Baily
Reception Music: Michael Sokolik of Myrtle Beach DJs
Catering: Hog Heaven
Wedding Cake: Secret Chef Café of Myrtle Beach
Dessert: Drienie Scholtz (Groom’s Grandmother)

the black dress diaries – vajra

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 

The “Black Dress Diaries” are a seven-part mini-series born from a magical location shoot I did for a personal project here in Charleston, South Carolina. The shoot began as a simple portrait session with minimal styling and light I’d never used before, but as we shot, it became something more. I broke our 90 minutes together into several different stories to break down the “traveling” nature of the shoot, and I’m sharing these little “diaries” as a “travelogue” for the black dress.

“Vajra” a Sanskrit word meaning “diamond,” was the only name that I could find for this black dress diary. The sparkle of the waves, the contrast between the light and the dark, the stark hard brightness – they came together to portray a balance between beauty and and “indestructability” I’ve never expressed through my lens before. I set this one in black and white to tell a simple story of a girl on her own, soft, yet powerful. I have lived this one, from one side of a broken heart to the other when I found my life again. I never thought I’d be able to tell it so honestly.

 

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photographer – Kelly Sauer
Dress – Urban Outfitters
Model – Haley D.
Location – Charleston, S.C.

behind the lens – the necessity of discovery

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

My best shoots in the last few years have been the ones where I didn’t overplan anything, where I just tried something and ended up exploring something new. Discovery is what makes a photographer real, what causes the viewer to catch their own breath at the “oh, I have never seen this before!” and the “you’re doing something that nobody else is doing.” It is the breath of fresh air that speaks to the authenticity of the person both in front of the camera and behind it.

I have struggled for a while with the “default mode” I’ve used to make solid, deliverable photos. It’s great for racking out shoot after shoot and being consistent, but it doesn’t lend itself to very much exploration or discovery – and you end up copying yourself and everybody else just to get a “product.” It is really, really good for me to look back and find the shoots where I uncovered something I didn’t know was going to be there, like the light that poured into the location where I was shooting for Lisa Leonard Designs. I still remember how happy I was to discover it, and I still love looking at these images. I was shooting details on a pretty girl, and then I was photographing magic.

It’s important to leave room for the unexpected, even when you are shooting for a client. The images I always end up showing are the ones I didn’t previsualize but made when I stayed open to making something new.

What about you? Whether you’re a photographer, a writer, a designer, or even a stay-at-home Mom, when has your creativity been jump-started by something you didn’t expect? Have you stumbled onto something that just *worked* for you? Tell me about it?

exquisitriebyKSauer0000529

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

the necessity of discovery | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

P.S. I know shot this so long ago, and I posted it already a long time ago, but I’m giving myself a Throwback Monday here because I haven’t seen the sun for over a week now, and I want to spend a little time there. And also, it made a good thought process for me today. So there’s that.

the black dress diaries – manantial

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The “Black Dress Diaries” are a seven-part mini-series born from a magical location shoot I did for a personal project here in Charleston, South Carolina. The shoot began as a simple portrait session with minimal styling and light I’d never used before, but as we shot, it became something more. I broke our 90 minutes together into several different stories to break down the “traveling” nature of the shoot, and I’m sharing these little “diaries” as a “travelogue” for the black dress.

This mini-set was the beginning of everything. My model, Haley and I found a bit of an “oasis” to begin our shoot, a stand of deep green set back from the sandy browns, blues, and neutrals of our beach setting. This one took on a feeling of newness, full up with rich life that we were just getting ready to step out into. I felt like it was a “wellspring” for the creativity we put into the shoot, and so it birthed its name through the exotic backdrop that made me think of Spain or Portugal with its passionate color and varied vegetation. “Manantial,” the Portuguese word for “wellspring,” was the perfect feeling for my inspirational starting point, the refreshing moment I found my courage to begin again.

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photographer – Kelly Sauer
Dress – Urban Outfitters
Model – Haley D.
Location – Charleston, S.C.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Almost every time I shoot, I see something, and I shoot it, and shoot it, and shoot it trying to figure out WHAT I was feeling in what I am seeing. But I inevitably have to stop shooting, and I don’t always get it straight out of the camera. Sometimes, though, I can find it later if I give myself some time, some permission, and a large enough file to uncover exactly what I was trying to capture.

This particular image took me a while, and it’s an outtake from a post I’m wanting to put up soon (so of course I will be featuring it twice because MY BLOG), but I cannot wait to share it, BECAUSE IT IS WHAT I WANT TO SHOOT. I dropped this in as I was prepping a little this morning, and my jaw. dropped. And it was all, “oh, hello, THAT was it!” I had tried to pull out too much on this one, and there was the shot, right there in front of me all the time.

I feel like I might be starting to figure this out…

And also, P.S., I am still looking for a couple or two to model a shoot for me. Pass it on?

love letters (with gossamer vintage)

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

“But pearls are for tears, the old legend says,” Gilbert had objected.

“I’m not afraid of that. And tears can be happy as well as sad. My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes—when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables—when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had—when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I’ll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy.”

– Anne, L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

This lovely little shoot went live at the Cottage Hill Journal back in October, when we were still settling in from our September move and I was all “what blogging?!”

This shoot is a classic example of what happens when your planned narrative goes awry and the story has to change. I had envisioned a beautiful vintage set with a lovely French vibe, but the day before the shoot, everything changed with a surprise package from one of our vendors, and I had to re-plan the whole thing overnight. I ended up “writing what I knew,” a sweet photo story inspired by my grandparents’ long-distance romance during World War II.

While this story wasn’t what I had originally planned, it has become one of my favorite sessions, combining the vintage appeal with a soft elegance that I always kind of read into my grandma’s house when I was growing up.

The shoot features a real bit of a new story: the boy’s hand in these pictures belongs to the young man who proposed to our lovely model just a couple of weeks after we photographed them. They graciously allowed me to create a little more intimacy in our shoot than they had allowed themselves to have yet, and I photographed their wedding in December. It’s going to be fun to share those real wedding photos here soon!

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by gossamer vintage

CREDITS

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Location: Private Residence
Gown: Shop Gossamer
Florals & Styling: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Hair and Makeup: Dannon K. Collard, MUA
Silk Ribbon: Silk and Willow
Vintage Details: Sarah Wallace & Kelly Sauer
Model: Kayla Miller
Set Assistant: Joshua Long

abundance, in process (with chaviano couture)

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

Posting so much of my work recently has me thinking a lot about my journey as an artist. I wanted to be “a photographer,” but I have ended up realizing that I am really an artist. And being an artist… well, that isn’t as easy as being a photographer. A photographer sees what is and retells it on camera. An artist sees what is and interprets it through a medium. A photographer mirrors reality; an artist looks for ways to explain it. And I am beginning to see that the two don’t always coexist very peacefully. As a photographer, I can make a business plan, but it might not work well because the artist may not yet be ready to be real enough in that plan.

I feel as though it is like creating a lovely gown: first you have to put the pieces for the vision together, and then you do the fitting, and then you sew it, and then you fit it again, then you add the trimmings, and then you put it on the girl for whom it was always meant, and THERE it is, the way you first dreamed it. But it takes time. And you have to be patient with the process, because you can’t just sell the muslin for walking down the aisle.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

When I started taking pictures, people were just wowed by “oh you take good pictures!” and they told me I should be paid for it. And I was wowed too, and I agreed. Then a few people started paying me to take pictures. And then, to my surprise, I couldn’t keep shooting the good pictures *I* wanted to take, because clients expected something from me. So I shot through what *I* would expect if I were paying someone to take pictures for me. Which isn’t a bad measure, but my artist side didn’t like that AT ALL, because timing and money and technicalities and production took over and the things I wanted to see and say got a bit lost in the shuffle of doing the work.

So what happens when the work is not its own reward? When “doing the work” is just “doing the work?” I wanted to be a photographer because the work itself rewarded me. It gave me back my life, it gave me back my passion. It let me sing my song.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

I know you’ll say that I’m doing good, and I’ll say YES, I AM DOING GOOD, and then I will say that I have never been so discouraged while doing good, because I am sad and it is hard and I have lost my voice. The dress is half-done, and I can see what it might be at the end of the process, but I’m the only one who sees the final vision, the only one who knows the gap between what I am doing and what I want to be doing. There is no one out there who can see that for me, or who can tell me how to get from here to there. And I can’t ask anyone else to believe in the vision before it has been brought to fruition.

The market is cruel, because it encourages the artist to pause in his growth in order to put food on his table. Not everyone has the option of relying on someone else’s support while making what is real to them. I am a little embarrassed that I have that option, but so very grateful that my husband works hard and diligently to care for us when I only get paid enough to help out with groceries and business bills once in a while. I don’t want to take that for granted. This is why I am taking some time in 2015 to be an artist and not just a photographer. I am giving myself permission not to say the same thing over and over again – but to speak about new things with the same voice.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer
custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

I’ve been posting a lot of work recently (and OH BOY do I have more), because *I* want to see it. Because part of my process requires seeing it again through others’ perspectives. Because I told these stories with my camera and wanted to share them, and they have been locked away for publication or editing or lack of time to share. Because I want to find the threads that connect my work, and the habits I want to break, and the things that hint at where I want to be at the end of all of this.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

It’s like a “behind the scenes” event, the story behind the story, and perhaps I am not as far along the road as I thought I was, but I feel so relieved to let go of “being all that.” A business like mine needs to grow organically and honestly, with lots of heart and letting go and holding on and being in love and embracing the lack along with the abundance to see the beauty in the promise until the promise is kept.

Thank you for letting me putter.

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer
custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

dress design by Chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer | exquisitrie
custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

custom gown by chaviano couture | photography by kelly sauer

CREDITS:

Images originally published at Style Me Pretty

 

as featured on Style Me Pretty 2014Photography: Exquisitrie By Kelly Sauer
Hair & Makeup: Brielle Brenner Of Blue Bird Artistry
Accessories: Carlee Sizemore
Models: Vivian Byrd
Venue: Private Residence
Ribbon: Frou Frou Chic
Set Styling: Carlee Sizemore
Veil: Chaviano Couture
Vintage Rentals: Blue Eyed Yonder
Wedding Gown & Design: Chaviano Couture

 

the bride wore glasses (with kelly lenard)

exquisitriebyKSauer0000386

I had an eye doctor tell me once (as he wrote out a very slight prescription for glasses for me) that my eyes were really good, and that I was probably just more sensitive to visual variations that most people. I sighed with relief, figuring I could live with a slight stigmatism, so long as I didn’t need to figure out contacts so that I could still take pictures. I’ve always had an aversion to sticking my fingers in my eyes (!!!), so I have been grateful to get away with only glasses when I need them for tired eyes.

I have often wondered how girls who *must* wear glasses work things out for their wedding days, and that curiosity led to a little mini-shoot with one of my favorites, Kelly Lenard, when I was pregnant last spring. We didn’t get it published, but I thought I would share it here anyway, especially since it features this gorgeous bouquet (one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen) and one of the most interesting and beautiful gowns I’ve ever shot, a rare, hand-pieced pineapple silk gown designed by Cathy Ebrada.

And of course I had to share it here because it features my own little flower girl along with our sweet model, who had just found out she was pregnant herself (talk about a fun personal connection with your subject!).

I think we made glasses look GOOD, and fun, and I hardly noticed them for the pretty. So here’s to the bride who is afraid she shouldn’t wear her glasses on her big day – girl, you can look amazing and just. like. wonderful. you.

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada
photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada
photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada
photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

photography by kelly sauer, florals by kelly lenard, gown by cathy ebrada

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Floral Design: Kelly Lenard, Intertwine
Gown: Ebrada Atelier
Model: Millie Lewis Models
Location: Charleston, SC
Hair & Makeup: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Shoes: Kohls
Canvas Backdrop: DIY + Home Depot

the black dress diaries – zahavah

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Hidden in the glorious wildness like unmined gold…
― John Muir

The “Black Dress Diaries” are a seven-part mini-series born from a magical location shoot I did for a personal project here in Charleston, South Carolina. The shoot began as a simple portrait session with minimal styling and light I’d never used before, but as we shot, it became something more. I broke our 90 minutes together into several different stories to break down the “traveling” nature of the shoot, and I’m sharing these little “diaries” as a “travelogue” for the black dress.

Today’s diary, Zahavah, carries a Hebrew name for “golden one,” given because of the light, the scarf we added for the ten or so minutes we shot herethe gentle middle-eastern feeling to some of these photos. I had worn the scarf (a Goodwill find!) as a fun fashion touch for the shoot that morning, and on a whim, I threw it into the shoot. I had no idea it was going to do what it did to the pictures until it happened.

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

black dress diaries | exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photographer – Kelly Sauer
Dress – Urban Outfitters
Scarf – Thrifted
Model – Haley D.
Location – Charleston, S.C.

model call/giveaway: couple wanted for free shoot

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

So let’s go from the low point to the highlight reel, and spin this all-time favorite shoot back into the light for a post. It’s been a long time since I shot this one (published in part at Grey Likes Weddings), but it is still the best of my best: a January day at the beach with a beautiful couple who just gave themselves over to the feeling of being in love and being “in it” together. They were “in it” for the styling I gave them, “in it” for time to play and laugh, “in it” for the changeable light, “in it” for the cold air forcing them into each other, “in it” for the tired that you get after a while on the beach with the wind bringing you life as it takes your breath away. Their story is still the one I want to shoot over and over.

This is my dream photography session, taking real people in real life moments and making it feel like it could have been scripted for a movie, or a catalog shoot, or Anthropologie or something. I want more of these.

SO. I’m trying to do a shoot per week right now, having discovered a couple of weeks ago that it is *amazing* for my morale to do things like this, and while I have a pretty good “sense of the person” on my solo portrait work, one of the areas I need to explore a little more is my “sense of the couple.” Wedding and editorial schedules don’t accommodate much romance, and I am looking for a playful, sensitive couple or two who will let me look on with my camera while you let go and play in whatever setting we end up choosing together. (This non-wedding session has a $1250 value.)

If you think you’d be a good fit for my style and you want to have some free photos (I’d even take an elopement shoot here if the couple is right!), please email me (info@exquisitrie.com) a couple of photos of you as a couple, along with a short paragraph about why you feel you and I would be a good fit for pictures. I’d like to be able to plan and schedule your shoot before the end of March, 2015.

P.S. Even if I don’t choose you for a free shoot, I will give any couple who responds to this post a reduced session rate. OFFER CLOSES ON FEBRUARY 27, 2015.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway
exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway
exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer photography session giveaway

CREDITS

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Venue: Isle of Palms County Park
Gladiolas: Tiger Lily
Hair: Casey at Canvas Hair Color & Design
Cake & Confections: Whole Foods Bakery
Black Dress, Blue Throw, Matt’s Hat, Kelly’s Hat: Target
Matt’s Shoes: Converse
Pink Necklace: Old Navy

abundance – through failure

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

Sometimes, the “behind the scenes” images really aren’t that pretty. This shoot has that kind of a behind-the-scenes story. It is a story about a mistake I made, about being human, and about missing the mark and trying again in spite of a major error. These images are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever made, but they also some of the most painful for me personally. This was the lovely shoot I did last spring with Grey Likes Weddings and Type A Society and Claire Pettibone. This was the shoot that was supposed to jump-start my photography career into greatness, in spite of the fact that I was pregnant and headed into a maternity leave sabbatical. It was to be yet another frame for my highlight reel. Instead, it became one of the most humbling experiences of my entire life.

The mistake I made was not even a rookie mistake. It was… the worst mistake I have ever made on a shoot, ever. I have no explanation outside of jet lag and learning curve and pregnancy brain, and I still fault myself for the carelessness that caused it. It was the equivalent of those nightmares you have when you show up in public with your clothes off, and even if nobody sees, you know the truth.

Y’all. I forgot to load the film into one of my cameras for the first part of the shoot.

I lost not only the amazing work I did with that camera (it was INCREDIBLE, le sigh!), but also a lot of the momentum I’d had for going forward. I lost a lot of respect for myself. The moment I discovered the empty camera was quite possibly the most embarrassing moment of my entire life. I can’t remember when I have felt so sick.

And while I still have some exquisite images (Claire Pettibone and Type A Society make that possible no matter WHAT you mess up!) and a publication at Grey Likes Weddings from the overall shoot, I will never be able to look at these pictures without re-learning a measure of care for my work.

This shoot is a somewhat beautiful marker of a low point for me, the fine art that came out of the middle of my real life, a reminder that things do not always go according to plan, even when you know what you are doing. I have struggled for almost a year with my disappointment, but I need to let it go so I can keep moving forward.

The thing about these situations is that you are not interacting with “greatness,” as it were. Not your greatness or their greatness. If you keep your feet on the ground and look down from the clouds where you want to fly, you will see that the people who create a shoot are just people, and we all have our limitations and our imperfections. The amazing people who worked on this shoot with me were so full of grace when they heard about my mistake – I was the hardest on me of anyone. Working with them with my own limitations was the best gift I received through this experience.

I’m sharing the story here with these overdue photos to encourage the person who has also made mistakes and doesn’t know if they should keep going. You may lose a little respect for yourself sometimes in whatever you pursue, and your confidence may slip because you don’t get it right every time, but in the end, it’s getting up again that matters – getting up and facing your failure head-on. Owning your failures gives you that much more right to own your successes.

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitriebyKSauer0000412

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | gown by claire pettibone | styled by grey likes & type a society

CREDITS

Photography: EXQUISITRIE BY KELLY SAUER
Set and Fashion Styling: SUMMER WATKINS
Cakes:MAGNOLIA BAKERY
Floral Styling: TYPE A SOCIETY
Calligraphy: JENNA RAINEY
Hair: KARILYN TURLEY
Makeup: Lauren Peter, BLUSHING MAKEUP ARTISTRY
Gown: “Devotion” by CLAIRE PETTIBONE

A Senior Session – with Alexandra Grecco

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”

― Neil Gaiman, M Is for Magic

One of the things I love about my photography is that it lets me pull many of my girlhood dreams into my real life and live them out a little bit with others who aren’t as shy as I can be to live the most beautiful things a little louder. It’s why I love photographing seniors, and it’s why I love designers like Alexandra Grecco who tell us that we are never too old to play a little dress-up and to feel as lovely as we want to feel in our everyday real lives.

I can’t believe my friend Madison is a senior this year. It feels like just yesterday that I met her when I photographed her family a few years ago. She was fifteen then, and now she is going on womanhood, full of gentle grace and deep kindness, wise beyond her years. With her sweet innocence and open heart, she challenges me to set my grown-up cynicism aside, encourages me to keep trusting the Lord with the story He has for my life, and reminds me that hope does not always disappoint. She is truly one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.

She is also a photographer in her own right, and she sees the way I see – the small details, the story behind the stories we tell with our cameras. She’s so fun to work with, because I can tell her my process as I shoot and she can tell me her process as she finds herself under the camera. Unlike many of my clients, she sees the full image we are making, not just the way she looks in the pictures. There is *nobody* else I have ever photographed that I would just hand the camera to look at every photo, not just my cull.

This shoot was another spur-of-the-moment session like the one I shared yesterday. Madison decided to stay the night (I love that she felt safe enough with us to just do that!) and the next morning, we grabbed the camera and dressed up again for these light-filled pictures that I don’t quite believe are mine. I am telling you – shooting what *I* want to shoot is knocking me over these last few weeks…

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer | skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | la joie, la vie

first dance, last light | with alexandra grecco

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

 

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing
does the painter do good things.”

― Edgar Degas

 

Then there was that time that someone you really admire sent you a gift, and it was the perfect serendipitous inspirational sort of thing that gave you all kinds of ideas for personal things, and you had to just try it out as soon as you could, and then you ended up discovering a whole new level to your artistic ability. Yes. That.

I *love* Alexandra Grecco. I have followed her design work for a couple of years, and I just love how much fun her clients have with her pretty tulle skirts and her brand new wedding line. Also, I think she is just one of the sweetest, coolest people I have run across online. That made me brave enough to see if she would let me borrow a wedding gown of hers to shoot last year, and then last week, she offered me one of her skirts in exchange for pictures, and well, of course I was all I can do pictures. If you love my work and trust me to make it for you, I CAN DO PICTURES.

So my friend Madison and I caught the very last bit of light on Friday night before Pete and I went out for a quick normal-ish date (what Valentine’s plans?!?). Now, when you can’t see in the dark, the review screen on your camera practically blinds you, and manual focus on your favorite lens becomes a wonderful challenge – but if your heart is awake, you can make magic, even if you don’t realize until afterward. I accidentally shot Degas when I was just chasing the light.

There is a part two to this shoot, an unplanned second bit that we did after Madison spent the night on the spur-of-the-moment. I kind of love how my real life is producing some amazing photography opportunities. You just have to keep your eyes open and grab them when they come, you know?

 

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie
photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

photography by kelly sauer, tulle skirt by alexandra grecco | exquisitrie, la joie, la vie

the black dress diaries – hafsa

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

LIONESS

“I swore when I woke up this morning my heart was singing. Or flying. Either way, I just knew. The sun snuck in through my window grazing my cheeks, whispering “you are beautiful.” It sent a surge deep inside and the butterflies opened their eyes from gentle dreams and began to dance. Pirouetting inside of my soul. I don’t believe in broken hearts; well, I did until I listened closely to mine. I can hear it beating like a lover’s ear on the other’s chest. Its rhythms exuding love;life;fire;lions roaring in the middle of the night. With every beat the fire grows, igniting electricity to shoot through my whole body—passion. I will never turn cold or calculating because my heart is big enough to sing for those who don’t want to hear anything. Can you hear how loud it is pounding for you? My extended fingertips are sending solace to your soul. Dance. Sing. Shout. Just don’t sit in silence when your heart wants to roar.”

KATIE AHLERS, HELLO POETRY

The “Black Dress Diaries” are a seven-part mini-series born from a magical location shoot I did for a personal project here in Charleston, South Carolina. The shoot began as a simple portrait session with minimal styling and light I’d never used before, but as we shot, it became something more. I broke our 90 minutes together into several different stories to break down the “traveling” nature of the shoot, and I’m sharing these little “diaries” as a “travelogue” for the black dress.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitriebyKSauer0000267

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

You know how sometimes you have so much to say, you don’t know what to say first? I have one of those situations. I promised a post this week, and I haven’t posted because I have so MUCH to post. I had this uh-mazing shoot on Sunday, and I got SEVEN small stories out of it – that I’m not submitting to be published anywhere, because personal work, and I want to do some more shooting into my own style before I really start marketing my work again this year.

So I am debating about what to post here at my blog, and debating about making some changes at my website and opening up a genuine fashion/lifestyle portfolio, and mostly, I am just dying to tell you at least some of these stories. So if you don’t mind, here goes this little series I made after an hour and a half of shooting (!!!) and months of pent-up creativity, and while you enjoy this little post (and maybe a few more soon!), I’ll go back to stewing over the direction I’m taking for the rest of my photographic life here.

CREDITS

Photographer – Kelly Sauer
Dress – Urban Outfitters
Model – Haley D.
Location – Charleston, S.C.

once upon a morning – rumpled

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

It is one of those days. The kind of day where you wake up with a broken heart and it seems more prudent to simply tear off all your clothes and go live the rest of your life in some distant, isolated mountain range with the goats and the people who don’t care.

I’m tired of the spiral. I am tired of picking myself up and up and up again, of riding really high for a little bit, only to crash hard to the bottom of a cliff I didn’t realize was there. But this is the year I didn’t quit. A year for abundance. It’s already February, and I feel like I am still waiting to figure out what abundance means.

I am SO pragmatic sometimes that I can make a whole life plan out of what is right in front of me, and then have the plan go to smithereens when I realize that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing the practical thing, and oh my word, how does my *heart* fit into all of this?

You have to mix the hard and the soft, Kelly – you can’t be all one or the other.

Yeah. Okay. Somebody tell me how to do that.

I did a shoot on Sunday morning. It was incredible. I shot some things I’ve been meaning to shoot. I discovered some things I wanted to discover. And I vented through my camera, so that most of the pictures don’t really go with my brand. It was really the visual equivalent of my old crashing piano rants. I’ll show you what I did soon. This is, after all, what a blog is for. Banging on the piano.

I’d been contemplating a sabbatical this year so I could solidify my voice. So I could like *my* work best of all. So I could turn off the “gaaaaahhhh, I’m so in love with what THEY shot…” in my head. Heh.

And then somebody asked me to shoot a wedding. And somebody else asked me to shot something else really cool. And let’s face it. I don’t really want to stop shooting to give myself permission to shoot again.

I am on auto-pilot and I am restless. It SHOWS. (You’ll see, probably tomorrow and for the rest of this week.) I need to turn off the voices in my head and make what I really want to make. I need to give myself permission to be in-between. I need to be patient with myself.

I need to sit down and have a good cry.

Once upon a morning, I woke up, and I got dressed, and I did the next thing and the next thing, and this is what faith is, because isolated mountaintops aren’t really an option for most people. It might take me years and years, but I am going to live into this.

Hearth Magazine Publication – A Tuscan-Inspired Picnic

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

Last year, right around the time Noley was born and our moving-house saga began, one of my shoots was published in Hearth Magazine, Volume 4. This was another print publication that came from my wonderful experience with the team we made at The Goodstone Inn. I loved how well this little photo story fit with the theme for the magazine – “a beautiful collection of stories and pictures about living the good life” – and I am happy to finally have an opportunity to share it here at the blog so you can see.

We imagined an elegant sort of picnic date for our two models (who are really a couple!), with bare feet, eyelet, a light smorgasbord, a few sweet moments, and a Tuscan-inspired setting provided by the beautifully-textured pool house at the Goodstone Inn. These photos contain some stunningly-styled details from Rebecca Gallop – the more I look at this, the more in love I am with her work that day (and all the time!) – and a sweet little strawberry bouquet created by Meredith at the Goodstone Inn. Also, I got to photograph some of the most beautiful bread I have ever seen from Knead and Know, whose work has been taking off since we shot. Y’all, I wish you could have SMELLED them.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop 8

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitriebyKSauer0000193

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | styling by rebecca gallop

FULL CREDITS:

Venue: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
Set Design & Styling: Rebecca Gallop
Styling Assistant: Tia Stockton
Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Models: Rebekah Pizana, Kyle Murray
Dress: Calvin Klein
His Jacket: Banana Republic
His Slacks: Express
His Shirt: Calvin Klein
Flower Source: Fields of Flowers
Bouquet: Meredith Kope, The Goodstone Inn
Artisan Bread: Knead & Know
Vintage Linens & Textiles: Rebecca Gallop
Pipe: Peterson

Noley and Me

kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

So I almost never get pictures of myself with my littles (see the cobbler’s children and all that), but I had some friends staying with us a couple of weeks ago, and on the spur of the moment, I asked for some pictures of me with my Noley. Her babyhood was something I wanted to treasure, and something I have held onto every moment that I could, and it is going far too fast for me. She is so ready to keep up with her older siblings, already pulling herself up onto things and trying to be where they are – I am watching my baby grow away before my eyes.

But I wanted a picture, so I handed off my camera to my friend Heather, and she made these images for me while we all tried to get Noley to smile (which is usually not a hard job, but I think she was overwhelmed with us all!). So anyway. Here’s a picture of me. With my seven-month-old. With no makeup and my hair falling down. And it’s blurry, to boot. But hey. This is life with her. It’s a real thing, so I’m gonna be okay with it.

Emails and Apologies – A Personal Note

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | invitation by mk sadler | ribbon by silk & willow

Dear friends,

When I relaunched my photography brand as Exquisitrie last year, I paid someone else to set up my emails for me, since I am not the most tech-savvy person I know. Almost as soon as I had rebranded, however, most of my email stopped coming. I thought that it was just that I was pregnant and on maternity leave. Then I thought that I must be doing something wrong with my photography and nobody wanted anything to do with whatever I had blown up with my rebrand. And then I realized that people weren’t getting my emails, and I wasn’t getting theirs.

I missed emails from people I very much wanted to talk to. I missed queries from brides who wanted to hire me because they loved my work. I missed emails from vendors I was working with and from subscriptions I had specifically requested.

On Wednesday, with the help of my web hosting provider, I uncovered the extent of the damage, a combination of a forwarding issue and Google’s overzealous spam filters. I have been absolutely sick, watching emails come in from last year that I seemingly ignored because I never received them.

Things are back up and running, albeit a little slowly because of the massive number of emails being sorted now, but I felt the need to make this issue a public one, since it has publicly affected my brand and my desired interaction with anyone who emails me. If you have tried to email me and have not heard back from me, please know that the oversight was not intentional on my part.

Thank you for sticking with me, if you have, and for leaving things in my inbox that have helped me feel encouraged about my work this week, even if I didn’t see them until right now, when I needed it. If I missed your email before and you still want to connect, please, please, please try again!

Sincerely,

Kelly Sauer, Exquisitrie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | invitation by mk sadler | ribbon by silk & willow

CREDITS

Styling – Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Invitation Pieces – M.K. Sadler
Silk Ribbon – Silk & Willow
Voile Backdrop – Restoration Hardware

behind the lens | an honest evaluation

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

What do you do when your own work isn’t your favorite work? When you don’t know what you’re doing any more because everything is on auto-pilot? When you haven’t done what you’ve wanted to do for so long you forgot what that was? I’m really asking.

I’m trying to decide if I should keep going at this photography thing, and if I should keep going, how should I keep going? I don’t think I want to quit, but I want my work to feel real. I want it to be different. I want to not look like anybody else because I am myself and my work is my own.

What do you do when others are making things that you would make in the way that you would have made them? I am wrestling with this, because as each day passes and I am unable to do what I dream of doing, it seems as though my original ideas aren’t so original anymore.

I have been making a list of words, because many of my pictures come through words, or rather, from the feelings behind the words. I have words for my ideal clients, for other photographers I admire, for designers whose work I want to photograph, for my clients, for my brand. I have words for favorite inspiration shoots. I think I have words because photography is my way to say what I don’t know how to say. Because when I speak with my mouth, I don’t sound very smart.

I am at least talented to speak where my pictures are concerned. But I feel like I need new things to say. And to be honest, I feel like I DO have new things to say. I just don’t know how to say them yet, and I don’t have time to figure them out. I feel a bit… less because of this. Because I’m not like this person. Because I don’t take these pictures. Because I am afraid to say what I really want to say.

What is with that?

I heard from someone recently that I shoot whatever I want to shoot – they couldn’t nail down anything in particular in which I specialize. My business gave me angry eyes over that one, but I confess, my heart did a little “yippee,” because I’ve spent a lot of time trying not to be boxed in. Trying not to be too frame-able. It’s a dumb way to make money, but really? I want to shoot whatever I want to shoot. And I want to get away with it.

And that is narrowing down a bit. My blog design has stayed for a while. And my website design. My fonts and formats aren’t moving around the way they used to do. Maybe moving to a new house and focusing on that stuff in real life made a difference for me. Or maybe I’m just happy to be where I am. I think it could be both.

But my pictures feel a little lost. Maybe because when you shoot for publication, you shoot into someone else’s brand? I feel like I’ve lost something precious. Like part of me is missing when I pick my camera up, and I have to shoot my way through the noise to remember what it is. I used to see *life* when I looked through my lens. Now… I think I just see pictures. And pictures aren’t really enough of a reason for me to put all this energy into my photography business.

I know how I see now, anyway. It’s all locked up, waiting for a chance to come out. I am tired of the same. It isn’t me. It isn’t true. It is what I felt I had to do, and I can’t even remember why.

My word list is SO GOOD. I’ll share it soon – I promise. By the end of this year, I want *my* work to be my favorite. Not to knock everyone else whose work I admire and love. But it’s gotta be mine, you know? Or I don’t have any business selling it, or putting so much of my heart into it. I’d like to keep telling the truth with my work. To say the words that are true to me. To share my own story without being afraid of it not being like someone else’s story – or without being afraid if it *is* like someone else’s story.

I guess that’s a tall order. I guess that’s okay. I mean, the fact that I’m doing this at all is impossible anyway.

a springtime editorial story

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

If you follow my work (and I know a few of you do!), you’ll have seen bits and pieces of this shoot over the last couple of years, but I have never shared it in full because it was awaiting a print publication, and then I got pregnant, and well… ANYWAY.

This shoot was the first time I had worked with a team, and before it was done, I had shot five different sets in an afternoon (you’ve already seen a couple here – the gold dress I liked, and this little engagement party). As it is, because the work is almost two years old, it isn’t exactly current to where I am, so I am shy to share it, but I do love these photos and I want to tell you something specific that I learned through this shoot:

 
There is much more to photography than simply taking pictures.
 

I had no idea what I was doing here. I was taking pictures. Rendering opinions. Making little stories. Practicing with film. I am embarrassed to admit that at the time I didn’t really think about what everyone else was putting into what I was photographing.

You hear that “what I do could not be done without the help of my team,” and it is easy to skip over that seeming “caveat” and assume it is just a nice way to give credit where credit is due. You still think it is all about the photography and how amazing the pictures turn out so that publishers will want to feature everyone. You shoot what you think is important, and don’t really consider anything else.

This shoot – and some real relationships with other creatives – began a process that has been changing my perspective, and I am so deeply honored to share the other creatives who so generously let me photograph things that mattered to them.

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

The whole thing began when my friend Rebekah Pizana turned a simple request for a portrait session into a full-styled shoot with the help of her friends. I wasn’t sure what to do when she brought on Rebecca Gallop of A Daily Something to create our set design and style, and then Rebecca brought on another friend, Tia Stockton, who baked perfect pies and assisted with styling AND modeling. The next thing I knew, the girls had brought in another friend of mine at the Goodstone Inn, who opened their doors to us for our “little” shoot.

I didn’t know then that the people I was working with were SO. GOOD. at what they do. I can be clueless sometimes about things like that – people are people to me – and in this case, I honestly, truly, crazily had no idea how much working with these amazing people was going to humble me and overhaul my direction as a photographer.

It is easy to take people for granted when you have your own goals, but I have been learning that the more intimately I engage others’ work, the more I treasure my own work. Florists and stylists and bakers and designers pour every bit as much (and maybe more!) heart into their work as photographers do. I think a good photographer remembers that, and makes space to feel the heart behind what they photograph.

Knowing this and creating space to be an introvert within my work means that I am pulling back a lot in 2015 with what I shoot. I want every detail of every shoot to be consistent with my direction and my overall aesthetic, and I want to really invest in every person involved with my photography.

I wish that I had done better from behind my lens, knowing now so much more what each person brought to the shoot when I was “just taking pictures,” but these photos hold some of my best photography memories, and a lot of kindness, and a special group of people who made me feel special too.

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something
goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something
goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something
goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something
goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

goodstone inn photography by kelly sauer | styling by a daily something

CREDITS:

Venue: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
Set Design & Styling: Rebecca Gallop
Styling Assistant: Tia Stockton
Photography: Kelly Sauer
Models: Rebekah Pizana, Kyle Murray, Tia Stockton
Dress: Ebrada Atelier
Groom’s Jacket: Banana Republic
Groom’s Slacks: Express
Groom’s Shirt: Calvin Klein
Bowtie & Pocket Square: Van Heusen
Flower Source: Fields of Flowers
Floral Styling: Rebecca Gallop, Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Pies: Tia Stockton

bridal inspiration – persephone’s spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

You haven’t blogged this one yet?” Pete was a little incredulous when he looked over my shoulder at lunchtime today. I know, I know, it’s a good one, and it was published last year, around the time that Noley came, and y’all, I am so far BEHIND on my blogging, I’m having to redefine “caught up.” But you see, I can’t not blog, and seeing as I have a little bit of “free” time for blogging and a lot of pictures that are dying to be shared, I’m just going to eke these out little by little.

This shoot is running a very close competition with one other shoot for my favorite shoot of 2014. I shot it for my wedding giveaway post at Once Wed last year, and while it wasn’t eventually featured there, Wedding Sparrow took this film work and let it shine for a bit. And then Hochzeitsguide picked it up and shared it in Germany, and y’all, I LOVE this shoot.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitriebyKSauer0000114

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | persephone spring

Also, I have to tell you. I’m really looking forward to what is happening for me this year. I’m redefining my “success,” so that it no longer equals momentum in my brain. I’m going to take things slow, pull back my formal marketing, and rebuild my blog. The more room I make for me, the more room I can make for others, and last year, that space was sorely lacking. I putzed around trying to be something for everybody and by trying to be everything, I ended up totally empty and falling so far short, I nearly quit. By the end of 2015, I want everything I shoot to be consistent with what I see before I ever pick up a camera. I want my work to be my own, no matter what anybody else might say or think.

I think I have it in me to be different, to push past the “reaching” in my work this year and really inhabit it. I have been sick this week (still – can you believe.), and I haven’t been able to work, so my artist side is playing with the down time, giving me words and words about who I am and what is my work and what does it want to be. I’m excited – for as long as I have been taking pictures, I’ve been shooting into someone else’s story, and now, I know I have my own. It feels very RIGHT, like it’s the thing I’ve been missing for all the years I was trying to be someone else behind my camera. I’m so ready to stop feeling trapped.

I am looking for a few people/models who would be willing to let me play over the next few months, since people are my happy place with the camera. If you’re interested in having some Kelly Sauer photos and fun, please contact me. I am looking forward to working with you!

CREDITS

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab
Gown: Sarafina Dreams
Earrings: World Market
Veil, Headpiece & Barefoot Sandal: DIY
Location: Private Residence, Charleston, South Carolina
Styling & Florals: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Styling Assistant: Pam Crocker
Model: Emily S., Millie Lewis Models & Talent
Flower Source: Foraged + Whole Foods Market

abundance – in the life of a mama

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”
― Jodi Picoult

You know you’d give your life for them, but what do you do on the days you can’t do that, when you have to let them be sick or talk to them softly and bravely while they are strapped down for testing? What do you do when all you can do is hold them and pray without words, when all the things that were important yesterday just aren’t that important anymore, because they have to be okay, or you won’t ever be okay again?

You do the thing you can’t do. You get up again and again, and you hold on and you get all the help you can get and give all the help you can give, and you cease to be you until they can be them again.

I knew this. My mom told me this is what happens when you have children. I didn’t want to believe her, and then as we raced, terrified, for the ER on Saturday, trying to keep my baby with us after a fall from our bed, something inside me shifted, because whether I wanted it or not, my entire purpose and existence depended on my sweet child being okay, or I would never be okay again.

Yesterday, the day after she was hurt, felt normal to me, but I knew I held a miracle in my arms; however surreal the memory, I will never forget the way the light went out of her eyes after she fell and her little body convulsed with the concussion. She wanted to sleep, and I couldn’t let her go, couldn’t make it better. I kept calling her back, talking to her, trying to pique her interest, breathing only once they had hooked her up to check her vital signs, holding her while she slept with the neck collar on, singing to her over the lump in my throat that she would be okay while she had a CT scan, all wrapped up and unable to move. And then, just a few hours later, she was back, her curious, bouncy self, and she smiled at me and at her daddy and at Pip and Squiggy, and I knew she wouldn’t even remember being hurt, even as I knew it would stay with me in my heart until I die.

I’ve known mothers who have been through what I went through on Saturday, and I have known mothers who’ve lost their babies, and mothers who are with their babies day in and day out as they hang onto life by a thread and a breath, and I know that I am so very weak and so very passed over compared to them, for I have received mercy, and small graces of the ridiculous kind, and God has not yet allowed anything so hard for me.

This year, as I consider abundance, I am wrestling with questions that are bigger than I am. Life, death, breathing, not breathing – I don’t think I can live with abundance when I am always trying to avoid the things that make me afraid. Fear says “this will happen,” predicting a future that it doesn’t have the right to define. I have never wished to live in my moments so much as I have wished it in the last few days. I feel that may be where abundance lies, in moving on to the next moment and living there, instead of putting off my life until I feel free to live it, with all risks removed.

I am holding my baby extra close, because she is here, and she is smiling and giggling and fussing at me and I am so glad to have her here still, needing me. I feel that maybe I am tasting abundance each time I tell her I love her, each time I feel her warmth and absorb her happy little hugs.

It is a beginning. And I am glad to have that, and to know I have that.

Friday Favorites VI

It has been WAY too long since I got to do one of these posts, but I have been saving some stuff up to share, and I want to revive this little series of posts in 2015. I may only do one per month (they can be time-consuming), but I’m just so happy to get to share some of my very favorite things from around the Web, the things that I keep coming back to for inspiration, encouragement, or just general happy feelings.

 

1.) A Favorite Quote

“When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.”
― Philip K. Dick

 

2.) A Favorite Inspiration – Once Wed and Madison James Wedding Ideas at Coqui Coqui

photo by MK Sadler for Once Wed | Madison James in Tulum
PHOTO: M.K. SADLER

 

3.) A Favorite Idea – Relocating to France

photo credit - unknown | la joie, la vie
PHOTO: JANNE PETERS

 

4.) A Favorite Pin

I am pretty much in love with the elegant lines, the textures, the mood, and the old oil-painted feeling of the photo created by the grain in the film. Someday, I want to be able to do this with my own photos.

by PH. Paolo Roversi
PHOTO: PH PAOLO ROVERSI

 

5.) A Favorite Photographer (and his inspiration) – “Photography is Joy

You lose a little bit in translation here, but if you watch the video, if you spend any time behind the camera, if you love photographing people – you will get it. I love Carlo Carletti.

photo by Carlo Carletti | shared at la joie, la vie
PHOTO: CARLO CARLETTI

 

6.) A Favorite Challenge (from Chase Jarvis) – Get Used to Hearing “No.”

“…When you start to hear a lot of “yes”, consider doing what it takes to hear a bit more “no”. I’m betting that you’ll thank me – or more importantly, thank yourself.” – Chase Jarvis

 

7.) A Favorite Fun Thing – My Tumblr (j’adore le style)

I revived this little board again over Christmas, when we were all really too sick to do much of anything but sit around and be all bleary. We are fighting round two again after just part of a week off, so I’m looking forward to adding a little bit to this collection!

j'adore le style | kelly sauer tumblr

 

8.) A Favorite Personal Photo

This wedding is coming soon with my very first publication at Snippet & Ink – one of my favorite photography moments happened this week when I got a “yes” to a submission to which I didn’t expect a yes. Lara Casey said a few years ago that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and this was a shot I took, just to see what would happen. Y’all, I didn’t miss this shot. You just never know what will happen when you put yourself out there. It’s not always this amazing, but you do win some.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | wedding preview

 

And that does it for me today – I have other things to do, like editing a wedding and running out to pick up medicines and such to make sleeping easier for us this weekend. If you think of us, pray for us? It isn’t easy keeping all my people alive and thriving. It’s all just hanging on and being patient while we get better.

What has been inspiring you lately? Anything good you want to share somewhere? I’d love to see!

mood board | i might secretly like green

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | mood board

Officially, I hate green. I’m not sure why this is, exactly, since it is actually one of my favorite colors. Maybe it’s the way it translates into the digital cameras, or the way it can be *really* ugly sometimes. But every once in a while, I get in a green mood, and EVERYTHING MUST BE GREEN. This week, surrounded by cold and brown and tired and too much blue in the sky (I like THAT better with clouds and color – variegated skies are incredible, don’t you think so too?), I have just been craving green. So, I made a mood board. Enjoy.

CREDITS

1. decorative country living
2. Gage-Betterton
3. samantha hobson
4. inks and thread

one word 2015 | abundance

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“A gift that cannot be given away ceases to be a gift. The spirit of a gift is kept alive by its constant donation…” – Lewis Hyde, Introduction, The Gift

In 2014, my life became very small. I kept making mistakes. I kept getting hurt. And I kept shutting down in order to Get Things Done. I stopped taking time to inhabit my life. I just… got through. I knew there was going to be some fallout when I could make time to process things beyond survival mode, but I didn’t really know that the walls I was building around myself were going to start fissuring before I was ready for them to come down. Before I felt safe enough to pull them down brick by brick.

Desire is the earthquake that is bringing them down. Desire and the God behind it, the One who gave me my photography dream in the first place, the One who created me with all this artistic wrestling and inadvertent authenticity, the only One I really trust to love me with my foot in my mouth and my heart in the right place.

I am in a place with my art this year where I need everything I do to come from the realest, deepest parts of me, and I can’t just go by halves. I need to be able to give my art away and to feel that I won’t be losing anything when I do. I need to not be “stretched” or “strained” or “pinched” or “measured.” I want to be “abandoned” and “full” and “generous” and “extravagant.”

ExquisitriebyKellySauer

For this year, I have been given “abundance” for my word, the larger-than-life opposite of the smallness that ended my 2014, the risky “put-you-out-there-and-let-Me-be-God” answer to the regrets and the brokenness that flood through the cracks in my protective walls. I am one part curious, five parts hopeful, and a whole lotta parts scared to death, but I can’t not accept the word. It’s what I want. And I want to see God be as big as He says He is on this one, making crooked paths straight, providing or repairing relationships and fellowships, making space for me to love as fully as I want to love and dream as big as He made me to dream.

bridal inspiration | a girl and her dream

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” ― Roman Payne
 

What sort of bride do I want to be? The question comes to the four-year-old who wants to make her Sunday School classmate her Prince Charming for life, to the sixteen-year-old falling hard for her first true love, and to the newly-engaged girl faced with the idea of planning her wedding. I tell my brides to be willing to choose what they want; I tell them that I will help defend their dreams. I always hope that my pictures will capture the vision that they had for their wedding day.

I have shared a peek at this little session here at the blog before, but I ran across the shoot again this morning and I found the post I knew was hiding in there when I initially shot and processed these a few weeks before Noley was born. The light and the freshness of my teenage friend playing dress-up with me just tickled my fancy, so I’ve spent most of the day putzing around with the images and trying to find something to write to go with them. It has been too long since I have written, however, and the words aren’t coming easily at all, so I’ll give you the above quote for now and keep trying on the writing another day.

The pictures are worth several thousand words anyway, right?

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

CREDITS

Photography & Styling:
Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Location: Charleston, SC
Model: Audrey B.
Gown: Aire Barcelona

january, twenty-fifteen

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

i learned last year that “i am river,” that being “a photographer” when i am really an artist is madness, that i do not take the pictures i want to take. there are behind me and changes ahead of me – and waiting with my questions until i can begin to act on the change is uncomfortable, especially when i am feeling the need to have *something* defined. so i guess i will try to define the few things i have uncovered within my questions for living in this new year.

i am an introvert, and a feeler, and a seer. i have to be these things in twenty-fifteen. i have to make room for my real, in my business and in my art. i have danced around my heart for years, trying to gain the approval of others, but i still haven’t lived fully into my own consistently unique voice that would have someone ask me to photograph them “because no one else is doing this.”

there are a few things i want:

i want to blog more and not be afraid to journal a bit while i do.
i want to photograph real people doing real things in real life.
i want to learn about light and how dark makes it brighter.
i want to define my style more than ever before.
i want an artistic friend in my life so that i don’t have to work by myself so much.

and there are a few things i need:

i need time to shoot my own vision.
i need artistic people in my world who are willing to let me explore my art with them.
i need to stop seeking anyone else’s approval.
i need to let some old professional relationships go – and be okay with it.
i need to allow myself to grow, even if it scares me.

i have begun to see what i have never been able to see about myself. it is not what i *should* be, it is what i *could* be if i can be fully present and okay with myself in being so present. i have this shy-and-giddy feeling growing behind the heaviness that grew out of my sense of failure in 2014. i think i’ve known for a while that i was trying to live into others’ stories. i think i have been ashamed of my own.

i hope that twenty-fifteen can be a year in which i can go as slow as i need to go. even if i am working, i want to create the space for myself within my work to make art that really means something to me, instead of defaulting to what is easy for me. i hope to really learn what i *want* to shoot. and i hope that i can really grow beyond the technicalities of “photography” and tell the stories i really want to tell with my camera.

IMAGE CREDITS

the photo above is a preview from my very favorite shoot with kelly lenard last year. i think i have been afraid to finish it and send it out into the world, but i am feeling hopeful that soon it will be ready to share.

you just start talking…

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Sometimes it is good for me to try things I haven’t tried. I usually avoid shooting in low light, almost never pulling my camera out after the sun goes down. But last night, my friend Shelby asked me if I would take a picture for her, and since my camera was just sitting there, I decided I’d push myself a little. We took about twenty minutes with her in a favorite dress of mine (she was just trying it on, and then we were photographing it – ha!), and I kept turning off the lights to really focus the light. It was nice to create something after the sun went down, and while I am most definitely a child of the day, I kind of love finding that the night can be friendly too.

This little shoot was a special one, with both Shelby and me feeling our way in the dark lately, just exploring our lives in the way that we do. She dances when she aches, and I… well, I don’t know how to say it. It isn’t always pictures for me. I think maybe I dance too, in my way. This one was a deeply sweet release, gentle risk meeting quiet strength neither of us often acknowledge for ourselves.

“On nights like this when the air is so clear, you end up saying things you ordinarily wouldn’t. Without even noticing what you’re doing, you open up your heart and just start talking to the person next to you — you talk as if you have no audience but the glittering stars, far overhead.”
― Banana Yoshimoto

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

She is Seven Now

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
 

“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.”
– P.C. Cast

 
 
I was going to try to do Piper’s birthday shoot before Noley came, but our little tagalong wanted to keep up with her older siblings and came two weeks before we were officially ready for her. So as it was, we had to move Pip’s yearly birthday shoot up to… whenever we could fit it in. And we fit it in on the spur of the moment, when the new light in the new house and some Elizabeth Messina inspiration tickled my fancy one afternoon.

Noley fussed at us, and Bredon played around us (I had to keep asking him to move!), and I used an eight-by-ten empty space in our not-yet-settled living room to take pictures of my girl-turned-seven, who was only half cooperating. Our shoots together always have that wonderfully authentic “grab it while you can” feeling, have you noticed?

 

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
She is amazing. I think that about once a day, when I see how much she has grown and how big she is getting. She carries Noley around (although *that* is not my favorite thing, since the baby is already half her size!), and she talks to her and plays the role of Bredon’s best friend. She is our biggest helper and our biggest mess-maker. She is an artist in the truest, loveliest sense of the word, abandoned to whatever she is doing, and completely lacking in perfectionism.

 

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
She is the best of both Pete and me, wonderful with people and deeply passionate about her life. She sings off-key at the top of her lungs, unabashed that she might not be what she ought to be, and I love her for reminding me every day that life is in the living, not in the planning for it. She is my good gift, and she is not like anyone else. She is always able to get a smile out of anyone, just by blowing into the room and being who she is.

 

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
Sometimes I imagine what she will be like when she is older, and I wonder what we will talk about, because we are not the closest, she and I. She is touchy-feely, and I have trouble expressing my emotions, except in writing. Everything is a drama to her, and I have learned over the years how to keep one foot firmly planted in reality. But maybe my pragmatism will rub off on her the way her girlhood dreaminess is rubbing off on me. She has always been a hope and a wonder to me.

I wish you could know her – you would love her.

 
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

P.S. I’m kind of thrilled with these images. I was experimenting with lower light than I have typically chosen this year, and I let the exposure be what it was, allowing the shadows to focus the light instead of blowing everything out. I think you see the light more when you juxtapose it against the dark. It speaks to me of glory just now while I am wading through some rather intense postpartum depression.

art, in real life

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

i have to be able to see what could be in the real life mess of what is. i have to feel the lines and the colors, see the textures and the warmth, and forget how that is all backward from the easy way to live, because there is nothing easy in my world lately, and living simply is a lofty goal when i have three kids now and a bigger house to keep clean. i still have to have a dream, and sometimes now i don’t want to have a dream, because i know now the dream takes work and I don’t have time for more work, even if it is boiling the water to make me tea.

so i do the cleaning when the baby won’t nap, and take lots of cuddling and nursing breaks, and try to make sure that i am taking care of me too when my body is feeling SAD and falling apart with the postpartum hormonal adjustments. i look for the things that are really me, and wait for a little space to be who i am instead of the tired mother-me who is always setting boundaries for little ones and running out of energy before i have thought a beautiful thought in a day.

if i had time (and i am stealing it now while i eat my breakfast in my new little nook), i would tell you how it feels like spring here, how the red leaves on the japanese maple outside my studio window look like blossoms, how pip spotted a camellia in bloom in our back yard – the first of many there, i think. i would tell you how the sun broke through the clouds with silver and gold the other day when i sneaked out after the rain to pick up groceries and nearly cried over the feeling of the fresh, wet air in my lungs. i would take pictures of my littles and of my wonderful new house (oh, you know me, I will do that anyway soon!) and show you the little tree that we found at Walmart who spread out his branches and said “pick me, i am not just a Walmart tree, i am a happy tree, and i want to be yours!” he totally did this. and we named him Herbert. with a french pronunciation. because why not?

but i don’t have time, so i’m giving you a sneak peek at one of my favorite weddings ever, with one of my favorite pictures ever, and going back to work while the baby sleeps because i have other people who need me to make beautiful for them, and i am still living the dream, even though the art isn’t easy to make right now.

even blogging has turned out to be more of a challenge than i thought it would be, but i am looking forward to it, and do you know, i got the feeling the other day that i am so very happy making my blog that i think i could be really content only ever being published at my blog and not in a book of my own (though, I have been published in others’ books before…). because that was a dream once too, and maybe it will be again, when i don’t feel old and spent at thirty-two years and six months and three babies in.

ashley and chappie | a story of her

Mark 00035

Ashley is one of the most incredible women I have met. She is strong and cheerful, and I think she is beautiful. She has a kind heart and a sweet spirit, and each time I have gotten to meet with her, I have had the *best* time, because she is full of life and fun too. I want to introduce you to her, because I think she’s the kind of person who makes an amazing friend, and I hope so much for her.

I have photographed Ashley before, and I loved her pictures, and she loved her pictures too, and she loved them so much that she asked me to photograph her again, and oh, oh, oh, I ran across these the other day and thought “I need to share these,” because she is amazing, and story, and a girl on the beach with her dog in the autumn and the sunset is just too good to resist here, especially when I want you to see how I love to do pictures!

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | black friday session specialIn case you missed it, there is a Black Friday Session Event happening at Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. this week – any session you book with me through Saturday is 30% off!

Want to book something for you or for a loved one? Please just drop me an email at info@kellysauer.com!

Black Friday Session Event

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | black friday session event

Christmas is coming, and we have almost all of our Christmas shopping done. After a bad Halloween experience a few years ago, we have begun shopping for Christmas on Halloween, just when the Christmas decorations are all coming out at the store, and when the crowds have… other things to do with themselves. I like to avoid the rush.

So with less busy for me on the shopping front now (and more to do with my life than worry about shopping on Black Friday), today I am early-launching my Black Friday Session Event. If you book a photography session with me any time through this Saturday, I will deduct 30% from the full session cost.

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | black friday session event

I will accept FAMILY SESSIONS (still need to get those last-minute photos for your Christmas cards?), HEADSHOT SESSIONS (do you know someone who needs one?), PORTRAIT SESSIONS (I have a wonderful photo story coming for inspiration on this one this week!), BOUDOIR SESSIONS (girls, have you thought of this for him for Christmas?), COUPLE’S SESSIONS (want to have photos that aren’t your wedding photos to hang around the house?), or even BRIDAL SESSIONS (oh come on, you know I had to offer it – girls in white dresses and all that!).

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | black friday session event

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | black friday session event

I know I might be biased, but photos have been one of the very best gifts I’ve had to give to my family and friends, whether it is taking them so they have their own memories to hold, or sharing them with loved ones who just aren’t close enough to be in our lives every day. I would be so honored if you would let me help you make some unique images to hold and to share.

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | black friday session event

Pre-Christmas session slots are limited and must be scheduled and shot before December 13, 2014. A non-refundable retainer fee covering 50% of the session cost is required to hold your session slot. If you are purchasing a session as a gift for someone else, we will provide you with a tangible gift item to wrap for your loved one.

Discounted session pricing begins at $350 (regular price: $500). Sessions include photography coverage, personalized styling (what do you want your session to feel like?), 35-85 photos (depending on your session type), a set of proof prints, and a downloadable web album with a limited-use license (you can use your photos for whatever personal use you have, so long as you don’t re-sell them).

To book, please just send me an email with your desired session, and we’ll get you on the calendar:
info@kellysauer.com

Astami & Chan

“We are something together. I’m not me without her,
and she’s not her without me. We just work better together.”

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I love photographing couples. I could say a lot of stuff about that, but I’d bet a lot of it has been said already, and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. So what I will say is that I loved photographing this couple, three years married and visiting Charleston, and making memories they wanted to hold onto. Astami, a photographer based in New York City, asked me to help them capture those memories on camera while they were in my town. I pretty much fell in love with their sweet relationship – the way he made her feel beautiful, the way she made him laugh. We had so much fun, in spite of the Charleston rain and humidity and my big baby belly knocking my center of gravity around. These two get what it means to make art our if their real life together, and I hope they get to celebrate many more anniversaries in years to come!

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

The Wedding RowThis sweet shoot was published this week at The Wedding Row, the official blog of Charleston Weddings Magazine. I couldn’t think of a more perfect place for these pictures (and more!), and I’d love it if you’d stop in over there and leave a comment for this special couple!

CREDITS:

Location: Charleston, S.C.
Photographer & Stylist: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Floral Source & Inspiration: Intertwine by Kelly Lenard
Natural-Dyed Silk Chiffon for Bouquet/Detailing: Silk & Willow
Her Skirt: Madewell
Her Sweater: J Crew
His Outfit: J Crew
Her Shoes: Need Supply

you can have courage

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

[ Mary Anne Radmacher ]

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the Lord!
[ Psalm 27:14 ]

I am blogging again because…

Okay, so I never know where to start after long absences from people and places. There is just too much to catch up on, so I guess I’ll do things the way I do and just pick up right where I left off. Which was also somewhere in the middle of things…

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer

First, I am blogging again because I remembered last week that blogging is one of the very real ways I stay sane with a baby in the house. There is something about carving out some time to create something for myself and connect with the world in my way that helps me be okay when a finished to-do list is unattainable. I am just happier when I feel like I can tell a bit of my story to somebody instead of feeling like my whole life is locked up.

Second, I am blogging again because I have photos and photos and photos to share and I miss showing you what is happening in my world. Plus, I actually feel like showing my work is probably a very good idea at this point, since I would actually like to begin earning money again with my business. I’m pretty good at what I do.

Finally, I am blogging again because I had an epiphany a little over a week ago, a wonderful, beautiful, life-giving epiphany about what sets me and my work apart from every-other-body who picks up a camera and goes to work with it. I was staring at my Anthropologie catalog over breakfast and website reconstruction, dreaming about living the story on the pages of the catalog, and I realized that *this* is what I have been chasing, this place I began, the stories I wanted to tell with my words and with my camera. I got so busy trying to keep up with a business model and with marketing and with the rush of being a professional that I let this most important part of me go.

i carry you with me into the world, into the smell of rain,
and the words that dance between people
and for me, it will always be this way, walking in the light,
remembering being alive together.

[ story people ]

Story is the reason I started. It is the reason I love people-watching, and writing, and traveling, and weddings. It is the reason I have wanted to shoot for catalogs and lookbooks, even though I haven’t wanted to take on that much responsibility. Story is the reason I love the blur and the motion and the poignant ache and the laughter ever so much more than directed poses and predictable industry imagery (I hate taking the same picture twice, did you know?). I have always wanted to tell real stories of real people living real life. I have always wanted to make you feel like you could live the story too.

I feel like I’m waking up from a bad dream about myself trying to be someone I’m not, and it feels amazing to be inhabiting my own dream again. So. I’m blogging. Because, I guess, story.

The image above is a preview from a really beautiful shoot I did with one of the realest people I met this year. It is an experience I treasure, meeting her, being honored to get a chance to photograph her. I hope to see the shoot published soon so I can show you some of my favoritest pictures ever!

CREDITS:

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Set and Fashion Styling: Lindsey Shanks, A Charleston Bride
Location: Private Residence
Florals: Jillian Manger, Mimi Nicole Events
Hair: Affair Hair by Tanesha
Makeup: Pamela Lesch
Gown: Heirloom
Silk Ribbon: Silk and Willow
Model: K. H. S.

Butterfly Garden Bridal (With Claire Pettibone)

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer

There is a story of redemption behind this beautiful little bridal shoot, a story that spans over six years, a renewed friendship, and the kind of magic that is born when God moves behind the scenes on something you think you’re planning. I can’t tell all of it, only that the pictures here are the beautiful result of a mended relationship and a God-appointed morning for me under the California sunlight. This is one of my favorite shoots that I have ever done, as well as one of my very favorite pieces from my California shoots in April. It was amazing, planned practically overnight with the amazing Type A Society and E2 Beauty, and unforgettably wonderful from start to finish, even though we ended early and ran back to the hotel to get Carrie and Kelly checked out!

Noley and I got to eat at In-N-Out burger with the girls, and we had the sweetest, best sort of conversation, about God and life and doing the wedding things with children and real life, and the conversation has continued over the last few months as we’re growing into our brands and into the exciting things that God has been setting out for us to do and be.

This shoot also marks a move for me that makes me really happy – I am specifically building fashion and bridal portraiture into my brand from here on out. I will tell you more about that another day – for today, I am just so honored to finally get to share these with you and show you how much I love Claire Pettibone, my dear friends, and California mornings.

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer
exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer

I am so happy that Style Me Pretty snapped it up almost as soon as I submitted (and omigoodness, they said the NICEST things!), and I am so, so pleased to share this spotlight today with you. If you would, could you please consider dropping over and leaving a comment at SMP? There are many more images over there to see – I just put a few of my favorites here!

As Seen on Style Me PrettyCREDITS:

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer

Location: Huntington Beach Central Park

Floral Styling: Type A Society

Gowns: “Gossamer” and “Eloquence” by Claire Pettibone
Hair & Makeup: E2Beauty

Oh, hello

exquisitrie | photography by kelly sauer

Dear World, yes, I did it again. I redesigned, and I am refocusing my brand. For lots and lots of reasons that I don’t have time to explain right now. I love it, and it is simple, and I am happy, and I know where I want to go from here. It is worth a lot to me, and I hope you will love it too, if you are still here to check things out. I can hardly wait to begin again here after my long hiatus…

The Golden Silence

collage by @kellysauerloves

A little compilation of my Pinteresting mood today. Just to try out my feels-like-new computer, updated software, and somewhat quivery voice after a recent hard drive meltdown. I am loving these colors right now, the way the light and the dark play together with the gold. It reminds me of autumn.

I’ve been quiet here. There is a lot happening in the silence – it does feel golden, and a bit melty as I’m facing a lot of disappointments, reworking my dreams a little, and thinking hard about who I am and where I want to go from here. I’ll tell you about it soon, when my plans to revive this little journal are realized. I am grateful for you who still visit, who still comment when I post, who let me know that I have not really disappeared the way I feel I have. Please know how much you mean to me, making me real when I feel like I’m lost in a dream that isn’t quite a nightmare, but could be if I looked close enough…

I will be back with stories for you sometime soon. I promise.

Image Credits

1. V & A
2. Anthropologie
3. Alessandro Recchiuti

Hannah Lane Bridal

bridal photography by kelly sauer

Over the last couple of years, I think I’ve been uncovering my sweet spot in the bridal work I’ve gotten to do. While I totally love the wedding photography rush, there is just nothing that compares to the one-on-one feeling of a bridal or boudoir session. I really, really love the simple, sweet magic of these tender moments, sharing the butterflies with a bride before her wedding day.

My photographer friend, Hannah, got married last month, and I was so, so honored that she asked me to be part of her photography line-up for her wedding experience, in spite of the fact that Noley was only four weeks old at the time! We took an empty house and some afternoon light and made this pretty – I’m so thrilled with the way it came out with a little Tuscan feel, and simply, honestly elegant.

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer
bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer
bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

bridal photography by kelly sauer

CREDITS

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Location: Private Cottage owned by Bostic Law Firm
Gown, Veil, and Headpiece: David’s Bridal
Styling: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.

My Flower Girl

flower girl | by Kelly Sauer | la joie, la vie

She lasted as long as she could, being Pip, eavesdropping on my shoot without getting involved. But involvement is her way, and so she picked out one of the dresses I had along, figured out how to get it clamped, and she started styling herself for involvement in front of my camera. She is one of the things that I love about being a creative – she channels more of me than I have energy to create, and if I will indulge her with a few minutes under the camera, she’ll give me photos I could only dream about getting, full of her childlike innocence and fun. As conflicted as we are with our individual priorities sometimes, we are magic together. It is the best thing ever.

flower girl | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

flower girl | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Credits:

Photographer: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Styling: Piper Sauer (with Alise Taggart)
Florals: Stephanie Gibbs, Sweetgrass Events
Hair and Makeup: Dannon K. Collard
Lace Dress: Choklate
White Gown: Collette-Naomi Dress by Rebecca Schoneveld
Schoneveld Gown Source: The Sentimentalist
Silk Pieces and Wardrobing Ribbon: Silk and Willow
Jewelry: Kristin Hayes Jewelry
Heirlooms and Set Pieces: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.

On Moving, and Dreams Come True

Dream Studio | by Kelly Sauer

Once upon a time, when Pete and I got married, we rented a house that was our dream house. It was a little renovated barn with two bedrooms, a clean, new kitchen, and a little living room/dining room area, nestled into a little nook of a Northern Virginia farm. We applied to rent the place, along with five or six other people, and we looked at it, trying hard not to like it too much, since we already had something lined up anyway, and one of the other people would probably be chosen before we were. When the tour ended, the owner smiled at us as she told us that the last person had dropped out of the running that day. The little cottage on Stonemeadow Lane would be ours for the next year and a half.

That moment has been replaying in my head over the last week or so, after closing on the first house we’ve ever owned. We had waited and waited and waited for another house that we loved here in Charleston, but months and months passed, and we still had got nowhere on it. The City was involved with the ownership and sale of the place, and the realtor was working for the bank that had foreclosed on it, and the contractor had done no work at all on the repairs the house needed to be habitable.

The day our contract ended on that house, we looked at another little house in our neighborhood that had just come on the market. The house had everything we’d had at the rental we’d been living in for the last four years, but it had huge windows and dark floors instead of orange, a laundry room that wasn’t in the garage, a screened-in porch and a whitewashed brick “sunroom” that all came out to something that felt every bit as right as that first little cottage we chose before we got married in 2005.

Less than four weeks and a major surgery later, we walked out of the closing and inaugurated my new studio with an incredible shoot, and then we were moving into a home that I loved more every minute I spent in it.

A lot of the dreams we’ve dreamed over the years are going into this house that is ours now, dreams about reading to our children at mealtimes, about having a kitchen with more counter space, about having light to fill the rooms and places to make photos without shooting around the things we hate. The kids have a playroom, I have a play room, and there is room here for the large farm table I want to have for us for school and work and making cookies and having friends for dinner. We are simplifying – it took us four days to move all the clutter we had stashed in the closets, and we were overwhelmed and embarrassed at the amount of stuff we had that we don’t use.

I didn’t want to move after having a baby again. We did it after Pip was born, and after Squiggy was born, and now we have done it after Noley was born (and I have blessed that little girl for being born two weeks early so many times in the last week, because she is not as little as she would have been if she had waited until she was full term to come to us). I was afraid I would have to shut down and run away and forget all the change and mourn all my own plans for this postpartum period gone awry, but I have stayed in the moment, and some have been hard, but a lot have been really, really good, and I haven’t missed my life this time.

I learned something in the middle of Noley’s labor. I had spent months preparing for her birth, and I wanted things to be just so after she was born, but in the middle of her labor, just before I moved out of early labor, I realized that this is life, the coming early, the things left undone, the fear and the unknown and the things that don’t go as you get right. You don’t get to choose the way it all plays out. You just get to live it or not live it, and you’ll never really be able to manage your way into the perfect experiences you imagine. That’s part of growing up, I suppose, realizing this, and it’s part of being alive, not shutting all the things out because they are outside of your control.

There are more dreams-come-true in the unexpected than in the five-year plan, I think. If you keep your eyes and your heart open, you’ll see.

Bridal Fashion Preview – A Lowcountry Sunset

lowcountry sunset preview | by kelly sauer

That time you broke in your new house with a photo shoot because empty houses are amazing shoot locations…

Here’s a teeny peek at the magic we made in my inaugural studio shoot at our new house on Wednesday! Today is moving day, but I couldn’t resist showing you just a little bit of the pretty we made.

Now. On to the rest of the day. This week is going to make *some* story sometime…

CREDITS

Styling: Alise Taggart
Hair and Makeup: Dannon K. Collard
Gown: Alexandra Grecco
Wrap: Silk and Willow
Glass: Anthropologie
Florals (coming soon!): Stephanie Gibbs of Sweetgrass Events
Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Location: MY NEW STUDIO

Behind the Lens – “I Pick You”

la joie, la vie | photo by @christinabrosnan

“I wouldn’t have chosen any of this,” I told him, swallowing tears around the lump in my throat. Not the health issues, not the new baby coming early, not the house hunt and the impending move before my body settled down from the birth enough to really enjoy my baby, not the homeschooling, not any changes at all if I could have chosen anything. In my world, after spending my life on the move, having the solidity of a home to be in and dream in and make room for my family in is a dream come true, and saying goodbye to this house I’ve lived in and worked in and made work for us for four years was not on my to-do list.

But here we are, Pete and I, in one of the craziest, craziest weeks of our lives together (seriously – we are living to the Looney Toons theme right now). For months, I have been walking quietly beside him as he has pursued his dream of owning a home, as we’ve made decisions about staying in Charleston and moving our family into a more permanent home here, as we’ve ruled this house out and offered on that house. I have been honest with my opinions about things, but I have walked with him because I love him, and I want him to have something that he can love coming home to and feel that it is his to decide on and to putter with and to change around and to invest in if he wants.

Finally this morning, as we rose at 4:30 because of the baby, our uninterrupted conversation led to one of the bravest things I have ever done in our marriage, to his offering to stop the move before we close the contract and to my looking him in the eye and telling him that what I really wanted had nothing to do with stopping the move and everything to do with our hearts. Nothing we are living right now is what I want except us being in it together.

We’ve been through a lot in our almost-nine-year marriage. We went through a lot before we got married. I know we’ll get through this, and this time, I don’t want to do it by shutting down and hiding until it is all over. I want to be *here*, and even though every single one of the factors for the high stress levels that shut my body down are present in our world, I want to be willing to live this time instead of shutting out my life. I want to remember my baby’s smiles and Squiggy’s first few weeks of school. I want to rock out the shoot I’m doing on Wednesday like I have never rocked a shoot in my life. I want to be aware of Pip’s needs and to move as one with my husband and to laugh and to not feel guilty because I can’t even lift anything but the baby right now because of my surgery last week.

We are the weak and the fool, and somehow, glory, and our answer for everything this week is going to be what he said to me at the end of our talk today, “I pick you,” and we will be crazy and keep choosing each other, because surviving our own lives without one another is the thing we didn’t want to do anymore when we chose each other in the first place.

PHOTO BY BROSNAN PHOTOGRAPHIC

Bridal Session Outtake

by kelly sauer

I’ll be posting this bride’s lovely session soon, but I absolutely cannot resist sharing this little peek into my photographic life right now… Noley is most definitely the sweetest part of my team!

P.S. We are still looking for the right model for our amazing styled session with international stylist Alise Taggart on August 27, 2014! Please drop me an email if you’re interested!

MODEL CALL – August 27, 2014

model call | by kelly sauer

Are you interested in being a model for a Charleston shoot with stylist Alise Taggart and a fantastic team? We’re looking for a beautiful face or a beautiful couple who would be willing to be photographed for a day in exchange for some lovely photos.

To be considered for our August 27 shoot, please just drop me an email with a few headshots – I can’t wait to see you and take your picture!

Grey Likes Summer

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | http://www.greylikesweddings.com/the-archive/styled-by-lady-grey/coral-citrus-summer-wedding-ideas/

I was delighted to begin the week with an inspiration post over at Grey Likes Weddings – just a few of the photos we got to make together earlier this spring! Do stop in and see the loveliness styled by Summer Watkins herself with the new Type A Society (formerly Fleurish Events), Claire Pettibone, Blushing Makeup Artistry, Magnolia Bakery, Karilyn Turley, and Jenna Rainey – we had a lot of pretty to play with that day!

Please forgive my sporadic blogging – in addition to my maternity leave, my health has taken quite a turn after Noley’s birth, and I have been having some trouble being online much lately. I have so much to share, I think I shall never catch up!

Once Upon a Morning – Summer

la joie, la vie | iphone photo by kelly sauer

“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.”

― Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

featured photography

When I Need Him

la joie, la vie | by kelly sauer

Pencil marks on a wall, I wasn’t always this tall
You scattered some monsters from beneath my bed
You watched my team win, You watched my team lose
You watched when my bicycle went down again

And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said, “Elbow Healer, Superhero
Come if You can” and You said, “I Am”

Only sixteen, life is so mean
What kind of curfew is at ten p.m.?
You saw my mistakes, You watched my heart break
Heard when I swore I’d never love again

And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said, “Heartache Healer, Secret Keeper
Be my best friend and You said, “I Am”

You saw me wear white by pale candlelight
I said, “Forever to what lies ahead”
Two kids and a dream, with kids that can scream
Too much it might seem when it is two a.m.

And when I am weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Oh, Shepherd, Savior, Pasture Maker
Hold onto my hand, You say, “I Am”

The winds of change and circumstance
Blow in and all around us
So we find a foothold that’s familiar
And bless the moments that we feel You nearer

When life had begun, I was woven and spun
You let the angels dance around the throne
And who can say when, but they’ll dance again
When I am free and finally headed home

I will be weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer, Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer
Lord and King, Beginning and the End

I Am
Yes, I Am

– Nichole Nordeman, I Am

Birth Day – You and Me

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

What day is it? And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive
I can’t keep up and I can’t back down
I’ve been losing so much time

‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing to do, nothing to lose
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you

All of the things that I want to say just aren’t coming out right
I’m tripping on words
You got my head spinning
I don’t know where to go from here

‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing to do, nothing to prove
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you

Lifehouse, “You and Me”

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I couldn’t wait for Piper to come. I wanted her in June, but she waited and waited until she was three days past her due date smack dab in the middle of July, making her own way about things, the way we have seen her make it ever since. Bredon teased me for two weeks of prodromal labor until I was so tired I couldn’t believe he was EVER coming, and then he came on his due date, yelling for us to put him back where it was warm already! And then there was Noley, our little tagalong, unwilling to be left behind for long and more ready to meet me than I was to meet her, at least as far as my schedule was concerned.

Noley’s labor was my favorite labor. Beginning a little over 24 hours before she was born, she and I just hung out together, waiting for the work to finish. She dug a little deeper with each contraction, waiting, wriggling, hiccuping in between (she hiccups more than my other two ever did!), puttering her way down the birth canal until finally with one great contraction, my water broke and her head came to the excited cries of her siblings, who were in the room watching her arrival.

Always before, they had told me to “push,” except this time, when my midwife waited and let my body would do the work, and all I had to do was breathe and let time and contractions pass and allow my baby to come when she was ready. *I* didn’t have to be ready. I just had to *be.*

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

My eyes were closed as her head emerged, but I heard my littles, “I see her head!” heard the squeak in Pip’s voice that was between tears and happy, the awe in Squiggy’s “oh! she has hair!” Even as I registered them, I felt Noley flip wildly in my pelvis as another strong contraction pushed the rest of her out into the world. It all happened in the space of a minute or so, and then she was on my empty belly, wet and warm and crawling her way up to my heart.

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was her little face and her baby cry, “I’m here, I’m here, Mama!” I grabbed her and I covered her and I called back to her, “you’re here, you’re here,” not recognizing my own voice, knowing in that way you know as a mama that I would never be the same person on the other side of her, that I would never forget this moment and the feel of her new life in my hands.

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Time stops when labor begins. I don’t understand why it does this, but after birthing three babies, I know that it does. After the nesting and the restlessness and the endless waiting, the passing moments don’t matter as you focus on one contraction at a time, as the increasing pressure from the uterus brings you closer to holding a new little person in your arms. You know you can do it, and then you think you can’t and then you know that you can and you have done it – and this is the way it is with your children every moment for the rest of your life.

The hours pass, and then the days, and then the weeks, and you touch and you nurse and you smell and you laugh at all the scrunchy faces and talk about her hedgehog sleep sounds. You wonder if your other babies were ever so small and hold her as close as you can. You think about the miracle that she wakes up and as you tuck her in late at night after she has finally nursed herself to sleep, you think about the miracle that she goes to sleep. You introduce her to the sun and the moon and dream about the day she will really smile at you, when she will be ready to coo at you while you talk to her.

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

For months, I have been deep-tired and ready to give up all the things. God knew (and I think Noley knew too) that she would come just exactly when I needed her to keep me alive and reaching for life, whether I knew I needed her or not. I will never, ever forget how she just couldn’t wait to live.

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I’ve finally begun to surface from our rest, and she is four weeks old tomorrow and her sister is seven years old today and I know time is passing and I must step back into it. I have been a mother before, and for longer than this four weeks, and here is time again, reminding me how to take the next step and the next step, and here we go living again.

Repost: On Living Simply

I originally posted this piece in September of 2012, but I wanted to repost it now in the middle of some really big changes to our lives and business while I’m working on some new material for this space. I hope you don’t mind – it is one of my favorite posts in all my years of blogging. In times of change, you ask why things can’t be what they were, and it’s easy to feel as though you have lost more than you are gaining. Every new day is a step of faith.

I come from simple stock. My mom always wished she were Amish, said she was born in the wrong generation. My grandma, the most practical, beautiful person I knew, grew up during the Great Depression. My mother-in-law raised four kids on a limited budget and crafted a beautiful home (and a thousand gifts) from what she had. I learned from my mom that thrift stores have treasures, learned from my grandma that the old things are sometimes still the most beautiful, learned from my mother-in-law that even what we could throw away may end up being useful.

These women have taught me how to make do with less, how to make more with less. How a simple, home-cooked meal served up on a table with a tablecloth and shared with people you love can feel like fine dining. How lighting a candle in a room makes habits into romance. How doing dishes together helps you remember you’re not alone. How creating things with your soulmate refreshes your love, no matter how long you’ve been married.

They taught me how every moment with the people in your heart is an opportunity to live your dream.

I have things, but I don’t have everything. We live in someone else’s house, drive two cars that make funny noises, and work hard just to make ends meet. Our home is made up of a collection of hand-me-downs and Craigslist finds. I buy most of our clothes at thrift shops, and we cook most of our meals from scratch.

Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined being content with this. I think I thought we’d have a home of our own, that we’d be making twice what we make now, that when I “grew up,” I really could do and buy anything I wanted.

But this summer, I have found myself more content than I’ve ever been in my life. I love where we are, love Charleston, love that my husband comes home at regular hours, that I get to travel and take pictures, that we have a fig tree in our back yard, that the sun goes down so tropical here. I love that I can imagine up meals with what we’ve got in our cupboards, that Pete can fix things around the house and I can help him, that we live near the sea and when it cools down here I come alive.

We discovered something on Labor Day weekend. We’d intended to crash, and do nothing. We put the to-do list away, and started on that scheduled plan – and then we sort of lived into painting the guest room, cleaning the garage, making pizza, cleaning the house, and going to the beach. When we went to bed Monday night – me with a hundred pictures on my camera that I’d CHOSEN and not just snapped – we realized we’d actually lived all weekend.

And we had still “got things done” and while just hanging out with no to-do list running us. We always have “less” energy and “not enough” time, but we had filled up our hearts just living together, and we found we had just enough. It was simple, childlike living, just doing the next thing instead of looking at what was coming at us or what we needed to do and stressing out about it.

I often worry that I don’t live simply enough, especially when I see others selling off their goods to get out of debt and giving everything to care for the poor. I have more than they have, perhaps too much, I think. But I’m realizing that what my mom and grandma were teaching me wasn’t that austerity or asceticism.

It was this simple, real-life-and-not-Pinterest lesson that you can go looking for life on the other side of your life plan, or you can open your hands, your eyes, and your heart to engage life right where you are. Love isn’t a to-do list. It is knowing – and being known.

Announcing – Anna Marijke Noelle

Noley's name card | dear piper design | by kelly sauer

Name: Anna Marijke Noelle Sauer, aka “Noley”
(pronunciation key: “Mah-REE-kah”)

Birthdate: June 18, 2014

Birth Weight: 6 lbs, 7 oz

So we had a baby last week. I will tell you her story sometime, about her arriving two weeks early in the middle of my final work projects before I was going to feel free to close my studio and go on maternity leave. But we had her, and she was SO ready to come, I can’t even mind it, though I will admit that my brain is still spinning because we were still supposed to be waiting and ignoring contractions all the way into July! But I got my June baby already, and she is a dream come true and the darlingest baby girl you ever saw, and we are all completely in love with her, our most perfect “inconvenience” ever!

"noley" | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Once Upon a Morning – Gardenia

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“It smells like peaches,” Pip says to me, as we try to describe the scent. It is our last “nature” walk of the school year, just as warm as the first one we took last September, but earlier, because we are racing the heat that Charleston is bringing in early for the summertime.

Squiggy grabs the blossom back from her, squealing in the way he does about his big sister taking things from him. He is still not quite awake for the day and grumpy about having to be out walking with Mama. I know he needs his breakfast, but I selfishly want the early morning with them. I want them to notice the light, to feel the world, to have one more memory of us as four before we will be five.

The moon is full, and my body is ripening, reminding me – whether I am ready or not – that we are only two weeks away from our due date, that soon my arms will be full of baby and all of the attendant dreams and discomforts.

I told Pete while we wandered on last night’s date that I am so very glad that Flip is not our first baby, that while having three will be new for us, we have had one and two before and we are not afraid of the inconvenience now. We laugh a little at the congratulations from people who think we are having our first, and take the advice quietly, knowing that we will learn this one with each new moment she lives with us, just as we have discovered our first two.

I like being a mama, not because I find my fulfillment in my role as a mother, but because my children are people with so much life of their own, and they give life back to me with their unique perspectives. I wonder what they will be when they grow up, how the strengths I see in them now will shape their own goals. I wince sometimes at their weaknesses – I wince at my own weaknesses in them, really – but we grown-ups are never the perfect parents we imagine we should be, and God chose me to be their mama, so I am what they get.

And most days, they tell me I am the best mom ever.

We bring the blossom home, and I watch them walk in front of me on the quiet street, holding hands as the best friends they are. Our cat runs over from the neighbor’s house, where she has been waiting for our return after electing not to walk the whole way with us. She knows we are her people. We are each other’s people, and we have been building a life that has time for the scent of gardenias in the morning light and room for other lives within our own.

All the days are not perfect, but that is life too, and you learn to hold onto the moments, and to stop for them when they invite you in.

Artist Feature – Sarah Moon

sarah moon, artist feature | la joie, la vie

One of the things I am really enjoying about getting to have a maternity leave from photography is that with less focus on shooting and marketing, I get a chance to rebuild my blog a little bit from the silence it has experienced over the last year or so. I’m not rebuilding it only as a marketing tool, though – it’s a place for inspiration, my “artist journal,” if you will. There are lots of blogs out there trying to sell you something – and they have their place – but me, I like the blogs that slow me down, the writers and creatives who are just sharing their art and their lives in a beautiful way. I want to share from that place too.

So. I’m announcing what I hope will become a regular series at my blog-slash-journal today, an “artist feature” that will allow me to step out of the uber-competitive photography industry and share some of the inspiration that makes me feel like I can be the photographer – and the person – I want to be, even if I’m surrounded by others trying to get to “the top,” whatever that is.

Today’s feature is a photographer I discovered in my Pinterest exploration, SARAH MOON. Her work breaks every rule of everything and she is still one of the most successful photographers I have encountered, shooting for some of the biggest fashion magazines in the world.

Sarah has a truly unique voice. As far as I can tell, there is no one anywhere who takes pictures like hers. Even if we wanted to, we small photographers are often constrained to play it safe, because “safe” is what brings the money in. But money or not, there is something of a dare in Sarah’s work that I’m finding it harder and harder to resist. And uncovering her as a person this morning while looking for credit information just added another “pro” to a little bit of hero worship I have going on here. I know her language. She is a kindred spirit, inviting you to live a little more than you think you can, because “see, this is real too – you know it is.”

Sarah Moon is the exception that proves the rule. For more than 35 years, the photographer, whose complicity with her subjects is only augmented by the fact that she herself started out as a model, has remained out on a limb, creating some of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful fashion imagery that bucks every so-called commercial trend, from the need to establish eye contact – it is only rarely there – to the belief that the most alluring fashion photograph must be glossy, even hyper-real….

She is the first to admit that, being well known, she can afford to work in a more idiosyncratic and individual way. “After all these years, people hire me because they want my impression,” she says, “they know what I do. I know how difficult it is to make a living as a fashion photographer, however, and, with so many photographers now working, it is harder than ever to believe in your own vision, to listen to your own voice. That, though, is what any good photographer must do. That, in the end, is what it is all about. You have to listen to your own voice, to work for yourself, and accept that it will make a difference.”

Moon’s voice, above all, is an intensely personal one, whispering, rather than shouting, about an imagined world where preternaturally lovely, romanesque heroines inhabit isolated and, more often than not, fictional landscapes. This is the story of stolen moments, of the “dead time”, as the photographer puts it, between more staged events. A sweet nostalgia informs Moon’s magical universe – monochromatic and sometimes sepia-printed or vibrating with saturated colour – where time is the enemy, and the photographer’s aim is both to preserve the imagined moment just as the subject acknowledges it is passing, and also to surprise.

“For me, photography is pure fiction,” Moon says, “even if it comes from life. I photograph people, of course, as I do nature – trees, flowers, animals – but I charge it with something other than reality, with feeling, with a certain feeling depending on the day. I compare myself to reportage photographers, who make some sort of statement about life. I don’t believe that I am making any defined statement. Instead, I am expressing something, an echo of the world maybe.”

___________

To read more of Sarah’s inspiring bio, you have to check out her facebook page – I want to copy it all here so much, because OH, but you have to read it and like her page, in my opinion.

The more I have learned about my own artistic voice, the more I am beginning to see that some of my favorite work fits only a few clients – but I’ve got a hunch that if I let that voice out (as with the creative work I shared in Tuesday’s post), it will appeal on a completely different level to potential clients who want more for their wedding than the wedding pictures everybody else has. I want to create “magazine” spreads, to add just a little more to the traditional, editorial wedding imagery so that you can feel the couple, feel the day, feel the love threading through everything and imagine yourself living that too.

You can hire a “good photographer” any day of the week, but finding a storyteller, finding someone who will learn you and work with you to make images that will speak long after the trends have changed – that is not easy to do. I am still so far from where I want to be on this, but I know it is my direction, and every day, I’m figuring out how to get there.

A Creative, Licensed

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Once upon a time, a photographer made a mistake. At first, the results of her mistake horrified her, but the more she looked at the pictures, the more she realized that she had communicated the feeling she had wanted to communicate, in spite of the fact that it didn’t match her original vision. Her mistake started to look less like a mistake and more like a happy accident.

And as time passed, the photographer began to feel it hadn’t been an accident at all. She decided to make the “mistake” on purpose, and she learned things she hadn’t known about herself and her work before.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

An accidental switch to the “Bulb” setting on my Contax resulted in some crazy (unsubmittable) exposures on this little shoot and challenged me out of a bit of photographic complacency earlier this year. I know consistency is desirable for a professional photographer, but let’s be honest, when you’re an artist, consistency can get a little bit boring. I didn’t know how much I needed the license to step out of what I felt I had to be as a photographer and try some new things.

I had to look harder at myself and my direction, had to see that there were other things that resonated with my artistic voice than I had previously thought, and as I examined the work, I discovered that I could still make magic, even if it wasn’t what I always did, or what I had originally envisioned.

dear piper design | la joie, la vie

If you’ve made a mistake, don’t be afraid to own it. Mistakes reveal your true vision, and pull you up out of the “contrived” and your imitation of others. There’s magic in you. You’ll find it in the things you don’t mean to do. Trust me. I know.

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“Rest” on a Monday, at 37 Weeks

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I get about three hours per day now to feel like I can get things done. Between the Charleston heat (which has arrived in full force the week before summer comes on) and my growing baby, my body is becoming one uncomfortable place to be. I’m plugging away at the few work things I have left before my slate is clean, but I have to remind myself that it is okay to rest and to feel now, that 37 weeks of pregnancy are supposed to leave me tired and give me lots of down time to make room for our new little one.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

We are counting down now – every day I think I can’t do one more day or one more week or three more weeks of this tired heaviness, but the minutes are passing, and the hours with their restlessness, and every morning brings us a little bit closer to Flip’s arrival.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Please don’t mind me if I’m spending a little more time thinking about bed than about being out of it.

“You’ve Got Mail” (Or Not)

iphone photo by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I’ve been aware for a few weeks that there have been some issues with my email, but when I finally went into my host to check on things today, I discovered that the extent of these issues were far greater than I had guessed. Please forgive me if you have sent something and not received a response you expected or if I have bugged you overmuch when I have not received a response to something I sent to you. Apparently, many of my emails are simply not being delivered.

So. If you need to contact me, please send mail directly to THIS ADDRESS. I will be happy to respond – in fact, I have probably been waiting on you! In the meantime, here’s to a lovely weekend, whatever it holds for you, and perhaps we’ll chat soon!

Behind the Lens – Blossom

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

As my body, my baby, and I are nearing our due date, I am learning to think differently about blossoming. I have this picture of a shy bud beginning to open, waiting for the sunlight and the warmth to create perfect moment to burst forth with the unabashed glory for which it was made.

But the thing about buds (and babies) is that they *are* shy. It takes a skilled gardener to coax a bud into bloom before its time, and the blossoms are never quite the same as they would have been if they had not been forced. The most beautiful things in life are worth waiting for. When the time is right, the bud will shed its old body and splay its whole heart full out to the world.

dear piper design | la joie, la vie

I thought that 2014 was the year my business was going to burst into bloom. After turning a small profit last year, I had hopes for even more bookings and photography opportunities. The vision was there, we finally had the branding in place, and I was ready to run after several years of “walk, don’t run.”

But the bookings haven’t come. I have invested more into the business this year than I ever have before. Maternity leave notwithstanding, I have needed bookings to support the business, and I can’t even *give* them away right now. It has been so very hard to wait and to go forward believing I still have something to offer, believing that all the work we’ve put in over the last several years will not be in vain. I have wondered how the bud feels waiting for spring; I have felt in my body the pregnant pause before the labor comes and the baby is placed, slippery-wet into my arms as she tastes the life she was always meant to have.

So I’m living each day, and I am waiting for that moment, knowing it can’t be forced, believing that when it comes, I will realize it is here, “step out of my body,” and let it happen – because blossoming is what I was meant to do.

Spanish Lace, Southern Spring

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie la vie

This has been a spring of new beginnings, from the new brand/website to the 17-shoot April that is still in processing with so much beauty I can’t begin to share yet. I am still figuring a lot of things out about the new direction we have begun here, still waiting to see if the investment I’ve made is going to pay off in the long run. I did so much directed, publishable work that I’ve had to fit in a couple of non-submission shoots, just so I could remember how my creative processed worked outside of the planning, the shot lists, and the expectations.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie la vie
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

This little “bridal” session was one of those personal shoots, a spur-of-the-moment thing right here in my neighborhood in which I got to photograph a girl in a white dress, which is really all I need to get my pretty fix on a given day.

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie la vie

I photographed my lovely teenage model friend in a couple of locations, with a couple of different moods, and while I’m still sorting out the details and figuring out where the rest of my work is going and how it will affect my future and marketing, I thought I would at least share the “springy” part of my inspiration while we still have some springtime left on this season. I even mixed it up with a couple of my favorite “springtime” detail images and came up with this happy little post.

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CREDIT INFORMATION:

Photographer/Stylist: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Location: Private Residence
Model: Audrey B.
Gown: Aire Barcelona

Mood Board – Re-Thinking Pink

mood board by kelly sauer (exquisitrie) | la joie, la vie

I thought it would be fun to expand one of my regular not-so-deep features here at the blog with a series of inspiration boards that play off my Pinterest habit. I have a deep love for Pinterest, and I consider it my visual playground and a training ground for my aesthetic. The wide variety of imagery hosted on Pinterest makes me think about so many things so differently, and I have uncovered new interests, learned more about old passions, strengthened my eye for composition, and grown more selective with my shooting and culling. I am excited for an idea that will allow me to incorporate a bit of my daily wanderings here (with as many credits as I can locate – please peoples, when you pin, include your source information!).

Today’s collage is a particularly fun one for me to share, created from my “Colors – Rose (blush, pink)” board, and it comes with a little story.

When Pip was born, I freaked out about pink. Totally, completely, entirely freaked out. The pinks I had grown up with, the ones my mom had dressed me in as a baby, and the pinks that were in the stores at the time – they were just not pretty AT ALL, and I thought that was what I was “supposed” to want for a girl baby, when putting Pip in those pinks made me not want to look at her (yes, I am THAT neurotic about colors – AHEM).

But over the last few years, I have observed a transformation in my approach to pink. I have learned how small touches of it can gentle an otherwise harsh image. I have found that I like my pinks with hints of brown, and that “blush” is the color found on the petals of my favorite roses, hiding in among the white. It is the young, soft color of my little girl’s lips, and the color of baby toes, and it is the first sweet sign of spring on the cherry trees in our neighborhood.

The more I have seen how pink lives in real life and in photography, the more I have come to love it. I can hardly believe that for this new little girl coming, I am thinking pink. But maybe you see why I’ve fallen in love, in spite of my initial prejudice?

Talk to me about pink. Is it a favorite of yours? Have you always loved it? Did you learn to love it? Do you hate it? What shades do you like? How do you see it in your life? Do you have a favorite “pink” photo?

CREDITS (left to right):

Anne Robert on Style Me Pretty | Katerina Lobova on Burnett’s Boards | Source Unknown. Featured at disorganized 72 | Lipped Love on Instagram < <<--- A FANTASTIC FOLLOW!!! | Bryce Covey on Everly True <<<--- ANOTHER FAVORITE FOLLOW

Behind the Lens – Full Stop

iPhone photo by kelly sauer

The hardest thing about the crash was not the crash itself. It was the tears, the overwhelming desire to go into hiding forever and to never come back to life and try again. It was the rest of the day at the hospital and at home, sitting in a “new real” with the awfulness of change I didn’t choose. It was breathing in and breathing out and not feeling better for it.

The bruises are nearly gone after a week of epsom salt baths. I am left with healing scrapes from a locked-up seatbelt on my shoulder and a lack of transportation to remind me that life can come to a full stop sometimes before it moves on – whether you are ready or not.

But last night, Pete and I went on a date in the other car, the one that groans at us for driving it – and I smiled and I didn’t jump too much when we approached other vehicles. We talked little bits of big things and little bits of nothing, ate outdoors at an expensive sort of restaurant with the wind in our faces and candles lit in the outside fireplace.

We drove by a house we want to buy and dreamed about a home and the kids getting bigger and how we can simplify our lives to make it work. We met a neighbor, and checked on the repairs that hadn’t stopped me from falling in love with the place. I dreamed about cobblestones and a garden, and he worried over structural issues for the long term life of the house.

I noticed everything for the first time since the crash. I enjoyed breathing. I let go of the days that ran together with their difficulty over the last week and accepted that I am right here, right now and all I can do is the next thing – not all the things I have intended to do.

My hiatus here has not been intentional. I have so many things to sort and to share. I miss writing. I miss putting myself out here and being open for relationship and the best real life stuff about being online. In just four weeks or so, I will have more to share, new little fingers and toes and the softness of a new life lived quietly on the edges. I am a paradox right now, being responsible, craving my rest, dreaming of growth, hoping for a time of smallness in which I won’t be invisible or forgotten.

kelly sauer | by dear piper design

I can’t find my focal point just now – it is as wobbly as my sense of up and down, changing every day with the baby’s growth. It is as hard to wait in this feeling as it was to wait through that day last week. But waking the dreams up again last night, simply enjoying the way my life turns with God’s timing (we have seen Him doing so very much in our world recently!) – it reminded me that “full stop” doesn’t mean “the end,” that disappearing because there is “too much” doesn’t have to be forever.

So here’s to life today, and being real in it, and feeling our way to joy through the blur of our tears.

A Maternity Session for Me

kelly sauer maternity | by hannah lane photography

My Mother’s Day weekend was the best weekend I have had in forever. It was full of those moments I just want to relive in my heart over and over: feeling more at home in Charleston than I’ve ever really let myself feel before, breathing in the sea air breezing over the Charleston Farmer’s Market downtown, getting a little bit sunburned, having to refill the parking meter because we just didn’t want to leave, sitting on the grass while Pip and Squiggy chased each other around… We bought fruit and fresh vegetables, and then we stopped at a new favorite shop, Urban Outfitters, where we found clothes that made my 33-weeks-pregnant body feel PRETTY (which is pretty darn impossible in a third trimester, by the way).

I felt *SO* pretty and so refreshed that I rescheduled a maternity session I had backed out of several weeks ago. My photographer friend Hannah fit me in on Tuesday morning, and the littles and I made an outing of it to get pictures of our Flip.

It felt a little funny doing a maternity shoot with our last baby when I hadn’t done one when I was pregnant with Pip or Squiggy, but it felt really right too. Photography has been my thing with this little one. She’s done a lot of shooting with me (yes, with this body – it’s been fun *grin*), and a bit of traveling, and I suspect we’ll be doing quite a bit more of that even after she comes. But more than that, this pregnancy feels in a way like all of my pregnancies coming together.

My body has already done this thing; Pip and Squiggy pushed me out and made a way for this baby, and their births and lives have given me so much more life to live than I had before. I don’t have the fears I had with my first baby, or the shock I carried over being pregnant with my second. I feel excited, happy, ready. I want to hold this moment and all the memories piling up over each other.

I’m realizing that my girlhood is gone. My heart and my body are now the heart and body of a woman, and I want to give that woman a place in my view of myself now. This is a hard thing for me, harder than turning thirty, harder than imagining myself at sixty. I am still me, but I am not what I was, and trying to hang onto the young things won’t honor this journey that I am on, this life that God has handed me, whether I was ready for it or not.

I see my grandmothers and my mother and myself and my children and my love and so many tomorrows in this image. I see seven years of mothering and learning little people and their habits and finding my place with them and giving them a place to spread their wings even as I’ve been learning how to spread mine. I see the beginning, the middle, and a little of the end, and I know I’m probably thinking too hard and feeling too much, but this is life, and I want to hold it for a bit and treasure it while I can. It is, after all, what I do, and what I’ve always done.

As Myself

exquisitrie by kelly sauer

My best hope is to not disgrace myself and…” He hesitates.

And what?” I say.

I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.

I bite my lip feeling inferior. While I’ve been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self. “Do you mean you won’t kill anyone?” I ask.

No, when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,” says Peeta.

But you’re not,” I say. “None of us are. That’s how the Games work.

Okay, but within that frame work, there’s still you, there’s still me,” he insists. “Don’t you see?”

A little, Only… no offense, but who cares, Peeta?” I say.

I do. I mean what else am I allowed to care about at this point?” he asks angrily. He’s locked those blue eyes on mine now, demanding an answer.

― Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

I got a call yesterday that has left me more determined than ever to let my life – especially my professional life – be shaped by grace. As an artist, my desire is to create and to share what I create, not because I believe it is worth so much to me financially, but because I believe it has value for my heart and for others’ hearts – both the creative process and the final product.

As a photographer in a highly competitive industry, however, I am told that I have to worry about things like copyright and contracts and marketing to keep the money rolling into my business. Every minute of time I spend on my work should make me money. Every interaction should have a purpose to that end, to move me up in the industry and to leave competitors far behind.

I can’t live like that, though. I still like people. I want to build relationships, because I have so much more fun with people than doing things on my own. I want my success to be something I earn through the beauty I produce rather than any cutthroat ladder-climbing or criticism that would damage others. And I want to enjoy any success I achieve with the people who have walked along with me, the ones who believe that my worth is more than the money I make and who have been delighted to pay me anyway.

Maybe I’m living in a dream world, trying to hold onto kindness and treat others with dignity, even if my time and energy is limited. All I know is that I want to be treated with kindness and dignity myself, even if “no” has to be “no,” or if I make a mistake, or if being in the photography industry pushes me through doors I haven’t imagined walking through. At the end (or even in the middle) of all this, I want to be me, still inviting you to be you, regardless of what I “should” be. Ultimately, this is my art, this is who I am and what I want to give, for you, for me, for us who believe there is a little more to the world than “getting it right.”

It’s worth hanging onto. It’s something worth fighting for, even if it means humbling myself, even if it means letting go of my right to demand everything I am due. “Over-delivery” comes in many forms, but it is always grace, and what would grace be if it required payment?

FINAL DAY | Wedding Photography Giveaway

exquisitrie by kelly sauer
exquisitrie by kelly sauer | floral design by kelly lenard

 
DEAR BRIDE WITH A DREAM:

We’re getting into the final 24 hours of our Exquisitrie wedding photography giveaway at Once Wed. If you’re a down-to-earth girl with a beautiful dream, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer with a unique perspective and a deeply personal approach to wedding photography, you might just be the perfect fit for our giveaway. My husband Pete and I know what it is to have a dream, and to want someone to dream it with you, which is one of the reasons we have carefully built our wedding photography business to make room for you. We are giving more than wedding photography away when this contest ends – we’ll be giving you and your dream the best of us that we have to give.

One of my dear friends wrote to share her perspective on our work (in the midst of a very discouraging day for my dream): “You have a unique style, you do not know how to take a ‘bad’ picture, you capture light better than anyone I’ve about ever seen. And you also capture the elusiveness of people – their gentleness, innocence, joy.” This is what we dream of, the “who” you are, the “joy” and the “beauty” and the “romance” of your one wedding day

We have recently completed an intensive rebrand tailored to our bride, the girl who wants to remember what her wedding day feels like – that last walk down the aisle with her dad, the curiosity of her flower girl, the textures of the florals that she picked to just match that dress, the utter romance of every element coming together to tell the story of her love. Our portfolio describes the “Exquisitrie” of our dream for your wedding day feeling.

It is not too late to share your dream wedding with us for a chance to win ten hours of coverage for your day! Join the giveaway with a comment over at our Once Wed post, and give us an opportunity to get to know you and your wedding so we can choose to invest our dream in yours.

POST CREDITS:

Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Floral Design: Intertwine by Kelly Lenard
Gown: Aire Barcelona (via Ebrada Atelier)
Set Styling: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Model: Millie Lewis Charleston

Behind the Lens – Deep Breaths

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | floral design by kelly lenard | gown by aire barcelona

I have a friend who tells me that my work is very different from other photographers’ work – so different that while it catches attention, it leaves people wondering what to do with it. She is right, I think – even *I* don’t know what to do with it all the time.

Much of my work is comprised of the intimate details, the pieces of things, the raw emotion found in the smallest moments. Some of this is because many of my subjects and locations over the years have required me to “shoot around” things that don’t belong in photos – and some of this is just the way I see. Whatever the explanation, I have developed a style that apparently doesn’t immediately resonate with people – and getting noticed – and hired – is becoming more of a challenge.

On the one hand, I suppose this is a victory. I am differentiating. I stand out. But I am not a “safe” photographer. I don’t look like the big names who are reaping the benefits of the trends they’ve created, and my voice is very unique. My niche is small, limited in a way to amazing people who want to be creative, who value uniqueness, and who want to feel the way I feel them through my photography.

But it is what I hold in the other hand that leaves me wondering if I should keep going with all this. The “you are worthless” feeling that shattered me this week when I faced the reality that my business can’t even compete for a *free* wedding that I want to shoot. The “is this because I am having a baby?” and the “I had more queries *before* I relaunched my brand and portfolio” and the “you are utterly dispensable” that has been my wound for more years than I can count.

My therapist/midwife tells me I need to write “affirmations” for myself. Things to say to myself that will bolster my confidence and keep me living my best life. My honesty won’t allow me not to engage the discouragement, though. I don’t process things by letting them roll off or sweeping them under the carpet with an “it will be okay” mentality. I process by saying it out loud, looking it in the eye, and breathing through it.

This spring, I thought I was building physical endurance for giving birth to my new baby, but I am realizing that *this* is the endurance I am building for her birth and for my life: a way to look at the pain and to let it be what it is instead of lashing out against it and letting bitterness and disillusionment give me my identity. I may not be organized with my breathing in the yoga-type bonding exercises that make sense to a lot of people, but I know how to exist in the rise and fall of pain, and I do know how the intensity of it will fade and I will still be coming to life on the other side.

It has been an incredible April. This photo is just a tiny preview of what is coming, amazing collaborations that are awaiting processing and publication. It is the best work I have ever done, and I am still working and waiting and taking deep breaths as I go. I do believe that my time is coming and that what I am creating *is* worth something – I am not going to let the “labor” make me quit before the life comes.

On Being His – and Being Human

exquisitrie by kelly sauer

“What should I do about the wild and the tame? The wild heart that wants to be free, and the tame heart that wants to come home. I want to be held. I don’t want you to come too close. I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at nights. I don’t want to tell you where I am. I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me. I want to be with you.”

― Jeanette Winterson

NOTE: The EXQUISITRIE WEDDING GIVEAWAY is still open at Once Wed. Enter to win 10 hours of wedding photography from Kelly Sauer, and pass it on!

A Perfectionist Walks Out of A Photo Shoot

claire pettibone "devotion" | exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer

There are moments in my photography career that will always, always haunt me. They’re the moments that my nightmares are made of, the ones that can still reduce me to tears and panic attacks, the things that no amount of creativity can redo, because sometimes, even in photography, life is just life and when you blow it, you BLOW it.

I’ve been careful not to make mistakes – everyone is, I think – but being human means that they are going to happen, and you hope they happen on personal things, so that the only person they affect is you, so that you can merely re-tool your vision and move on, even if you’re disappointed.

But inevitably, there’s going to be a big one that reaches farther than you and your goals, and after my trip to California, I have a new big one to add to my panic attack list. Of course it happened on my biggest shoot. The one that brought me into contact with some of the people I admire the most in the entire wedding industry. The one that *had* to be perfect.

I remember standing in the hall once after a wedding my friend photographed, years before I ever thought I would become a photographer myself. My friend was loading the wedding images onto his computer, and he had lost over half the images he shot because of improper file handling. I felt bad for him as I waited there while he tried to recover things, but I didn’t understand how *sick* something like that makes you feel until I lost one of my own destination shoots that way early last year.

It gives you PTSD. You’ve given something of yourself, shared something with a client or a model in front of your lens, thought you had earned something beautiful to bring home and give back for the gift of themselves that they shared with you – or for the money they paid you. And here you are left empty-handed, knowing that some things just can’t ever be recreated.

But I am learning is that something is better than nothing, and while sometimes the “something” is a hard-knock lesson in how to be more careful and how to get up and keep going as a professional, putting yourself out there and being real with your humanity is still worth it.

You don’t have to let your mistakes be the end of you. Just take responsibility for your mistake and take your next step. It’s not always going to be pretty. Your mistakes will not always be approached with grace. But you are bigger than that moment, and the people who can’t offer grace are probably not the people you were meant to work with anyway. Don’t be afraid of the growth that comes with messing up. You don’t know where the smallest things will take you, or when you will need the lessons you learn through failure.

Monday Morning to L.A.

image source unknown | http://www.pinterest.com/pin/118008452709007932/

7:32 and the whole world is moving slow –
23 miles per hour, or
16 miles per hour (depending on the flow of the
I-5 traffic heading north into the city),

when eastern light and shadows race across the

2 and 3 and 4 and 6 lane highway where
a few motorcyclists fly by
hundreds of cars at
55 miles per hour in their own secret lane –

fast things that make slow look slower.

2 passengers are required in the commuter lanes, and I am only
one, driving into Hollywood and thinking about
2 or 3 hours spent on relationship and gallons of
four-and-a-half-dollar gas as traffic

slows the racing day down and makes the light fly up
the backs of the tractor-trailers, unchecked, while

hundreds of drivers – probably
thousands of them – wait their way to work. I dream a poem in
numbers while I wait too, wondering if any
one other has noticed the slowing of time.

 
by Kelly Sauer, 4/7/2014

(IMAGE CREDIT UNKNOWN, SOURCED VIA PINTEREST)

En Route – The City of Angels

Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.
― Frank Lloyd Wright

Oh what a fitting reason for me to land in Los Angeles! The perfect restless whimsy in this quote about L.A. is exactly where I am right now, flying cross-country with le bebe and a slew of camera equipment to hang out in the L.A. area with my friends Summer, Carrie, Kelly, Jen, and Laura (if I can get in to visit this busy lady!). I am also planning to visit Richard Photo Lab to FINALLY talk with them in person about my film, I have three Claire Pettibone gowns to photograph, and I have at least two incredible sessions planned, plus a little down time for baby and me (who will still be on Eastern time, OHMYWORD).

en route - the city of angels |

Here is a “Friday Favorites” visual for you to see a bit of my inspiration for all this magic. I had FUN putting this together today while cleaning my computer off to support a whole bunch of new images – I am grateful to people who have given me a little more to see of California than its fabled surfing, palm trees and traffic. I really can’t wait to discover more of this kind of beauty while I am in town!

city of Angels | by dear piper design

P.S. If you can believe it – I still have one or two session openings on Monday and Tuesday – to book one, just drop me a note anywhere (email me, facebook message me, or comment on my Instagram) with your email address! BONUS: If you book for Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, I might just have something super special to add to your session for you!

CREDITS:

1.) Jose Villa
2.) Mecuro B Cotto
(sourced via Pinterest)
3.) Amanda Julca
4.) Elizabeth Messina &
Claire Pettibone
5.) Jose Villa
6.) L.A. City Art Print
by Anne E. McGraw

Senior Session – I Dream of Spring

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

I was *craving* a senior session this year, and this senior whose shoot finalized in less than 24 hours last week was the PERFECT fit for what I’d been craving. Taylor is a dreamer and a horse person, the little girl growing up who never quite lost the romance of being in love with horses, even though she’s been riding since she was a little kid. After two months of shows in Florida, she wanted to put her riding clothes away and show a different side of herself through her photos.

My favorite, favorite part of this shoot was actually catching her smiling from behind my camera. I love to make people laugh when I photograph them, even if I’m putting my foot in my mouth and falling over (and her horse SirRocco actually DID knock me over during our session!). I didn’t know exactly how it was going to feel as we arrived at the farm, bringing an armful of pear blossoms I had foraged on my drive in to Charlotte. I knew I wanted a spring shoot, and the cloudy day wasn’t planning to be obliging by lighting things up. Taylor handed me her clothing options, and we went with a dress she’d never had a chance to wear for a story she is often too shy to tell about herself.

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

 
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

 
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

 
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

 
springtime senior session | kelly sauer lifestyle photography

CREDITS:

Photography & Styling: Kelly Sauer
Styling Assistance: Tracie Stier-Johnson
Location: High Standards Farm
Floral Source: Foraged
Horses: Owned by Client

Wedding Photography Giveaway

Wedding Photography Giveaway| Once Wed

I had a fun post run over the weekend, the kind of post that I have been dying to launch since Exquisitrie went live. To celebrate our rebrand and the wonderfulness that is Exquisitrie (and us getting to work together more officially for weddings), Pete and I are offering ten hours of photography for a 2015 wedding at Once Wed!

To enter, just visit Once Wed for the details (which do, of course, require that you hang out a bit at Exquisitrie so you can tell us your favorite image from our galleries) and leave a comment there with your entry. If you’re a fan of our work, we would love a chance to work with you!

IMAGE CREDITS:

Venue: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
Set Design & Styling: Rebecca Gallop
Styling Assistant: Tia Stockton
Photography: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer
Model: Rebekah Pizana
Gown: Ebrada Atelier
Flower Source: Fields of Flowers
Floral Styling: Rebecca Gallop, Kelly Sauer

NOTE: THIS SHOOT PUBLISHED IN UTTERLY ENGAGED VOL. 1

Bridal Inspiration – La Bella Sposa

Mark-0001708

As Once Wed and I have been preparing a special feature post to let more brides know about Exquisitrie, I’ve been hit with a new learning curve for my marketing that is challenging me out of the “default” photography that I worked on last year. With just one simple question and one little word, I’m back at the drawing board to move beyond “taking pictures” into “appealing to brides.”

The question: “What will *I* look like at my wedding?
The word: CONTEXT

I hadn’t thought about it before. As a bride, I picked my photographer based on HOW he made his images; I didn’t think very much about how I would look in his work. It was a mistake I have regretted since I saw the photos – now I look for photographers to hire based on their sense of the person, the comfort level their subjects display in their photos, and the uniqueness of their composition.

But most brides are looking for a wedding photographer who is going to make *them* look amazing. And while I *love* amazing, it hasn’t been something I focused on until just this year. The best inspiration and the strongest marketing creates a context in which a bride (or groom) can picture themselves and their wedding in your work.

And I have inspiration today, and pictures of how Pete and I want our brides to look – and feel – on their wedding day. Here is a fuller look at the Exquisitrie that went live at Grey Likes Weddings earlier this week. I’m giving myself permission to depart a little from details and give you just the portraits on this one. I know I might be oversharing a little bit. But it’s so PRETTY…

la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings
la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

 la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings
la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

 la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings
la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

 la bella sposa bridal inspiration by exquisitrie | with Carlee Sizemore, Hannah Lane Photography, and Grey Likes Weddings

CREDITS

Photography: Exquisitrie, by Kelly Sauer
Styling: Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.
Model: Hannah Lane Farmer
Gown: Paloma Blanca
Hair Pin: Carlee Sizemore
Floral Source: Charleston Flower Market

Mood Board – Urban Poetry (NOW BOOKING NYC)

 

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.

― Dorothy Parker

You know how there are some people in the world who are just “your people?” They may not think exactly the same way you do, or have the same job or the same interests or the same passions – but they have never, ever made you feel less. They’re the people who love you just the same whether you succeed or fail, or if you need time to grow. They don’t look down on you – even if you are gauche or “behind the curve” – their desire is for you to be the person you are meant to be.

Urban Poetry Mood Board | by Kelly Sauer | NOW BOOKING NYC SESSIONS APRIL 22-23

For some, these people are family, and for others, family takes on a new meaning when they find their people. For me, they’re the people at T.S. Poetry Press, people who mix faith and real life with poetry and entrepreneurship. I can be someone with them that I can’t be anywhere else: creative, passionate, awkward, and real.

From the time I first realized I wanted to be more than a “momtographer,” people like L.L. Barkat and Maureen Doallas have been quiet forces behind my desire, inviting me to pursue my dream, valuing even my earliest work. In fact, they coined the term “poet-photographer” for me, the way I put feelings into thousands of words with my photos.

NYC | by dear piper design for Kelly Sauer | NOW BOOKING NYC SESSIONS APRIL 22-23

Now my people are meeting in New York City for a poetry workshop at the Library Hotel, and they want me there with my camera to join their adventure. But I’m not just going to stop at poetry, if I can help it. I have been DYING for a session or three in New York City. I want to capture the city’s excitement as I felt it when I was there ten years ago, want to photograph faces there as I saw them then, want to look into eyes and make art in the pulse of the town that so many have fantasized about their whole lives.

TS Poetry Workshop | The New York Library Hotel

This limited “urban poetry” offer is for only four sessions to be shot in New York City on April 22-23. These sessions (which may be engagement sessions or solo portrait sessions) will be my very last destination openings for 2014 before I come home to welcome le bouncing bebe into the beautiful world. If you’re feeling poetic, a little romantic, and a little adventurous, I would *love* to make art with you while I am there.

The special session cost is $2,000 for two hours of photography, and includes a pre-shoot creative session to design the mood for your personalized shoot, a printable/downloadable web album from the session along with a full set of proof prints, and a Kelly Sauer signature print. To book, please email me at info@kellysauer.com. All bookings require a 50% retainer to hold your slot and cover necessary styling materials. The remaining payment will be due at your session.

MOOD BOARD CREDITS: 1. A Bryan Photo 2. Nathan Williams for Zara 3.) Teresa | In Love In Italy 4.) Les Brumes 5.) Joyful Surprises 6.) cooked heads

Style File – Embracing “Elegance”

embracing elegance | by kelly sauer

Elegance is refusal.” ― Coco Chanel

I used to hate the whole idea of “elegance.” People used to tell me that my work was “elegant,” and I would wrinkle up my nose and sputter a little bit, because “that was SO not what I was going for.” To me then, elegance was “stuffy” and “overdone,” not at all “fresh” or “organic” or “real” – the way I wanted to think about my work.

But over the last year or so, I have begun to see elegance differently. I have found it in the turn of a flower petal, discovered it in the crook of a wrist and the tilt of a neck. As I have pushed myself to compose differently, to uncover the feeling within the frame, and to tell the most beautiful story in the simplest way, I have found that elegance is not the snooty-nosed, overdressed old lady I once pictured at all. She is young woman, well-bred and beautifully attired with a little bit of shine, a discreet and tender touch, and a modest simplicity. She is not flashy or snobby – her personality is warm and inviting, honest and confident.

If elegance is refusal, as Chanel suggests, then elegance should leave you wanting more. It is the best edit, the most consistent crop, the one image instead of the ten. It is a modulated word instead of a constant chatter. Elegance inspires without defining its inspiration. It knows what it is, powerful through its own “thereness.”

Elegance is always fresh, always original, and always organic, because it speaks truth about real things without contrivance or pretension. It is elegance that makes even the imagined feel possible.

My new understanding of elegance as it applies to my work has added a depth and dimension I couldn’t have articulated years ago. I now see the description as a high compliment (and then I get all embarrassed and blushy because “I’m not really as confident as all that, but thank you so much you are amazing too“). Elegance is an integral part of my voice and my growth, and it really is worth admitting that I was wrong in order to embrace this refined sort of “refusal” that makes me better.

Okay, what about you? Is this just me, or is there a word or description you have rejected for yourself or your work that you later came to see as true of you? How have you embraced that idea for personal growth?

Gown: Paloma Blanca
Model: Hannah Lane Photo
Hair Piece: Carlee Sizemore
Necklace: Gifted

My Birthday Was On Tuesday

march | by kelly sauer

“We’re both feeling really stretched right now,” he murmured close to my ear as he leaned across the pot of chili we were putting on the stove for dinner.

I sighed, leaning on him for a too-short moment before he left again for the office. I reached for the shreds of sanity left to my insomnia-fogged brain after a showdown with the six-year-old that had involved both of us in a parenting capacity we hadn’t previously encountered.

Two nights of ten-o-clock bedtimes and an early morning wake-up weren’t a good recipe for calm obedience on the home front, especially if the six-year-old didn’t want to invest herself.

I called my mom for moral support. I felt old, remembering a time when I had told her that I hated her. She said she forgot those times. I supposed they had affected me more than they affected her.

I forgot to put the chili powder into the chili.

__________________

A friend of mine shared the other day that “disorganized feelings often cause paralysis,” and I have to admit, it has been a while since anything resonated with me like that simple statement did. I launched my site and I have been madly prepping behind the scenes for a marketing push that will launch next week at two major industry blogs.

On the one hand, I have been half-begging God for bookings – on the other, I am still trying to believe that my work is worth it – really, that *I* am worth it. My baby is growing and the needs that Pip and Squiggy have are growing, and I have often had to push my own needs for growth to the side lately.

I was hoping my birthday would be a good day for a little bit of processing, a long afternoon with Pete, a little normalcy in which to make my cherry cheesecake. What I got was a last-minute dentist appointment for the boy, another round of clouds and cold (today is day 5 of gray for me here now), and a heavy work schedule for my husband that left us trying to pull out of survival mode together when we finally did get out for that shortened date. And then there was the “decaf” latte I had for my birthday that was probably not decaffeinated.

My feelings are beyond disorganized right now. My inbox is the only visible to-do list I have managed for weeks. And I am scared. I am scared of moving forward, scared of getting bookings, scared of having a new baby in the house with the daily new challenges we face with Pip and Squiggy. I am scared of not being good enough, of finally having admitted the desire I have to “be a photographer” and to do it well.

__________________

My favorite birthday moment this year was the one I found on the way out of the dentist’s parking lot. There was a stand of pear trees bordering the lot, the flowering kind that are stubborn enough to bloom even without the sun around to draw them out. They were covered in snow-and-ivory, blossoms cloaking bare branches against the slate gray sky. I pulled the car into a parking spot near the exit and climbed out with my iPhone, walking determinedly toward the beauty, intending to gather what I could from their loveliness, wishing I had scissors so I could forage a few branches.

I paused, noticing a puddle on the pavement between me and the pretty. Bother. I didn’t want to walk through that and ruin my brand new pair of eighty-dollar flats the way I’d ruined the last pair. And then I looked closer. And I caught the reflection I hadn’t seen for the four times I had driven in and out of the lot in the previous two days.

Mesmerized, I looked down at the tiny ripples made by the water dropping off the blooms above. There were already blossoms falling from the tree, floating in the pool of rainwater. And there were the blossoms on the tree, perfectly framed against sky and street in the reflection in front of me, all the feelings coming together in one place that made no sense at all and all the sense in the world.

__________________

So this is my life right now, stretched, a bit needier than I want, up and down all in the same space as I pause the “go” and take a look at me and at the people in my world, seeing things clearer in the reflections than I would have seen without them.

I have no idea what I want out of my 32nd year, but having it start on a Tuesday in the middle of everything seems like one of the better ways it could have begun. It’s a real thing, anyway, and I’m pretty good with real.

Plum Pretty Sugar Maternity

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

Plum Pretty Sugar is a lingerie boutique that deals in natural cottons and pretty prints, and I have loved their aesthetic for a long time. If you give me something from Plum Pretty Sugar, I know exactly how I want to shoot it (which I got to do already at one wedding last year!) and exactly how I want it to feel on the other side.

So when Plum Pretty Sugar sent me a pretty little robe to celebrate my pregnancy – they read my blog and they were so happy to find out about our little “Flip” – I knew I was going to have to clear some space in my schedule to photograph their sweet gift, because, squeeee

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer
plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

My good friend Rachel and I got together on the spur of the moment last weekend to make that happen. (Poor her, she only shows up here when she’s pregnant, it seems, but I promise, she’s only having her second baby!!!) It was hilarious, the two of us girls in a room together, both feeling tired and soooo much larger than we wanted to feel for making the pretty. It was amazing how just a few small details, a little bit of pretty light, and a chance to smile and interact with one another left both of us feeling more human and rested than we’d felt when we began.

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer
plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer
plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

We finished off the shoot with a few moments with Rachel’s husband, Bruce, and their first baby, Jackson, who is unrecognizable as the baby I photographed almost two years ago as a newborn, but still one of the cutest things I have ever seen with two feet. Omigoodness.

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer
plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

plum pretty sugar maternity | by kelly sauer

They Wanted Spring

le bebe | by kelly sauer

“They wanted spring, of course they wanted it, more than anything. They longed for sun with every pore of their skin. But spring hurts. If spring can come, if things can be different, how can you bear what your existence has been?”

― Helen Dunmore, The Siege

Once Upon a Morning – Hush

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/531213718519537598/
orchid | by kelly sauer

I took my camera with me in the pre-dawn light, walking brisk as the chill in the air to dispel the lingering coolness of the night. I was half-scouting, half-exercising, building stamina the way I’m supposed to be doing to prepare for this baby’s birth. I wanted to clear my head, shout out the questions spinning around inside of it and get some answers – but all I could accomplish was a “breathe in, breathe out” as the words ran away. I could feel only the air against my face, the light coming over the horizon, the ache in my widening hips, the stretching of my body out of its sleepy state.

A woodpecker spent a noisy rat-a-tat in a tall pine over my head. A mockingbird on another street plied his stolen songs in a too-loud voice that reminded me of the proverb about “greeting one’s neighbor loudly in the morning.” I rolled my eyes and wished – ever-so-briefly – for a slingshot. Not that I could see the bird anyway. I could hear the commuter traffic on the nearby highway. I listened for the approach of other traffic in our neighborhood that still wanted to be asleep – in spite of Daylight Savings Time pulling us all from bed an hour earlier than usual. I had been up for two hours already anyway. This baby is an early riser.

The answers didn’t come, not on the breeze, not in the few photos I made myself take in the low light, dreading the editing. Then I was home, and the daily routine was starting here again, and I wouldn’t have time to sit and soak up the sun and sleep as I had over the weekend. There were rooms to get clean, schoolwork to supervise, and work things that couldn’t be put off.

The noise – the busy – is easier to notice. It demands more attention. But in the stillness, there is something to be heard, if one dares to listen to the first bird tentatively trill its first joyful note in the early dark of day, believing that morning is coming because it always has.

The answers are there, in the quiet before the storm of busyness and routine, in the hush that deadens the sound of the questions, leaving room for vulnerability where there was no softness in the tired night before.

When the River Freezes

You know how in the spring, the river plays? The water bubbles and bounces over itself to express its joy, flows passion from its renewed source down to the sea, even spreading out of its banks to explore a new world beyond what it has known. “Come with me,” it invites, “the winter has gone!

I felt my “river” coming on like this last week after I launched my site with open windows and sun and sixties here in Charleston. I took a few much-needed days off to feel something besides design and to notice the light that has been staying longer. I sensed my Seasonal Affective Disorder beginning to lift, felt myself breathing again. I did a gorgeous shoot on Sunday that pushed me to a place I’ve been hoping to go all winter. I had so much fun playing behind my camera again…

by Kelly Sauer
 

And then Monday came. And five full, long days of dark rain and cold. My renewed energy drained away as my body succumbed to the intense pain brought on by the falling barometric pressure. All my projects went into “wait” mode again as I held my breath on the film I’d overnighted to the lab, as I tried to decide if I should move my house around or ask God to work miracles so we could move to a new house we’ve looked at and loved, as I hit the point where I could make no more decisions and began to feel swallowed by the loneliness that walks hand-in-hand with the SAD depression.

My river, as it were, refroze.

This week, the days have run together. I’ve moved from “introversion” to “agoraphobia,” and I haven’t wanted to share anything with anyone, haven’t wanted to be seen. This is hard for me to put out here, especially as I am in a place where I am actively trying to book sessions so I have people in my world and in front of my camera, and I know that my web presence is important to doing this. But the Web is so noisy, and so selfish.

Do you know that I’ve discovered the best way to lose followers? POST SOMETHING. People fall away by the dozens when I share, and in this place I am in now, I can’t take the silence, the falling numbers, the gut-wrench, or the “what-did-I-do-wrong?” without wishing myself totally out of existence. Some days, it’s okay (“their loss,” I say, and chalk it happily up to my “attract/repel” business model) but on the dark days, I can’t take the way it all makes me freeze in place and wish I hadn’t reached for life, even in that small way.

by Kelly Sauer

I realized the other day that I can’t keep half-living my life to keep myself safe from disappointment. I can’t keep hedging my bets and only reaching for what I can achieve on my own. I am meant to be childlike and passionate and vulnerable and kind and fully alive.

Today is supposed to be our last day of gray for a bit. I didn’t sleep last night because of the pain. I am craving sunlight. I’m going to move a chair outside tomorrow and sit in it and let the light thaw my frozen joints, and I’m going to breathe again, and I’m probably going to cry for a bit, because crying when you’re happy is a healing thing.

I wonder if maybe that is what the river is doing in the spring, if its playful caprice is really the river crying happy tears, flooding off its anger at being frozen, if it is merely at the life it wasn’t allowed to live without the warmth.

CALIFORNIA SESSION OPENINGS

California Session Openings | Kelly Sauer Photography

At the beginning of 2014, I made a wishlist of things I wanted to shoot and people I wanted to work with. One of those wishlist items was a trip to California in 2014 to work with Summer at Grey Likes Weddings, and another was an opportunity to photograph some of the loveliness that the beautiful Carrie shares through her event company, Fleurish Events.

Believe it or not, I am going to get to have both these wishes come true in April, and this East Coast girl is going to California to capture its magic light in collaboration with these favorite West Coast friends.

There *is* one catch, however. My husband, who books my travel for me, accidentally booked me an extra day on my stay, and I have to fill the time so I don’t spend it all in my hotel watching Law and Order re-runs and NOT enjoying that amazing light. So here’s what I’m gonna do:

On April 6-7, I am opening up six lifestyle portrait sessions in the Orange County area on a first come, first served basis.

California Session Openings | Kelly Sauer Photography

I am particularly interested in booking engagement, bridal, couple, or headshot/portrait sessions that can be lightly styled for a natural, real life feeling – but I would also love to shoot family, maternity, or newborn sessions if you love my work and want my eye for something like that. If you have a shoot idea or a product shoot you need that you think would fit with my style, I would love to consider your vision. (Does anybody have a marriage proposal up his sleeve? Or what about a three-hour elopement session?)

Each session will include a pre-session creative consultation to plan styling for your shoot in advance and help me create a personalized shot list built around you and your lifestyle. We’ll talk moments and colors and details and what makes you happy, so by the time we get together to make your photos, we’ll get to have all kinds of fun seeing things come to life.

California Session Openings | Kelly Sauer PhotographyCalifornia Session Openings | Kelly Sauer Photography

To book, please email me at info@kellysauer.com. All bookings require a 50% retainer to hold your slot and cover necessary styling materials. The remaining payment will due at your session.

Behind the Launch – A Ramble

kelly sauer

In some ways, this has been my most successful week ever, both as a person and as a business owner. I pushed through one of the hardest things I have ever done, deeply expressed myself, my art, and my introversion in a visual way, earned myself credibility that I know I have deserved but hadn’t before had the ability to command, and came out on the other side still feeling like myself. There have been a LOT of good things that have come my way this week – so many, in fact, that my workload is growing already, just since Tuesday’s launch. On this front, I know that I have come into who I am supposed to be.

But there are still other things, conversations and nagging questions, uncertainties and the inevitable crash that comes as you process the culmination of something that has taken so much out of you. There is “what about ‘River’ now?” and getting an iron panel run and catching up with your life again to realize that some things you thought about those you love were wrong and you have collateral damage to deal with. There are questions of trust and “do I really see people the way I think I do?” because I have been wrong before, and they’re much more practiced at not being themselves than I am.

Walking out on faith isn’t easy, and it doesn’t end with the first step. I think I expected magic of some sort, that finishing my website after years and years of pouring my heart into developing my ideas and my voice would mean that my whole life would suddenly look like this perfect picture I had imagined.

Yet even as I worked to put my portfolio back together after the overhaul it sustained, I couldn’t help tracing the thread of black shadowing through every piece. No matter how light the photo is, you have to have the shadow to draw attention to the light. You have to recognize that fine art isn’t just a wash of whiteness; it is the mix of the black and the white and the gray and all the colors in between that sometimes you can’t even SEE, but you feel them – you know they’re there, and that is what keeps the image relevant.

I don’t want to become cynical, or to wall my heart off to hope or to others. The photography industry, the blogging world – it is horrible for that. You take a lot of hits, both online and off. There are friends and tribes and groups who will take your side no matter what, and there are enemies and tribes and groups who will rip you up no matter what.

I can’t help thinking of the jarring scene in the movie musical,Oklahoma, just after the wedding and the shivaree – the happiest moments of the movie – when Judd, the hired hand, had died after falling on his own knife while trying to murder Laurey and Curly. Laurie, whose dreams of love had just been fulfilled, asked Aunt Eller how she is supposed to go on with life now, after something so bad had happened.

Aunt Eller, holding her, explained that “All kinds of things are gonna happen in life, Honey, and sometimes you’ve got to take the good with the bad, and say, well, all right then.”

Disappointment and heartache go with living – that’s just a fact. But joy and hope come with it too, and shutting your heart to those things is a recipe for disillusionment and unkindness. The world may try to shove me into the corner, but I don’t have to choose it. The good and the hard are part of who I am, alive.

All right then. Let’s see what today brings.

SITE LAUNCH | Tuesday is My Favorite Day

It always has been. It’s not quite the start of a thing, but there’s still lots of room to do things before the end, and it’s just off-set enough to keep me happy with a little bit of perceived randomness.

I have so much going on today, I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll start at my Tuesday, the landing for everything:

kelly sauer | home page  | http://www.kellysauer.com/

KELLY SAUER LTD. CO. finally has a home page from which you can explore how we’re making fine art out of our real life. I tried and tried to get everything into one website, but with a slightly different aesthetic and experience between my lifestyle work and my wedding work, Pete finally weighed in and we mapped out three full sites that would be interconnected through kellysauer.com.

kelly sauer | wedding portfolio

Today I am officially launching EXQUISITRIE. It’s been almost a year since the initial idea hit me, and believe me, I needed every moment of that time to create the brand and the experience that I want to give my brides. I have never been prouder of anything I’ve ever done with my work, ever, creating a website with the feeling I want each of my brides to have about her wedding day.

I get to launch this one with a special treat: Elizabeth Messina has given me permission to share my images from A Lovely Workshop (with credit back to all involved, of course), and on top of that, I’m sharing a few never-before-seen images from my summer shoot with Chaviano Couture. So yeah, I’m pretty much dying over my new editorial page at the wedding site – you are going to LOVE it.

kelly sauer | lifestyle portfolio

And finally, I’m thrilled with the revival of my lifestyle photography site, KELLY SAUER PHOTOGRAPHY. This one came together so quickly when I was able to begin work on it after the technical difficulties I hit last week – I feel like all the joy is here, my favorite images, my favorite fun. I’ll be adding to this one again soon, with two new editorial galleries that are still awaiting publication!

Today as I was finalizing everything, I got that same feeling I had during both of my labors on the other side of transition: “YOU HAVE DONE THIS. THE HARDEST PART IS FINISHED.” And for the umpteenth time this week, I am crying, because this is actually real. After three solid, CRAZY years of work, I don’t have to apologize for being “in-between” anymore. I feel like I am what I have always wanted to be, and from here, I GO.

Go have fun with these things, peoples. And help me share all the beauty this week?

CREDITS: I’ll never be able to thank each of the people who got me here. I’m so very, very, very grateful to Jennifer Olmstead of Deleted Space Creative, who helped me create a cohesive design aesthetic for the overall Kelly Sauer brand. Our new babysitter, Shelby, has been a godsend, and Pip and Squiggy have been super-patient with me while I’ve been so incredibly focused recently.

And Pete. I can’t even begin to communicate the depth of my feeling for your understanding, your willingness to learn and to listen, and to hold me when everything was just too much at the end of the day. Thank you for being my constant, for making my meals and being my wall, for encouraging me to *feel* instead of take the pragmatic road every time. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I love that you’ll be with me in it, and I love that we’ve built more room for you into the business than we thought we’d have when you launched it for me. I love you. Thank you for this gift of letting me be me.

Behind the Lens – A Relaunch Update

ranunculus, by kelly sauer

If you’ve been following me at all anywhere online, you know that I have been planning to relaunch my brand and photography site on Valentine’s Day, but due to some circumstances beyond my control, I am unable to make the launch I had hoped to make today.

I am both frustrated and relieved; the extra time will give me some much-needed space enhance the feeling I am wanting to present, but all the voices are out in force to remind me that “people are counting on you” and “this is BAAAAADDDD for your marketing – who does WEBSITES through marketing season, I ASK you?” The voices don’t like me today. They don’t like that we are still in flux, and will probably still be in flux for another few weeks until All the Things are ready to go. They don’t even like that I’m writing about this moment; they think that it’s just embarrassing.

For a girl who generally tries to follow the rules once she figures them out, I’m uncomfortably aware that I am breaking them just now, and I can either own it (because: LIFE), or sit here with a guilt complex and assume that this failure to launch means my entire future is now in jeopardy. Since part of my whole brand is “clear communication,” I’d rather let people down openly than try to cover it over and go into hiding. And yeah, I might lose some potential clients by being honest here, but my quality of life will be ever so much better for the support that comes from the people who matter and the people who believe *I* matter too.

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m going to keep pushing through the hold-ups without the adrenaline rush, and I am going to continue making this new “me” the highest quality I can. I am going to prepare the full launch (I’m going to three sites, y’all), and ready the giveaways that will go with it. And when it comes, I hopehopehope you’ll feel it was worth the wait, because it is INSANE.

It is all coming soon, I promise.

So You Need a New Headshot?

kelly sauer

I know, I know, these new headshots are a habit of mine, and I kind of love them.
I’m so happy with this morning’s little session that I’ve decided to blog it
and offer a few quick tips for creating your own headshots without hiring another photographer:

1.) Choose your mood.

For this morning’s self-portrait session, I wanted something fresh for my rebrand, something a little lacy, a little elegant, and a little organic, but super simple and pretty. I also wanted a mix of creams and whites so it wouldn’t clash with anything at my new site.

2.) Choose your light.

In my house, I have to figure out ways to use window light, since the light that bounces off the walls here is pretty yellow. I create my set so that the light comes in either from the side or from the front, and I often use mirrors to bounce backlight up onto my face.

3.) Create your set.

Declutter your background, make sure it is the colors/setting you want to portray. This morning, I tried something a little different, draping a number of my favorite laces over the large poster board I often use as a backdrop for my editorial shots. Then I positioned the backdrop on two stools and set myself below and about two feet in front of it on a sheet-draped ottoman that maintained the “flow” of the backdrop. I hate editing clutter out of backdrops when I’m processing self-portraits.

4.) Dress for the shoot.

You want to feel your best when you are shooting – there’s a lot self-image stuff that goes on when you spend a lot of time looking in the mirror. It really is a personal journey, and the fewer reasons you have to be annoyed with your subject (YOU!), the better your session will go. Don’t do it half-heartedly either. It will show in your photo that you didn’t care about the details.

5.) Be patient with yourself.

Whether you are shooting with a tripod or capturing your own reflection in the mirror, you have to give yourself a lot of grace for missing the shot you’re going for. I often get only 10 or so *usable* shots out of 200 – practice is what makes this process livable. Try different angles, pose yourself, make faces, laugh at yourself, and have a little fun.

6.) Think in squares as you compose.

This is super important, since most headshots are square. Be sure to pull back far enough that you get a little more than your face in the shot. There WILL be cropping happening in editing.

Good luck – and if you do come up with a self-portrait/headshot that you love, share it here? I’d love to see!

Utterly Engaged – Heart to Heart

Utterly Engaged | (cover by Elizabeth Messina) | http://utterlyengaged.bigcartel.com/

 
There is nothing like submitting your work for an online publication and then finding out that it has been chosen for something you didn’t imagine: a brand new print magazine, envisioned by some of the most amazing, creative people in the industry. You kind of just sit back and wonder, because you couldn’t have planned for THAT.

This is what happened with Utterly Engaged when I submitted a pretty little “backyard” shoot I did with A Daily Something last May, and what happened again with UE when Chaviano Couture submitted images from a pretty little shoot that we did in August, and what happened AGAIN with another stand-alone image from one of my pretty little 2013 weddings.
 

Chaviano Couture | Utterly Engaged http://utterlyengaged.bigcartel.com/ (photos by Kelly Sauer)

 
I found out about the third inclusion last night when they sent me the material to share with you, and I’ve gone from “over the moon” to a quiet sort of shock and awe and WHOA, because… okay, I can’t even think of my because. The timing could not have been better for my heart (you know, unless the launch had happened after my official Valentine’s Day relaunch here!). This UE launch (along with the encouragement of a few good friends) is reminding me that I still am somebody in the world who does things worth doing, regardless of how lost I feel in the middle of all the crazy hard work that makes this beautiful happen.
 

Intimacy by Kelly Sauer | (published in Utterly Engaged | http://utterlyengaged.bigcartel.com/)

 
Now, I can only give you a small preview of the magazine content here (some of my favorite images ever!), but you can still order the print magazine for a limited time until this Saturday, February 8 so you can see it for yourself. After Saturday, the magazine will only be available in digital format, so NOW is the time to order if you want to hold it in your hands!
 

Sweet as Pie | Utterly Engaged | http://utterlyengaged.bigcartel.com/ (photography by Kelly Sauer, Styling by Rebecca Gallop)

 
http://utterlyengaged.bigcartel.com/

P.S. This sneak peek features an awful lot of talent, and I’d bet that a lot of these wonderful people are going to be sharing their own news about the new magazine today too. Go and see!

Cover Credits: Elizabeth Messina, Twigs & Honey | Chaviano Couture Article: Annette Thurmon, Carlee Sizemore, Blue Eyed Yonder , Amy Osaba | “Intimate” Image: BHLDN, Wildflowers Inc, Walter Knoll Florist | “Sweet as Pie” Article: Rebecca Gallop, Tia Stockton, Rebekah Pizana, Ebrada Atelier

How to Fall in Love

Mark-0001634

“When you fall in love, the natural thing to do is give yourself to it.
That’s what I think. It’s just a form of sincerity.”

― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

The sun shone here most of yesterday – it wasn’t supposed to. I was trying to work on a deadlined project, the kind of huge undertaking that requires lots of clouds, no Fridays, and no reason for me to want to get up to leave my computer behind. But the sun came in spite of my “get-it-done” drive, and I went out into it. I even took the camera.

I didn’t go far – just the back yard, which needs rediscovering since our new neighbor decimated all of the beautiful foliage that bordered the yard on his side. I cringed at the naked chicken wire where ivy had climbed over the fence, but I tried to distract myself with the light filtering through. I used my macro lens to uncover the textures, to narrow the scope down to the beautiful.

I look at this picture, and I can’t get over the fullness of it, can’t trace the lines of its fall and its “thereness” enough, can’t believe it was there all the time in the gray and the emptying. I just needed the perspective of grief to see it.

It is how I grieve, I suppose, and it is also how I fall in love again and again – following the light, narrowing my view, adjusting my perspective. Getting your heart broken can do one of two things to you: it can shut your heart down and lock you in, or it can help you see the small things you’d never have seen without needing a reason to keep going. It did the latter for me, all those years ago when I thought my life had ended.

There is always room for wonder, even at the end of a thing, if you remember who you really are, if you can look. Before you know it, you’re falling in love again, and it’s okay to let that happen. You’re “going out into it,” and you’re finding what has always been there, whether you knew it or not.

Grief is the way real life calls to us. Disappointment shapes us for our deepest dreams, and God-who-is-I-Am draws our broken hearts right into Himself to show us what we were always meant to be.

Anywhere, A River

river | one word 2014 | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I didn’t see it. I took the picture, and I didn’t even see it, distracted by the icy ground melting cold right through my padded socks. I was annoyed that I didn’t have close-toed shoes I could just slip on to run outside for a few wintry photos. My husband, home from work that morning for a rare snow day, had told me not to go out dressed like that. I was annoyed with him too, for being right. I just wanted a picture or two for my blog, because snow in Charleston must be recorded or else.

I rushed my shoot so I could run back inside away from the needles of cold-pain shooting up my legs, and then I rushed the editing, puttering around with presets on work that didn’t really matter to me.

Pete came into my office to see what I had seen and stopped short, looking at one of my photos. “It’s a river,” he said.

“It’s a crack in the pavement,” I said, explaining what I had seen. “Filled with ice.”

“Look at the flow. It’s a river.”

Suddenly the photo DID matter, and my painful little winter shoot mattered too, because in spite of what I hadn’t seen, I had unconsciously recorded exactly what my shoot – and my heart – needed: the “unexpected inspiration” that comes when you walk out into the world fully alive to wonder. I wouldn’t have seen it without someone else to point it out, but it was there, and it had already come from me, right in the middle of my mess.

Art is a conduit, and redemption is the river that flows through it. It is the artist, discovering beauty he didn’t intend to make and holding onto it, even if it wasn’t his original vision. It is the viewer, seeing past intention and finding something more real. It is imperfection perfected in connection, and annoyance falling away through the vision love gives.

Ready or Not – OFFICIAL LAUNCH DATE

It’s coming it’s coming it’s coming! On Valentine’s Day, 2014, I will officially be opening the doors to reveal – and market – my new brand (including Exquisitrie and an even more personalized client experience) for the business that I’ve been slowly building over the last few years. I feel like I’m running instead of walking now, with so much to do and to get ready for the launch, but this is it, peoples. THIS THING IS BEING BORN OR ELSE. I can’t wait to hold this baby.

I am working on some celebratory deals for a few things, and maybe even a giveaway – so stay tuned. It’s gonna be a *sweet* Valentine’s Day for Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co.!


 LAUNCH DATE | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
 
(Mercy. The work and wait time on all of this makes my pregnancies feel FAST.)

Behind the Lens – From Where You Are

behind the lens | la joie, la vie | by kellysauer

Want to know a secret? In my ten years of photography experience, I haven’t always had ideal situations for making pictures. Not every real person is a model; not every wedding is the most beautiful wedding you have ever seen; not every lighting situation is wonderful (In fact, almost every single shoot I had in 2013 was accompanied by clouds and the threat of rain.). I have spent ten years learning to shoot around things to create the clean, exquisite feeling I want to communicate in my work.

Limited by often-unchangeable factors, I have learned that I must make art from where I am.

If I only have my iPhone with me (and not very much energy), I push myself to find the right angle to say what I want to say. If the colors are too bright, or if the day is gray, I embrace the mood I can bring with black-and-white to speak more softly. If I am trapped at home with no planned photography sessions in sight, I create backdrops with poster board and textures with blankets or sheets. I explore my own yard and narrow down my usually-cluttered view to capture the things that remind me I am alive.

After several weeks of sorting through my hundreds of thousands of photos, it has been a bit disheartening to see so much of my work that will have to be put away. I am figuratively “shooting around things” to share an accurate picture of my real artistic voice. Yet even in the midst of my discouragement, I’m reminded to “make art from where I am.” This portfolio process is teaching me to think differently about what I shoot and what I share, to experiment with colors from different shoots, to identify consistency and quality within my own product, and to expand my art beyond each individual session and situation.

The key to making art from where you are is found in a willingness to accept your limitations and work within them in a way that speaks honestly about who you are. Even non-artists respond to the you in your work – just look at some of the most popular pins on Pinterest. This acceptance is my biggest challenge yet, but with every small breakthrough, my vision clears a bit more from the default settings I thought I had to apply to “just make things work” and compete with other photographers.

I’m gonna fly this year, y’all, rain or no rain, and I’m going to shoot what I want to shoot, from wherever I am. I don’t care who sees or competes – no one gets to be me the way I do, and I pretty much love what I’m discovering about that.

If you’re discouraged today because you don’t have the portfolio or opportunities you want, look again. Re-edit your work if you need to. Find the things that are most you, the images you have loved to show and share. Let go of the “I’d feel bad if I didn’t show” and the “oh, this one *almost” works,” and learn your best you. Then today and tomorrow and the next day, make art you love, wherever you are.

SE FAIRE – A Workshop for Creatives

se faire | a Kelly Sauer workshop | coming soon

Who are you? What are your unique gifts, the things that set you apart from others who are doing what you are doing? How do you want to be perceived? Who are the people you want to know and work with? What do you want to feel about your life and your art? How will YOU define success?

These are questions I have worked to answer for myself as my business and I have grown over the past five years, and these are questions I am excited to discuss with workshop attendees this November, when Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. launches its first workshop, Se Faire. This one-of-a-kind workshop is built around the thought that “becoming” is what we are all doing no matter where we are in our lives, and is meant to offer practical tips to integrate the dreams you have for your life into a real (and sometimes messy) everyday.

At our intimate workshop setting in Charleston, South Carolina, we will explore the art of building relationships, finding your unique voice, developing your business identity and visual brand, and uncovering the art that is already in in your real life. In keeping with our “boutique” approach to everything at Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co., spaces are limited so that each attendee will be able to enjoy the personalized, conversational experience we are known for.

The two-day workshop for creatives will begin on Friday evening, November 7, and conclude on Sunday, November 9. Stay tuned for more details, to be released when our spots open!

Once Upon a Morning – Connect

la joie, la vie | by kelly sauerI wake to the feel of his hand on my belly, searching for my womb, stealing into the sleepy warm of my nighttime cocoon between the blankets. He whispers a dream he had about the babe who moves enough beneath his hand now that he can feel its life, resting his head on me for a moment as if he can hear the heartbeat of the little one we’ve brought into being.

In the dusky light that has begun to filter into the bedroom, I wonder what it is like to be in his shoes, to know that his life will be changing, waiting for a connection I already have with the baby as it grows inside. We have already begun our conversation, Flip and I, but it won’t start for Pete until he weighs the baby in his arms, until tiny fingers curl around his and he can laugh at their strength.

It is a miracle, this “two becoming one” (or two, or three) that we have done over the last eight years, and I marvel that for all that Pete and I know of one another after the passage of time together, I am still me and he is still him. We are together, but still so different in the way we are. We vowed – on faith – to love, and to share our lives with each other. Nobody can know what tomorrow will bring or how life will change you – in the now, we love what is and what could be, and we don’t forget who we are.

He loves on faith, and I have seen how it makes him strong as he lays his life down every day to meet the needs. He isn’t always sure we love him back; we don’t always remember to think of him as we accept his care. But “Love believes all things,” and this is how I know he loves us, these moments when he reaches for us, himself sharing his life, exploring ours.

The sun is up now, and he is at the office. The routine has taken over, and it is good. It is how we get through the days when we are not together. But as I subconsciously reach to stroke the baby in my rounding tummy, I remember today that I am not the only one in this story of us – not even the only one in this chapter – and I listen a little closer for his heartbeat.

Words I Live By – Desire

desire | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie | dear Piper design
desire | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

Psalm 17:15

I’m running about two hours behind on my schedule today after staying in bed for an extra length of time this morning. I kept telling myself to get up, kept running off the to-do list in my head, feeling more rooted to my spot by the second as my stress levels spiked… and then the baby began bouncing in my belly, and I didn’t have the heart to stop its play by changing my position. So I remained still. I absorbed beauty, the warmth of my blankets, the sounds of my family getting ready for the day, the tiny, dancing reality of a healthy little one.

My to-do list is not always driven by desire (in spite of the lessons I’ve learned about dealing with that over the years!), but my best days, my favorite work – it is all desire. As I rested a little longer this morning, enjoying my life for a long moment before obligation rushed in, I remembered this, and I let my imagination play a bit with what I had on my docket.

I have to hold onto desire, and not just the hard, go-get-it desire that drives me onward for motivational purposes. I need to remember that my heart wants a little breathing room, and it needs to be full of things that matter and not just a list of accomplishments that won’t mean diddly tomorrow.

There are so many things that get in the way of the desire that begins and ends with God – who gives both the desire and its fulfillment – but if I allow desire to keep pace with me, I uncover a delightful simplicity on even the most complex days. Everything feels a little bit brighter, a little bit clearer – no matter how far behind my goals I am working.

in your heart, by Tom Davis | la joie, la vie | dear Piper design

River – Flow [a ramble]

path | la joie, la vie | by kelly sauer
 “River is a good word for you,” she said. My midwife, who has also functioned as my therapist in the past, started exploring my word for me, thinking out loud as she put it into the context of my pregnancy and upcoming birth.

“Rivers have always been a symbol of life, and of rest,” she went on. “The river brings things to you while you wait, and it takes things away. It is always the same, yet always changing. The river always flows.”

I live in a city where three rivers come together. I never thought to notice the rivers for the sea that was so near, where they empty themselves out. I look up when we cross the bridges on our way around Charleston, and I forget to look down. I can’t remember the last time I stopped at a river to watch the water flow.

This one word that I almost didn’t choose for my year is unpacking itself in ways I couldn’t have guessed. Almost every day, I run into something new about “river” that I never thought to think about. I feel like I’m on a path to the water, not quite there yet, but slowly coming to it. My curiosity has definitely been piqued.

“Flow” is one of my aesthetic words. You would think I’d have noticed it. The undulation of the water, the way the rivers go out and come back in with the tides here in Charleston, the way they move and flex themselves to be whatever they want to be – it is something I would notice, something so very me that it only makes sense that I would want to photograph it, to somehow capture the feeling of it.

I wonder what “my” river is taking away this year, wonder what its flow is bringing. I have some ideas, and waiting here on my figurative shore, I find it easier to let go of the things that must go away from me, and easier to be open to receive the new things that are coming. I am losing my illusions of control, yet I feel more rooted than ever before, more peaceful, more able to let life be what it will be.

“As your faith is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will and that you will flow with them to your great delight and benefit.”

― Emmanuel Teney

Style File – The Swooning Layers

elegance | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
elegance | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

 
I do not always like layers (they can be a little… overwhelming), but sometimes – oh SOMETIMES – someone just does something amazing with them and it takes me back to my girlhood when all things beautiful equaled veils and roses OH MY. These photos from Joseph and Rebecca’s wedding, published on Elizabeth Anne Designs, say all the things about how swoony I get when that particular phenomenon goes off. The obsession is a little unfortunate for my grooms, but when I have the right bride, we just squeal together and make it all work in his favor.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Behind the Lens: The Artist’s Discipline

The Artist's Discipline | la joie, la vie | by kelly sauer

My personality does not thrive on business and schedule and obligation. Deadlines make me crazy. I keep a to-do list so that I have a “next step,” but sometimes the “next step” looks like “okay, we are going to jump off a cliff now, and we are going to fly because it is what we are made for and WAIT A MINUTE, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO FLY YET!” I know I am not the only one who feels a little betrayal when that “mama bird” to-do list tosses me out of the warm, safe nest I’ve built with my puttering.

So. I’m writing today for the artist, for the photographer who is booked every weekend from March through November, for the poet who signed a two-book contract and now has deadlines and an advance to earn, for the blogger who has journaled their way into writing a book proposal – for anybody who is looking at your to-do list and panic-attacking because you aren’t made for all this obligation and “dear Lord, please help me survive this.”

You’re not dying, and this is not the end of all the things. As I’ve slowly learned how to be an artist in business, I’ve made a few choices about my to-do list that have radically changed my approach to my business, and really, to my entire life. I want to share these “rules” of mine with you today – they’re super-good, if I do say so myself.

1. Flip obligation on its head so that it becomes desire again.

If you’re a creative, I’d be willing to bet hard money that you didn’t wake up one morning and decide that you wanted to be a businessperson. Everything you are doing started with an inspiration, and then you did something you loved with it, and then someone else loved it too, and then they suggested that you should start a business doing what you loved, and you said yes and your dream came true and now you kind of mostly don’t want to admit that you hate the thing that you loved, because in order to keep doing it, you have to keep doing X,Y, and Z that are KILLING YOU.

Take the to-do list and re-think it. Get creative with it. (It’s what you do, right?!) Remember what “desire” led you into this in the first place. Allow yourself to replace X and Y with P and S because you have the energy for that today and you will have energy for X and Y tomorrow. Reconsider your deadlines, and prioritize your obligations around what you love, as much as you can. Some things will still just have to be done (like diapers and meals and such if you work at home like I do), but you CAN have grace and still do the work you’ve committed to do.

2.) Leave space in your schedule to create something you love every single day.

I cannot over emphasize this point. Creatives thrive on creativity. Artists have to make art. It is our lifeblood.

I have seen the fire go out of so many successful creatives who have gotten sucked into the drama of being great. If you discipline yourself to keep writing, keep shooting, keep experimenting every day, you will keep growing. Your work will be fresh, and the thread of raw authenticity that got you started won’t get lost in the to-do list, and you won’t be working yourself into a rut.

3.) Even when you are working for others, respect your own space.

Just as your art depends on you to keep creating, you and your family cannot be the collateral damage to your business. Even when I am working under urgent, crazy deadlines, I take at least one day per week when I do NOT do business things. I balance my workdays with a bit of puttering, a bit of inspiration, and a bit of responsibility, and I turn the computer OFF before dinnertime if I can. I only respond to emails during the workday, and if I’m in the middle of something lifegiving, I won’t take phone calls.

I used to think that I couldn’t do anything until that wedding I shot was delivered. I cycled myself right down the drain and almost out of my marriage trying to meet that expectation I held for myself. Now I educate my clients about my life and my schedule, and I give them clear expectations about when they can expect me to deliver what we’ve created together. If I have to move a deadline, I communicate that clearly and professionally, and check to see if there is a small part of the obligation that I can meet while I work on the project completion.

The opposite of productivity should be conductivity, if you look at the Greek roots of the prefixes, and suddenly I find myself at “river” again, letting things flow naturally through me instead of pushing them out.

This is the discipline of the artist, to hold onto life even while he is pouring it out. These three measures have helped me immensely as I have grown my business in the last two years, and while it requires some personal lecturing at times to get me to STOP the GO already, these boundaries I’ve created for myself and my business are some of the best decisions I have ever made.

Now. I will just take this one with me over the next few weeks as I prepare for my full site launch. Ooooyyyyy…

Once Wed – My Studio Session

misty morning | la joie, la vie | by kelly sauerA few weeks before Christmas, Once Wed launched their offer of “studio sessions” for photographers. I knew immediately that I wanted to go – not just because I wanted to learn more about what I’m doing as a photographer, but because Joy Thigpen is one of my creative heroes, and Emily Newman is my favorite wedding blog editor anywhere, based purely on the exquisitely curated aesthetic she maintains at the Once Wed blog. So much that is shared and created at Once Wed embodies the natural next step for my own brand, and working with them – or even like them – is a standard I’ve been pushing myself toward for a long time.

I have never walked out of an interaction with anybody feeling so inspired on so many levels. I had made *zero* resolutions for myself and my business for 2014 before I walked into the session last Monday, but by the time I finished my one-on-one sessions with Joy and Emily on Tuesday morning, I had a word for the year and a full to-do list for my next six months. They didn’t hand it to me – they just helped me focus my next step.

I walked away from my time with Once Wed with this: “Keep doing what you are doing. YOU ARE ENOUGH.

I blinked for about two hours of my drive home from Atlanta as that sank in. And then my entire creative self went nuts. Everything I already love is perfect for me, and crazily enough, it is perfect for Once Wed. The organic real, the uncontrived moments in between, the light speaking natural elegance into the frame, the wind pushing through the flow of a dress, the way of a man with a maid… These things set me on fire. The camera is only one way I have of describing that passion that begins in me, but OH, the descriptions I want to set to it that way!

In my experience, you get as much out of a workshop as you put into it. I have carefully chosen the workshops I’ve attended in order to create the best opportunity for building relationships with people whose work and character I genuinely admire. I am not there to be a body in a seat – I am there to put into practice everything I have already learned from the people who host the workshop. I am there to engage what they won’t say on their blog and apply it to my own brand and business. I want to know what they love, and why they do what they do. I’m not there to get portfolio images, but to push myself as far as I can outside of my own box so that I can think from someone else’s perspective.

This may be a unique quirk of mine – I’ve always been one who wants to take things deeper than the surface – but I love using my workshop experiences as a jumping-off point to create relationships within the industry, to build my own confidence, and to re-envision my business from a fresh perspective. Nobody is going to hand success to me. I still need to do the work and be the best me I know how to be.

Coming away from Once Wed feeling more empowered to be who I am was one of the best things I’ve experienced in my photography story so far. I know I have something to offer – I’m little-kid-excited to believe I can offer it now. For that feeling, the studio sessions were worth every single penny we paid. I think Pete definitely WINS on Christmas presents with this one.

Once Upon a Morning – Rain, and Pain

la joie, la vie | by kelly sauer

I woke from a dream on Sunday night with pain pulsing across my stomach. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life, the kind that makes natural birth (which I have done twice, without painkillers) look like a mere childhood scrape. We raced to the emergency room, where doctors immediately began preparing a labor-and-delivery room as nurses drew blood and warned us that we might not hear a heartbeat when they put the doppler to my womb. They said the equipment simply wasn’t as good as the equipment our midwife has; Pete and I knew what they were really saying.

Nobody has this kind of pain when she is pregnant unless something major is going on.

The rain woke me up this morning, much to my disappointment. We’ve had a lot of rainy days already in 2014, and it is hard to find light to make photos when the rain turns everything to grayscale. I want to control the weather. I want to control everything.

It’s about one-forty-five.”

“One-forty-five?” The doctor was surprised – and he was pleased. His night was not going to go as badly as he had feared. We had heard the heartbeat too: strong, steady, safe, stubbornly there.

Within five minutes, they had administered pain medication, and I was able to breathe normally again. I couldn’t sleep – my experience with hospitals has taught me to stay alert – but I let myself relax into the lightheadedness that pushed through my body with the drugs, let myself trust that these people wanted my good and I didn’t have to fight anymore.

I’ve known for weeks that I’ve forgotten how to relax. I’m a live wire lately, a coiled spring, ready to put away my walk-don’t-run mantra, unable to sit still any longer than I absolutely have to. My mom tells me I need to enjoy this pregnancy – my midwife tells me that a lifestyle change is in order.

I asked the ultrasound tech if she needed a security clearance for her job. She wasn’t allowed to tell me what she was seeing as she peered into my uterus, so I tried to make it a little easier on her. As she wheeled me back to Room #6, we chatted about Pip and Squiggy and my pregnancies, and as she locked my bed into place, she adjusted my blanket with a smile and a “good luck this time.”

I took a deep breath, reading between the lines, as I think she meant for me to do. She wasn’t worried. There was still a “this time.” There was still life, even in the midst of my pain.

I hate rainy days on principle, but this morning, we have our windows open to the gentle sound of the rainfall. I’m wrapped in a blanket and making pretty in slow motion. I’m breathing in and out, and being gentle with myself and my body, prioritizing how I feel above what I need to get done. The rain is fitting today; it is helping me embrace this slow-and-steady thing.

The rain reminds me that I’ve only got this minute, that slow-and-steady is good for growth, and that even days when you can’t GO are still days in the life you live – and no day is a waste if you live it when you have it.

Friday Favorites | Vol. V

Playing with “river” this year has me crazy in a good way now for sources of inspiration. I had been craving time for my favorite blogs, and missing the “everything” that goes into the feelings behind my work; I am happy to make inspiration part of my workday in 2014.

I don’t expect to gain inspiration from the same sources every day – I wouldn’t want to. I think my best work stems from a variety of ideas: the way the light hits something, the sound of the birds outside my window, the glow in the eye of another creative when they have an awesome visual. I am not the most original person in the world, but I have learned that I can grow my uniqueness as I uncover what *I* feel about everything surrounding my initial inspiration. Once I know the feeling, I can create with it. And heavens. I’m having fun with that right now.

So I’m going to let you in on some of it all, because let’s face it – good inspiration is made for sharing.

once wed inspiration  photographed by Britt Chudleigh (http://chudphoto.wordpress.com/)

This post, shared at Once Wed yesterday. Omigoodness. Britt Chudleigh has been on my radar off and on as a person for a couple of years, but this is the first bit of her work that has actually crossed my path. Um. It’s not going to be the last bit, let me tell you. What she did with the floral design of Sarah Winward (another favorite I have noticed but never followed) completely blew me away. Thanks to Once Wed’s amazing feature, I’m going to be living on this shoot for at least a week. Or probably longer. *grin*
 

Konstantin Korovin (Russian 1861–1939) [Impressionism, Art Nouveau] Hammerfest. The Nothern Lights, 1894-1895. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia | http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/konstantin-korovin/gursuf-1914#supersized-artistPaintings-199991My friend Cheryl Smith shared some exciting news on Facebook about the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights very far south, thanks to a particularly powerful sun flare that went off this week. (Of course, I had missed this news because I don’t read the news at all, not with every other headline being politics, murder, or disaster). I was happy about the news, but the reason it’s getting included here is the VIDEO that came with the article. I know I’m pregnant, but I don’t think that’s why I cried. Spare a moment for the wonder?
 

Sarah Gardner, Film Photography from 1990 | http://sarahgardnerphotography.blogspot.com/2013/10/define-your-own-creative.html

The more I learn about photography and what it means to be really good at it, the more I gravitate toward the people who are artists all the way through. I require a little more of my inspiration now, something intangible that leaves me room to be like them when I grow up, even if I am just becoming more myself. This post from Sarah Gardner is – bar none – one of the most amazing pieces I have read about being an artist. “We have to ‘un-know’ how to behave and work,” she says. And I am IN.
 

 
fill the house with angels | la joie, la vie - by kelly sauer

My final piece of inspiration for this edition of my Friday Favorites (I’m going to bring it back once a month, I think, so there WILL be more!) is a personal one. It was a turning point in the conversation Pete and I had most of last year about whether or not we would – or could – have another baby. It is one of the truest, most beautiful poems I have ever read. And I know I could link you out to it, but I want to have it here. Because, FAVORITE.

 

I LEARNED TO SWEAR, BY PAM YAP

 

I learned to swear
twenty minutes before my first child was born.
Since then, it’s been a handy habit
to have around, and I expect God
to turn his head. After all,
he owes me one. It’s a trick
to make babies look so good.
 
The truth is they leak.
And of all horrors, they grow.
 
They only speak whine;
they cry and complain and wipe snot
on their sleeves. They spill dinner.
They stir pasta into their milk cups
and squish spinach between their teeth.
They eat crayons and toothpaste.
 
They call constantly. They call
constantly. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mo-om.
 
They inhale money, bang down stairs,
and store dirty socks and sandwich crusts
like hidden treasures in their closets.
They lipstick walls; they swallow marbles.
They break things.
 
Yet, God (no doubt in his wisdom) has ordained
that these crude creatures
should sleep incognito:
gentle
quiet
warm.
 
I am fooled easily.
 
Each night as I tuck covers around them
and bend to kiss their sweet, sleepy faces,
I don’t care that they used
all the silverware in the garden.
 
Let’s fill the house with angels,
I whisper to my husband
as I slip between the sheets.

 

This poem came to me by way of T.S. Poetry’s Every Day Poems newsletter, which comes into my inbox at 8:00am on every business day. (If you aren’t getting this one, and you love poetry and a little bit of photography, you really must sign up for it. It is a daily dose of inspiration I wouldn’t trade.

Okay – one last thing, if you’re still with me – I am looking for some fresh sources of inspiration. Would you be willing to leave me a comment with a favorite or two of your own that I could add to my list?

One Word 2014 – River

river | la joie, la vie | by kelly sauer I’m feeling a little late on the uptake with my “one word” this year. I picked up some virus at the end of the holiday season that pushed off all thinking for a bit, and I just had to sit with the thought that I wanted one until I had a little time to think.

A four-and-a-half-hour drive to Atlanta this week provided me with time, but still no word. It came as quite a surprise to me, actually, in a conversation with Joy Thigpen about – of all things – baby names. I asked her why she had chosen the name “River” for her daughter, and as she shared the reasons with me, my soul said simply, “This is you this year. ‘River’ is your word.

A river must have a source, and a place to flow, and an outlet where it may pour itself out. A river that has no source dries up after the earth absorbs the water the rain left. A river that does not exist within its banks becomes a flood plain, with no structure and no boundaries. A river that has no outlet is merely a swamp, stagnant and unfit for much life.

As I have been waking out of the morning sickness that laid me out without any creativity (or ability to do anything with it, anyway) over the holidays, I have realized that my “river” for the past year has been dry. Very, very dry. I lived off my responsibility and schedule and workflow last year, but I put very little into my life by way of inspiration. I lost touch with my source; everything became obligation. By the end of 2013, I was eddying around in puddles at the end of myself, wondering if I’d ever feel like creating anything again.

I had started to realize that I needed to put something in – but that feels selfish!, my inner voice was quick to chime in. And wasteful! Look at all the work you could be doing if you keep going!

But a river, a healthy river with a source and a flow and an outlet, brings life where it goes, and shutting down any more in order to *do more* is the very last thing that I need in 2014.

Now, to be honest, I am pouting a little bit about my word, because it’s not nearly so bloggable as last year’s “be in love,” and that content would have been NICE to have. I’m not sure how it will play out. But I am looking forward to the personal projects that are already lining up, and so excited about the relaunch of my whole brand that will give me a starting point I’ve not had for way too long as I continue to grow. I can live without the blog posts if the theme helps me get to live a little more.

Are you doing a one word project this year? If so, what word have you chosen? I’m always so interested to know, and if you want, you could even tell me the story behind it in the comments here. I am all about a good story. (More on THAT coming soon too. I told you I’ve got a lot that’s ready to come out!)

Welcoming 2014 – The Crazy Way

Mark-0001594

On the eighth afternoon of the new year, in the fourth day of sun I have seen since 2014 came, I have decided to officially welcome it here at my blog. It is not that it wouldn’t have come without my welcome; in fact, it had my welcome about three weeks before it got here.

But my blog wasn’t ready to welcome it, and even now, I have to add a small caveat for you – it is not quite finished yet. I have redecorated to such an extent that I will need to rework about 400 posts or so to be the perfectionist I want to be about this thing, and some colors and content may change to fit my aesthetic a little better. But I am tired of not having a place to write, and I have a list of post ideas at least a month long, so ready or not, here we come.

1.) With this blog relaunch, I am officially re-launching the design branch of Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. We have cleaned it up and narrowed it down, and now it is a sweet little branding & identity shop named for our dear Piper. We’re planning to keep things small, but we’re looking forward to working with design clients looking for a timeless, typographical aesthetic for their brand. Check the site out – I think the “About” page quite covers it!
2.) Exquisitrie is finally going to be launching for real – hopefully by the end of this month. After an amazing review of my work this week (I promise, I will tell you more about THAT soon!), I feel more confident than ever that the hard work I’ll be putting in on my portfolio is going to be worth every minute. This site is going to be one of the most incredible expressions of my work ever. I cannot WAIT to have this beauty ready!
3.) Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. is going to be hosting its first workshop in November, 2014. You can click the link in the menu to uncover a little more about it, and I promise to get you more details as soon as I can. I have a lot I want to share with other photographers and/or bloggers that the blog just won’t cover, and we’re planning to keep things pretty intimate so that we can really get to know one another.

 
flip | la joie, la vieAND if you have stayed with me this long, I have another one for you, which I have ever-so-subtly sneaked into my bio-writing. Pip and Squiggy are going to be adding a “Flip” to their lineup here on the home front at the end of June.

I’ve kept le bebe pretty close to my heart this time, because I needed to feel that something in my life was for me, and it has seemed very sweet and special to hide this little one’s presence. But since my tummy is taking things public anyway (in spite of my bundling up for the recent cold snap!), I think that now is probably a good time to let you in on our tiny secret.

Things Flip will NOT be affecting: The forward motion of the photography business. We still plan to be up and running as much as we can this year. I have already planned a few editorials and my list of personal work is crazy, but as I have shot pregnant twice before this child’s appearance, I am confident that our “go” is still a “go.”
 
Things Flip WILL be affecting: MY SUMMER.
 
 Wedding bookings will close out on May 10, 2014 and will not re-open until September, 2014.
Session bookings (for seniors, couples, and individuals) will close May 31, 2014 and reopen in August, 2014.

 
 Translation: If you want something from me? Book it for spring or fall.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to finally get to share with you here again. Redoing this blog has both drained and energized me on so many levels. There is still more to share (my word for this year, a recap of my studio session with Once Wed, my final posts from A Lovely Workshop with Elizabeth Messina, some new portfolio work, and even some travel work that has been in hiding for far too long!) but I’m quite overwhelmed now, so I’m going to let you stay tuned, and hope that you’re still here, even after all my, um, morning-sickness-induced sabbatical through the fall.

Be in Love – The Details

www.kellysauerblog.com | la joie, la vie

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

I have looked at a lot of photography over the last few years for my “DIY photography school.” I have studied images I love and images I don’t love, turned the light over one way and turned it over ten others, narrowed my focus to lifestyle and editorial work, broadened it again to fine art work and photojournalism. Lately, I’ve been going over my own work as I prepare to launch a new website, and I’ve uncovered a side of my work that I’ve missed a lot this year: I miss spending time with the little things.

It is easy to get caught up in the scenery or the portraiture or the overall idea of a shoot, but you have to find the details too – not just for publication, and not just because you have to. If you fall in love with the little things, they will matter just as much as the big things to the full body of your work.

Mood Board: Snow & Cherries

I don’t usually like red, unless I can find a beautiful way of photographing it. Which phenomenon happened this morning when I pulled out the box of cherries we got grocery shopping yesterday. Because, you see, red dries to burgundy on its way to black, and the Chilean cherries were the same color, and because once in a while, I leave the right little details lying around (like yesterday’s Anthropologie pick for my coffee cup) to turn my undone, so-very-far-behind real life into some tasty fine art.

snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

cherries-5

snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/
snow cherries by kelly sauer | http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

Why I Love The Holidays

la joie, la vie - http://www.kellysauerblog.com/

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Peony Love

by kelly sauer

“The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean and pretty. The peony was unchaste, dishevelled as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty.(…) Every hour is filled with such moments, big with significance for someone.”

― Robertson Davies

Grumpy: A Conversation about Growth

Christmas oranges by Kelly Sauer

I have a friend who absolutely believes in me and in my work, and she stubbornly refuses to let me lock myself down to “industry-standard.” (Everybody needs a friend like this in their life, someone who sees through what you’re doing to who you really are.) She is both the most frustrating and the most wonderful friend I have when it comes to my business, because she is HONEST with me about her perspective. She gives me something to wrestle against besides the wedding industry and the marketing and publication issues. Recently, she practically dared me out of my “safe” zone by challenging me to show more of my work and less of what “publications” want to see.

And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been grumping her direction for a week or so, muttering about bandwidth and editing my work and the best of the best, while sorting out her words about my direction. But after a crazy, crazy year that started in January and didn’t stop until just a couple of weeks ago, I’ve suddenly found myself with a lot more time (and a lot more creative block) on my hands than I know what to do with.

So I opened up my Reader yesterday and got in touch with many of my old blog friends, effectively tapping into something that has been missing for a long time in my world – the dare to be what I dream I can be. Blogging for me has never been just about me or just about my photography or just about my business. It has been about building relationships and processing my life and just generally being a person in the world, connecting with other people in the world. I just wanted to do it prettily, which is, in many senses, the reason I began taking pictures in the first place.

I’ve been following rules all year – mine, the industry’s, my clients’ – and I think it was a God thing that I ran across several different things about art that challenged me right out of the “everybody’s doing” box. I realized that I’ve been competing against hundreds of photographers who are shooting the same thing and seeing the same thing, and I’ve been wanting to see what they see, so I’m trying to make what I see look just like what they see, only better.

by kelly sauer

Guess what? THAT. DOESN’T. WORK.

Do you know, I like my work from two years ago better than I like my work this year? Sure, I got some amazing opportunities this year, but did I have the LIFE to shoot that I’ve had in the past? Or rather, did I SEE the life that I saw two years ago? If I’m honest, I have to say no, I didn’t see it. I stopped looking. And as the understanding dawns on me that I’ve locked myself into something that isn’t me, I can feel myself backpedaling fast out of the industry that has begun to invite me in, waving my hands in front of me as I smile politely and race for the door.

I have felt so empty since all my work wrapped up this year. I know I want more, but I haven’t known HOW I want more, or WHY I want more, or WHAT more I want. I shot the same photos all year, and though consistency is a good thing for what I do, I absolutely hate feeling blocked. I hate feeling that I am doing what everybody does (and why oh why am I still doing it or even NEEDED if everybody is doing?!), hate the sense that the thing that differentiates me or any other photographer from the other photographers is the colors or the mediums we use.

I’m not dumb enough to believe that my equipment and my post-processing makes me worth hiring. It is my heart and my eye and the way that I see that got me this far. It is my tendency to get distracted by the little things and make a big deal out of them, my sense of the overall story within the smallest elements. I think that is why I love shooting at the sea. It is always the same, but it is never the same. It teaches me to look for the nuances, to FEEL what I am photographing, instead of just pointing the camera and pressing the shutter button.

As I am finally going through my first official branding process with a real designer, I have found that I *do* know my truest voice, and the stories I want to tell and feel. I know that some of my best work was done long before this year, and that to get back to doing that best work, I am going to have to deconstruct my rules a bit and allow myself to feel what I see, instead of filtering everything through a “magazine” perspective. I’m going to have to practice more. And I’m going to have to keep listening to the voices that remind me who I am, however grumpy it makes me.

Behind the Lens: This is Us, in 2013

I was only supposed to get a couple of headshots done when we met with Catherine Marciniak here in Charleston at the end of the summer, but she pulled my family in for a couple of special photos I just can’t resist sharing here – I mean, when does the photographer EVER get photos of herself with the family she often photographs? We’re a bit of a motley crew, since Pete and the kids didn’t know they’d be photographed, but it’s us being us, and we’re pretty good at that, camera or no camera. I am just glad to have pictures, especially since I didn’t think to ask anyone to take any of us this year!

kelly sauer by catherine marciniak
kelly sauer by catherine marciniak

kelly sauer by catherine marciniak

Be In Love: With Everything (+ Giveaway winner!)

by kelly sauer

I figured out last week what I want 2014 to look like. I’ll need to travel a bit less, shoot a bit less, and have a completely free summer. I’m hoping to book four AMAZING weddings and at least two editorial shoots, and oh – maybe I could fit in a workshop somewhere too? It doesn’t feel like very much compared to what I did this year, but really, it is a lot – these are HUGE goals that will involve a lot of growth for me on both personal and business levels, especially considering the changes I will need to make in 2014.

As I was showering yesterday (yeah, I usually do my best thinking in the shower), I realized that I will need absolutely everything I shoot next year to count, both financially and visually, as well as emotionally.

I have shot a lot this year, but I wasn’t paid for about half of it, and I can’t use a lot of that work toward my brand or my portfolio, largely because *I* devalued myself in not charging properly. This left me without the resources (or the balls) I needed to tell my clients HOW to get the Kelly Sauer photos they wanted. My own investment was a bit half-hearted at times because I was underselling my own value, just for the sake of getting *something* to shoot. And you know what? I hated a lot of it. A lot a lot of it.

Nobody has time to waste on mediocrity, and as a person, I absolutely need to be deep in love with everything I do. I feel that I wasted so. much. time. this year chasing my own tail, spinning, as it were, around my own voice and vulnerability and creative reality. I’ve been in a constant deconstruction zone in my head, pulling other photographers apart to see what makes them work, pulling my own work apart to see what it is about it that makes me what I am as a photographer.

It is no way to live, and I hate everything right now, because *nothing* is good enough. The wonder is gone.

So yesterday’s shower brainstorm resulted in a new determination: I will LOVE everything I shoot. I will take the time during my sessions to FEEL. I will screen my clients and screen my weddings and charge what I am worth so that I don’t have to detach myself from work I don’t like. And I will look for WONDER, wherever I am, so I never run out of things to photograph.

SPIN GIVEAWAY WINNER

Mariah E. Wilson

If you didn’t win, YOU STILL HAVE TO GET A COPY OF SPIN.
I promise you – it will change your creative life!

Behind the Lens: The Old and the New

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This week, with my Spin giveaway for Claire Burge, I’ve been listening to memories, and places where people have drawn inspiration, and I can’t help feeling that it is only fair for me to share a paragraph or two of my own.

I baked pies yesterday, the same kind my grandma used to make, the kind she taught my mom to make for my dad, and then taught me how to make because she knew I would want to know when I had my own family. I always think about her when I bake. I think about how careful she was to scrape every last bit of everything out of the bowls with her spatula – in spite of my impatience. I think about the quick drop-flip of her satiny bread dough into a greased bowl for rising. I think about her almost-neurotic arrangement of dishes in the dishwasher, and about the way she let us make the biggest mess ever all over her kitchen with our own little loaves.

And then inevitably, my mind wanders out of her kitchen to the smell of bread and roasting meat in the house, the sound of her many clocks knocking off the seconds and minutes and hours of the longest, most wonderful days of my life. I think of her handwriting in the journals she kept, the weather report and the garden reports she recorded there, knowing that time wouldn’t last forever, holding onto the things that she wanted to remember.

I step outside the sliding glass door and onto the weathered deck (it didn’t used to be weathered – it was new when I was small), and amble down the deck steps past the laundry hanging under the deck covering, past the basement door that we always slammed a bit too loudly, and find my spot on the swing hung just beneath the deck outside Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom, positioned perfectly so we could eavesdrop on conversations above, where Grandpa sat in his rusted, creaky iron deck chair and told his stories.

I never hear a crow now that doesn’t send me back to that swing again, dreaming about the future and the past and all the things I am still finding to photograph as I looked out at the wind in the trees surrounding the open areas.

Mom told me yesterday that the trees are gone, and the old split rail fence bordering the pasture near the road. The new owners have changed the place beyond recognition. Her voice trailed off on the phone as she wished that she and Dad had known before it was sold that they’d be retiring to the area – life surprises you in the strangest ways sometimes, doesn’t it?

Remembering the old has always helped me love the new. I think that is part of why I chose making memories for my job. We are all empty without our histories – they have made us who we are. Everything new begins with something old.

This post was inspired by the first story in Spin, about safety and finding your safe place. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway for the book – I am not even kidding you when I say you want it. Get over and leave me a paragraph of your own about a memory that inspires creativity for you even today!

I’ll draw the winner at random tomorrow morning and announce you on Monday.

Spin: A Creativity Giveaway

Spin: Taking You Creativity to the Nth Degree

It’s a book you can write in. Paint in. Scribble in, highlight, copy and share. It is a book that will make you laugh and make you cry – it will challenge you and it will give you hope. It is a book of small stories that began with a book of personal lessons, observations of life from one of the most creative people I know. I’ve never seen anything like it, never held a book in my hands that made me feel so free to be me, whatever that meant.

This is Spin, by my friend Claire Burge, photographer, artist, woman, entrepreneur extraordinaire. From her first word, I was captivated. This woman whose every moment is lived in the spin of it all offers inspiration from the depth of a heart that knows what real life is and refuses to settle for anything less. Her stories guide her readers to explore their own stories, and to tap into the desire that drives and expands their innate creativity.

I am honored to get to share Claire here today, and I’m soooo excited to get to offer a giveaway of an autographed copy of this book that has already become a favorite of mine as I wobble my way out of my own creative rut.

To enter, just leave me a comment with a short paragraph about an experience you had that sparked creativity in you!

And don’t just wait for the giveaway – GO AND BUY SPIN. You will LOVE IT.

NOTE: The giveaway will close this FRIDAY, November 15. Good luck, and happy creating!

Behind the Lens: I Notice Autumn

autumn things by kelly sauer

It is decaf Lady Grey tea for me this morning, with fresh-baked corn muffins soaked in melted butter, and it is gray out – gray, gray, gray – so that getting out of bed this morning required having the lights on instead of the sunrise. I am listening to Christmas music and the non-stop chatter of the two littles in my house, Pip building her life out loud, Squiggy weighing in for his own right to live. I’ll start her on her schoolwork soon, and then the house will be filled with her teacher’s voice and I may put in headphones so as not to go mad for my lack of creative space.

It has been a different sort of fall for us this year, an autumn more full of change than usual, change that is more stocked with peace than usual. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to process it all, not for finishing up the summer things that stacked up and overflowed into October and now November, but it feels okay somehow, as if I’ve just grown into my life and I don’t have to figure it out every day anymore.

I’m finally working on my new website, and I have a friend helping me this time, someone whose work I have admired for such a very long time. It is nice not to be completely alone on a project that has had me flummoxed most of this year for its hugeness, and my husband has told me that I am to spend any remaining money I make this year on business things like this new site so that we don’t have to pay as much in taxes. I believe this is a good thing, that I stand to make a profit in my third year of official business. It feels big.

I worry about my fourth year. I worry about the pricing guide that isn’t finished yet for the new hybrid direction I am taking my aesthetic to shoot both film and digital when and where I want. I worry about my 2014 bookings and remind myself to breathe because God has brought my business this far, and He knows who I am supposed to meet next year, and how much I can handle. He reminds me that this is a walk of faith – it always has been – and preparing for Him to work and keeping my heart open is the thing I need to do today, especially as He holds my tomorrow.

For all that I don’t know and haven’t processed and haven’t finished, this autumn is for me a mix of the precious past, the moments I have now, and some really wonderful hope for the future. It’s a favorite, and I wouldn’t really have noticed it if not for the gray today, and the smell of the corn muffins wafting into my bedroom as I was trying to talk myself out of bed.

What is your autumn holding for you? What makes you notice it? Tell me a favorite of yours from today.

Artful Blogging – My First Print Publication

artful blogging feature

(Annnndddd I’m on the cover, to boot!)

I was absolutely floored earlier this year to receive an invitation to submit an article to Stampington & Company’s Artful Blogging, and in spite of the rest of the crazy this year brought, I said YES and hammered out an article and photo spread for this beautifully inspirational magazine. I am beyond thrilled to announce this four-page print feature!

I think it is so fitting to be published first in a blogging magazine, considering that blogging is where I really got my start with photography. I’m so happy and honored, I don’t know what to say.

I can’t tell you how much I hope you will go out and buy a copy so you can hold my work in print alongside so many other fabulous artists. There is even a chance to win an issue (or to get $5 off!) at Somerset Place, the Stampington & Company blog!

artful blogging feature

Punta Cana Baby Moon

My favorite sessions are always the sessions that I don’t see coming. They’re not always the most planned or the most perfect – but oh the experience and the fun and the life that happens. That was the way of this shoot with Philip and Cameesha, a “babymoon” couple we met at the Punta Cana resort at which we stayed in the Dominican Republic earlier this year.

I’m not sure if it was the peacocks or the fact that they spoke English that sparked our impromptu friendship, but by the time we found out that we had mutual acquaintances in North Carolina, I had already offered them a maternity shoot – because what else does a photographer do on a day off on a work trip to a foreign country?

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“You know what the great thing about babies is?
They are like little bundles of hope.
Like the future in a basket.”

― Lish McBride

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Behind the Lens: On How To Grow

shadow self-portrait by kelly sauer

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

– John 12:24-25 (MSG)

Yesterday I sat with envy hard and hot and way too heavy on my shoulders (in spite of yesterday’s “I am happy” post about my abundant life – can you believe me?), and all I could think from beneath its weight was, “I will keep doing what I am doing. I will still grow. I do not have to be THERE yet. I will keep doing what I am doing.”

Somebody somewhere is always going to be better than I, or they will be more and be doing more than I am. It is hard to wait, to be “dead to the world” when I want to be stretching for someone else’s glory, but I know beyond a doubt that God is doing a deep work in me and my business, teaching me kindness above competition, teaching me contentment instead of envy, teaching me trust where I’d rather take control.

I woke up the other day feeling that I was not good enough to be hired, figuring that my personality was just wrong for the job I want to do and the art that I make. I nearly quit (it’s been a few weeks since I did that, so I should have known it was coming), but I hitched up my proverbial bootstraps and marched forward anyway, with a bride-who-has-become-a-friend depending on me for the beauty I see, personality-be-hanged.

My discontent always comes on in the midst of the drudgery, when the deadlines are looming and I want to move to a magical enchanted place where everything is no longer messy or undone or imperfect. I suppose that is why I try to be honest here – though it is really more for myself than it is for my readers, unless you need to relate and know that I’m not nearly so good as I want to be yet.

I’m trying to remember today that my grain of wheat WILL grow. It has fallen into good soil, and it was made to grow. *I* was made to grow. It WILL happen, and the crooked paths I can’t navigate aren’t mine to re-pave. I just get one step at a time, one good soaking at a time, one long winter, one day of sunlight (Lord, forgive me, the metaphors have become a soup with that mix!).

If you’re feeling discouraged, discontent, jealous, or inadequate today – have faith. You were made for this, for your own passion, and He does make all things beautiful in His time.

Be In Love: My Abundant Life

new, by kelly sauer

Have you ever felt as though everything in your world is old, and a bit used up? Have you ever listened to yourself talk and heard yourself saying the same thing you’ve been saying for years – and wondered why you were still saying it? Have you ever looked in the mirror and realized that you’re not seeing the person you thought you were?

I have.

When I started this blog and started my business, I wanted to prove that real life really is fine art. It was the perfect tagline for a girl who made art out of the inconvenient things, who got up out of a wheelchair to prove the doctors wrong about her, who kept living and loving life in spite of a broken heart, deep depression, and chronic illness.

I read all the books about climbing out, raised my fist with the rebels and the artists against the naysayers. I defied the “no” and pushed forward to prove that I *was* worth something more than other people thought I was. I did my research and homeschooled myself right into a fine art standard and a solid business structure because, “hello world – I CAN DO THIS.” And I did. I have.

But last week, when I was writing for (in)courage, I found myself writing the same old (dare I say it – sob?) story I always tell – with the same old desperate feelings. I stared at what I had written, not recognizing myself, no longer fitting into the skin that I thought had been my own for ten years. I erased it all and started over.

At some point this year, I think I stopped trying to prove my worth and I accepted me as I am, limitations and everything. At some point, I found my freedom to pursue the life God has handed me and I spit in the face of my fears and dared a confidence I’ve only ever imagined I had. Somewhere along the way, I accepted that I have as much right to be here as anyone, that I am not condemned, that I can make mistakes and humble myself (and be humbled) and not be broken because there is so much mercy waiting for me every day.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

– Isaiah 43:19

I have laughed this year. And I have tried new things. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and had deep conversations with amazing people. I have owned my own life and circumstances, and I have taken on new responsibility without feeling the need to blame others when things get hard. I have been happy this year, and I have often sensed that joy is mine for the taking, if I will open my heart to let it in.

Even as I write this, I realize that I don’t know how to tell this story of myself. The other one is easier, with a clear conflict and lots of drama. But this story – this is the one I’m living, and I kind of love it. It is a good mix of the good and the hard and the daily that teaches me about faithfulness, and about how big God is as He works all things together for good.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

– 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Life in Christ is not about self-improvement. It is not about earning our worth or proving our value. I have learned this in 2013, falling more into grace and simply living from my heart. I have learned that abundant life is just about living, and loving, and Jesus being enough to save us every day, even if we are not called up to Africa.

This is my joy today, the small life I have that is so much larger than I could have dreamed ten years ago. It is conversations with my littles when they come to cuddle with me as I wake up in the mornings. It is something to do and something to dream, and it is something to be happy about – in spite of all I know could happen to snatch it from me. It is trusting God to know my heart and to love me even when life hits hard. It is pure glory, and it is a place to start, a place from which to love, and to give generously as I can.

My life is a new thing, and I don’t know how else to say it, and nothing of my old desperation fits me here. I’m gonna be okay with that. Even if it does leave me looking for new reading material. Does anybody have any suggestions?

Mood Board – She’s Pretty In Pink

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

“Do you think I’m pretty?
I think you’re beautiful
Beautiful?
You are so beautiful, it hurts sometimes.”

— Richelle Mead

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

pretty in pink by kelly sauer

This is Kristen, my littlest sister of three younger sisters, who is as down-to-earth farm girl as they come on her regular days, but man. You put ANY girl into a dress that moves like this one, she becomes a fairy. Mostly. You can probably see she’s still her. We took a morning recently and caught the light all up in her new favorite chiffon dress and made her feel as pretty as we could. I think we did okay. You?

P.S. In case you missed it yesterday, I’m looking for an intern. For reals.

A Lovely Panic – Intern Wanted

lovely by kelly sauer

Y’all, I have so much stuff going on I can’t say. It’s TONS of wonderful stuff (two weddings to get out this week, and *three* print publications – OMG, can you believe it? Okay. I just reread that. I have so much legitimate panic-putton pushing I can do here…), but oh my the WORK of getting all of this done and keeping the ball rolling on the rest of my life is immobilizing me a bit.

It’s a lovely panic, but I think I need a little help. Is there a friend who might be willing and able to assist me with some back-end prep so that I can keep my blog going as I try not to sink under here? I have sessions and sessions and photos and shoots and weddings to go live here, but 2-3 hours of prep and layout for each is just too much for me to handle right now.

So. I’m officially seeking an (unpaid) intern with a good eye for design and layout, a penchant for organization, and a super-sweet spirit to help me keep sharing all of the amazing work I’ve been hinting at all year!

If you are interested in becoming part of my team, please email me with a short paragraph summing up your experience and your reasons for wanting to work with me. Please include a phone number so I can call you to discuss the position.

Applicants need not be local.

(In)Courage Article: Inconvenient Art

kelly sauer by catherine marciniak

Good art is never what you expect. This surprise, more than even beauty, is what makes it art. It’s the tiny blossom coming through the crack on the sidewalk, or the vulnerability in the “ugly” girl’s eyes. It is the rule that got broken because somebody realized the reason it was there in the first place wasn’t relevant. It’s the way the paint on a paintbrush can imitate the movement of hair in the wind, the way the distortion on a camera lens changes your perspective on something you see every day. If you think about it, it is the unexpected that reveals the glory in a thing, because who would have thought to look otherwise?

It is the unexpected – and the inconvenient – that drives good art, and it was the unexpected and inconvenient that uncovers the good art in me.

Read more at (in)Courage today, where I’ve written about art, faith, life, and glory…

Be In Love – You Can’t Take It With You

by kelly sauer

“Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

P.S. This is a tiny preview which I am making of the “therapeutic” portrait work I did in Florida last weekend. I’m stuck on the couch with a fire ant bite that made my whole left foot swell up bad, but um yeah, it was worth it.

Behind the Lens: Own It

sweet pea by kelly sauer

I have a secret to tell you. I don’t have a lot of “amazing” in my photography life.

I don’t have a gorgeous house filled with gorgeous light, and I’m not shooting $100,000 weddings planned to perfection. I don’t have a designer, a make-up artist, or a set stylist for my shoots. There are so many photographers who have so many incredible shoot opportunities that I haven’t had. They have better equipment than I have, more photogenic subjects, a better workflow, more expensive editing tools.

In reality, I do a lot of “shooting around” things to make beauty where it isn’t.

But growing as a photographer is doing everything you can with everything you have. If you’re using your lack of “amazing” as an excuse not to push yourself with photography, you have nobody to blame but yourself for not shooting what you want to shoot.

Being chronically ill is never what I would have chosen for my life (especially not at 21, when it all surfaced), but it taught me one really good thing about not curling up and dying because of a tough diagnosis: YOU HAVE TO OWN YOUR LIMITATIONS.

I’m never going to be a landscape photographer who climbs to the top of Mt. Everest for the most amazing shoot in the world. I will probably not ever be a commercial photographer who can handle the stress of 3-day shoots. I can’t shoot more than one wedding per weekend, and honestly, not much more than one wedding per month.

And I make mistakes all the time, overexposing here, underexposing there, missing this shot and that shot and the other shot. I recently lost an entire roll of film because of an exposure mistake. (My heart is breaking – those images were stunning except for the exposure and I can do *nothing* with the colors.)

But you *can* convert exposure mistakes into stunning black and white images. You *can* bring up underexposure and embrace the added grain for depth in your work. You *can* get flowers from Sam’s or Walmart and make your own bouquets. You *can* pick up unrelated details at a wedding and style them yourself to shoot with similar backdrops and colors to give the wedding a $100,000 look. You *can* overshoot to find the best angle on a non-photogenic subject. You *can* take the equipment and the experience you have and make art.

There are days I feel like I AM MAKING THIS STUFF UP, trying to extract something exquisite from my very non-magical life that will take your breath away. I have owned my limitations, and I have learned to notice when something in my world is (or can be) beautiful.

And maybe I do make it up just a little, shooting off a left-over flower like it’s a hidden treasure while hollering at my kids to stop bickering with one another. But I guess that’s how I stay sane, and how I keep believing that all this isn’t all there is, and how I hold onto glory.

Mood Board: Engagement Party

goodstone inn engagement by kelly sauer

goodstone inn engagement by kelly sauer

goodstone inn engagement by kelly sauer

goodstone inn engagement by kelly sauer

“As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.

– Anne Sexton