la joie, la vie | a blog by kelly sauer (exquisitrie) narrative lifestyle photography | charleston, los angeles, central & northern california | specializing in weddings & elopements, engagement stories, and bridal & fashion portraiture... Tue, 05 Apr 2016 13:14:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Today, at Once Wed – “Cherishing Your Engagement” Wed, 17 Feb 2016 16:56:11 +0000 byKSauer0000810

Check out the full post, published today at Once Wed.

And soon, I’m going to do a real photo post. (Or if you’re really wanting to see it now, the album is live at my wedding site…)

Credits: Photography & Creative Direction: Exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer | Artistic Direction & Styling: Type A Society | Venue: River Oaks Charleston | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Calligraphy: Elizabeth Porcher Jones | Models: Marisa R. and Micah D. | Modeling Agency: Millie Lewis Charleston | Hair & Makeup: Dannon K. Collard | Ribbon, Runners, Scarves, Candles: Silk & Willow | Valise: Trousseau & Co. | Shoes: Ivanka Trump | Ringbox: The Mrs. Box | Gown: Jill Jill Stuart

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nourish – all the pieces Thu, 04 Feb 2016 16:38:02 +0000 byKSauer0000808

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.


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

PUBLISHED – Utterly Engaged, vol. 4 Thu, 21 Jan 2016 15:20:35 +0000 UE_VOL4_29_cover-FINAL-IG-379x500

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!




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.



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


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nourish – uneasy Wed, 20 Jan 2016 14:14:15 +0000 byKSauer0000805

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.

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Mood Board – soft and clean Tue, 19 Jan 2016 14:40:03 +0000 byKSauer0000804

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.


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

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nourish – light and dark Mon, 11 Jan 2016 16:39:44 +0000 byKSauer0000795

“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.

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PUBLISHED: Saint Isabel Bridal, a little French cottage Fri, 08 Jan 2016 16:17:13 +0000 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.)

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer
saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer
saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer

saint isabel bridal | by kelly sauer


VENUE: River Oaks Charleston
GOWN: Saint Isabel Bridal
MODEL: Sophie Belhassen

mood board: when the rain won’t go away Wed, 06 Jan 2016 14:11:54 +0000 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.


1. Studded Hearts

2. Luisa Möhle

3. Never House

4. pinned via Otis and Frank

little things, a lifestyle Tue, 05 Jan 2016 15:16:52 +0000 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” Mon, 04 Jan 2016 16:24:11 +0000 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.

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