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Listen to Lindsay

Lindsay Stuettgen is 36 years old. She is a labor and delivery nurse, coming up on 12 years of experience. She married her husband, Nate, in fall of 2018, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Together, they have a two-year-old golden lab, Gus. Lindsay is a lot of things to a lot of people. She is used to bringing life into this world. But last year, she started the fight to save her own. 

Among the titles of daughter, sister, wife, friend, and nurse, Lindsay received the title of breast cancer patient. She was 35 years old the day she was diagnosed. This shouldn’t have happened to her. 

I don’t know Lindsay, not really. I’ve asked her personal questions, yet I don’t know her favorite movie, where she’s from, or what she wanted to be when she was little. But I know her strength is overwhelming; her image unforgettable. I know she calls attention to a dark corner, shining sunlight in a place that others pull curtains because that’s the type of woman she is. Hers is the story of a warrior. 

In July 2019, Lindsay came home from work. She changed her clothes, getting out of the scrubs she’d worn at the hospital. When she took off her bra, she felt a small lump. She wasn’t concerned. She chalked it up to breast swelling from her cycle. 

But her period came and went. The lump didn’t.

Lindsay still wasn’t concerned. She was a healthy, young woman. She had no history of familial breast cancer. She was a trained medical professional. She went on vacation that month with her husband, Nate. Lindsay could let go of her concern, but Nate couldn’t. 

When Lindsay and Nate returned from their trip, he urged her to go to the doctor. She obliged him by making an appointment. Like Lindsay, the first doctor wasn’t concerned, but ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound out of caution. Nate insisted on being there for that ultrasound, a moment of stubbornness that Lindsay is now grateful for.

“After the ultrasound, the radiologist came in and said she was very concerned about the way it looked. I asked her on a scale of 0-10 how concerned she was. She said a nine. I immediately started crying. She looked like she was going to cry with me. I pretty much knew when I left the office, I had cancer,” Lindsay recalls now. 

Two days later, on August 9, 2019, in the midst of an unrelenting summer, Lindsay got the call she had been expecting. Yes, she had breast cancer. It was grade three of three, the most aggressive. Yes, she would start treatment immediately. 

Lindsay underwent an emergency egg retrieval. Her eggs were frozen and stored in the hope she and Nate could start a family one day. She started chemotherapy, and after each chemo session, she soaked in Epsom salts to try to quiet the pain in her bones. 

She shaved her head. She lost her eyelashes, her eyebrows. She struggled with her self-esteem because her reflection suddenly looked so unlike the woman she was. She scheduled her double mastectomy for mid-March. She was forced to confront the terrifying reality of her own mortality while trying to maintain optimism for her future. 

Lindsay doesn’t know what her future will look like. She knows a few things – good things. Her scans are looking positive. She is finished with chemo. She is getting through this day by day, at least the physical part of cancer. But there is more to it than that. Lindsay highlights an issue that many people overlook – the fact that cancer lingers beyond the physical component. It follows, it festers, it torments. Even when the cancer is gone, the survivor may not feel like it is really beyond its grasp. Afterall, it snuck up once, so what prevents it from doing it again? What keeps it all from slipping through her fingertips? 

 “The type of cancer I have has a high reoccurrence rate in the first 2-5 years. So, while I want to celebrate, I’m also scared to. I fear it coming back, and I haven’t even gotten rid of it yet,” Lindsay states unapologetically. 

Lindsay is also honest about what having breast cancer really means. In recent years, the realities of breast cancer have improved, however it is still not to be underestimated. It isn’t a “safe” type of cancer to get because it is more “treatable” in the public’s opinion. Cancer is cancer. Life is life. And having that called into question, is terrifying. 

When asked what she wished people understood about breast cancer, Lindsay said, “I wish people knew that not everyone survives breast cancer. There has been a ton of research, and the survival rates are getting better, but the fact is, once you get diagnosed as stage IV breast cancer, you will die from the cancer. There is no cure for stage IV.” 

Lindsay has been forced to learn a lot of things she never wanted to know, like how to get through chemotherapy and how to find cancer support groups. But that’s the thing – she has learned. She has found a focus, a purpose, a goal in the midst of overwhelming chaos. She has found a way to make her world brighter when darkness threatened her. She has found a way to help others.   

When asked why she wanted to open herself up so vulnerably, Lindsay said, “I’ve learned going through this, more and more women under 40 are getting diagnosed, but yet the mammogram age hasn’t changed. Also, the younger you are diagnosed the more aggressive the cancer usually is.”

To put it painfully simply, “Too many young women are dying.”

I am a young woman. I have no direct familial link to breast cancer. I am the type of young woman that doesn’t do self-breast exams consistently. I am the type of young woman who would assume cancer couldn’t happen to me. 

Not anymore. 

I will listen to Lindsay. I will take comfort in her strength and decide to honor it. I will do a self-breast exam. The next time my mom or my grandmother or my mother-in-law or my friend says she is too busy for her mammogram, I will push. I will demand. I will insist. I will tell her to listen to Lindsay. 

We are worth our futures, and we are no longer so unaware to think this can’t happen to us. Listen to Lindsay. 

Vendors who helped remind Lindsay’s of the warrior she is:

Henna: Taylor Victoria Art

Cookies: Dirty Sailor Baking Company

Article: Brittany Renee

Photography: NVS Photography

POSTPARTUM by Brittany Renee

I didn’t hear it at first. Then, just a subtle tap. Tap. Tap. It was probably nothing. I promised myself, it was nothing. 

But then the tap grew to a knock. KNOCK. KNOCK. Then, quicker than I could have imagined, the knock became a bang. BANG. BANG. It became pounding, deafening, all-consuming. 

I heard it, now, so incredibly loudly. Then, silence. The type of silence that is louder than noise. The type of silence that means something is wrong, fundamentally wrong – a balance has been disrupted. The type of silence that sounds all of the alarms. 

That is postpartum anxiety. 

Postpartum is much more than a phase or a segment of time. It is much more than mom jitters or feeling down. It is something that pounds on the door until it splinters into pieces. It teaches you to wear a fake smile and then smothers you with it. It whispers your biggest fears while you try to sleep and laughs when you believe it. It is a lifestyle shift, a world tilt, an imbalance, a force. 

At one point in my life, the word ‘postpartum’ was meaningless – like the words lettuce or wallpaper. But now, that word is part of who I am. It has become part of me, relentlessly etched into my being, painful moment by painful moment. It became the unwanted visitor who forced its company on me, despite my pleas. And it is the visitor that still comes back unannounced, perpetually keeping me irrationally vigilant when it comes to you. 

And I have found, over time, that I am not original or special – postpartum visits many others. It pounds and breaks countless doors. It isn’t consistent. It isn’t expected. It may look different on my doorstep than on someone else’s, but it is still a chameleon who only changes into dark colors. When it whispers doubt, the words may be different from mother to mother, but the message is the same. It is fear. It is pain. It is heartache. 

But just when that noise was at its loudest and I felt most alone, you would smile at me. 

And eventually, that pounding, deafening noise quieted, slightly at first, then more as the months went on. And it was because of you

You were with me when that silence fell around us, like a hush in fog. Your smell gave me air when I was gasping to breathe. Your touch warmed me when I shook beyond control. Your smile gave me hope in moments I experienced the purest fear. When I rocked you, I comforted myself. When I held you, I held my heart. In the truest of meanings, your life gave mine purpose. 

When I had you, I split myself in two, and in feeling your warmth and smelling your smell, I became whole for a few special moments. So, when I come up to you, and I put my nose to the crown of your head, let me do it. It is a reminder of my safe place, my home. It is my answer to the loudest noise or the quietest silence. You are the force stronger than postpartum.

Thank you for every woman who expressed interest in this project. And for the women pictured, thank you for giving postpartum a face, showing what love, strength, and motherhood can look like.

Thank you to Papago Golf Club for providing a place for us to gather and create images to accompany piece.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, please reach out. Local resources can be found at http://www.postpartum.net or http://postpartumhealthyalliance.org – just to name a few.

Photography: NVS Photography

Cheers

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Spring wedding season is upon us and I am loving it!  Each season brings new couples into my life, forms new family units and brings a little more love and joy into the world.  When I tell people I am a wedding photographer I so often get a look of shock and an instant question about ‘bridezillas’.  The truth is, I have been a wedding photographer for 16 years and I don’t know if there is such a thing?!?!  I honestly can’t remember anyone that I had trouble working with.  I think if you do the work to build a relationship with a couple before the day of, they know your talents and have faith in you to do your job and are happy to let go and let you do your job. Orr-0275.jpg

Here are a few tips to creating a stress free wedding day:

  • Having an engagement session with your wedding photographer.  I have so many couples tell me they have a friend who offered to do the engagement photos, or they are going to opt out because they don’t need more photos of themselves in addition to the photos they will get on the wedding day.  Although those ARE reasons to not have engagement photos taken, I would say they are not good enough and here is why… the time we spend together does so many things to help us both prep for wedding day.  1.  You get comfortable in front of the camera.  I have SO MANY couples show up for engagement photos and say ‘we aren’t photogenic’ or ‘we are so awkward’.  Having portraits taken by your wedding photographer helps build a confidence in YOURSELF and your photographer so when they wedding day arrives you know of the images are going to turn out and you let go of that stress and worry.  2.  We work out the kinks.  Some people have a really hard time in bright light, some people are chronic blinkers, some have a self proclaimed ‘good side’.  These are all things your photographer wants to know about and work through with you BEFORE the day of your wedding.
  • Work with your vendors to create a day of timeline.  I always provide my couples with a detailed timeline of how the photo portion of the day will go.  I have photographed over 400 weddings and therefore have a very strong knowledge of how long it will take for certain portions of the day.  I provide it to my clients but remain completely flexible so we can tweak it to fit your desired flow of the day.
  • In addition to working with your photographer the DJ will also have a timeline for the reception portion.  If you have a day of coordinator they will want timelines from both the photographer and DJ and will combine everything.  Make sure to share the timelines with wedding party and family members will help ensure everything moves smoothly.
  • Delegate.  Let others make decisions and do things for you.  Plan ahead who will be in charge of answering questions from the baker, florist, etc on the day of.  Let go so you have the time and space to be present on your day and enjoy every minute of it.
  • Be organized.  Having all your details gathered and ready for photos before the photographer shows up (and someone else in charge of knowing where things are) saves time.  Jewelry, shoes, garter, rings, hankie, wedding invites anything of this nature will be photographed and having it all together and ready to go is great!

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And lastly be willing to go with the flow of the day.  Things will be forgotten at home, someone might show up late, it may be windy or rain.

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Life happens.  But having a willingness to embrace it and the love the day exactly as it is unfolding is a beautiful thing.  When so much time, energy and money have been put into planning sometimes we get hung up on how it was ‘supposed to be’ that we forget to see the uniqueness of how it actually was.  Orr-0072.jpg

I truly believe those little hiccups can be the most beautiful part of a day.  They turn into the story your family and friends tell over and over again.  The ones that make you laugh and reminicse and smile at your spouse because that was YOUR DAY.  One like no other.

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And don’t forget to DO IT YOUR WAY!  Do you want to have cocktail hour with your guests before the ceremony?  Do it.  If you desire to walk down the aisle together to your ceremony?  Do it.  Would you like 30 minutes alone to just enjoy each other and reflect on the day day.  Do it.  Everyone will adjust.  Do you!  You will never be sorry you did.

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http://www.nvsphotography.com  Phoenix Scottsdale Peoria Prescott Sedona Chandler Mesa Surprise Glendale Paradise Valley Wedding Photographer

From the Heart

This summer I started a ‘shooting from the heart’ series.  The thought was to photograph anything and everything that popped into my head and to treat each ideas as something that wanted or needed to be shared with the world.  I shot pretty sessions, silly sessions, out of my comfort zone sessions and then I shot THIS session.  I found Date Creek Ranch on Facebook as I was mindlessly scrolling one day.  Something that day made me pause, click and read and I am so grateful I did.  What I found was the beautiful, heart wide open writings of Savannah.

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Many of you may not know this, but I am a vegan.  Have been for 1.5 years, and I have spent my entire adult life as a vegetarian.  So what happened next is a little unexpected.  I even fought it a little at first.  Late one night I read an article Savannah had written about her LOVE for her animals and land. (Such a beautiful read https://www.datecreekranch.com/blog-1/the-truth-of-raising-animals-for-food?fbclid=IwAR0i9NXVRrRObUvss0hNksvvHLcOo6NWlk5fvTl2reMOh8qP_UTI6qefN6s)   I was so moved by this article I knew I wanted to meet her, see the ranch and photograph part of her world.  I started composing a message to her and then something in my head said ‘Wait a minute, you are a VEGAN.  Why on earth would you want to go photograph a cattle ranch?’

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I deleted the message and went to bed.  2 night laters, another article was posted and AGAIN I was so moved by the care and concern that goes into how they use their land and how they treat their animals I knew I HAD to talk to her.

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I felt like a crazy lady, explaining myself to her and what I wanted to do.  After I hit send I was so nervous!  Would I be well received?  Would a rancher want/allow a vegan to come to her space and photograph it AND write about it?  Savannah graciously accepted my proposition and a date and time was set.

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As I came up and over the last little hill I saw the ‘heart’ of the ranch nestled into a little valley.  There were dogs running happily and so much life.  It instantly felt like a happy, sacred place.  Savannah and a few others talked about the plan for the day and decided  which animals were going where and how that was going to happen.  I LOVE the pace of the ranch.  Nothing was hurried, there is no timeframe other than to simply ‘get the job done’.  I believe this mindset is part of what makes this ranch different than factory farmed animals.  They do things slowly, methodically and with a natural rhythm.

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As the work began Savannah and I had some time to chat and that is when I knew I had made the right decision.  This place is special.  Savannah is special.  The animals are LOVED here.  The land is RESPECTED here.  They do things the way Mother Nature intended.  I do not believe the world will all become vegans, or even vegetarians for that matter.  What I know is that we MUST become more conscience of what we are supporting when they buy factory farmed animals and products.  There is another way.  There is a happier, healthier way.  For the animals, for the earth and for the consumers.

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These animals are allowed to be a part of the natural world around them.  Eating apples from the orchard and meandering through the field.  They have a life and they are happy.

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In the end I understand they end up as food, and that is not something I participate in.  That is my choice and not one I expect everyone to make.  I am here today not to try and guilt you or to change WHAT you eat, but rather to start a conversation about HOW the food you eat is raised.  Where does your meat come from?  What kind of life did it have?  Did it get to see sunshine and eat food that it naturally would?  Was it cared for?  These things matter.  They matter so much.  What they do at this ranch is beautiful and I support them 100%.

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I hope you enjoyed this little look into Savannah’s world.  I am so grateful she shared it with me and she is doing the work she does.  Please take a minute to check out their Facebook page and see more of their story.  You will be glad that you did!

https://www.facebook.com/datecreekranch/

 

 

Beauty in unexpected places.

I have been photographing families for over 16 years now.  Let’s just let that sink in a minute.  I can’t even begin to calculate how many families, babies, seniors I have had in front of my lens.  I am so thankful and grateful for each and every one.  Even the difficult ones, and yes I have had a few.  The difficult ones have taught me so much about myself. What is important to me, what kind of person I want to be, how I react to certain triggers and IS THAT how I want to react?  To be fair, I have been doing this for closing in on 2 decades and I can probably count on one hand how many times I have had issues.  So I have been REALLY blessed in this department.

For this session the ‘difficult’ was not the adorable kids or the parents who laughed and loved each other through their session- it was the HEAT!!!  As many of you might remember I offered a smokin’ (pun intended) deal in the month of August.  It was greatly received and off we set to photograph in the biggest and baddest month the Sonoran Desert has to offer.

A lot of my sessions were centered around water (Lake Pleasant and a little hidden gem I found while location scouting for water in the desert).  This family opted for one of my favorite spots, a super modern, sleek, sexy building.  Gorgeous lines and a neutral pallet. The only problem?  The kids got HOT!

My absolute favorite client is one who inspires me by just rolling with it.  We got our gorgeous photos with the stunning building and decided to head for the park to let the kiddos burn off some energy and get some candid shots.  Then we discovered the water fountain and the session really began.  As we cooled off the babies it became apparent that I shouldn’t be waiting for them to finish their drinks, I should be capturing them getting their drinks.  We splashed and laughed and got really wet and I love the way it turned out.

For this family the beauty was not in the scenery, the clothes or the poses.  It was in the bond, the love and the playfulness (and willingness to take family photos with a park restroom as their background).

Thank you for your flexibility and trust in me to capture your beautiful little family, just as you are.

xo- Tami

 

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Phoenix Family Portrait Photographer * Candid Family Photographer * Real Life Photography

Cacti and Cake

When my past brides + grooms let me know a baby is on the way, I smile, because I know what is coming.  I see the usual things like first teeth and learning to crawl, I can hear the first mutterings of ‘ma-ma’ and ‘da-da’.  I see singing to your baby and holding them all through their first fever.  I am a mother, so I have experienced these things.  I am filled with happiness for the unconditional love my clients are about to discover, but I smile for a different reason.  I smile because I am being invited IN.  I get to have a front row seat to all of this.  I am being asked to take part and to capture the essence of this little being.  The milestones, the unconditional love, the celebrating of this little life.  August you have brought so much joy to MY LIFE.  Sharing your firsts with my camera, smiling and laughing and crawling your way into my heart.  You are so special and SO LOVED.

 

 

A peek into his ‘Big Day’ through my eyes.  Happy 1st birthday buddy!

You are one in a million!

 

Phoenix Portrait Photographer * Scottsdale Portrait Photographer * Family Photography * Event Photographer