Dress for Success: The Gift of Confidence

I am so lucky. 

This is what I kept repeating to myself all day on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. 

I am so lucky to have this team of talented, generous people showing up to donate their time and talents to Dress for Success clients. I am so lucky to have a job and the flexibility to give my time and passions. I am SO LUCKY that I've never experienced true hardship. My privilege. 

Recognizing that, I jump at any chance of passing that luck and privilege on to others who might benefit from it. This event was one small way of providing confidence and support to women in our community who may not have always been so lucky. They say that when you can give a piece of yourself to someone else, it comes back to you tenfold. Never have I found this to be more true than with these portraits. I feel the love from that day every time I look at them, and I hope the feeling continues for a long time to come.


A note from Lucy, Ivory House Photography's Studio Manager: 

The day began the way I expected: rushing to set out snacks and bottles of water, unlocking the doors, answering last-minute emails about the event. What’s the parking situation? Which street is the door on again? The stylists arrived with their ring lights and curling irons. Is there another outlet in this corner? No problem, I’ll set up in the kitchen. Jody White, Executive Director and Co-founder of Dress for Success, was all smiles as she introduced herself to everyone, warmly thanking each person for donating their Sunday to a great cause.

The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

Whitney’s idea for a campaign to benefit Dress for Success originated before I came to work at Ivory House. Selling discounted headshots to her regular clients seemed like a great way to generate revenue that would allow for her to donate portraits to the clients of Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women to thrive professionally. She first mentioned this undertaking in my job interview back in January. Hearing her talk about the importance of elevating every member of the community made me realize that working at Ivory House was going to be much more than a nine-to-five job. Coming fresh from the corporate world, this was very appealing to me. 

My role on Sunday as Whitney’s studio manager was to manage the flow and make sure everyone was getting what they needed. I was anticipating a fast pace and lots of last-minute problem-solving, but as soon as the women began to arrive, it was clear things were going to go much smoother than I anticipated. The "Glam Teams," compromised of incredibly talented hair and makeup artists, were matched with a Dress for Success client. As anyone who’s been to a salon can attest, once the women were seated in their chairs and the pampering began, their stories began to pour out. 

There was Violeta, a legal assistant at Drake, who told me about the lifelong romance with her husband that started in their hometown in Mexico and brought them all the way to Des Moines.

Violeta

Violeta

There was Sharon, who works in the crafts department at Walmart and who boasted that she has 13 great-grandkids. She honors the memory of her late husband, her sweetheart and the love of her life, by wearing their wedding rings around her neck. 

Sharon

Sharon

After 10 years in school while also raising three kids as a single mom, Jasmin is going to graduate next year with her master’s degree in social work, and is currently working as self-sufficiency counselor.

Jasmin

Jasmin

Kimberly brought so much attitude and energy to the day. She kept us laughing the whole time, and her confidence shone through in every single photo that we took of her.

Kimberly

Kimberly

Angela, who I told that I would definitely ask for her ID at a bar, told me she’d been married for 14 years and has nine children. (Angela also told me an incredible story about her dog Capone, who’ll be receiving a medal of bravery next month.)

Angela

Angela

Africa opened up about her history of domestic violence and the strength it took to take her children and leave her husband to start over in a country where she barely spoke the language. 

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Our interactions were brief, but the energy in the “glam room” was that of support and love. 

In the studio, Whitney was working her magic with each woman, making them feel confident and beautiful. Your hair is flawless! Oh my gosh you have the most perfect jawline. Yes, those eyes! You’re killin’ it! It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for her when it comes to shooting any client who walks through the door, but today was different. These women have overcome obstacles and carried weight on their shoulders that we don’t know about, that maybe is only seen in their hesitance to meet the camera’s eye. Whitney took the time to make them feel beautiful, radiant, and cared for, and the proof is in their stunning images. The person who entered the studio was not the same person who emerged. 

The day came to a close with smiles and hugs of gratitude, exchanged phone numbers, and more than a few happy tears (my own included). Giving the gift of confidence to these women who have overcome so much in their lives, and providing them with a gorgeous portrait that they can share and keep forever, means just as much to us as it does to them. It's unbelievably rewarding when we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to share our skills and talents with others in the community. I'm so grateful to be with a company that values lifting each other up whenever we're able. As our stylist Kearra said, it's why we're on this planet.


We couldn't have done this without the support of our amazing collaborators:

Jody White and Nicole Roe Sickels of Dress for Success Des Moines

The Glam Squad:
Kelsi Ziemann with Kelsi Ziemann Artistry
Ivy Boyd with Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger
Natalie Sanger Gendle with Academic lash & beauty
Stacy Syroka independent stylist at Elevencherry
Ashley Maree Harvey independent hair stylist
Kearra Chester independent hair stylist
Desi Joelle with Desi at Dolce

And our kind and patience videographers (video to come): 
Caleb and Joe Stevens

And lastly, a huge thanks to the Ivory House team: Megan, Rachel, and Lucy.

Wednesdays With Whitney: Empowerment Session Winner

I was overwhelmed by the beautiful nominations received for the Empowerment Session Campaign. The idea, to give one deserving woman her day in the sun. Show one stunning woman how beautiful she is, inside and out. What started out as awarding a complimentary creative portrait session, quickly morphed into something bigger. More women wanted to contribute to the contest and give away their time and talents. 

The Empowerment Session team consists of Ivy Boyd, makeup artist extraordinaire; Sarah Noll Wilson, leadership coach powerhouse; and Christina Davis, personal stylist and Cabi consultant. The grand prize package: a complimentary two-hour clothing session with Christina, makeup application with Ivy prior to the photo shoot, and a 90 minute creative portrait session with me.

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The lucky winner, Mary Bacon, was nominated by her daughter Angela Ames. Mary is a fighter, survivor and the epitome of selfless. In her daughter's words:

"My mother is so beautiful...let's start by in 2005 she beat stage IV breast cancer. She is legally blind but spends endless days making blankets for those in need. She has a rare form of leukemia that fights against her healthy blood cells as well as her good, in addition to currently waiting her chance for a new kidney and finally beating colon cancer. To say my mother is strong would be an understatement. A woman that should be full of life resentment, she actually just wants to do what she can to get back home to keep working on blankets! This woman is incredible!!! She doesn't fuss over the little things, because to her "that's life" and "well that's the stuff that God gave her to deal with." She's so beautiful, her eyes are a stunning blue, and she could really use a day about her, to highlight how amazing she is."

"She is a true definition of humanitarian , a warrior, but above those an amazing mother. Because she never gives up. She sees ten paths to a way out of a dead end. Her girls mean everything to her, nothing, not even being told that she has a few short months to live would keep her from encouraging her girls to do what makes them truly happy."

"I recently moved to California, taking her beloved grandchildren (boys 8 & 7) 1600 miles away. My husband took a new job. My mom would never stand in the way of someone wanting to move closer to their dreams. Most grandmas would be devastated but not my mom. She put her own feelings aside! She misses my husband (who she loves very much, she misses her grandsons but she just says, 'I have to get better so I can come visit.' This woman is truly a blessing to anyone that has her in their lives!"

I drew additional names for extra prizes. Amanda is the winner of a Professional Portrait Session. She was nominated by her sister-in-law. A snippet from her nomination:

"I have known Amanda (my sister-in-law) since she was in high school. She nearly died when I was dating her brother (now my husband) due to long-qt syndrome, which is a heart issue. She had a pacemaker put in when she was 16. It completely changed her trajectory in life. She has always been an active, giving and outgoing individual but has had many obstacles put in her way. On her journey to realizing how strong she is, she built her life up around what she can and can not do (physically) given her heart condition. In the last year, she also has been diagnosed with alopecia. Amanda’s beauty comes from her love of others and her beautiful smile. When she smiles you can’t unsee how beautiful she is. It’s incredible contagious. As a case worker for Broadlawns, she brings her beauty and strength to the lives of those who are less fortunate. While this work is difficult and challenging, she manages to do it with extreme care and grace, that most can not. This is exactly what makes her beautiful and strong at the same time- her very giving heart."

Last but not least, Teresa Tomka is the winner of a $100 Cabi gift card. She was nominated by a friend. The three adjectives used to describe Teresa:

"1) Strong - so strong. She lost her husband in a sudden, tragic accident. She has five children. She owns a business. STRONG. 2) Giving. She gives back her resources, her time, her laughter. 3) And speaking of laughter, this lady is F-U-N! An evening with her is an evening laughing."

Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate a woman. You are incredible for taking the time and recognizing the powerful women in your life. All participants, nominees and nominators, are receiving the opportunity to participate in a Championing Workshop. 

Words from Sarah Noll Wilson on the workshop: 

"Do you build up or break down? Learn how to powerfully acknowledge and build up those around you. 

Everyone is capable of greatness and everyone is capable of revealing greatness in others.  Think about this, in every moment you impact those around you, is it the impact you want? By being a powerful champion for others you help others see their most powerful self even when they can't see it themselves. Join us for this transformative workshop where you will learn and practice the skills to be a champion for others and yourself too!

Capturing Your Always: The Lovely Langs

One of the greatest honors as a photographer is being able to watch families come together and grow. Nick and Allie have created a beautiful family that exudes happiness and gratitude. It has been a pleasure to get to know them individually and as a unit. Below, Allie share's a few words on her journey as a wife and mother. Thank you both for allowing me into your home and hearts.

"I feel as though when I became a mother, the world began spinning faster. Days, weeks, and months fly by so much more quickly than they did before. This new fast-paced way of life has not been easy on me with my slow and steady, sentimental nature. I find myself grasping at all of these new, little moments, trying to commit them to memory. Having a family photographer in Whitney has allowed me to freeze and capture the most important moments in the lives of my ever-changing family. 

When we decided to get married, Nick and I did not want a big, complicated event. We chose a more intimate setting and only invited our closest family members to witness our vows. It was important to us that our wedding photos be able to capture not only the actual event, but also the emotion and beauty of each moment and that is exactly what we found in the work that Whitney did for us. She was able to make us and our family members comfortable in front of the camera with her encouragement and simple direction and was in turn able to obtain some very beautiful and meaningful photographs. Not only have our family and friends complimented our photos, but I feel that they have been able to experience our wedding through them as well."

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"Not long after our wedding, we welcomed Miles into our family. Those first few weeks home were spent learning about him, as well as discovering who we were now as parents. That time in my memory is a blur of feeding, rocking, swaddling, and catching sleep while we could. It was in the middle of all this that Whitney was able to capture another set of photographs for us. The morning she arrived at our house, we felt tired and disorganized and I was still having trouble finding clothes that fit correctly. I know I wondered to myself once or twice while Miles cried and we needed to take nursing breaks if maybe we should’ve done this a different time. Whitney was once again a positive and encouraging presence. Viewing those photos now, I am so grateful for them. They depict our little family at a time that we could never recreate. I look back at them in awe of how tiny and new Miles was. And even as we were overwhelmed by our new responsibilities, those photos allow me to tangibly remember how overwhelmed by love we were as well."

NewbornPhotography

"Miles managed to grow from that tiny newborn to a smiling, babbling, crawling baby overnight. I can and have tried to document his amazing growth through taking a million and one cell phone pictures. However, not only do these do little justice to the fullness of his personality, but my husband and I are more often than not absent from them. And in truth, as much as our baby has changed each month, so have we grown and evolved right along with him. We had another set of photos done just after Miles turned six months old. It was a brisk Fall morning when we got to the park, but Whitney was ready to go and quickly found a great area to use as our backdrop. I can’t imagine that it’s easy to pull together two adults, a distractible baby, and an anxious dog to form a cohesive image, but Whitney managed it easily and we were out of the cold and back in the warm car faster than I would have ever expected. As I have now come to expect, we loved these photographs as well. With a family photographer, we have gained the unique perspective of documenting how our family has grown together."

OutdoorFamilyPhoto

"The images we have received from Whitney have been beautiful. They are something I know that we will treasure for many years. Not only do they document the important moments of our lives, but they have also been displayed as art in our home. I love that I can walk into our bedroom and be reminded of the promises and anticipation of our wedding day or look up at the living room wall to see the family we have become. Thanks Whitney!"

COMING HOME TO CAPTURE YOUR ALWAYS

Always: Every time, for every occasion - without exception.

The word always conjures certain nostalgia in my life. I am guilty of using this large and powerful word without proper distinction. Growing up, my mother would frequently retort, “Always? Your brother always starts the fight?” This happened so frequently that when I turned 18 and left home for college, the thought of tattooing the word always on my body crossed my mind more than once. The medium seemed poetically fitting. 

This idea of always propelled my return home to start Ivory House Photography in Des Moines, IA. I want to grow my life and business near the people who I know will always support me. It is with this commitment to my own legacy of always and passion for my clients' version of always that I open the proverbial doors of Ivory House Photography and welcome you with open arms. I can’t wait to meet you, your spouse and your family members. Together we are going to capture memories that will last for your lifetime and beyond.

In honor of the importance photos play in my own life, I thought it was only fitting to share a few of my favorite images. Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to work with the best photographers in Rochester. Thanks to Natalie Sinisgalli and Rachel Liz for capturing the people I love most in such a beautiful and honest way. 

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