I could barely feel my fingers...

Even winter gloves couldn’t keep my hands warm while they juggled two cardboard four-packs hauling a total of eight coffees, cappuccinos, and lattes. No small feat when paired with maneuvering over and around the snow piles that had accumulated along 12th Street‘s sidewalks and corners.

The late ’90s were a roaring good time in downtown Manhattan and for me, even being the least important member of a photo crew was no exception. If you don’t love the lowest job on a shoot, you’ll never love the highest.

It was a world away from hot, humid Panama, where my father was a ship pilot and years before I had done a photo-department internship with the Panama Canal Company. At the time, due to the complexities of color and my greenness in the darkroom, they’d only allow me to work with black and white film. With film, you never quite knew what you had until those first prints emerged from the chemicals. But in the fast-paced foreign world of New York, color images flew from a Hasselblad to a computer in seconds and painfully thin women dressed in black were always in need of lattes. I was happy to oblige, glad to be a part of something beautiful and creative, and in my element to be working in an environment where it was all about the client.

The industry has evolved at a mind-boggling speed, but that never changes — it is always all about the client.

My next position on photo shoots was as a makeup artist. It took years of study and practice before I finally achieved the level of a true professional and my makeup work was on magazine covers. Nothing quite makes your heart sing like the first time you see your work in full-color print and your name in the credits. Or when you open a magazine you've read since you were a teenager to see an ad campaign you worked on next to the article you are reading. Those years of being “on set” with talented photographers showed me how light affects makeup, beauty, and the overall feeling of a photo. This knowledge gave me the opportunity to take the next step in my ongoing growth and become a photographer’s assistant. When that job took me to Paris twice — working hard can be fun! — I realized how valuable my on-set skills had become.

Then, on an early winter evening in 2006, I took some pictures of my six-year-old niece. She was making funny faces and acting like a true six-year-old. I lighted the photos with a single strobe and made a comical series of portraits for her mother. Having logged so many hours in the world of beauty and fashion, this was a refreshing change of pace. I began building a professional portfolio of children’s fashion, and in a few years, my photos were the ones on national magazine covers and advertisements.

Now that I’m married and have a beautiful young son, families are at the heart of my work. Working directly with families is a departure for me from my original photo background in the fashion and apparel industry. I've enjoyed learning how to work for families. It is much different than working for art directors. What I've learned is family portraits shine when you are fully present — when you feel most connected to your loved ones. That is the space we seek out, that is the space your portraits should come from.

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