Some photographers are inspired by nature. Others by fascinating people. Others by injustice that they feel needs to be documented. Now, I'm not sure I am even close enough in talent to dub myself a "photographer," but my journey starts with a friend. My freshman year in college I met an incredible sophomore named Natalie Franke. Even though she was only one year older than me, she had already mastered an artistic talent with photography that blew all our minds away. Starting as just a high school student, Natalie had begun to grow a portrait and lifestyle company, Natalie Franke Photography, for everything from weddings to engagement sessions to newborns to senior portraits. Luckily for us Chi Omega girls, that meant gorgeous photos at all of our events and all our eyes opened up to the world of portraiture. Now, I've never admitted this to anyone before (Natalie, get ready), but on my 19th birthday I had heard through the grapevine that some of the girls in my pledge class were going to do a photoshoot with Natalie. I was so excited but wasn't technically a part of the original group. I think I texted Aida with a casual "Sooo...what are you doing today? It's my birthday!" and of course she filled me in. Score! Sure, it's a little embarrassing how badly I needed to be in this photoshoot, but I had never done one before and hey, it was my birthday! The pictures turned out phenomenal. I don't think I'll ever stop treasuring these photos and the memories from that beautiful day. Even Chi Omega nationals reached out to Natalie to use it for marketing purposes! I always laugh at this photo because coincidentally it's quite diverse and almost looks like a college brochure. Guess we're now part of the Chi O brochure!
Fast forward to senior year: after much lamenting over the tacky and ridiculously overpriced senior photographs taken by Penn, my friend Maddie contacted Natalie again this year to see if she would be willing to come back to Penn (she's an alum, now) to take some senior portraits for us. She graciously said yes and even donated a portion of our sessions to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In a weird coincidence, though, the day Maddie picked also happened to be...my birthday! The photographs that she took were absolutely beautiful and captured me in a way I couldn't image.
My 22nd birthday, just last week! Courtesy of Natalie Franke Photography (Click here for her full blog post)
In our photography class, our professor has been pushing us to think about the role of the photographer. But one that I feel often gets ignored is the role that Natalie and so many other professional photographers play: the role of bringing happiness to others in the form of images. Being able to capture moments - from the huge landmark moments like weddings and births down to the small moments like both my 19th and 22nd birthday - are significant. As I looked through the full set of photos Natalie sent me, my heart soared. I looked beautiful. I saw myself and felt beautiful. Natalie has an amazing ability to capture each person's individual beauty and present it as a gift. While some might view it as vain, especially in the world of selfies and Facebook, I think that these are mementos we need in our lives, if only to remember.
So, in my own little step of my journey, for my "Choice" component of my Portrait assignment, I decided to do a photoshoot for my wonderful friend Kareli. Kareli is vivacious, hilarious, fun, and lively in the most amazing ways. Not to mention, she was doing me a huge favor by sacrificing her time for me to shoot her in ridiculous poses! After just one hour photographing her in the Quad, I could see why Natalie loved her job so much. I was already so excited to give Kareli what I hoped would be images that captured her beauty. Without further ado:
Kareli, you are a gorgeous girl! I am blown away by your beauty, and your hair is amazing beyond words. I hope that I was able to capture even a fraction of it all! Thank you so much for all of your help.
Natalie, thank you for being a constant inspiration to me and so many others out there. You're spreading so much happiness and joy through your work - I hope you never stop!
And please, to everybody else, check out Natalie's wonderful work at www.nataliefranke.com!