Engagements, Portraits


Anna texted me a month beforehand: “Would you be open to photographing our engagement session ASAP?”

Followed by: “(only if this is fun to you)”

Well, it obviously was SO FUN to me — and also gratifying, and exhilarating, and also, very, very scary. It’s always a magnificent thing when another photographer entrusts me with their photographs. It’s a wildly different level of responsibility and honor when that photographer is Anna.

Who is Anna? I’ve never been a concise person, but trying to answer that stretches the limits of even my own chatty ability. I’ll still try. Anna is extraordinary. She is a constant learner and a creator of community. Entire groups of lifelong friends literally just happen wherever she goes. She has the answers to all of my questions and the thoughtful article links to back them up. She a lover of life. She is a musician, an artist, a writer, a reader, a crafter, professional party planner, archivist documenter, a madeleine baker, my best friend. I enjoy telling others about Anna’s adventures and annual birthday party themes in a way that I’m worried could be noted as “vaguely obsessive”. We once went to Iceland together – an intensely isolating, wandering, soul-searching kind of journey, and by far, one of my all-time favorite life experiences – and I’ve now held every travel trip since up to those impossible standards. I call Anna my big sister and when strangers ask if we are related, it makes me want to bawl (in a good way).

Now she is getting married. And not just to anyone, because certainly, no one of an “anybody” sort would’ve gotten past our mutual friend Do-Hee‘s protective inquiries (quoted from their very first meeting, “WHAT are your intentions towards Anna??”). Anna is marrying Alex, a cheerful, perpetually smiling and encouraging kind of person – someone who also enjoys adventures and homebody life in equal parts – the kind of extraordinary friend who brings you bubble tea of his own volition when you are just weeks postpartum – a guy who is exuberant and happy about both eating AND cleaning up after meals, a character trait I desperately admire and unfortunately have never been able to cultivate in myself. In short: Alex is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I am so happy for them both.

With the combined breadth of all of our photographing experiences, plus all of the Bay Area’s many gems in mind, we ultimately chose to head to Mount Tamalpais for this session. The beautiful scenery of Mount Tam is a recurring theme in Anna and Alex’s relationship together. Anna ventures out here often to photograph her own clients, while Alex tags along and spends the time embarking on a solo hike. This little example of how they choose to spend their time has always felt particularly “Anna and Alex” to me — between the two of them, they share a myriad of hobbies and interests, of which the other partner is a patient, constant, and steadfast supporter. In our friends group, we joke regularly about the evolution of “Sports Anna” as the two of them pursue Alex’s lifelong goal of visiting every MLB stadium in the country. Also, I’d like to note, they are the only two people who have ever successfully convinced me to run a race (both a 5k and 10k!), so they have LITERALLY made me a better, healthier person. I happily watch both of their IG stories regularly — even when they are exactly the same photos.

Working as a wedding artist means working in the best and shiniest parts of life. No matter where I am inside my own headspace, photographing couples and the people who love them has always been a sure-fire way of restoring my own love of humanity and the beauty of being alive. As the years go on, it feels less and less like a job and more of something I am bound to do, simply because I love it. And on that note, I am forever thankful, forever grateful, forever humbled to have been invited to play this small role in Anna and Alex’s story. I love them and I love photographing them.

A last, silly thing while it’s on my mind, and then I must cut myself off or else I’ll never hit publish:

A year or two ago – I forget how – we stumbled onto the idiom “making hay while the sun shines”. As a joke, Anna changed her bio tagline to “maker of hay”. And that is truly who she is! She is a lover of life and my favorite hay maker. I hope to always find the good in this world alongside her.

Photographer: Cassie Valente | Film Lab: Indie Film Lab | Dress Rental: Clair De Lune | Hair + Makeup: Beautiful One Makeup Artistry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

"And when you appear all the rivers sound in my body, bells shake the sky, and a hymn fills the world."