Hello World!

2015 was my busiest wedding season yet.  I had a lot of fun working with really amazing couples.  It was also one of my most difficult wedding seasons because I was pregnant most of the year.  Things worked out pretty awesome as far as timing.  I had all of my weddings shot by the time I was in the 7th month and was determined to have everything delivered before the holidays and my due date.  I worked very hard to make that happen.  Blogging and sharing images had to take a backseat while I focused on staying ahead of schedule.  Growing a baby really sucks the life out of you, literally. Writing posts and organizing images was the last thing on my mind after shooting and editing, and getting as much rest as possible for my little meatball growing inside of me.

Giving birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I had an amazing support team and it was exactly the way that I wanted it to be.  We are a little over two weeks into our new life and everyone is trying to figure out a rhythm.  Right now our biggest concerns are eating enough and sleeping.  I am trying to sneak in a little work in between nursing sessions, just so I can feel normal again.  It takes me 2 times as long to get things done, but my time management skills have become pretty amazing through the process.

I appreciate your patience while it has been pretty quiet over here.  I am very excited to finally be able to share some of the gorgeous weddings I had the pleasure of photographing last year.  Over the next month or so I will be putting together posts and sharing them.  I hope you enjoy them.

Here is a Polaroid of my little man, Nico.  He is such a sweet little guy.  I am so excited to watch him grow and smother him in love.

impossible project_nikitagross

A Tribute to Love

When I think about my job and the impact it can have on people's lives, I wouldn't be able to do it if I didn't think it had meaning.  People trust me with their most intimate moments and feelings.  They trust me to document them and to be apart of their lives, even if it is only for one day.  I cherish my job, and there isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful and don't take the responsibility I have been given seriously.  Sure I like to make beautiful  images, but I know that the real impact in my work is in the moments I am able to capture, the feelings I am able to portray, and the precious memories I am able to give every single person who steps in front of my camera.

I have shared Kristen and Sean's story on my blog when I photographed their engagement photos and wedding.  Sean was diagnosed with brain cancer within 2 months of getting engaged to Kristen.  They fought very hard together to keep the cancer from spreading or getting worse.  For a few months, they were very successful.  They bought a house together, had great careers, and enjoyed their fur baby family.

When I got the email from Kristen letting me know Sean wasn't doing well, that his cancer had worsened and that he was given a small window of time, my heart sank.  It wasn't that I was naive that this could happen, it was that I hoped so much that it wouldn't.  They are young and have fought so damn hard.  Kristen told me that Sean asked her if she had enough pictures of the two of them, how thoughtful of him.  Of course Kristen said no and asked if I would come over to snap some casual photos of them together at home.  I was more than happy to do this for them.

When I got to the house I didn't know what to expect.  I was around 7 months pregnant, and I did not want my emotions to get out of control.  It wasn't like that at all.  Sean looked great.  He needed help getting around, but he still had that beautiful, vibrant spirit I was able to see each time I photographed him.  We joked a lot and he smiled so much.  He looked at Kristen with those same loving eyes I had seen the first time I met him.  It was very touching to witness.

Sean passed away December 8, 2015 at his home surrounded by Kristen's love.  He fought so hard, it was very sad to see the news of his passing.  But, I know he is now at peace, and we have to find comfort in that.  I encourage each of you who is reading this blog to take time everyday to appreciate the love in your life, not because it could be gone tomorrow, but because it is here today.  Live in the moment, let your worries fade.  There is no better time than now to accept love, to give love, and to appreciate the life you are given.  We aren't ever sure how how much or how little time we have with the people who mean so much to us.  What you do with it is up to you.  The impact you make on other people's hearts is your legacy.  We need each other to heal and to grow.  My heart has been so heavy for Kristen.  Today, as she says her final goodbyes to her husband, I hope she is surrounded by peace and is able to someday heal from her loss.  She has handled every day with such strength.  She comforted her husband through sickness and health.  The vows she took were sincere.  I admire her greatly.

This is my favorite picture of Sean from that day.  Look at that spirit in his eyes.  He was a very warm, compassionate person. I am happy to have had the chance to get to know him.  love_0778Kristen took time off of work to comfort and take care of Sean.  She slept right beside him every night. love_0791Their sweet family.  love_0795love_0797Sean's best friend Scott was there to help Kristen take care of Sean. love_0799love_0803love_0807love_0809love_0814love_0815love_0817love_0818love_0823love_0824love_0825He absolutely adored her.  And she took such good care of him. love_0826love_0829love_0831love_0832

Happy Couple Duo Kickstarter

Last night I had the pleasure of tagging along with Katy and Zachary of The Happy Couple Duo while they made outdoor art.  They are planning a huge move across the country later this year. They want to stop along the way creating temporary light based art installations.  I think it is a brilliant idea.  The couple is from Cincinnati so before they embark on their journey they decided to begin the project here.  They started a Kickstarter called Traveling At the Speed of Light to help fund some of the equipment they need to be mobile and weather proof while creating these installations.

I met Katy and Zachary at one of my favorite parks, International Friendship Park, where they planned on lighting the 'Castle of Air' sculpture.  I was utterly inspired watching these two interact with each other and the environment on this project.  They are an artistic force.  They work very hard to make these ideas come to life.  If you decide to help fund their efforts, I can say you will honestly be supporting two very dedicated artists.

I fed off of their creative energy and managed to create some very cool images of them using their lights.  I am excited to push this even more when we  collaborate on some future projects.

 Please visit their Kickstarter page to read more about their story and offer a donation if you can.  Every single donation comes with a generous gift.  If you are looking for wedding or event entertainment/lighting they are offering string music, DJ, and lighting  as one of the donation gifts.  Check it out here.

For me, one of the greatest things about this project was seeing how people reacted to it.  Every single person who walked by stopped to chat with the couple about what they were doing.  And every single person was memorized by how beautiful it was.   The sculpture during the day. 

Bob and Louise 68 years of love

"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."

These are the vows many people take everyday.  You find the one person whose life and love fits with your own like a glove.  Entering a marriage, committing yourself to the person you want to spend your life with is a more than a declaration of love, it is a partnership.  You choose to live life as a team.  The beginning of every relationship is so full of excitement and passion.  As a wedding photographer, I am very lucky to be part of this special time in people's lives.  My hope for every couple that I photograph and every couple that I know, is that their love lasts a lifetime, that they can get past the stressful times, the times when they want to give up and remember the vows they took on their wedding day.

Bob is 91 and Louise is 84.   When I walked into their home it was very cozy and comfortable.  I was welcomed with big smiles.  They had 2 boards full of pictures that documented the many years of happiness they have lived together.  They were excited to have me over and to tell me their story and I couldn't have been more grateful to be there.

Louise's family was from Italy and Bob was an American.  They met through family members when they were young, but it wasn't until Bob returned from the Navy and saw Louise again that their relationship began.  They fell in love young.  Like many young couple's at the time, because of their age, they snuck over to Kentucky to elope since Ohio's laws were more strict.  Their life together gave the world  3 children,  who then  had children, who then had children, and now their clan is up to over 50 people strong.  Their love and a marriage is a solid foundation for their children and grandchildren to look up to.  I admire that so much.

The love and partnership these two share is beautiful.  It was nice seeing how they balance things out.  Bob is a retired firefighter.  He is a giver by nature.   He likes to stay busy and fix things, he sews, does yard work, he even cuts Louise's hair.   Bob adores his wife,  I could see it every time he looked at her with admiration.  He still surprises her with gifts, and tells her he loves her every night.  Louise is a strong woman with the most beautiful smile and skin.  She spent her life as a caretaker for her family, but also worked different jobs throughout the years.  I imagine Louise was a fun woman in her youth, someone I would like to hang out with.  She used to go to Vegas every year with her girlfriends.   In all of the pictures they showed me, she was laughing and having a good time.  Once the children were grown they spent a lot of time traveling together.  When I asked them what they liked to do for fun they told me how much they loved to dance and spend time on their boat the named the Bob-O-Lou.  Though they can't dance much anymore, they still play cards every Saturday night and try to get out whenever they can.  Louise has some back problems, but Bob is always right there to help her out.

I am a born romantic, I love love more that anything else in the world.  I was lucky to get this amazing opportunity to spend time with and photograph Bob and Louise, a couple who is celebrating 68 years of love and marriage.  I hope their story inspires you as much as it did me.  Their lust for life is what keeps them young and their love for each other is what keeps them strong.

 

Bob holding a picture of his wife on their boat, The Bob-O-Lou. Louise saw this bear she really liked on T.V.  Bob saw the bear while he was out one day and brought it home to surprise his wife.  What a sweetheart.  Guys,  take a lesson from Bob's book.  After 68 years, he still makes sure his wife knows he is thinking of her.  I always say, it's the little things. Here Bob is telling me the reason he doesn't wear a wedding ring because it got caught while he was working.  

Louise was telling me how Bob showers her in gifts.  Here she is showing me a necklace he got for her. I really liked this part of the day.  Like every couple, Bob and Louise went through some rocky times when they were young.  There was a time when Louise got her own apartment for a short time.  Bob was always over visiting, he couldn't stay away from his love and children,  so their split didn't last long.  In the picture below she was saying "we were like, what are we doing?  It was silly, we wanted to be together, we had our family to take care of. "   She made sure I knew it wasn't always roses,  but they stuck it out through the tough times and they couldn't be happier about the life they have had together.    I would like to thank to my friend, Suzanne for introducing me to her these two beautiful souls.  She is very lucky to call them her grandparents.

Michael

I passed by Michael one day while walking in Eden Park about 4 years ago.  He was in a lawn chair next to his truck carving walking sticks.  I had my camera with me so I asked to take his picture.  The picture sat on my hard drive forever as I got sidetracked with work.  One day I was cleaning out folders and found it.  I ordered  a print in hopes that one day I would be able to give it to him.  Last year, out of the blue I thought about Michael and his picture.  I was on my way to a shoot so I cruised by Michael's "spot" in the park and sure enough, he was there.  I stopped nervously to give him the photo.  I handed it to him, let him know when I took it and was on my way.  As I drove away I realized I hadn't even told him my name.  I felt so rude, so I drove back by to properly introduce myself.  When I walked up to his truck, which he was now sitting in, my heart melted.  On his lap he had the picture I had taken and another from over 30 years ago.  He was looking at both with a huge smile on his face.  He told me how much he loved his picture and that his children would love it too.  We talked for awhile and he showed me some of his sticks and how how makes them.  They are beautiful pieces of art.  I am so happy I went back and got to see his excitement and learn more about him, of course I bought one of his sticks.  Since I had my camera with me, I asked to take another picture.  Hopefully now that the weather is nice I can catch him again to give him a new print.

This was the one I took 4 years ago.

Here is Michael last year.I think Michael takes baths in the fountain of youth.  These are the two he was looking at when I pulled up. Michael making his sticks. 

iPhone Self Portraits

Self portraits are a form of therapy for me.  I usually feel the urge to create them when I am going through some kind of change or when I am feeling lost from my life path.  The process of creating self portraits allows me to release whatever it is in me that is holding me back from being fulfilled.  It also allows me to get away from the part of me that is connected to stress and reconnect with my muse.  At the time I made these everything in my life had changed in a very short amount of time.  This was my way of getting through it.  I had just got an underwater case for my iPhone which was perfectly timed with the way that I was feeling.           

Seattle and Aislinn Designs

Back in August my boyfriend, Chris and I had the pleasure of visiting Seattle for the first time.  It is a beautiful, laid back city.  Notorious for it's rainy days, we were lucky to have only one in the 8 days we were there.  We did a lot of touristy things like visit The Space Needle, Chihuly Glass Museum, Pike Place Market, and the Experience Music Project, but we spent most of our time exploring Seattle's unique neighborhoods.  Seattle has some of the best vintage shops I have visited.

A friend of mine, Gillian moved to Vashon Island right outside of Seattle from Cincinnati a few years ago.  I decided to give her a call to catch up while I was nearby. The island is about a 30 minute drive/Ferry ride from downtown.  I have never been on a full size ferry, so that in itself was an awesome adventure for me.  Gillian, who is a jewelry designer, lives in a house she and her fiance Nick are rehabbing on the island.  Nick built  her an amazing work studio surrounded by trees in the backyard.  It is a dreamy space.  The island is very secluded.  At one point it was so quiet it was scary.

I am absolutely in love with Gillian's jewelry.  Under her company name Aislinn Designs, she makes rings out of wood she finds on the island.   She showed me a little bit of her process while I visited.  Every piece is unique and made with Gillian's love.  She can personalize the rings by engraving the inside.  She also makes gorgeous sea glass necklaces and earrings.  Below are a few images I grabbed (with permission) from Gillian's Facebook page.

Visit Gillian's website Aislinn Designs and her Etsy store for more images and info about custom orders.

See more images I took while in Seattle over at Love and Wander where they are featured.

Gillian not only uses materials that are native to her surroundings, she also pulls inspiration from the island and water surrounding it.  Above are sea glass necklaces and below are her moon boat earrings. The inside of Gillian's work space.

A few images I captured of Nick and Gillian. 

This is our view from the Ferry.This was on the island.  It was late August, everything was so green and lush. We ended the day with a sunset picnic. More images of Seattle featured here .

iPhone Friday Chicago

Last weekend I spent a couple of days in one of my favorite cities, Chicago.   My boyfriend Chris and I  took the 5 hour drive up Thursday and came back on Saturday.  Though many people think going to Chicago in the winter is crazy, I have to admit I kind of like it.  The snow wasn't too bad, it actually added a little excitement to the trip.  If you wear lots of layers walking around downtown is a lot of fun

We got a great deal at our favotrite hotel right in the middle of downtown.  We explored all of our favorite neighborhoods and stores and discovered some new ones we will visit again.  The main reason for the trip was to see comedians  Joe Rogan and Ari Shaffir at the beautiful Chicago Theatre.  The show was awesome.  We literally laughed for 2 hours straight.

I wanted to see Lake Michigan so bad, so we made a quick stop before we left.   I had been there in the summer, but only to Navy Pier.  This time we went to a private part of the lake and soaked in how beautiful it was before we left.  It was breathtaking!

Here is a list to some of our favorite places to visit if you ever make the trip to the windy city.

The Acme Hotel  We have stayed here 3 times.  It's a hip boutique hotel right on Ohio St. downtown.  The staff is very friendly and helpful.  There is a nice bar and bakery onsite.  The rooms are a little small, but you shouldn't be in your room anyway.  Parking is very affordable, and you can come and go as you please.  In the winter we drive to neighborhoods outside the city rather than taking the train.

Hash House A Go Go is a must visit!  The best Sage Chicken and Waffles I have ever had.  Get ready to have your mind blown when you see how monsterious the portions are.  Plenty to share!  We also tried  Weber Grill and it was also outstanding.  Tempo is a 24 hour diner that is a must visit,  their breakfast scramblers are so good.  They have a nice patio in the summer.

If you like vintage shopping, live music, good food, and art Wicker Park and Andersonville are neighborhoods you should visit.  Here are a few of my favorite stores Record Stores: Permanent Records and Reckless Records Vintage Shopping: The Brown Elephant, The Garage,   The Woolly Mammoth is a very cool oddoties store.  This place has everything.  Taxidermy, skulls, strange art, rare records, weird home decor, their stock always changes.

Here are some of my iPhone pictures from the trip.

2014 Portrait Project

When I first started photography school over 15 years ago I would take my camera with me where ever I went.  Every birthday party, cookout, and visit to my mother's was documented in some way.  I would take long drives out Rt. 8 in Kentucky to take pictures.  I was learning and getting lots of practice,  I was discovering my passion for taking intimate pictures of the people and places around me.   Through the years as I turned photography into my main source of income and I started to notice something was slowly getting lost, my enthusiam for personal work was disappearing.  I stopped taking my camera to family functions, because my passion turned into work, in my head every picture I took would add more work to my growing heavy load.   I was warned by many people that this would happen, always claiming I wouldn't let it happen to me.  As I was looking back through my images from last year I noticed something was lacking, my life.  I had documented the lives of  my clients, but had no images of my own family and friends.  I document tidbits of my life everyday via my iPhone, so I'm not claiming to be a total slacker, but as much as I love that phone, my family and friends deserve nice professional images too.

On January 1 I decided to do what a lot of photographers do,  I started a daily photo project.  Since my favorite thing to photograph is people, I decided to start a portrait project.  At first,  I was only going to photograph people I know, then I decided to expand it to photographing strangers as well.  My goal is to shoot a new person everyday for as long as I can.  So far it has been an awesome experience.  My camera is with me a lot more, so I am not only photographing people, but also my surroundings, and the things I see.  I have been getting so much positive feedback, some people even telling me they cant wait to be part of the project.  It has been challenging at times, but I needed a good challenge.  I am excited to see where it takes me throughout the year.

 I posted some of the images on my Facebook page this month.  I think will also do a monthly post on my blog.

I want to thank everyone for participating so far.  Here are some of my images from January.          

The Happy Couple Duo

I met this talented couple, Katy and Zachary,  last month at the Northside Bridal Show at Mayday.  They were showcasing their event entertainment business, The Happy Couple Duo.  I contacted them about setting up a shoot because I was so intrigued with them and wanted to know more about them.

I asked Katy to tell me a little more about how they got started and what they do and this is what she had to say...

"Zachary and I are high school sweet hearts and we met each other while attending The Governors School For the Arts in Virginia, a performing arts high school similar to the one here in downtown Cincinnati. We fell in love in a famous castle in Germany while on an orchestra tour at the puny age of 17.  We've been playing music, collaborating, and creating together ever since, almost 12 years later.

We began playing weddings and private events as a quartet at 17 through our performing arts school connections. We enjoyed the energy at events and decided to grow it into a business. We love to perform together!

We offer string duo and trio, DJ, music arrangement, LED spot and up-lighting, as well as custom artistic light displays. We can arrange any song (pop, jazz, classical, etc.) for violin/viola duet or for violin/viola/bassoon trio. Our string duo and trio music library is the most eclectic and offers the most variety of any other group in the tri-state. Our DJ library is extensive and covers every genre from top 40s to under ground and indie. We are the only music services in the tri-state area to offer DJ, lighting, and Live instrumental music."

Katy does most of the arranging and is working on a book.  They also just got funded through Kickstarter and will have a full length album containing their own violin/viola/bassoon arrangements of popular songs by current and past artists.

Check out their Facebook page and website to see videos of them performing.

 I was drawn to them after hearing them play some of my favorite songs by Queen and Nirvana on violin/viola and because they kept me dancing all night once they started DJing.  Their music selection was diverse and fun.  I had an absolute blast on this shoot.  It wasn't hard to get a smile out of them and their chemistry together is wonderful.

Torri's Burning Man inspired shoot Cincinnati Photographer

Torri, a friend of mine, took an amazing road trip to the notorious Burning Man festival with a group of friends last year.  When she got back and told me all about it, I had this crazy idea of setting up a shoot inspired by the clothes she wore there.  It was a ton of fun.   I am so happy to finally have time to edit the images.  Our friend Maggie did a fantastic job with Torri's hair and makeup.

First up is an image I shot and processed on my iPhone.

I won! Raw Artist Cincinnati Photographer of the Year

I am so excited to announce that on Thursday I was named Raw Artist's Cincinnati Photographer of the year!  Raw Artists is a nationwide,  independent art organization for artists by artists. Their mission is to provide independent artists within the first 10 years of their career with the tools, resources and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity.  I was asked to participate in one of their monthly  shows back in July.  It was a ton of fun.  At the end of their show season they held an online contest and people had to vote for their favorite Raw Artist to represent their city in the national contest.  I was chosen as one of the four finalists.  Thursday was the semi final round where I was judged by the audience and a panel of three local judges.  I was only allowed to display 5 pieces.  I choose to show some pieces from this body of work.  My good friend Marti, of Marti's Floral Designs helped me create an awesome display for my work.  I was so proud to see it all come together.  I hope to have some pictures to post to my Facebook Page soon.  I was a nervous wreck that night... One of my favorite sayings about art is that it is not a competitive sport, but man I wanted to win. :)  At around midnight after all of the voting they announced the winners from each category and I couldn't believe it when they announced my name!  YAY!!!  So the next step is the national awards.  My online portfolio will be judged and the winner will be announced later this year...fingers are crossed!

I want to thank everyone who came out and supported me that night.  You made me feel so special.  This has been a crazy emotional year for me, so I also want to thank all of my friends and family for supporting me and encouraging me to keep fighting for my dreams.  I love you all so much!! xx

Katie and Evie's day at the park

Katie is leaving for Afghanistan very soon.  She is going to be away from her daughter Evie for a few months.  We did this photo session just for fun and to give Katie beautiful images of her and Evie together to help her get through these next few months.  I love how sweet and sincere these photos are.

 Please take care of yourself Katie, we'll miss you and make sure to give Evie lots of love while you're away. xx 

Niki

”A friend is a hand that is always holding yours, no matter how close or far apart you may be.  A friend is always there and will always care.  A friend is feeling forever in your heart."

I loved her from the moment I met her.  I think we were 18 or 19, we both worked as waitresses at a local restaurant.  There was just a connection, the kind of connection you cant explain.   She had a fun personality I wanted to be around.  She made me laugh until my belly hurt.  We spent 5 years working together,  joking and sharing secrets.  We became best friends, there is nothing in the world I would give up  for this kind of friendship.  Though our lives are totally different, she is a wonderful mother of 5 beautiful children,  I have devoted my life to my art and work,  it doesn't matter, 14+ years later and we still laugh like teenagers, the connection is still there.   She gives it to me straight, even when I don't want to hear it, she encourages me and inspires me.   She has always been there for me and I appreciate her more than she knows.  Her heart is so kind and full of love.  I know  am a very lucky girl to have a friend like her in my life.  

California here I come!

I remember being in third grade when I was first introduced to California.  Everyone got a state to do a project on and the state I was given was good old California, a dream was born in the head of a nine year old.  When I was in high school I got obsessed with California again after reading The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, a novel by Tom Wolfe about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.  When I was a little girl it was the beaches and gorgeous weather, as a teenager the obsession came from the lifestyle.  I wanted to grow up to be a hippie who rolled around in a school bus just like the Pranksters did. :)  I finally had my first trip to California a couple of years ago and it was everything I imagined and so much more.  The laid back vibe, the killer weather, the gorgeous landscape. a dream come true!  We had the amazing opportunity to cruise down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, what an adventure.  It was truly one of the most amazing and beautiful experiences of my life.  Today I am hopping on a plane for another 2 week California adventure.  I am taking lots of cameras and lots of film so I will document it well.

Here are a few pictures from my last trip.

Hi there!

“In order to create, you’ve got to have energy; you’ve got to have clarity.  You’ve got to be able to catch ideas.”

David Lynch

To me, one of the most important parts of my creative process is taking the time to be quiet, to stop thinking and worrying and wondering and to just listen.  I believe silence truly is golden.  When you allow yourself time to withdraw from all of the chaos that surrounds your life everyday, you finally get the chance to hear what you have to say to yourself.  You cannot force creativity and if you spend your life chasing other people's dreams you will never be satisfied or feel fulfilled.  Over the past couple of months I have been spending a lot of time alone, just listening to myself.  Sorting through my thoughts, but mostly just being quiet.  I became a photographer and artist to satisfy  an intense urge I have to express all of the feelings and emotions stirring inside of me .  For as long as I can remember I have been an observer of people.  The way they speak, their body language, the way they interact with each other.  I see the world for all of it's beauty and it's darkness and I appreciate them equally.  It's been nice to get back in touch with this part of me without my camera,  just taking it all in, being present in the moment.  I feel refreshed and utterly inspired.  For those of you who think I have disappeared, I promise I haven't, just taking a little time to feed my soul and listen to my muses. I will be sharing lots of new work soon.  Until then, enjoy this amazing weather and have a wonderful day!  xo Nikita