Monday, September 16, 2013

Developing Self Esteem Through Children's Portraits

"Healthy self-esteem is like a child's armor against the challenges of the world. "

"Kids who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic."

Here are some tips to help you develop your own child's self esteem:

1. Be careful what you say. Children are little sponges. What you say and how you say it is incredibly important. Praise your child not only for their accomplishments but for their effort. If your child didn't make the basketball team, you could say, "I am sorry you didn't make the team but I am really proud of the effort you put into it." or in another situation, "I am so glad that you had the courage to get up in front of everyone and sing that solo. You are doing so much better than you did a year ago."

Be truthful. Give praise for real accomplishments and real effort. An inflated sense of self worth can lead to a sense of entitlement and is just as unhealthy as poor self-worth.

2. Be a positive role model. If you are excessively pessimistic and hard on yourself, your children will likely mirror you.

3. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Give lots of hugs and tell them that you love them, that you are proud of them.

4. Create a safe, loving home environment. Kids who don't feel safe or are abused at home are at greatest risk for developing poor self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may feel they have no control over their environment and become helpless or depressed.

 5. Hang portraits in the home. You can show them that you love them, that they are important by putting portraits of them on your walls. The child's room is a perfect place for a yearly portrait gallery. As you are settling them down for the night, you can talk about the photographs and the things that you remember that they did at each age. They will keep these memories with them every time they see the photographs. It is like a hug from you even when you aren't there.

The image at the top of the page shows a gallery of yearly Haugen's portraits in a child's room. #8 is ready to go up:

Lindzee's mom tells me that she looks at the images every night when snuggling her down to bed and often talks about them with Lindzee. There is no doubt that Lindzee feels that love whenever she is in her room. She takes pride in who she is.

Taking pride and responsibility in who you are is a sure sign of healthy self esteem and is the greatest gift that a parent can give their child.

To read more on this subject, see Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem and Helping your Child Develop Healthy Self-Esteem.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

It was Saturday night at 10:15 when my cell phone rang. The night before Mother's Day.

Neil and I had just finished putting away groceries after a last minute run to the supermarket. Lars wanted to make dinner for Grandma and me for Mother's Day so a ham,  potatoes and other sundries were needed before the big day.

Who would be calling this late? I didn't recognize the number. Probably a wrong number, I thought, half expecting to hear, "Is Joe there?" when I answered. But that is not what I heard.

""This is Mary __________ from Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. I got your name from the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep website. We have a case of fetal demise. The mother is going to deliver in about an hour."

For about a year, I have volunteered my services with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a non profit that connects volunteer professional photographers with families suffering from the untimely loss of an infant to provide beautiful heirloom portraits.  These images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy. 

My mind is racing. Should I drop everything and head to Corvallis in the middle of the night? Is that what she is asking me to do? Can I even do this? When can I do this? How can I do this?

Then I those two little words, "fetal demise" finally registered. This was not just a baby that was not expected to live but one that was already gone. Mary went on to explain that the baby had been "gone" for about a week.

Can I even do this?

I knew that I would be asked to do this at some point and I also knew that I would never really be "ready". Twenty miles away there was a mother laboring to give birth to a child that she carried for 9 months and felt move within her but would never see smile or suckle at her breast. She would never hold a Mother's Day card from this child made with construction paper and felt pens.She would never watch her dance. Of course, I would do this.

Mary and I agreed that she would ask the parents if they would like me to come and I would call in the morning to see what the answer was. At 6:15 am I called and at 7:45 I arrived at the hospital. I was told that the parents had already said their goodbyes to their little girl and did not want to be included in the session.I was very grateful for time to think and work in the quiet of a space tucked away from normal hospital hubub. Nurses came and went and assisted in moving the little angel and asking the parents if there were special items to include. A hand croqueted blanket appeared.

An hour later, I left to meet Neil and Lars at church. It was a wonderful service and we all went home to enjoy ham and mashed potatoes. A home cooked meal that I didn't even have to help with was a treat but the most meaningful moment was when Lars handed me a card made with construction paper and felt pens. At age 14, this was the most beautiful card I had ever received.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Announcing the Winners!

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in the Children's Contest this year and supported Operation Backpack. Today we announce the winners!

People's Choice

The People's Choice Award goes to the image that earns the most "votes" or donations to Operation Backpack. The winner this year is Vienna.
Vienna is only two years old and she can already dribble better than I can. Of course, that isn't saying much since I am about as coordinated as a chicken trying to hang glide. It may be a little early to make predictions about a WNBA future for Vienna, but she is already chasing her big sister around the court and sleeps with her basketball!

Best Expression

Cooper is the boy of a thousand faces. He just turned one and really put on a show for us during the session. I love the vintage pedal car that has been in the family for two generations now. I see lots of car shows in Cooper's future.

Best Storytelling

This image deserves a good title but I am going to need some help coming up with one.

What is the story? Here is something to get the creative juices flowing:
"Once upon a time there was a little girl named Maecy. She had a wonderful imagination and loved pretending. One day she was out walking and came upon an ancient wooden fence. It was very tall and the flowers and ferns grew about it in a haphazard fashion. It seemed to stretch on forever giving no clues about what was on the other side.  Maecy began to wonder, was there a magic land on the other side? A lovely white pony waiting for a little girl to befriend?  Perhaps there was a fairy princess imprisoned by her evil step mother. There was only one way to know for sure. There was a knot hole in the fence ...."

Honorable Mention
These are the images that scored well and deserved recognition:
Honorable Mention- Storytelling
Honorable Mention- Storytelling
Honorable Mention- Best Expression
Who did the judging for Best Expression and Best Storytelling? We gathered a panel of award winning Oregon photographers to look over the images and make choices. All judges potentially have their biases but I appreciate the critical eye that my professional colleagues bring to the table. Thank you to everyone!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Never Gamble on your Wedding Photographs

It was my birthday when Neil proposed. He hadn't planned an elaborate event with a brass band or skywriting, "Will you marry me?" But he did have his heart set on asking me on my birthday. The problem was, I had other plans that did not include him. I got a chance to go on vacation with my family so I was miles away. Not to be deterred or delayed, Neil gave me a call. This was before the advent of cell phones so I was on a land line sitting in my sister's living room when he "popped the question." In my mind, there were serious things to discuss before I could answer that question and we certainly couldn't do it long distance and with my family listening in. So I made him agonize for three days until we could be together. The discussion didn't last long.

We married young, at the age of 21 (well he was 21 and I was just short of it). We didn’t know much about planning a wedding but we launched into the process of wedding planning with gusto. Money was tight and we looked carefully at every expenditure. I loved to sew so I decided to make my wedding dress and the shirt that Neil wore (this was 1975 and it was a bit of a “hippie wedding”). The cake was made by a friend (spice cake with maple frosting, yum!) We even scheduled Neil and a friend (who'd both worked in restaurants to get through college) to "chef" the rehearsal dinner at my parent's house.

The one place that we did not consider scrimping was the photography. We chose Silverton photographer, Bill Hanson, a previous president of the Professional Photographers of Oregon (PPO), as our photographer. His images of our Important Day were beautiful. He was a true professional from start to finish.
Just two years later, Neil and I were starting our own photography studio in Monmouth. At the urging of fellow photographer Clarence Palmer, we joined the PPO ourselves. 
We studied our craft and made sure that every image was perfect, or at least as close as we could get. And we learned … FAST! We listened to every bride and groom. What was important to them? As time went on, the wedding photography style and emphasis changed. Our style became more photo journalistic.We added interesting angles and perspectives, details of dresses and flowers, and guests having fun to the posed photographs that were once the mainstay. But we never lost sight of what was important: the people, the story, and the emotions of the day.

Often, people would come up to us and tell us about their own experience with a wedding photographer that was not so happy. There was the bride who told her photographer that the photograph of her father walking her down the aisle was very important to her. After the wedding, she was told that all of the ceremony photographs were “lost” and all they had was one badly exposed photograph from the back of the church. No photograph of her with her father on that special day. He passed away four years later. 

There was the bride that came into the studio a year after the wedding with her dress in tow for a studio portrait because the photographer that had been hired never took a photograph that showed the entire dress. For so many of us, that dress represents so much of what we've dreamed about for years! What was that photographer thinking?

We've seen and heard so many examples of bad lighting, photographs of the backs of heads, "important" photographs never taken, blurry photographs, even photographers that dropped out of sight after the wedding without delivering what had been promised. Sometimes couples brought the bad photographs in to show us. “Is there something you can do with this?” It has broken my heart, time and again. There are some things that you just can’t recreate. It needs to be done right the first time.

Don’t think that digital photography has made these problems disappear. We still hear stories of missing photographs – flash cards can be erased or simply lost, files can be corrupted, hard drives can crash. We hear even more stories of blurry photographs and bad lighting than we used to, as many new photographers just assume the camera will perfectly focus and expose every image by itself and never check what they're getting. In fact, in the digital age, more people think that their friend just starting out in photography will be “good enough”, as if just a camera being there was the only thing that mattered. 

These stories are incentive for Neil and I to give 110% to every wedding that we photograph. It is the fire in our belly. We photograph from every angle and find the story, the people, and the heart in every moment of the day. Mechanical devices have no concept of "story" whatever, but we do! We have learned to find beauty on 100 degree days and find fantastic light at high noon on a cloudless day in the middle of the summer. Of course we back up everything and we back up the back-ups so nothing is ever lost. And we keep our promises. How could we do any less?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Children's Contest 2013- Bigger and Better!

A beauty contest? Really? in 2013? First a little history:

This is the 35th year for the contest. It all began in 1979 with 9 contestants and we called it the "Baby Beautiful Contest". The contestants weren't all babies and personality and expression were always more important than beauty, but we just liked the alliteration of "Baby Beautiful" so we stuck with it for a long time. The problem was, the name said that it was for babies and we were including children as old as 12! The name also said that it was a beauty contest when personality, expression, and a great story were what really counted. Now we include siblings, parents, and even great grandparents and because story telling is an important piece, art takes precedence over beauty. Sometimes the face doesn't even show.  

One of the winners was from the first year of the contest was in the studio recently with his new baby boy (how cool is that!) He is an awesome Daddy:

"Anyone could father a child, but a real man chooses to be a dad.” --J. Sterling

Why do we do this?
We do this to support Operation Backpack. Last year over $2,200 was raised to purchase school supplies for needy school children through entry fees, votes for People's Choice, and 10% from every order. That is a lot of school supplies!

We also love photographing children. Every child is unique and bursting with possibilities. These images tell the children that they are loved, that they are important, it is a small window into the person that they are becoming. It is important that they have beautiful professional photographs as part of their legacy.... a keepsake for the future and something meaningful for their families now.
New this year:
  • You have a choice of two sessions: the Basic Session with one background for $35. There is no limit on the number of poses or number of family members included.The Signature Session is 2-3 backgrounds for $59 and can even include a combination of studio and outdoor. Both sessions include one entry in the contest.
  • A free Facebook image is included with your entry in the contest!
  • More Winners: We have added Best Traditional Portrait and Best Story Telling Portrait in addition to the Grand Prize which is the People's Choice Award. People's Choice is given to the portrait that earns the most "votes" or donations to Operation Backpack. The Best Traditional Portrait will be chosen based on expression by an independent panel of judges. The Best Story Telling Portrait will be chosen based on the story told by the image. Props and creativity are encouraged.
  • Over $1,000 in Prizes! We will keep you updated as the prize list grows. Keep your eye on the Haugen's Galleri Facebook page.
  • Awesome packages. You are going to love some of the new products we have this year!  Packages start at $199.
  • The Easter Petting Zoo will be part of the contest this year. Schedule your time on Saturday, March 16 and have photographs taken with live animals: bunnies, lambs, and even a miniature horse.

How does the contest work?
1. Schedule your portrait session before April 13 by calling the studio - (503)838-5416 or email us today .

2. Schedule a consultation. If you have not been in to the studio before, we find it really helpful to meet with you to plan the session to make sure that your images are truly memorable. We will talk about clothing, backgrounds and possible props.

3. Arrive at the studio a few minutes early for your session with clothing (and props?) in hand. Don't stress. You will have time to dress your children (or undress them) and fuss with their hair. Let us worry about everything else! Get directions from Corvallis or Salem.

4. Schedule a selection appointment for a week after the session. This is very important. Without this appointment, you will not be eligible for the contest. This is when you will select an image to be entered in the contest and any images you want to purchase for yourself.

5. Voting. The Grand Prize is the  People's Choice award for the portrait that earns the most "votes". The votes are actually donations to Operation Backpack. Stuffing the ballot box is encouraged! The more donations, the more children are helped.

6. Awards Ceremony. This will take place sometime in early May. The time and place TBA.

Call before April 13 ~  503-838-5416

Saturday, January 26, 2013

There is Only One of You

January is a time of clearing out the clutter, centering, remembering what is truly important. I came across this wonderful quote from Martha Graham yesterday, the visionary founder of modern dance and decided it needed to be shared. This is dedicated to all who create or yearn to create but fear is holding them back from being all that they can be.


There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening

That is translated through you into action,

And because there is only one of you in all time,

This expression is unique.

And if you block it,

It will never exist through any other medium

And be lost.

The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is:

Nor how valuable it is: nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,

To keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.

You have to keep open and aware directly

To the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open.

No artist is ever pleased

There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.

There is only a queer, divine satisfaction,

A blessed unrest that keeps us marching

And makes us more alive than the others.

File:Martha Graham 1948.jpg
Martha Graham by  legendary photographer, Yousuf Karsh (1948)