on love and life and stories and hope. remembering two thousand fifteen.

December 29th, 2015

2015 Best Of - Athena Pelton001

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Thousands of images.
Three hundred sixty five days.
Dozens of Stories.
Fifty Two weeks.
Fourteen weddings.
Twelve months.
Eight states.
One year.

Holy shit it’s been a whirlwind year. They say (whoever “they” are) that you should do something every day that scares you – so today that thing is going to be talking about my accomplishments. I’m terrible at self-promotion but I’m going to give it an honest-to-goodness go. Gulp.

In August I hosted my first workshop, Write Your Life, and am working on launching my second. Three days later I lost my corporate job and was catapulted head first into legitimate, scary-as-f*ck, self-employment, though it is a position I should have chosen for myself ages ago. This fall I was asked to hand letter a magazine cover for Minnesota Monthly and the beautiful Lucia at Utterly Engaged tasked me with writing an article on finding intimacy in portraiture which turned into an article offering advice for those booking a wedding photographer who want more than posed, perfect portraits. As the current year draws to a close and the new one breaks on the horizon, I find myself ready for whatever 2016 has to offer. What new things my camera – my heart – will gaze upon and document. I look forward to celebrating  joy and love and promise and hope on mountains and in breweries, in fields and forests and wherever else work takes me in the months to come. It’s time for me to make more images for myself – to shoot more on film and less on my iPhone. I’m ready for more editorial work and am confident that 2016 will allow me to make images for brands that look, sound, and feel precisely like life. I’m beyond excited to be expanding my travel portfolio (yay adventure!) and photographing people in places I’ve never been.

As I attempt to eloquently articulate my feelings on the past year, I find myself lost in thought. I’m swimming in the sounds of laughter and dancing, newborn baby cries and children playing in soft summer fields, rushing water and chilled beer bottles clanged together in reverie. Cicadas at sundown and music turned up to eleven, the hum of generators and plodding rhythms of dizzy feet punctuating the memorized beat of love songs and party songs and lets-dance-until-we-can’t-stand-anymore songs. I can still taste the summer breezes as they blew across the river, across Lake Superior, through tents and trees and off the sweat-shiny shoulders of brides as they turn their heads back toward me and my camera, eyes excited and mesmerized by pure joy.

Making images that matter for people who invite me so wholly, completely, irrevocably into their stories is the most rewarding, wonderful, fulfilling, every-overused-cliche-adjective-ever job. Though I absolutely work my ass off, picking up my camera has never once felt like work. It’s quite the opposite rather, and it never ceases to amaze me how fortunate I am to be able to make a living doing the very thing that makes me come alive. As such, it’s impossible to me that I can even begin to summarize my year in a handful of images (read: entirely too many because I couldn’t possibly narrow this down any further), and yet, here we are. At the end of another year, another season, another miraculous and harrowing and scary, crazy, sad, beautiful trip around the sun.

Here are a few of my favorite images from this year (in no particular order). An immeasurable amount of gratitude belongs to those of you who chose me, who trusted me, who invited me along and invited me in. 

Thank you.

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fall foxes | an editorial bridal shoot + musings on fashion and following your dreams

November 10th, 2014

TearSheetCover If you know me (or follow me on instagram), then you know that I have a ridiculous love for fashion and styling. Though it’s only really come out – via social media – this past year, I’ve loved and admired fashion and design since I was a little girl. Throughout most of my life I thought I’d end up at Parsons or FIDM and live the life of a designer in New York. Somehow that was railroaded (by a boy) and I never really got back on track. Until now. Though my aspirations have changed – from fashion designer  to styling, design, and merchandising – the passion still runs to my core. I can feel it in my belly, the warmth rising, fueling me, driving me, pushing me to do more. So naturally, I married my two passions together and produced and designed an editorial bridal fashion shoot. I wanted to stretch my wings as a photographer, and break into the editorial market. With the help of an insane list of talented creatives (full credit below!), we made my dream into a reality. If I’ve learned anything in my lifetime, it’s that you have to be brave enough to go after what you want. There are so many people ready and able to tell you no or can’t or don’t, that it’s truly imperative that you become a voice of “yes” for yourself. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t wait for approval or applause. Do the thing that makes you come alive. As much and as often as you can. Because if you don’t burn, where will the light come from? Be brave enough to follow your voice and realize your visions. It’s amazing how remarkable we each are, if only we allow ourselves the space and the freedom to simply try. Blog1 Blog2 Blog3 Blog4 Blog5 Blog6 Blog7 Blog8 Blog9 Blog10 Blog11 Blog12 Blog13 Blog14 Blog15 Blog16 Blog17 Blog18

This shoot turned out better than I could have ever imagined, and now that’s it’s over, I find myself wanting more. So much more. If you’re a model and in need of photos, contact me and let’s get something set up. If you’re an editor or stylist or art director and are in need of editorial work (from concept through production, or simply need to hire a photographer) contact me and let’s make magic. And if you’re anyone who wants fashion pointers, tips, advice, help, etc. contact me. I’d love to help you find your style.

A million thanks to my amazing and insanely talented team of creatives:

Production, Styling, Photography: Athena Pelton
Models: Abby Fischer + Laina Kaskinen, Caryn Model Management
Hair + Makeup: Amber Heckert
Floral: Studio Fluerette
Rentals: On Solid Ground Vintage Rentals
Jewelry: Mineralogy
Gowns: Leanne Marshall, Linyage, Anna Campbell, Rue De Seine, and Elizabeth Dye (three gowns sourced from the impeccable A and Be Bridal, Minneapolis)
(Fax)Fur: Brown, Target. Black, Photographer’s own, vintage collection.
Masks: Annie Libertini


Featured | Mineralogy Design

December 2nd, 2013
I have a soft spot for creatives. For people who live their passions and create with their own hands. I nurture and support and promote independent artists as much and as often as I can. So I am super excited to (finally!) be starting a column on this here bloggity dedicated to some of these incredible individuals. And what better time kick it off than the start of the holiday shopping season?? So without further ado, I’d love to introduce you to Theresa Cowan, the creative force and insane talent behind Mineralogy Designs.
Tell me a little bit about Mineralogy Designs? Mineralogy is a collection of limited edition and one-of-a-kind jewelry designed and handcrafted in my Chicago studio. The brand was conceptualized from an earth science lecture where my budding interest in jewelry and materials made it’s complete connection through my new interest in minerals. Every step of the way is made by me from hand selecting minerals, going to gem shows, designing, creating, and finally wrapping it up pretty and sending it to my customers!
 And a little bit about Theresa Cowan. How would you describe yourself?  I have always had my hands in art since I knew what crayons were and that they drew just wonderfully on the walls of my parents’ house. My mediums studied include oil painting, watercolor, drawing and illustration, photography, and metalsmithing. I received my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where my primary focus was drawing and textile work. Before graduation I had the great opportunity to begin selling my jewelry. It wasn’t until things were in full swing that I realized that I wanted to grow my skills and aesthetic and create more than I was at the time. I began taking every metalsmithing class that I could and spent all of my time in the studio learning and improving. It was through learning the trade of metalsmithing that I was able to take my jewelry to the next level and create pieces that I couldn’t before. 
What made you decide to become a jewelry maker/designer?  I never really planned on becoming a jewelry designer/maker, since my focus in school was in fine art. During an accessories class, I decided to make some jewelry and really began to enjoy it and I also made some custom pieces for a friend of mine in the fashion department to go with her collection in the end of the year fashion show. I received such a great response from a few local boutiques that I made it my goal to make it work. I taught myself what line sheets and lookbooks were and created my first ones, opened my Etsy shop, started reaching out to other boutiques and made my business official. It’s been a whirlwind and sometimes I feel like it’s not real, but it is and it’s a great feeling! I have so many things to learn still and I am continually searching for ways to grow as an individual, designer, and business. 
Where do you find your stones? How do you decide what stones/minerals to use in your designs? To find my materials is the best experience ever! Every year, I go to Tucson, AZ to the biggest gem show in the world and I shop like crazy! It’s incredible the amount of vendors that come from all over the world to sell and display their minerals. There are probably 30 different shows…my favorites are the ones with diamonds (of course!) and also the ones with amethyst that are bigger than a person. There are also a few shows where the vendors are selling prehistoric and precambrian fossils…it’s like an outdoor museum! I have my favorite vendors to go to, but it’s always great to find new suppliers with really unique minerals. Besides the show in AZ, I go to several smaller ones throughout the year. The hardest part is trying to envision my collection while I am out shopping, but I have learned that I’ve never regretted buying too much, only buying too little.
If you could give one piece of advice to a bride on her wedding day, what would it be?  I just got married a year and a half ago. It’s no myth, the day goes by so fast. It was unreal to think that almost a year’s worth of planning flew by in a whirlwind of happiness on our wedding day. My biggest realization was that everything that you try to control can’t possibly all go your way. I made a choice to be carefree during the planning and especially on the day of and I am so happy I did. At the end of the day, the vintage typewriter didn’t work, our traditional Mexican lasso rosary that we wore for part of the ceremony was tangled, we didn’t get some photographs that we really would’ve liked and so on, but it didn’t matter. When it was dark, we sent paper lanterns high into the sky, surrounded by the people we loved and we had each other. It was simple and perfectly imperfect. This day marks the rest of your life, so take it in stride and know that like life, it won’t be perfect, but that’s what makes it exciting!
Who are your fashion idols? What inspires you? don’t have any particular fashion idols, but there’s a handful of Chicago designers and boutique owners that dress amazingly and I always love seeing what they’re wearing! My inspiration comes simply from things around me…shapes, colors, textures. People also inspire me…other creative people trying to make in a world of ready made multiples. I admire the hard work that goes into owning a business and the sacrifices you make so that you can do not only what you love, but provide a better service or product to the community.
If you could only pick one piece of your jewelry to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?  I recently made myself a grayish black rosecut diamond ring set in 14kt gold. It’s very simple but beautiful! I feel like I am cheating on all of my other jewelry now. 
I hope you enjoyed learning more about my friend Theresa, and have fallen in love with her incredible jewelry. She is having a sale right now through tomorrow – enjoy 30% off your purchase with code SMALLJEWEL. The pieces shown in this post will be added to the shop soon, but in the meantime stop by her Etsy Shop and peruse the rest of her incredible collection (including my favorite, the Herkimer Diamond Ring!) 
(if you’re interested in having your work featured, please contact me!)