Sassenach

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Last year was such a difficult year for me in so many ways, and I have decided that the best way to move forward is to make sure that I put more of my authentic self out into the world. So I am going to share a bit of personal background with this post. :)

Many years ago (back when I was in college), I met a young man at a party who had the same last name as me (Fraser), and we realized we both descended from the same tribe in Scotland (Fraser of Lovat). That young man told me to remember that I descended from some of the strongest warriors in history. Almost our entire blood line was wiped out in the Battle of Culloden. Those of us who are here today are descendants of the few survivors from that battle. That stuck with me for a long time, and it really resonated with me even more deeply once I started watching the show Outlander (where the main characters are Jamie and Claire Fraser).

For most of my life, I have always felt like the eternal outsider. I am proud of my diverse ethnic background, but I always secretly wished that I looked a little less “mixed”. I have often felt like I am both from everywhere and nowhere. After my last self-portrait that was Frida themed (seen here), so many people told me that they had no idea I was part Mexican, which isn’t a huge surprise since I don’t really present as any particular one ethnic background. My hair is a crazy wild mix of three different textures, the smooth and shiny Scottish curls that are usually hidden in the bottom layer of my hair, the Mexican curls that closely resemble my grandfather’s hair make up the majority, and then there are a couple of areas of super wiry Sicilian curls. I have traced my eye shape back to my Syrian great-great-grandmother’s side. I have a very distinctly Italian/Sicilian nose (although it has changed shape slightly after my sinuses collapsed from my severe indoor allergies). My skin ranges from light to medium-olive depending on how diligent I’ve been with sunscreen and varies based on the time of year. When I was younger, I used to get embarrassed by a lot of that, mostly because my grandmother on my dad’s side was horribly racist and made me feel like I didn’t belong in the family. Now, I fully embrace all of my uniqueness, and I’m proud of my crazy wild hair. The turning point for me happened recently when I was complaining about my hair to a friend of mine (who is also a fan of Outlander) and she told me to be proud of it, because I have sassenach hair. <3 My hair can’t be tamed and neither can I!

If you don’t watch Outlander, sassenach is traditionally a derogatory Gaelic word meaning foreigner or outsider. It started being used as a term of endearment for the main character Claire Fraser (who has very curly hair), and I love that it helped me finally start to love my own wild hair. My hair is naturally dark brown, but I’ve been having fun adding a bit of red to my hair lately to bring out my inner fire and that Scottish warrior spirit in me. The cowl neck on the dress I’m wearing in the photo above is the traditional Fraser plaid remade into a modern style dress from the limited edition Outlander collection from Hot Topic, which I was very excited to find!

Much like the character Claire Fraser on the show, I feel very strongly about injustice in the world and want to do anything in my power to stop discrimination. I have a tremendous desire to try to bring healing and peace to those around me. I could see from a young age that so many people on my mom’s side of the family have that same inherited passion for medicine and healing. There have been several doctors and nurses in our family. When I was younger, I was absolutely sure that I would become a doctor once I was an adult, and I was upset for years that trauma and health problems re-routed my path in life. I felt like I had been robbed of my destiny. Then I watched in Outlander how Claire Fraser adapted to being transported back into an era where it was not possible for women to become doctors. Instead of being angry about it, the character fully embraced her love of healing through plants and herbal medicine. That resonated so deeply with me because of my deep love of gardening. My Mexican grandpa had developed a love and appreciation of plants because of his work as a doctor (he had degrees in both traditional medicine and eastern medicine). He would always insist that despite his beautifully maintained garden, he claimed he didn’t have the same gift of a green thumb that I have.

When I was a child, my grandpa told me all about my family history. He did a lot of research into his own family tree, but also into the rest of my family too. He would always tell me that I had a special gift with plants, and that I inherited that trait from my ancestors on the Scottish side. I used to think that he was making it up just in an effort to get me to help him pull weeds in his garden! Then as an adult, I did my own research and I realized he was telling me the truth! Apparently a special talent with plants is something that does seem to be handed down in that side of my family, and I can see my younger son has the same instinctual talent with plants. We actually originally were named “Fraser” because the king of France deemed the strawberries grown by my ancestors to be the best he had ever tried (fraise is the French word for strawberry).

I often joke that my garden is my first baby. I have spent 7 years working on designing, planting, and maintaining my garden. I planned the garden originally to use for photo sessions, and in the process, I have found so much healing through my love of plants. Gardening is equal parts science experiment and art, and that helps fulfill my inner science geek desire to study and observe biology and the beauty and intricacies of our world in a way that brings me so much joy. I learned so much from my grandpa about holistic healing, so I’m passionate about herbal remedies as a supplement to modern medicine. I’ve worked hard over the past few months to evolve the garden into a place of peace and healing. I hope that it reflects that feeling to all who visit.

If you come for a baby milestone photo session with me, you will likely meet my older son, who is six years old now. I am a quiet, reserved introvert and my own sense of humor is not exactly super funny to babies, but babies find my extroverted bubbly son hilarious! I’ve trained him to move with me while I’m shooting, and he does an amazing job helping out. He has a tendency to blurt out random crazy sounding stories about me when he meets new people, such as “My mommy is Robo-mommy! She has almost died so many times and then she reboots and she’s better! She even had a robot inside her last year to help take out all of the bad rotten stuff inside her!” (all true lol…thankfully all of the health problems that were making me “reboot” are now resolved or better handled lol). He may also tell you “Mommy is also married to the garden! When she started digging, the garden gave her a magic ruby ring and proposed to her!” Which is basically true lol…I always wear a ruby and gold antique ring that we found buried in the dirt on our property when I first started creating the garden. And he’s totally right…it is a pretty magical story! The ring reminds me “there’s no place like home” on a daily basis.

My grandpa used to tell me about this woman that his father knew…a woman who transformed San Diego with her love of trees and plants. My grandpa used to try to plant the seed in my brain that maybe one day I could do great things in my community with my love of plants. I recently found an amazing children’s book called “The Tree Lady” about a woman named Kate Sessions, and I realized that was exactly who my grandpa was talking about all of those years ago. My garden is almost “finished” and I’m already working on plans on how I can utilize my green thumb within my community. Who knows, maybe one day someone will write a children’s book about me. 😉

I’m sharing all of this story in an attempt to better explain who I am and what I am passionate about in life. It all relates back to how I run my business. I am going to start being more clear about boundaries and policies in my pre-session communication with clients. All are welcome in my garden, but I do have some very firm boundaries. This is a hate-free zone. Derogatory or bigoted comments are not tolerated on our property. This is a place of peace, so please do your best to refrain from yelling or fighting while you are here. The garden is a living entity, so please treat it with respect. I grow everything organically, so there may occasionally be bugs present. I do my best to scare away any harmful or dangerous bugs, and I welcome bugs that are helpful and beneficial. Clients are not permitted to dig in the garden, or wander unattended (I’ve had some horror stories from sessions in the past!). I ask that clients be respectful since our house is also on the property and please respect the privacy that goes along with that. I have literally put my blood, sweat and tears into this garden so I am the only photographer permitted to take photos here. The garden will never be available to rent, so if you are a photographer, please don’t bother asking if you can shoot here lol.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy your visit to my own version of Wonderland when you come here. <3

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ALL Parents are Welcome in My Studio….

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This is a photo I took three years ago of my youngest son. Rainbows symbolize many things…joy and beauty after a storm, a miracle baby who arrives after loss, God’s promises to us and love, unity within a community, and of course Pride for the LGBTQ+ community.
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Both of my boys were miraculous rainbow babies, and they were definitely the rainbows after my own storm. I didn’t ever expect I would be able to have children, so they were a tremendous blessing. I want to make sure that both of my boys know that family comes in all shapes and sizes, and no matter who they decide to marry, they can still have a family if they want one someday. Then recently, my littlest asked me “how can two husbands have a baby? How come you never take pictures of two husbands with a new baby?”
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I realized after talking to my son, that I felt horribly awful for never directly stating that my photo studio is a safe and welcoming place for ALL parents, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community. I explained to my little rainbow-hearted boy that I guess I’ve never taken any pictures of two husbands with their new babies because I never told the world that all families are welcome here. He responded, “so tell everyone!!!”
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In addition to making sure that it is known that my studio is a safe and welcoming place, I am also going to donate 10% of all sessions for babies of queer parents to @trevorproject . The next generation is watching and I want to show them that they can be and do anything they want when they grow up. ❤️️‍

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The Story Behind My Studio Garden

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Last night, my husband and I watched John Leguizamo’s new Netflix special, “Latin History For Morons”. Definitely a must watch for everyone. I personally have reached a breaking point lately with what Leguizamo describes as “ghetto rage”.

When I was growing up, my Mexican grandfather taught me about our family history. He happened to be a doctor but he was an artist at heart, and he came from a long line of proud Mexican artists. He taught me ways to work around my physical limitations, so that I could still create art in my own way. He taught me about how Frida Kahlo worked through chronic pain and health problems, which fueled her artistic passion.

I specifically planned my studio garden in a design that would allow me to shoot outdoors, even when my physical pain was at its most limiting. I selected plants that would work well with our climate here in California, and that would reflect my own multi-cultural family heritage. Many of my plants are native to either Mexico or California.

I have filled parts of the garden with Mexican decor because that reminds me of my family’s artistic lineage, and I find that incredibly inspiring. Over the years, I have silently grimaced as clients have butchered the pronunciation of my name, calling me ALISHA when I have clearly explained that my name is Alicia, with the Spanish pronunciation. I have bit my tongue when clients have insulted the Mexican decor in my greenhouse and patio or questioned why I have so many Mexican plants, with that attitude of “EWW WHY.” I have held back because I don’t want to appear to be a hothead or fuel stereotypes. I know I may not necessarily “look Mexican” so often times people think it’s acceptable to dump out racists garbage when they come here for a photo session. It is completely and absolutely unacceptable, and I will no longer tolerate this behavior from clients.

My great-grandfather and his brother were some of the most widely respected artists in Hollywood many years ago. They created the artwork for King Kong and Citizen Cane, plus many more movies, murals, etc. Their artwork was actually an important early inspiration for Frida Kahlo, which leaves me in awe. I am extremely proud that I came from a family of Mexican-American artists. Anyone who cares to question me on that going forward can deal with my rage.

If you would like to learn more about my family’s artistic lineage, search online for Juan and Mario Larrinaga. I’m holding my great-uncle Mario’s camera here. It’s incredibly special to me. I’m very grateful that many of my own personal Latin American heros happen to be from my very own family tree.

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VOTE

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I’ve been trying to avoid social media a lot lately because our current political situation has not been helpful for me with my current goal of lightening my stress level. I had actually posted this composite previously, and then once I saw the news that day, I was horribly upset and deleted my post. However, since tomorrow is election day, I want to get rid of any shred of voter apathy that I can in my own way, so I am re-posting, this time with an explanation behind the photo.

Many years ago, I had a dear friend who helped me realize that my Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, the “activist” personality. I am introverted, intuitive, and “feeling” (which is a good way to describe a lot of sensitive creatives). I have a strong desire to create art that speaks to my own unique personality type.

In the past, I have felt guilty of going through periods of voter apathy. However given our current political environment, where people in this country seem to have gone backwards in what is now considered socially acceptable behavior, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Violence is never the answer. Hatred is never the answer. There is one simple thing that we can all do that will help show the people in this country that hate will not win. This stopped being about Republican vs. Democrat a long time ago. This is about taking back ownership of the ideals of this country. Equal human rights for everyone. An end to racism, bigotry and discrimination. An opportunity to start to spread a message of love, acceptance and equality for everyone in this country. Today is election day. If you have not voted already, don’t miss out. Your vote is your most powerful weapon. It’s time to put that power to good use.

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Changes and Updates!

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The past couple of months have been a bit rough for me, but it’s given me a lot of time to reflect on which parts of my life need improving, which is always a good thing! Now that my physical pain is lessening, it’s given me even more clarity.
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I realized right before my surgery that I have big regrets about the fact that I have very few pictures of myself and my younger son. As women, we tend to be our own worst critic and it is easy to make a million excuses about why you aren’t going to be in the photo.
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I don’t want my clients to later look back and regret not being in the photos at all when their baby was born (I know I definitely regret that!). I know as an introvert myself, it can often be challenging to get in front of a camera, and even harder to look directly into the camera. When you are tired, it becomes even more challenging (I know I get a weird droopy eye when I’m tired lol). I’m going to start urging my newborn clients to get in front of the camera, even just for one photo. Think of these photos as a future gift for your child!
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Also, I will be resuming fall bookings next week, and opening bookings for 2019! Clients who signed up for my waiting list get first dibs but bookings will resume on Tuesday for everyone else. :smile:

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Bleem Family Beach Materntiy Session

Shannon and her family met me at the beach for their maternity session and we had so much fun! I love capturing casual, lifestyle type photos for a maternity session, especially when there is an older sibling in the family!

 

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Sweet girl trying to model for me with poses like her mommy!los angeles family maternity photographer los angeles family maternity photographer los angeles family maternity photographer
One of my favorite belly bump photos! los angeles family maternity photographer
Currently booking family/outdoor maternity sessions for September-November 2018. More information is available on our website here.

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Newborn Baby Allie Garden & Studio Session

Sweet little baby Allie came for a combo session package – both studio and studio garden for her newborn session. Allie’s mama is a sweet friend of mine and I was so happy to be able to include both of them in the session together!

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Currently booking newborn sessions for August-November 2018. More information is available on our website here.

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Malinda’s Studio Maternity Session

This is a relatively older session that I never got around to blogging yet (so you may recognize some of the photos from my social media accounts already), but still one of my favorite sessions! This sweet couple went through a very challenging journey with IVF and infertility, and I was so excited to be able to document their journey for their maternity session. Their story really spoke to my heart and I wanted to create something unique to their story. I asked Malinda to bring in as many of her medical supplies as she had on hand from her pregnancy, and I incorporated all of her medicines and some of her used injection needles into some of the photos, representing the lengths they went through to have their sweet baby. I know from my own experience that a difficult journey to parenthood gives you such a deep appreciation for your little miracle baby.

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Want more information in my maternity session options? More information is available on our website here. Currently booking maternity sessions for August-November 2018.

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Kristin’s Studio Maternity Session

This is another older session that I never got around to posting, but here are a few of my favorites from Kristin’s maternity mini session in my studio! When Kristin came for her maternity session, she was at the very end of her pregnancy, and was getting close to the point where a full session would have been way too much for her. An easy maternity mini session in my studio was the perfect option to document her beautiful belly!

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Want more information on my maternity and newborn session options? More info is on our main website here.

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New Options for Newborn Sessions!

If you follow me on social media, you may have heard me mention a few times in the past couple of years about taking time off while I have recovered from back surgery, etc. My spine is doing better, especially now that I know more about what has been at the root of my pain. In an effort to better support my own body, I have recently modified all of my newborn session options. This new line up of session options also includes some lower priced newborn mini session options, and my own favorite session option – a streamlined workflow that includes photos with baby alone and baby with parents.

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If you would like more information about my newborn session options, please visit our website here. I highly recommend booking before baby is born to ensure availability.

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