Why Pride Month Matters to Me

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_9470
This is an extremely personal post, so I apologize in advance for that awkward familiarity that comes with spilling your life story onto the internet for the world to see. It’s very important for me to finally share this story, and it will have a big impact on the way I run my business going forward, so please be sure to read on! This post does come with a big trigger warning. <3

A few days ago, my 6 year old son asked me if I’m actually a man in my heart. I laughed and asked him what he meant. He told me that his brother said something about Mommy being “a fancy rainbow man, but just in her heart”. I laughed even harder because it reminded me of a private joke between myself and my sweet dear friend, Kevyn Aucoin (not to name drop but he was such a beautiful soul and I love to honor his memory). I explained to my older son what his brother probably meant, and he promptly told me, “Mommy…you are a very confusing person. You need to explain that to the world.”

So thanks to my very wise little man, I am doing my best to get out of my introvert shell and explain myself, and explain my past, and explain why it is so crucially important right now that others develop a better understanding of people different than themselves. So here goes….

In the past year, I’ve gone through a complete physical and emotional transformation. Last year at this time, I was fairly certain that my uterus was finally going to succeed in taking me out of this world. When I recovered from my hysterectomy and realized I faced my greatest fear in life and survived, it gave me a new lease on life. The process forced me to finally get comfortable with myself and with my past. My body has been through more trauma than any one person should ever have to endure, and it has left me with lasting physical pain, but that daily physical pain is my constant reminder to be the change that I hope to see in the world, if nothing else, to leave my two boys with a strong sense of themselves. One morning a few months back, I was giving my boys a pep talk about believing in themselves and speaking up when they know others are being harmed. I realized I was talking to myself too with that speech, and it was time that I get out of my own way and speak up too.

So I thought back to the self-awareness that my very wise grandpa gave to me as a child…I am a woman who is in possession of a soul with very balanced masculine and feminine energy. It’s who I am to the core of my being.  My grandpa explained to me that it’s an inherited trait, passed along from the branch of his family tree that originated in Baja California. For many years, I thought he was making that part up to make me feel better, then recently through the beauty of the internet, I realized that he had indeed been telling me the truth about that all along. It’s why people in many indigenous cultures realize that those with a balanced spirit have a unique roll in the community. In the Native American culture, this is called 2 Spirit. In our American society, this is often referred to as a variation of the gender-queer spectrum.

My own identity in terms of sexuality has changed and evolved over the years, starting out identifying as a (very closeted) femme lesbian, to then suddenly developing an interest in men and assuming that then made me straight, to realizing a couple of years later that I actually identified as bi, and eventually settling on queer. There was a two year period of my life where I went through unspeakable hate crimes, multiple traumas; multiple rapes,  beatings, a fractured spine, multiple break-ins into my apartments, even being run over twice on my bicycle (both times with cars with no license plates and tinted windows!). My life in that two year period made every Stephen King novel seem like a cakewalk compared to the reality my life had suddenly become. The punchline of the story….all of that happened during the TWO years of my life that I happened to identify as HETEROSEXUAL.

So let’s unpack this for a moment. When I got put on a “rape the lesbians” list by my neighbors (who happened to be on the college football team), I actually identified as straight at the time. If that doesn’t prove to you the inherent evil of homophobic hate crimes, I don’t know what will convince you. Even though I was temporarily in denial about my own queerness, the rest of the world caught on easily. Having previously identified as a lesbian and having grown up in the inclusive environment of Long Beach, CA, I was immediately outraged at the situation. I complained like crazy to the university about what my friend and I were dealing with and it repeatedly fell on deaf ears. I complained about our professor trying to force us to go out on a three-way date with him and suddenly we both found our grades suffering. When I started complaining about the campus gynecologist who sexually assaulted me (and I assumed every other woman in his path), it all fell on deaf ears. After I was raped, I was then refused medical care, even after I miscarried, all because the doctor claimed it was his right to refuse me medical care because he assumed I was a “man-hating dyke”.

So I gathered up my own inner strength after my hysterectomy last year. I signed up to join in on the class-action lawsuit against that horrible gynecologist who was allowed to continue treating women that way for nearly 30 years. There’s still a good chance that my case may not mean much financially since I am outside of the statute of limitations, but I am speaking up because what he did was incomprehensible. It’s not about the money…It is repulsive that the university allowed so much violence and assault to continue against women (and queer men) without any consequences. So a few months ago, I packed up my suitcase and headed to the state capitol to join a group of other women who survived sexual assault from this doctor, ready to do my part to make a difference.

Then I got emotionally insulted to my core. At the end of a long day of walking around the capitol building in my 5 inch Christian Louboutin heels, trying to make my best impression on everyone I encountered, one of the other victims tried to argue with me that I shouldn’t be considered a woman or a part of the class-action suit because my hysterectomy “should legally make me not a woman anymore”. I was crushed. Obviously I’m invested enough in my gender that I love my expensive heels and will gladly walk around in them all day long. I realized that the level of transphobia and homophobia in this country has reached absolutely toxic levels and I cannot continue to stay silent in this situation. So I am rising up, I am using my voice to speak up for what I believe to the core of my being is right and just.

My lawyer’s office gave me an incredible pep talk a few months ago. My bladder was left in incurable condition after my medical needs were completely ignored that first year of college. It left me with scars that shows the injustice of discrimination in this world. It completely re-routed my life in every way. I’m ready to bring my grumpy little bladder everywhere, even to the Supreme Court if needed. I’m ready to speak up about the insults that doctor made to me about being mixed race and because I am obviously inherently queer in many ways.

You can sense my inherent gender-queerness in my mannerisms and the way I walk. You can sense it in my lower than average fat-to-muscle ratio. It’s why misogynists have always reacted violently when meeting me. It’s why I will fearlessly teach my friends and children how to defend themselves against attackers larger than us. It’s why I will continue doing everything everything in my power to lift up women and the LGBTQ+ community.

If you’ve known me for a while and know that I have a husband, or know that I’m deeply religious, all of this may be a bit confusing, and I totally get that. So I will explain…For many years, I was confident in my inherent queerness. I had been studied enough by doctors trying to understand why I had so many problems with my uterus and why I was actually physically allergic to many men. After years of tests and research (and insults to my gender from misogynistic doctors),  I became comfortable with the fact that I was indeed born “barely female”. It wasn’t a result of any accident or trauma, just an inherent part of my design. A family friend joked when I was a kid that God read a manual of “how to create a tiny lesbian” when He designed me, and I can tend to agree that felt pretty true on many levels.

I was confident in my identity as Bi, although I had a hard time understanding why some men that I liked literally gave me hives from just being in close quarters with them. Then I eventually realized I think I was literally reacting to the men who were the most homophobic. There may have also been a component related to their own hormone levels that reacted with me in a negative way. I eventually realized that I was madly in love with my cishet male roommate, and it kind of irked me for a while. I had a talk with a wonderful friend who sat me down and reminded me, “love is love…you can’t help that you’re in love with this man. He’s a good one, the kind who softens even the angriest dykes’ hearts.” And she was completely right. <3 I did find a good one, and I can’t imagine myself with anyone other than my husband. I felt when I married him that I had to turn in my “queer card”. I then realized in doing so, I am myself contributing to bi-erasure in our society, and that’s definitely not something I’m comfortable doing.

People often hate being labeled as “Bi” because there is the assumption that means you are incapable of being monogamous or that you are attracted to everyone you see (which makes everyone feel a bit awkward). I have learned over the years that most Bi and Queer women I’ve known personally actually lean more toward the demi-sexual end of the spectrum, and aren’t the hyper-sexual end that most heterosexuals mistakenly assume. Even when a horrible medical care professional insisted that my uterus pain two years ago was being caused by an un-diagnosed STD from my husband (which in reality couldn’t be further from the truth), I still couldn’t imagine myself with anyone other than him because no one can compete with the bond that he and I have. I’ve learned I’m definitely on the demi-sexual end of the spectrum. My friends and I joke that my husband and I have such a close bond because he’s unlike most men we meet, and maybe he might have been a trans man or a butch lesbian in another dimension or another life. He didn’t appreciate the sentiment at first but he’s grown to realize we mean it as the highest compliment lol.

To anyone who wants to argue that queerness is inherently “wrong” or “evil” or goes against their religious beliefs, I am happy to sit down and share my own knowledge, research, and experiences. My own in-depth analysis of the Bible and other world religions only confirms my own belief that God is Love and we each are created unique for our own individual purpose in life. I’ve been on the brink of death more times that anyone I have ever known, and the God that I’ve gotten to know and love through the course of my life (and near-death) experiences is a Divine being of endless love and patience. I did however have a dream when I was really sick with swine flu a few months ago that He was getting impatient with my lack of courage, so now I’m doing my best to speak up and be heard. 😉

So how does this all affect my business going forward?! I realized I am done offering maternity sessions to the general population. I had such a challenging experience with my own infertility journey, which is what shaped my love and appreciation of babies. Going forward, I will only accept maternity bookings from parents who have gone through infertility or infant loss. I want the rainbow pregnancies, the miracle pregnancies, the magic of science pregnancies. Those are the parents I’ve enjoyed working with the most for maternity sessions. My own boys were both miracle rainbow babies, and the same was true for my sister and myself. It’s literally a miracle that I even exist and my boys exist. It’s literally a miracle that I’ve survived the brink of death so many times. That’s what I want to celebrate and document. No more of the “I hate being pregnant so let’s get this over with” sessions. I want to celebrate the miracle of life. I am still offering newborn sessions but I will be revamping slightly, with more of a focus on family interaction with the newborn, since those are the photos I regret not taking when my own boys were born.

I am also going to be expanding into women’s portraits but with a unique twist. I know that within each of us, lies a spark of the Divine…both masculine and feminine energy. On a personal level, I love helping my masculine female friends get in touch with their feminine side, and vice versa. It is a gift that my friend Kevyn trained me well with, and it’s something I haven’t been incorporating into my professional life for a long time. It’s time for that to change! I am equal parts Alice and Mad Hatter. Did you know that one theory behind Alice in Wonderland is that she was on a journey to get in touch of all of the parts of herself? One of my favorite quotes…”In a world full of princesses, be an Alice.” I know that the masculine portion of my own personality has helped pull myself up from the most desperate of situations. It’s time that more women learn how to do the same.

From the bottom of my heart…Thank you for reading. I know a lot of people (even those in the queer community) could look at me from an outside perspective and judge…why is this straight chick covered in head to toe rainbows all the time lately? Because it’s Pride Month, and today is the 50th anniversary of the first Pride, which was a riot protesting brutality and hate crimes against the queer community. My own queerness has defined my life in every way. My first memory of my queerness actually goes back to preschool (it wasn’t a positive memory unfortunately and a negative comment left me uncomfortable speaking to people outside my family for years after that). Our society still has far to go so it’s time we all speak up. As a wise friend told me recently, representation isn’t for ourselves…it’s for the next generation. In speaking up and finding my own support and strength in my community, I’ve also finally let go of my own regrets that life didn’t eventually bring me back to Long Beach. I’m still Alicia from the LBC, but I’m happy with where I’m at, just a short drive over the bridge from Long Beach. I’m happy to spread Pride over on this side of the bridge where it’s much more needed anyway. 😉

Share
Posted in Personal, Self Portraits, Studio & Photo Session Info | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Pride Month Matters to Me

Let Me Introduce Myself….

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_9438

Running a business as a creative professional presents several unique challenges, some of which I never anticipated. I realized after a particular photo session a few weeks ago, that I need to do a better job of introducing myself and my garden before clients ever meet me, so when they do arrive, they have a very clear idea of what to expect. Some people tend to forget the personal side of being a one-person-business, so I feel like it’s important to get to know the person you have chosen to entrust as your photographer. So here goes!

My boys keep explaining to me in a very wise manner, that my friends and I are like unicorns (as in unique and unusual lol), and most people don’t know how to react when they meet a unicorn. My younger son also insists that Mommy is also the Queen Bee and has wings, so they came to a conclusion that I must be a unicorn with wings, which in the land of My Little Pony, is called an Alicorn. So apparently I am Alicia the Alicorn in the realm of my boys’ imaginary play. :) My family and I have been through a lot of stress and trauma in the past (mostly related to past health issues on my part), and my boys and I have found that imaginary play is an amazing stress relief. My boys often inspire my fantasy composite photos!

After several years of numerous surgeries and hospital visits, I am finally at a point where I am healthy and happy! My body has been through more trauma in my life than any person should have to endure, and it has left me with chronic pain and autoimmune problems, both of which I work hard to manage on a daily basis (so please, if you have a session scheduled with me and one of your children gets sick, please be sure to let me know so we can reschedule! When I get sick, I am down for a while!). During my last surgery, I had an amazing dream that I had escaped to a fantasy version of my garden, where it was always early spring, the air sparkled with fairies and fireflies, and my garden edging had all been replaced with glittering gemstones. My husband, our boys and I have been working on some garden decor projects in the back section of the garden that will make the imaginary version of our garden in my head feel a little bit closer to reality. I can’t wait to reveal the finished results!

I realized recently that not everyone understands that a lot of my fantasy photo edits are just that…based in fantasy, not reality! Fantasy edits are a specialty upgrade, and not something that I do for every photo. Just in case you are curious, I am absolutely not actually floating in the photo above…just some photo editing there. 😉 Here is the original image in case you are curious!

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_9439

My garden is a space that I designed and created from start to finish (almost finished, still a work in progress in some areas!). I started designing it specifically for my photo sessions. It was just a bunch of half-dead grass and very few plants when we first purchased this property 7+ years ago. I had very specific goals in mind for the space…to create a beautiful, whimsical, unique space that has a bit of an Alice in Wonderland/The Secret Garden feel. The entire property is certified as a wildlife habitat and refuge because I made sure there were ways for wildlife to find food, water, shelter, and places to raise their young. I wanted to find a design that felt balanced between wild/natural (which encourages more wildlife to come visit!), and a semi-structured design that will give me lots of options for photo backgrounds. I also wanted to make sure that I was able to do all of that without wasting a bunch of unnecessary water, which we have managed to accomplish also! I garden organically, so everything is non-toxic and safe for babies/animals. With organic gardening techniques, I have learned to create a thriving eco-sphere here with beneficial insects, pollinators, and other wild animals. I do my best to deter any dangerous pests in the garden (like poisonous spiders!), and I have studied in detail which insects are helpful and which have the potential to be toxic. My own inner-child is a huge science nerd, and as a result I am a big fan of all things botany/geology/entomology related!

The front area of the garden (shown above) is the primary area that I use for several reasons, the most important being that this area gets the best light both in the morning and the evening. This is not a fancy botanic garden or the landscaping at Disneyland, where a crew of people come through in the middle of the night and magically switch out plants on a weekly basis. This is a space maintained and cared for with love and lots of personalized care. I take time to prep and inspect the garden prior to each garden session, to make sure that the area is clean and photo-ready (some of our wildlife friends are like messy little toddlers, making a mess in the garden in the middle of the night!). In order to have a garden next to my studio, my husband and I found a property for our home that had an office already built next to the house, which has worked perfectly for me. I love being able to provide the unique outdoor option for my clients, while still having the comforts of my studio just a few feet away! Since our home is located right next to my studio, I have found some good ways to manage that work/home balance here. For any maternity/newborn sessions involving older siblings, I shoot 100% of the family photos in this front area of the garden. This is specifically selected on my part to insure minimal distractions when passing through areas of the garden that are adjacent to where my own boys play. 😉 I know from personal experience as a mom that it can be quite challenging to keep a young child’s attention when there is something a few feet away that looks like a lot more fun! :)

One of my favorite parts of the garden is having the opportunity to observe so many different animals who have now taken up residence here. It gives it so much more of the feeling of that garden in “The Secret Garden”. While I absolutely cannot guarantee that you will spot any wildlife while you are here, I will share that my grandfather always told me that the more you can train your body and your mind to be quiet and calm, the more likely it is that wildlife will be comfortable around you! I can teach you how to gently blow at bees so they don’t sting you (I’ve been gardening my whole life and never been stung by a bee once! They are sadly misunderstood hard-working creatures!). I can teach you how to calmly show a skunk that you are not a threat to them to avoid being sprayed (there is a skunk who lives in a tunnel behind my greenhouse and we peacefully coexist perfectly!). One of my favorite children’s books is called “Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt” and it does a wonderful job of explaining how each creature in a garden has a very specific purpose. I am even happy to tell you how I transformed the soil here from an area where almost nothing would grow to this thriving, healthy environment that you see here!

In the years past, I was a constantly stressed out mess with tons of worries about my own health issues bubbling under the surface. Creating this garden has been completely transformative for me. At times, I have felt like I was a grown-up (female) version of the handicapped boy in The Secret Garden, and the garden has completely transformed me. It has taught me incredible patience, a willingness to work myself as hard as I possibly can, and has given us a place to retreat from the noise and chaos of the city. I hope that everyone who visits this space can find it a peaceful, relaxing, and welcoming space!

I have signs in the front of the property letting everyone know that this is a wildlife habitat, and a nontoxic space. I also have a sign in the front that proudly states “Hate Has No Home Here”. It breaks my heart that hate crimes are still a thing many people have to worry about, so I want to make sure that anyone who visits knows that this is a welcoming and inclusive space. Since hate crimes have been on the rise over the past few years, one thing that can help is when the rest of us speak up and make it known that this area is safe and welcoming, and violence won’t be tolerated in our community.

Here’s where I tell you a bit more about myself…I grew up in Long Beach, so to my core I’m an LBC girl at heart, and willing to fight passionately for things like ending racism and bigotry. My own religion is something that I hold very dear to my heart, but I also understand that religion can be a divisive topic. I don’t talk about religion often publicly since I feel like it is a very personal topic. Please don’t think that because I say that I am religious that I will try to impose my own beliefs upon you or judge yours. 😉 My own religious education as a child taught me that ultimately we all have very similar core beliefs despite our differences. Our differences make us stronger, and I pray that one day more people will start to realize that. My religious education and family background also taught me that our Creator has entrusted us with this planet and the animals here…It pains me that so many people seem to have forgotten that. Part of the initial inspiration for my garden design was the hope of creating a space that would feel like a combination of Noah’s Arc (providing a refuge for all sorts of creatures), and a bit of Garden of Eden, with lots of edible fruits and vegetables beautifully integrated through the garden. My 6 year old son very wisely noted recently that he thinks our society has become so grumpy because so many people have lost their connection to nature, and I absolutely agree wholeheartedly!

On a personal level, I am probably one of the most ethnically diverse people you will ever meet and I hope in the future there are a whole lot more multi-cultural kids out there! My grandfather loved genealogical research, way back in the days before the internet made it so easy! He tracked down the ancestry of my family on both sides, and by his estimates, my ancestors came from at least 6 distinct regions around the world (which I later confirmed with my own research). So far my dna testing has come back as “does not compute” (seriously lol) but I am curious to find out if there are any stories hiding that we missed! I want my boys to know that they come from a rich cultural background, so I have created a variety of themed areas throughout the garden that reflects our multi-cultural heritage. The front area of the garden and our home also have a bit of a Texas feel so my Texan husband feels at home here too! :)

My first two years of college were incredibly difficult and left me with lasting damage to my body, but I have come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be who I am today without all of that trauma. I feel like a lot of times hate and violence in our world often comes from a lack of understanding, so I am going to start working on a self-portrait series that I hope will help in that area.

I like to share a lot of stories about my grandfather because he was a very wise man and I’ve found that the best way to grieve his loss is by passing on the lessons I learned from him. I remember him telling me often as a child that I had to work extra hard to learn to manage my temper, because I was born with a multi-cultural firey temper lol. He taught me mindfulness techniques through gardening, and taught me to observe the way that my grandmother and her friends prayed with unwavering faith. He taught me how plants unite us as a global culture, and how throughout history, cultures have learned from each other through plants and medicine (he was amazingly intelligent with dual medical degrees, both Eastern and Western medicine!).  He gave me a deep rooted understanding of how bigotry affected his life and my grandmother’s family. He lit a fire in me to try to find ways of creating social justice and change. He also encouraged me to find a career path for myself that somehow incorporated my love of plants, art, and creating social change. I didn’t ever think that would be my path at the time but I love how I eventually found my way! He taught me that I am a “magical realist”, where I often imagine drastically better world, and hope to find ways that we can get there as a society.

My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, which is apparently the least common of all of the personality types, making up about 1% of the population in the world. So my boys are right, I’m probably a bit different than most people you may meet. :) The primary function for INFJ personalities is introverted intuition. Embracing my introversion has helped me grow as a photographer because I’ve realized that the way extroverts run a business is not something that works for me! I tend to focus on emotion and capturing details. I’m more about soft direction and observation, and don’t enjoy sessions with large groups (absolutely no party photography or family reunion sessions for this introvert!).

I’ve been judged enough for my own background and beliefs in my own life, so I make an intentional effort to provide a space that will be welcoming to everyone. My #1 rule is just “be kind” when you are here…to yourself, to your family, to me, and to the plants and animals in the garden! I honestly don’t care what your personal beliefs or background are. I don’t care if you don’t see eye to eye with me, but I do care that you behave in a respectful manner while you are here. I do have strict policies and boundaries that I have developed over the past 8 years when I have been pushed too far by clients. I am one of the most patient and loving people you will probably meet, but I do have boundaries (like everyone should!), and I do stand firm by those policies. In the past, I let clients push me too far and then I often ended up resentful when things didn’t go well. I’ve learned from those mistakes and now have firm policies in place that help protect me, keep my clients safe, and protect my family (which includes my plants and our wildlife friends!).

I’ve had a lot of strange requests from clients over the years, and I finally realized why. A lot of my Yelp reviews tend to mention how “magical” my garden feels or the “magical” quality of my photos (which comes an experienced knowledge of lighting and from my digital paintbrush!). Most people take that as a positive thing, but a select few people have taken that in a particularly negative way (my boys call those people “unicorn hunters”). There is magic in a living, breathing garden space that is bursting with energy and life. It is an energy that cannot be faked with artificial plants. There is magic in observing healthy, happy plants. Science has proven that plants respond to their environment, so I take it seriously when I ask that clients leave their family disputes at the curb!

There is magic in observing the changes of seasons through the plants. The garden was created through hard work and lots and lots of studying, reading, and careful observation (i.e. the garden was not created with the wave of a magic wand from a fairy Godmother!) My intuitive side has helped me plan many aspects of the garden design, but mostly it’s been the result of hard work!

Here are some of the frequently requested things that I cannot “magically” change:

-I cannot control the weather, as much as I wish I could! My arthritis does however give me a very accurate heads up about when rain is coming soon though!
-The garden changes through the year, and various areas come in and out of use depending on bloom cycles, etc. There are some plants that only grow at specific times each year and there’s no way to change or force them onto a different time frame.
-Certain areas of the garden are designated for wildlife use, and occasionally that means certain areas may be closed off temporarily. Trust me when I say you don’t want to take photos in an area where there was recently skunk placenta nearby lol. That is one of the many reasons I’ve worked hard to create a variety of areas throughout the garden that can be used for photos. The garden space in total is approaching 7000 square feet so if one area isn’t available, there are plenty of other areas to use. :)
-I cannot magically change someone’s mood or attitude! I have tips for clients that will help ensure the best possible photo session but it’s up to the adult clients to take those recommendations seriously.
-While I love to include fantasy elements into my photos that remind me of fairy tales and Disney stories, I cannot actually provide my clients with real fairies! Any “magical” elements are done with editing or props. It amazed me that anyone would think that was possible but I guess I’ll just try to take that as a compliment. 😉

I hope this post has given potential clients the opportunity to get to know me on a personal level before meeting me! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask me! The easiest way to reach me is always via email, which you can find here: https://aliciainwonderlandphotography.com/contact-us

 

Share
Posted in Personal, Self Portraits, Studio & Photo Session Info | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Let Me Introduce Myself….

Sassenach

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_8757

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

Share
Posted in Personal, Self Portraits, Studio & Photo Session Info | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sassenach

ALL Parents are Welcome in My Studio….

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_8756

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.
❤️
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?”
❤️
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!!!”
❤️
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. ❤️️‍

Share
Posted in Newborns, Studio & Photo Session Info | Comments Off on ALL Parents are Welcome in My Studio….

The Story Behind My Studio Garden

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_7857
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.

Share
Posted in Personal, Self Portraits, Studio & Photo Session Info | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Story Behind My Studio Garden

VOTE

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_7255

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.

Share
Posted in Personal | Tagged | Comments Off on VOTE

Changes and Updates!

alicia_in_wonderland_photography_los_angeles_newborn_photographer_7167
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.
:heart:
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.
:heart:
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!
:heart:
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:

Share
Posted in Newborns, Studio & Photo Session Info | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Changes and Updates!

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!

 

los angeles family maternity photographer los angeles family maternity photographer los angeles family maternity photographer
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.

Share
Posted in Children & Families, Family Lifestyle, Maternity, Maternity & Families | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bleem Family Beach Materntiy Session

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!

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

Share
Posted in Newborns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Newborn Baby Allie Garden & Studio Session

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.

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

Share
Posted in Maternity, Maternity & Families | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Malinda’s Studio Maternity Session