some old, touching, funny and embarrassing pictures to help illustrate
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Most people don't believe me that I was born with a head full of hair, as well as my grandmother, mother, sister and nephew. It was so out of control that I looked like a troll doll. It was so full and long that after a bath my mom would blow it dry so I wouldn't catch a cold when going outside.
I grew up in South Eastern Connecticut, the daughter of a musician/actor dad and photographer mom who also was an awesome seamstress so many of my clothes were handmade like this jumper from my 1st grade class picture. She continued to make my most important dresses all through school including all of my prom dresses and my wedding dress.
I have no memory of my parents ever being married, they divorced when I was 3 years old however they have remained best friends throughout my entire life. Interestingly enough, for my own wedding my mother, stepfather and father all traveled to Puerto Rico together, stayed 8 days together in a condo and when they drove around my two dad rode in the front and made my mom sit in the back. While it's not the most conventional family, I am incredibly grateful for how they chose to be a family after divorcing. It's probably the most functional aspect of my childhood and taught me about breakups and that just because the romantic relationship ends does not mean the love, respect and friendship necessarily has to.
My husband Greg and I have known each other since 2001. We met while I was bar tending at a dive bar / comedy club that was located next door to a high end restaurant where he worked. He was so goofy and carefree that I thought he might be gay. We've remained friends all these years but lost touch for several years before reconnecting at a dinner party. We fell in love pretty quickly, as if it was the first time we were meeting.
This is the very last photograph taken of my brother and me before his death in August of 2004. He was one of my very favorite people in the entire world; so loving, kind, mellow, funny and charismatic. We were 10 years apart but were always really close. He was a huge Grateful Dead fan and followed him on tour several times growing up, always bringing me back dancing bear attire and I'd adorn it in elementary school. Looking back now that's really hysterical. When Garcia died, my brother made the treck to his official funeral and mourned with mushrooms and warm bourbon. Britt passed away in a paragliding accident in Lake Tahoe, where he lived and worked as a Mountain EMT on Ski Patrol for over a decade. Although losing him was devastating, his death was not sad for us. He traveled the world, had countless friends who loved him dearly, was apparently a ladies man (which we learned at the memorial), died doing something he really loved and he always told us he loved us. There was nothing left unsaid and I have felt him with me over the years. We found it crazy and perfect that he ended up dying on Jerry Garcia's birthday, August 1st. While I am most sad that my children will never get a chance to meet their Uncle Britt in person, I am comforted in knowing that I have photographs and stories to share for hundreds of hours.
One of the earliest memories I have is of eating matzo ball soup and watching Wheel of Fortune in my highchair. To this day I still do the same, although now Wheel is on in the evening and I only make the soup when I am sick.
This is my favorite picture I have ever made and it has been on my refrigerator for the last 6 years. This is my grandmother, Mormor (left) and her best friend Gloria (right) of 70 years. They have taught me that friendships and love are what keep you youthful and happy and they are 2 of the most important things in life.
In 2006 I was fortunate enough to compete in Richmond based Sticky Rice's CBR4, a cross country scavenger hunt. We traveled from Va to DC to NYC to Vegas to the Mojave to Los Angeles and back in 8 days. During that time I ate 4 live crickets and 3 live earth worms, trained calisthenics with a Navy Seal at 4am out in the woods in winter, danced in NYC with the Naked Cowboy, built a boat out of a bucket and tried to navigate it down the Colorado River, got gay married in Las Vegas, flashed strangers on Rodeo Drive and rode the mechanical bull at the famous Saddle Ranch.
My father is possibly the most intelligent human being I will ever know in my life. He has read every Stephen Hawking book, was a member of Mensa, graduated first in his class from UCONN with a Engineering degree and taught himself how to be a computer programmer. I knew how to type on a computer at age 8 because he felt it was a very important skill to have so every weekend we had to complete 3 new levels of typing lessons on his Amiga.
Greg and I are huge Breaking Bad fans so when we were driving from Denver to Scottsdale, Az we decided to make a pitstop in Albuquerque, NM and take ourselves on our own Breaking Bad tour including grabbing a photo in front of Walt and Skyler's house. We didn't bother the owner, but apparently if you pay her enough she'll let you toss a pizza on the roof!
I've always been a big dog person, my best friend growing up was my Mormor's dog Heidi. She was so patient and good with me that she would let me dress her up in clothes and parade her around the basement while wearing metal roller skates attached to my shoes.
My Mom's dream was to one day go on an African safari so when I began making plans to work in Kenya I asked her if she wanted to meet me in Tanzania. It was the longest amount of time that we have ever spent one on one, alone together, in our entire lives. It was an amazing experience filled with so many fun moments. This photograph is one of my favorites of all time and it was just taken by the conservancy guard. I will forever be so grateful for those 10 days with my Mom.
I am a really lucky woman to have these 8 talented, gorgeous, intellectual and engaging lovelies in my life. Every year we pick a new city and get together for 4 days to just be women. We laugh, drink, eat, shoot, shop, explore and connect harder every year. During our first trip, one of the girls noticed that all my underwear had holes in them, so obviously that became a topic of conversation. I explained that I just didn't care that much about nice undies. Well, about 3 weeks later I started receiving random packages in the mail, enclosed were several pairs of lacy, sexy, beautiful and fun undies. By the end of 2 weeks I had, in total, 22 new pairs of underwear by a mysterious group who to this day like to remain anonymous.
Something that most people don't know about me is that I LOVE country line dancing. I know about a dozen different ones and have been out to line dancing clubs a few times in my life.
My favorite show I performed in was Moliere's Tartuffe. It was my senior show and was a blast to play a nosey, house cleaning wench.
Having a background in education and child psychology, I subscribe to the idea that core personality begins in the womb and then continues to develop once you are born. Researchers suggest that development is complete by age 7 or 8. For me, this was absolutely the case. As a kid I was very outgoing, social, artistic and caring and at the same time I listened to my elders, was cautious and was a people pleaser. As an adult I have been labeled an ENFJ which compliments all the characteristics I exhibited as a child.
My Aunt Valerie (left) and Mom (right) met while working at Pfizer when they were 19 years and quickly because the bestest of best friends. They raised us kids together, celebrated holidays together, spent vacations together. We always referred to the Riggs family as just that, family. My mom and Aunt Valerie taught me about having a life long friend, being loyal and raising children together.
At age 29 I decided to move my business to the Outer Banks in North Carolina where I stayed for 7 amazing years. The only person I know when I moved there was my Aunt Valerie. She and I became extremely close and built a friendship separate from that she had with my mother. My Aunt Valerie was the most kind, generous, supportive and loving woman not to mention extremely brave. She lost a hard and long battle with cancer in 2014 and it was a devastating loss. I like to believe that she watches over me like she did at the beach, a second mom and dear friend.
Yes. I grew up in the 80s and I totally used to have a perm and curl my bangs up, spraying hair spray on the hair while it was melting on the iron.
If I asked you, "Do you remember one of the hardest times you have ever laughed," could you answer the question? I have 9 or 10 very memorable laughing moments and several of them have been with this woman, Jenna Shouldice. While teaching our Photo Retreat in New Zealand, we got an uncontrollable case of the belly laughs after I tried to prank call my husband in the hotel room next to ours. Due to my unpreparedness, when he answered the phone I growled in my best satanic voice, "I can see your body." I immediately burst into hysterics, laughing so hard I was crying. I called him back where he proceeded to tell me, unamused, that he thought it was a couple of kids pranking him. This just doubled the amount of laughter, Jenna howled and snorted along with me. All this while in front of our students, who thought we had officially lost our minds.
My Mom always made THE BEST Halloween costumes.
I have had bad allergies since I was a kid, including pollen and corn silk but the worst of my allergies did not develop until I was 16 years old when I randomly became allergic to tropical fruit. This includes bananas, kiwi, mangos, papaya, star fruit, passion fruit and pomegranate. If I ingest any of the above I will go into anaphylaxis shock. This makes my travel somewhat challenging from time to time.
Growing up on the ocean I wanted to be a Marine Biologist and had an opportunity to have many hands on experiences throughout highschool. I studied dolphins and reefs in Belize, sea gulls and their offspring on Gull Island in Connecticut and penguins at the Mystic Marinelife Aquarium. I enrolled in the Marine Biology program at UCONN and did an internship at the MMA in marine bio education. Unfortunately, I struggled terribly in large lecture classes and did not make the grades necessary to continue the program so I changed my track. However, I have been able to combine my loves and have assisted humpback whale researchers in Puerto Vallarta providing them with images. I have snorkeled all over the world with manatees, sea turtles, sharks, manta rays and hundred of different kinds of fish and plan on traveling to Mexico to assist researches doing work with the gray whales.
I have very few photographs with my mother because she was a photographer and was always the one behind the camera. I wasn't raised in a very physically affectionate household so this picture makes me feel really happy. I also love that the Brady Bunch Christmas special is on behind us because I vividly remember watching it at my grandmother's house, where this photo was taken. Finally my cat Barney, who was a year older than me and died when I was 22, never really left my side growing up and I love the fact that he's right there near me.
My dearest friend Beth and I met while I was living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I didn't have any friends and she was the only other English speaking wedding photographer living there at the time. We've come a long way since our "first date" back in 2007 and I would not be where I am right now without her!
I have always been involved in volunteer projects and organizations, including Youth Experience in Travel and Service (YETS) all through highschool. During those 4 years we worked with the homes in DC, built 5 homes in Tijuana Mexico and a volunteer center in South Carolina. As an adult I have continued giving back to community both locally and Internationally using my photographs to aid in research, development, awareness and fundraising efforts with several non profit organizations.
In 2010, my second time attending WPPI in Las Vegas, my three dearest girlfriends and I decided to compete in the first and only WPPI FINAO SCAVENGER HUNT. The contest required teams to receive clues throughout the week, complete the missions and document it via photo or video and then come up with a creative way to present the footage. Well, we WON $30,000 in prizes. It was so much fun. We can officially say that we are the reigning champions, 7 years and counting. You can watch it here if you want! Check Out This Link
Although I was the definition of tom boy growing up, there were 2 more "girly" things I liked, barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. My grandmother stood in line for 4 hours outside of Caldor back in 1984 to get me my first, Lori Lorili Lewis. 2 years later I hosted a birthday party for Lori, and all of my girlfriends brought their babies to celebrate.
I was fortunate enough to attend a highschool that had a magnet program in the arts, the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Connecticut. It was there that I met the most important people in my life today. There was a group of 12 of us that were in the musical theater, dance and fine arts divisionss where we shared stages and gallery walls together. Little did we know that most of us would continue a life in the arts as writers, dancers, actors, musicians, sculptors and photographers. I am feel so lucky that 3 of these friends live in Denver with me today and are my chosen family whom know me even better than my own family does.
Although life has scattered our highschool group around the country, we have done our best to get together every couple of years to spend a week reuniting as a whole. I made this photo on our first adult trip together back in 2000 in Maine, printed it in my darkroom when I got home. Basically, we all almost drown when we flipped our boat while rafting down the Kennebec River at a 6000 flow, so here we just look relieved and lucky to be alive.
One of my least favorite memories of childhood is swim lessons at the beach at 7am in May. The water was SO COLD and it was always gray and windy there. I dreaded every Saturday morning but despite my opposition, I was forced to go every week. I refuse to attribute my swimming skills to those lessons and would like to think it was the hundreds of hours I spent in friends' and relative's pools growing up. I was referred to as a fish for many years.
The first time I hung out with my best friend from college (Florida Atlantic University), we were the only ones around in the dorms because everyone else had gone to Cocoa Beach for the weekend to check out a surf competition. I thought I would be cool and show her how I could peel out and leave a "strip". Well, I released the clutch too quickly and dropped my transmission. We got stuck in the middle of some shopping center in Boca Raton and it took us 2 hours to find someone to pick us up. My showing off cost me over $2k to fix. Somehow, Carla is still my biggest fan after 18 years.
In 2014 I was invited to teach a Documentary Family Photography class on Creative Live. It was an incredible experience that really did change my life. Grateful doesn't BEGIN to express how I feel. You can watch the class here: Check Out This Link
I'm known for having weird shit happen to me, weird shit happen around me, weird shit happen to other people when with me. Greg and I went to Six Flags with my sister and nephew a couple of summers ago. As we climbed into the river ride, Greg proclaimed, "I don't want to sit next to you, you have horrible luck." I scolded him to sit next me anyway. As the ride engaged, we started to climb the first big hill. All of a sudden, the belt came loose and started to track OVER our raft, forcing water start flowing in the wrong direction. Within 30 seconds we managed to shut down the entire ride till the end of the day.
I was close to my 2nd cousins John and Beth all through childhood but as adults we've only been able to hang out a handful of times because we live in various parts of the country. However, in 2001, Beth and I had an opportunity to attend the First Lady's Luncheon in Washington hosted by Hilary Clinton. Our uncle Bill Barrett was the State Representative of Nebraska and so every spring two women from our family got a chance to go and that was our year. What made it extra special to us was despite ONLY WOMEN being allowed to attend, we had a transvestite sitting next to us. The other women at our table were visibly uncomfortable but Beth and I loved her, she was the best part of the day. She was smart, engaging, really funny and a breath of fresh air within the stuffy, uptight room.
I grew up going to the King Richard's Faire in Carver, Ma. My family would prepare for this event every year by designing their outfits, complete with the perfect lace up leather boots, chain mail bracelets and leggings. Although I have not gone back since 2004, my family still attends EVERY year and even has a closet dedicated 30 years of costumes.
I nannied all the way through University. Of all the families I worked with, this family was my absolute favorite. The kids were 5,6 and 9 years old and I have a thousand memories of things we did together. It's hard to believe that I will be photographing the middle daughter's wedding this late fall.
My mother tells me that I was the easiest baby and toddler on the planet except for one thing. Apparently, for 3 years I wrote on the walls with my poop. Every day she would dread going into my room after a nap. She consulted with the pediatrician and her best friend who both assured her it was, "just signs of a budding artist."
One of my dear friends from theater in high school, Chris Faison, has been on tour with the Broadway cast of The Book of Mormon. While teaching in Toronto, the show was in town so Greg and I went down to the theater 2.5 hours before the show to try to win tickets through their daily lottery. They pick 10 winners, whom each receive 2 front row tickets. for $25. As they pulled each winner, my hopes diminished a little more and as the 10th name was called I shrugged my shoulders and motioned to Greg for us to head to the car. The winner of the last pair of tickets were not present so they pulled one more name and IT WAS ME! I was SO excited. We really loved the show and it was such a proud moment to see Chris on stage. Afterwards we had a chance to go back stage, meet some of the cast, check out the costumes and check out the set. It was really a wonderful night.
I was always a teeny, tiny person. I was so small that I got my period a month AFTER I got my driver's license and graduated highschool at only 5'1" but with enormous feet, size 10. The doctor assured my parents that I just hadn't hit puberty due to a lack of body fat and the following year I grew 5.5 inches.
One of my most favorite memories is a more recent one, when we spent 2 hours with about 50 sea lions on the eastern coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
My Mormor's favorite holiday was definitely Halloween, she's always dress up and hand out candy and continued to do so well into her 80s. We always ended up going to her house after trick or treating in our own neighborhood.
My group of girlfriends from Richmond, Va are my sisters, my confidents, my silly sidekicks, my inspiration and my strength. It's been hard living away from them, not being able to see them regularly, meet for a drink after work and make dinner in our pajamas. We've had a lot of fun, crazy, embarrassing, frightening and eye opening experiences together. From breaking up bar fights to saving people from a burning building, almost getting abducted by a Dominican pimp to almost getting arrested for public indecency in Mexico, break ups and heartaches, weddings and babies, these girls and I have been by each other's sides for the last 15 years and counting and I am just so grateful to have them.