You can tell a lot about a person who’s willing to play in the rain.

Adventurous, tough, fun, easy-going: these are the things I knew about Molly before I met her.

That meeting took place on a stormy day at Lincoln Park three Novembers ago. She was turning 11 and this milestone was the occasion for our photo shoot.

This particular Seattle fall day presented with some pretty relentless rain, even for Seattle. I was driving home from the coast and at times my windshield wipers could barely keep up with the downpour. Though I rarely call a shoot due to weather (you can create really beautiful images on a rainy day), I reluctantly fired off a text to Molly’s mom suggesting we might want to postpone. Her reply was my first indication that Molly and I were going to get along great:

Molly wants to go for it.

YES. A kindred spirit.

Fast forward three years and two more photo shoots and Molly has tutu’d with me through curious crowds in Pioneer Square...

...and shivered on the shores of Lake Washington on a brisk January day—and had fun while doing it.

She’s confident, enthusiastic and up for anything: all great "can do" traits that are sure to serve her well in life.

She’s all these things and an accomplished dancer and ballerina, too. Molly started training in dance when she was two-and-a-half years old in a group called Tiny Tutus. At three, she began to train in ballet. “I’ve always known that I want to dance. That’s just always been what I’ve wanted,” she said.

Stories of single-minded devotion such as Molly's have always inspired me. As one who's more as a jack-of-some-trades, I’m awed by others who, from the earliest of ages, have known precisely their life’s purpose—and have gone for it.

Sacrifice and passion: this, Molly says, is the price she’s had to pay for such single-mindedness. “I’ve had to say no to a lot of other stuff.” Like, basketball and soccer and softball and volleyball and…the list goes on. Such devotion has paid off: Molly was the Petite Miss Dance for the Pacific Northwest in 2012, and each year since is recognized at competitions.

“When I get on stage, I get an actual spark. It makes all the hard work worth it. If you really love something, the sacrifices are worth it in the end.”

The result? “I do my best, in everything,” she humbly observes.  “In school, others might shoot for a B but I shoot for an A. I’ve always been taught to do my best.”

This work ethic, combined with a highly honed skill via dance of knowing how to work with others, is why Molly plans one day to teach dance to other girls.

“I’ve had to grow up fighting for myself and that has forced me to learn how to believe in myself,” she says while describing a situation where, because of her petite stature, she wasn’t being respected by other members of her team. It’s these deeper lessons of identity and confidence, in addition to the technical aspects of becoming an accomplished dancer, that motivate Molly to help shape the lives of future aspiring dancers. 

Molly is currently in eighth grade and knows exactly what she wants in life. When she graduates from high school, she'll pursue degrees in business and dance followed by a stint of working professionally in Los Angeles. After that, she’ll open her own studio to teach others.

How lucky are the dancers whose lives Molly will one day shape. I can see it now. "Alright kids, today we're going to do something special... 

Let's go outside and dance in the rain..."

What lies beneath

What lies beneath


There's something about this age. The innocence, the willingness to just "be", to show what lies beneath.

The "beneath" is easy to see with this little one. Contentment. Vulnerability. Contemplation. Adoration. Amusement. Confidence. Happiness. Love. That's just the first eight photos. She held nothing back. 

It becomes more difficult as we get older to show, and to see, what lies beneath—in any capacity, not just photography. Adults, in front of my camera, will often pose and present their safe, approved looks. I do it too, on the other side of someone's camera. In these moments, I press the shutter and capture that moment. It might seem to someone watching that I've got "the shot" but this is never the shot I am after.

I wait. Maybe we move to a different location. We talk. Joke. Laugh. I lie in wait for the in-between moments. The ones where you're not trying and where you've sort of forgotten about me. Suddenly, you tilt your head in just that "you" way and laugh in just that way that you laugh. Or maybe something flashes in your eyes. I see you drop your chin, slightly, feeling whatever it is that that is. What was it? It was something, I can tell. So will everyone else who sees that photo, down through the years. They wonder. They know, from a simple photo, that there's a story.

Children give it away easily and it's beautiful and instructive. As teens and adults, we are guarded and slightly ill-at-ease. It can take some time but when I get it, and I nearly always do, what you see is essence. Her essence, your daughter. Or your shared essence, mother and daughter. Or your family's essence—more precious to you than anything. It's a trite and over-used turn of phrase only because it's true: beauty begins on the inside. It's what you've got inside that lights up the outside. These are the photos that matter.

So take notes. Tell us, show us, little one...what lies beneath? 

Valentine's Day event sneak peek

Valentine's Day event sneak peek

While the snow was falling outside the windows of Dear Daughter last night, we were inside trial-running the brand spanking new studio spaceand it was a blast!

Take a look at the photos below and if you haven't yet, sign up for your time in the studio this Saturday, February 11.

Here are three reasons why you don't want to miss out on the Valentine's Day fun.

  1. It's one of just a few opportunities each year where we waive studio fees for the greater good.
  2. Your donation goes to Girls Can Do - a Seattle-based non-profit that helps under-served girls throughout the country reach their goals by connecting them with resources in their local communities. 
  3. There are FREE CUPCAKES, donated by our good neighbors at Cupcake Royale.

Come share the love! Sign up here:

The beauty of between

The beauty of between

Welcome to the Dear Daughter Studio® blog. It's been a long time coming. Soon you'll see a variety of things featured here but to begin, walk with me down the path of a tween photo shoot.

There's little in the world of photography more delightful to me than a photo shoot with an 11-year-old. Much to the surprise of my teacher-friends, middle school-ish age is what I would have chosen, had I gone the teacher route. This in-between world of spunk and wonder is captivating. In one momenta giggling, skipping burst of energy and silliness, and in the nexta fount of surprising insight and maturity. This straddling of two worlds is an elusive and beautiful time of life. From a photographer perspective, they are old enough to engage you in an adult-ish way and follow direction, and are not yet too cool and aloof for unguarded fun. They are the epitome of authenticity, joy and curiosity: all a photographer goldmine. 

As I think about Dear Daughter Studio and our mission to help girls feel loved and confident, perhaps this is the age group I feel our mission is particularly valuable. During a photo shoot, preteens visibly light up...dancing, playing...and soak up the experience of being asked to be seen. Those who are naturally extroverted have a stage unto themselves to sharpen their proverbial teeth on the experience of being center. A leader with an audience. Conversely, another personality to whom the experience doesn't come as naturally, is able to feel what it's like to overcome hesitation, to trust that they can sit with what's uncomfortable and be okay. Ultimately, they always come around and their reward is more than the photos themselves: it's the feeling of accomplishment that comes with having been bold and powerful.

This is the secret ingredient of Dear Daughter. We combine the experience of something external (photography) with something a little deeper. We challenge girls to show up. To show us who they are.  To show themselves who they are. It's an experience that makes them feel amazing. 

So hats off to you, in-betweeners. Onward with your bold and pure spirits. The world needs more of you. All of you. And only you.