Ladies and gentlemen, I'm thrilled to introduce you to my gorgeous friend, Hayley McQuaid. She has one of the most beautiful hearts and just so happens to look like a Disney princess. I've been friends with her and her husband for about five years so taking her bridals was a joy- yes, maybe a few tears were shed. Hayles + Carter, I love y'all something fierce and was so honored to be a part of your big day.
Working with fashion + lifestyle bloggers has been one of my favorite additions to this season. It's a joy to get to know these beautiful ladies! Dani was one of the first bloggers I shot in Austin and we had a blast! She's a natural beauty and was effortless in front of the camera. Since then I've had more bloggers join the roster and I'm always looking for more! These shoots are a dream for me, quality time and tons of laughs with new friends. I can't get enough.
Woah. I can't even tell you what a dream come true this shoot was for me. Early into moving to Austin, I contacted Kali of Kindle and Gather, a wedding designer, to help make a vision come to life. We met over the next couple months at so many coffee shops to work out details, specifically our dream team of vendors we were dying to work with. Countless cappuccinos later, and this shoot came together without a hitch. It was featured over on Grey Likes Weddings a few weeks ago! From the table runner with a favorite poem scripted on it [written below], to the lush organic florals, to the cake that ended up being my dinner later that evening, this shoot was everything I dreamed of and more. Here are some of my favorites from the day, including a list of amazing vendors at the end!
The First Marriage, by Peter Meinke.
imagine the very first marriage a girl
and boy trembling with some inchoate
need for ceremony a desire for witness:
inventing formality like a wheel or a hoe
in a lost language in a clearing too far from here
a prophet or a prophetess intoned to the lovers
who knelt with their hearts cresting
like the unnamed ocean thinking This is true
thinking they will never be alone again
though planets slip their tracks and fish
desert the sea repeating those magic sounds
meaning I do on this stone below
this tree before these friends yes in body
and word my darkdream my sunsong yes I do
Photography: MADELINE HARPER PHOTOGRAPHY // Styling: KINDLE AND GATHER // Florals: BRISTOL LANE // Calligraphy: KINDRED PAPERY // Venue: THE CONTEMPORARY AUSTIN // Film Lab: THE FIND LAB // Rentals: 10TH COLLECTION // Cake: SIMPLY DELICIOUS CUSTOM CAKES // Hair + Makeup: Hannah Zieschang // Models: Jillian + Colton Moore // Dress: UNBRIDALED
The first thing I noticed stepping off the plane was the familiarity of it all. The new surroundings somehow brought comfort, the scents of a developing country, the fact that I stand out walking through the airport all somehow confirming that this was where I needed to be. Haiti. A new country for me, familiar in it's developing infrastructure and cuisine, yet so new in the culture. Port Au Prince was larger than I imagined, sprawling with building layered upon building. We drove by the fish market with windows down [air conditioning is a luxury so we swapped air for clean scent without a second thought] and past the enormous marketplace. It was hard to distinguish home from abandoned store, both colorful yet having the same air of weather worn use. Metal siding count as roofs and gates in this land, motos run the streets and traffic has no laws. This country has so many hints of Nicaragua and Uganda thrown together, but there is a distinct vibe that I cannot place my finger on. Perhaps it's the spirit of a people who have survived such harsh natural disasters and yet remain hopeful. Perhaps it's the upcoming election that has the cities buzzing. Or it could be the recent local gossip just reaching the ears of a passerby. Regardless, Haiti welcomed me with arms wide open to explore the vibrancy found there. I touched down on the tarmac just a week before Hurricane Matthew touched down and am grateful for the timing of taking off two days before he stormed through.
I came to Haiti after reaching out to an organization called My Life Speaks, a multilayered advocate of community, education, and special needs awareness- just to name a few. I heard of them through several friends in both Texas and Tennessee alike and just knew it was an adventure I had to get on board with. I'll post more images from their organization over the following month! They reside in the village of Neply. A truly welcoming community, this village is nestled along a lazy stream and rolling pastureland. The mountains watch over this village hazily in the background, the beach only a ten minute walk away. My words cannot do the beauty justice.
The first day I walked around, I was welcomed inside by Asho, the resident ladies man, and his cat Mimi. We simply sat, the language barrier [theirs a mix of Creole, French, and English] not stopping the laughter or music from flowing freely. This is a culture that revolves around others. You walk the village not to get from point A to point B, but to mingle, linger, sit and talk, share space. I think that's what stuck out most from this trip. Oh the things to be learned if we simply paused to listen and to actively appreciate others. Neply is full of proud people. Not arrogant, but deeply in love with their country and home. Many have lived there for their entire lives and are comfortable sharing the joys of this village with outsiders, graciously accepting this English speaking girl in Chacos with a camera around her neck photographing everything in sight. Enough of my ramblings about Neply, the sweetest little gem of Haiti. There will be many more stories to come, but for now it's time for you to see a few glimpses of the beauty held there.
There is a spot deep in my heart for travel. Not the travel that hits the tourist traps, but the kind that leaves you in love with a culture and with admiration for a people group. My recent trip to Haiti inspired just that- a deeper desire to partner with organizations that celebrate these cultures and capture the work they do in these countries. If you have any organizations or nonprofits you love that could benefit from a photographer and storyteller on the ground, please comment with their name or send me an email telling me about them! I'm always looking for new causes to join and crusades to document!
Hey y'all! Let's just call it for what it is, I'm terrible at keeping up with this blog! But I've had some exciting work over the last few months that I'd love to share. So cheers to new beginnings and committing to keep this website up more! Up first is my beautiful friend Kali, owner and brilliant mind behind Kindle and Gather. She is a gem of a human, if you don't know her, you should! She let me take her head shots on film and then we got to work on a super special project together [more coming soon...]. Friends, meet Kali!
Happy Monday, my friends! I realized that I haven't shared this shoot that was so near and dear to my heart. Better late than never, right? My family is deeply involved with an amazing organization that advocates for sustainable health care in developing nations: One World Health. They throw annual fundraisers in the beautiful Charleston, SC and partner with some amazing artists to raise awareness of this organization and bring in funds to sustain the ongoing work. One of the bands, Needtobreathe, has become outspoken advocates of this endeavor.
I had the chance to photograph their intimate concert for this cause back in March and am finally getting around to sharing the images with you [plus a few from a bigger concert the following evening with a ton of talented collaborators]. Can we all agree that the lead singer, Bear, has the greatest expressions? It's so different than my normal style of photography- all light and airy, a fun change of pace! I adore photographing concerts as well as being able to tell stories of organizations I deeply believe in. This night? Dream come true.
I love in home sessions more than anything! I got to hang out with my dear friends Kristi and Luke in their home a few weeks ago on the way back from a work trip, and let me say, their house is a dream. They work at a residence and and vocational program near Houston that houses adults with special needs. Stopping in for the night, we got to catch up in their stunning home for a while and then I talked them into a few photos! They sent me home with freshly roasted coffee beans and an overflowing heart. Enjoy these two being hilarious in front of the camera as well as genuine models!
I had the chance to shoot my first newborn lifestyle session for the sweet Cash family in Austin, TX! They welcomed me into their home to meet their two week old daughter, Juliette. What a precious babe. She did amazing throughout the session, letting her mom and dad enjoy these tender moments as a family. Let me tell you, this is the first time I've seen a newborn soothed by the sound of a camera shutter. It was the best way to jump into newborn lifestyles, shooting both digital and film [featured here]. What a joy!
There is nothing sweeter than a slow morning at home with those you love. I got the chance to capture Madaline and her sweet daughter Eleanor during one of these mornings. It was a joy to watch the two interact- Eleanor so curious and already independent, Madaline so adoring of her baby girl.
We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
This January I had the chance to explore Ireland and England with my best friend Margaret, who is away at university in Manchester. This trip was one of the most rejuvenating, sight filled, fast paced two weeks I've had! I adored getting to see the bustling cities, gorgeous countrysides, and warm people these countries had to offer. I couldn't get enough of the local music in the traditional Irish pubs in Dublin nor the exquisite art in the Victoria Albert Museum in London. From the Blarney Castle to the Cliffs of Moher to traditional tea in the quaint city of Chester, it passed in a blur of history, culture, and pints of Guinness! This trip was overflowing with friendship and beauty. Here are just a few film snapshots from the adventure of a lifetime!
Hey friends! This season has been marked by an abundance of work. It is a beautiful thing but it's easy to let go of creativity for personal enjoyment. I'm always terrible at bringing a digital camera to family vacations and over documenting every moment, rather than simply being present and letting work go. So on this latest family trip to Amish country in Lancaster, I left my digital camera at home and instead opted for my new film camera [insert happy dance here], bringing back the joy of photography for creativity and fun! Here are the scans that I just downloaded, I'm in love with film and the intentionality of having 36 frames. I hope this season has been beautiful and rich for you all. Remember to seek out the things that bring you rest and refreshment.
Happy Wednesday, friends! I first met Alex back in May at a photographers headshot swap. [Yes, that is a real thing! She's the talented lady who took my about me photo]. She is incredibly gifted at photography and running her business, Alex Thornton Photography. But what set her apart to me wasn't just her skill at this craft, it was the genuine way she approaches community. Alex has a gift for bringing people together and finding common ground with them. She is gracious, humble, and uplifting. Time spent with her is always life giving. I am thrilled for a chance to celebrate this friend who dreams big, fosters community, and chases creativity with abandon. It's not often you meet friends of this quality who you both look up to and have the chance to collaborate with.
This is a special lifestyle post today! About a month ago Alex and I met up for tea to chat about life. We started floating the idea of getting back to the roots of why we started these photography businesses- a love of creatively and beautifully capturing life. We decided to meet up for coffee and bring our cameras for no other reason than to spur on creativity. [You would probably be concerned if you knew how much coffee was consumed during this] This session is on of the sweetest to share, simply because it is coming from a place of joy in what we get to do. PLUS it just happens to be this babe's birthday- so feel free to reach out and give her some birthday love! Alex, I wish you the best of days. You deserve to be celebrated!
Love + an abundance of ice cream!
Today's post is one dear to my heart, it's actually one I wrote six months ago while sitting around a kitchen table in Uganda. In January I had the joy of spending a week at Elpis Ministries Children's Home in Iganga, Uganda to document orphan care. It was an incredible experience made possible by The Archibald Project. Since then, I've slowly been trickling testimonies of the kids onto the blog. I've held off sharing this story simply because my words can't even begin to encapsulate the beauty of this friend of mine. Stories are meant to be shared, they are meant to teach us and show us a new aspect of life, to grow us and inspire us. So meet my dear friend Ruth, and let her story impact you beyond this moment.
Ruth is a book in the Bible, a story of the Lord’s deliverance from pain. The story of tenacity, hard work and faith in the midst of uncertainty. Today I got to sit with my new friend, aptly named Ruth, and hear her testimony of the Lord. Ruth is 17 years old and has a faith bigger than many middle aged believers who have known Christ for decades. I first met Ruth earlier this week amidst a surge of children. She stood out when she started jumping straight into pictures and laughing as though she’d known me for years. She wasn’t afraid to pull practical jokes and constantly would find me, flash a smile, then come over and push me around. I liked her gumption. The next day we sat among two other girls as they taught me a prayer in Lusogo, their local language. Amidst my struggling through their prayer, Ruth began telling me of the history of tribes in Africa- it was incredible. Ive never seen a young girl so passionate about her people’s culture and history. She was informative and animated and kept teaching me new things. I found out she wanted to be a nurse and with brains like that, I’m glad. Every day she would teach me new words, laugh at my pronunciation, and quiz me on what I knew from the day before. She was convinced I would learn her language and move to Uganda. She said I belonged in her country.
Ruth began talking about her sponsor, Sue. Sue stepped in when there wasn't enough funding to keep as many kids in the program. She lives in Texas but regularly writes. Those letters, as well as every picture sent, is kept right by Ruth's bed. At this point in the week, I thought my big story from Uganda would be about relationships with sponsors and the importance of writing orphans, but the Lord showed me so much more the longer Ruth talked. She showed me a picture of her and her brother thrown in with the other pictures and letters she shared. I didn’t realize how much this would impact me later.
The next day, Ruth sat down with me to tell me her story. I have never met a person who has overcome so much tragedy. Looking at Ruth, you’d never guess it. She is open and inviting, she is quick to call you friend and even quicker to share her laughter.
Ruth was made an orphan. Not by sickness, not by choice, but by the sins of another man. A friend of the family’s poisoned her father. Her father was working as a gatekeeper, as many do in Uganda. He had a jobless friend who was struggling, so her father offered his friend a position with him. They watched the gate together but Ruth’s father was paid more because of his experience. Jealousy began to eat away at this friend and he slipped poison into Ruth’s father’s water. As the arson kicked in, he began to lose ability to eat and was unable to drink. Soon he was bedridden. After a few days they took him to a hospital but the poison had already corroded his heart. A week later, he passed. Ruth is the oldest of six children- her mother could not take care of them all. Soon, they were thrown to the streets. Ruth recalls trying to find a place to sleep for the night, eating rubbish to survive, no water to drink for days. The African sun is merciless. Her family was just trying to survive. After her father passed, her brother was also poisoned and in two days he died. By the time he reached the hospital, it was too late to save him as well. She soon took up work as a housekeeper where they gave her enough food to stay alive and let her sleep in their home. However, there was no pay and the abuse was unmentionable. Ruth tells me this story without even blinking. One day, she had enough. She left the family and went to look for her youngest brother. She was starving and sick, trying to find a way to provide for herself. She found Sandy at Elpis Ministry’s children’s home. Ruth never had the fortune of being able to attend school. She was cast out at a young age without a stable home or means of provision. Phillip [the American missionary who started Elpis, also known as H.O.P.E. Children's Home in Iganga] took her in and sponsored her. Eventually Sue came in 2013, took over her sponsorship and wrote her letters. Relationships and friendships mean the world to this sweet girl, she guards them fiercely.
With trepidation, I began asking Ruth how she saw God in her life. She said her uncle taught her of Him when she was young, but the moment she knew there was a God was when she was in the streets eating rubbish and He rescued her to a home. Then again when He freed her from that abusive home and into the refuge of Elpis. She found God and He gave her the heart to forgive. I paused and questioned her- has she been able to forgive the friend who poisoned her father? She said after her father realized he was poisoned, he told her, “Do not do anything bad to the friend who poisoned me. It is in our hearts to forgive.”
To have a heart that overcomes and forgives the murder not only of her father, but also her younger brother- the tenderness, the tenacity, the faith.
We went on to talk of her favorite verse- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. She quoted the whole thing and then began to preach on it. Ruth laid down truth like a Southern Baptist preacher. This girl looks so much like Jesus. Radiant and passionate, friendly and inclusive, confidence and peace filled in the midst of trial. Strong, oh so strong. She is one of the most joyful souls I know. Ruth would help lead worship at night, taking care of the younger kids and being the first to step up and give thanks to God for His goodness that day.
I asked her if she could teach me one thing about God, what would it be? “Even if you face problems, it’s good to get problems, because problems help you know God.”
I told Ruth I planned on sharing her story and to describe three things about herself she wanted my friends in America to know. This is her response: "I am Ruth. I have peace in my heart. I feel joy. And I can see God loves me."
Ruth. A story of the Lord’s deliverance from pain. The story of tenacity and hard work and faith in the midst of uncertainty. Of one thing I am certain, Ruth will lead nations to Christ.
The night I left Uganda, I was a mess. I was holding kids as we both wept over the fact that our time together had drawn to a close. I have never felt the heartbreak of leaving that glimpse of heaven known as H.O.P.E. Children's Home. Ruth came up to me amidst the chaos. She held my face in her hands, and with a steady gaze wiped away tear after tear from my eyes. "We do not cry. My God is good for bringing you to me this week, we praise for being friends. Do not cry, N'Koma Madeline. God is good and I love you." So this, my dear friend Ruth, is my promise to share your story. With dry eyes and a praising heart, I invite you to see the world as she does, love others are boldly, and live a life of profound faith no matter your past.
Business has been picking up speed lately. It's an absolutely beautiful thing, but I have let it slow me from sharing about my trip to Uganda. I want to do these stories justice, I want the words I use to impact you as much as these kids impacted my heart. It's my deepest desire for you to hear and feel these stories the way I did- raw and straight from the mouths of sweet friends. I've put so much pressure on the way I express these stories that I've let work be a distraction. But I cannot say enough, orphan care is something that shouldn't depend on my comfort. It isn't an easy thing to think about, but does that mean I should ignore it? These friends of mine, these amazing kids who have been put in a children's home, they deserve to have their stories shared with dignity and care. They don't deserve to be pushed to the back-burner yet again. They are children of a King and I owe it to them to tell their stories so you can have the delight of getting to know their hearts. So, it is with joy and apology on my delay, that I share with you my friend Musawo Mike.
I was losing bad. It was day three and the older boys were beating me at a Ugandan card game similar to Uno. Except, unlike Uno, I was getting trashed. They couldn't contain their laughter at how horrid I was at this game. All except Mike, that is. He patiently looked over at my cards then explained to me again in flawless English how to play. When I kept on losing, he chuckled and just started to play my hands for me. That was the thing about Michael that struck me first, his patience and humility. He wasn't the first kid to run up to us when we walked through the gate to the children's home. Maybe it was the fact that he was one of the oldest kids there, but this was the first time I had noticed him. After that terrible card game he took time to explain the rules until I understood (gave up). He told me he wanted to be a doctor in order to help others, a common thread among the kids. After chatting a bit he went to hang out with the other guys, but the next day sought me out again. I immediately shouted out "Doctor Mike!" and he shied away. When I picked him out to hear his story, he almost seemed embarrassed at the attention. [He got insanely embarrassed whenever I asked to take his photo then ended up being a little model!] This kid's laughter was absolutely contagious and he often times ran away from my camera or hid his face whenever he saw a photo being taken. He tried to find a way out of answering most of my questions by laughing them off, but I wouldn't be diverted that easily. I found out Mike had lived at HOPE Children's Home for almost seven years. He came early in 2008. Like so many other children, his father brought him down from Moroto, a northern part of Uganda. He has three sisters and five brothers, yet hasn't seen his mom since 2004. He paused a bit there, not wanting to tell me the hard parts of his story. I asked if he was angry to be at HOPE, he replied with a soft no and then moved on, done with speaking about a family he never saw. Mike went on to tell me that he has seen God work tremendously in his life since being at HOPE. He looked at the ground at this point, telling me he used to not be humble, but was working on it. I was floored- for a kid who shied away from attention to tell me his pride used to be an issue was shocking for me. To see the way he interacted with the younger kids, protective and helpful, I wouldn't have ever believed it. He went on to say he sees the Lord act in his ability to have an education and in the way Baba Phillip protected him and kept him safe at the children's home. At this point, Michael was getting uncomfortable from my constant questions and photos. He was starting to withdraw again so I threw out one last question. "What is your favorite Bible verse?' His response- Romans 12:1 and James 4. He then let me see a glimpse of his love of Scripture and began reciting them to me. Mike is going to make a wonderful doctor one day, with a servant's hear and a joyful smile.
Michael hit a soft spot in my heart. It was so hard to hug him goodbye. He reminds me to an uncanny degree of some of the kids I worked with in Young Life. He was goofy and wouldn't talk about himself unless you spent time getting him to open up. His friendship felt familiar, like a ton of kids I met in a Texas high school. It's crazy to think how different his situation is from theirs, yet he carries himself with a dignity and maturity that is hard to find in most eighteen year old boys. It's also incredible to think of the chances kids here get to attend college, whereas for Michael that would be a miracle. He needs a sponsor for university in Kampala so he can achieve those dreams of becoming a doctor. Join me in praying for my friend and brother Michael to be able to attend college and know his value as a child of the King.
Happy Thursday! I am beside myself to bring you this engagement session today. I met Alysa my freshmen year at Texas A&M. Little did I know at the time, she would quickly become a roommate and one of my dearest friends on this planet. Jake I met my sophomore year through Young Life. He is one of the most genuine friends you could have. This couple is the most beautiful kind of humble, on fire for the Lord, and generous with their love. They have taught me what it means to be a constant friend, how to trust in Truth, and how to be selfless. Alysa + Jake, it was a joy to take these photos. I love walking through life with y'all and can't wait for the years to come! [p.s. check out some of the outtakes at the end, they are the most hilarious people you will ever meet.] Love + Sunshine + Endless Friendship.
Happy Good Friday, friends. I hope your day has been full of rest and the chance to think about the sweet significance of Easter. Because this weekend is a beautiful celebration, I wanted to bring you a photoshoot of another celebration. A couple weeks ago my other Texan transplant in Tennessee, Cristy [the babe in the floral crown, made by yours truly], turned 24. She won a giveaway for a free photoshoot last month and decided to use it on her birthday bash! This party was perfect- with Mexican food, great conversation, and a photobooth. What a perfect way to celebrate the life of this fun friend!
My Friends! Oh I am so beyond excited!! The day is here- I have been working alongside the incredibly talented Whitney Farnsworth to rebrand my business from Harper Photography to Madeline Harper Photography. Why?
There are times where we are offered a chance to start again. They normally come in the form of new years, clean slates, and in this case, a move across the country! I want this business to reflect who I am, what I believe in, and what makes my soul sing. I want my business and my brand to have a clear vision and a renewed passion for pursuing what I love. So in November, I reached out to Whitney with the idea of switching names and brands to something that reflected not only my growth in the past year, but the direction with which I want to move forward. And y'all, she nailed it. She sent me page after page of beautiful logo drafts, it took me days to decide between them all! I am beyond thankful for her help with this project and the talent she has for hearing a dream and making into a tangible product. The logo was underway, but the dreaming had just begun. I sat down and started making a list of things that I dearly love, things that make me feel alive, and things that I am most excited about creating. Here is a glimpse at my some of my list-
-bright clean images
-cozy in home lifestyle sessions
-couples who aren't afraid to laugh
-traveling for photography
-weddings with unique moments
-couples who love first looks
-any and all flowers
-sweet anniversary sessions
-vibrant colors + vibrant personalities
-simplicity and purpose
So here's to a new season of dreaming! I am currently booking 2015-2016 weddings, anniversary sessions, and lifestyle shoots, as well as finding nonprofits and missions organizations to collaborate with. This year is about casting a vision to a better and more purpose filled business! I adore what I do and am so grateful to be able to call this a career. The dream: I love to shoot engagements and weddings, to walk with a couple through the planning process and find sweet ways to make their day even more special. It's been such a wonderful new addition this year to photograph anniversary sessions for couples as well. I can't get enough of genuine people who are deeply in love- oh it makes my heart giddy! Feel free to shoot me an email, tell me about your love story, and trust me to capture your special day. I love to travel the states to photograph weddings, Tennessee and Texas and everywhere else is on my shoot list! So don't be shy in reaching out if you don't live in the same place. Another thing that fires me up is collaborating with other creatives, working with designers, other photographers, artists. The potential we hold when we work together and encourage each others gifts is unreal! I'd love this year to hold a beautiful creative community filled with pushing each to new heights and I recently got back from Uganda which reignited a desire to photograph overseas and provide organizations with quality images for marketing and social media. So that's the vision- lifestyles, weddings, and everything in between! Y'all, this is going to be a big year. I am able to dive into this dream headfirst and full force! I couldn't be more thrilled. So enjoy the new site- curl up with a cup of coffee [or whatever you'd like], explore, and feel free to stay a while!
Love + Sunshine,