Another kind of plus one: the Heimlich Family

Mom, Dad and their dog Lucy cuddle around baby Jonah on their bed

This sweet pile of love is the Heimlich Family. Mama and Papa  – Corey and Tamara to me – are dear friends and mentors. Their steadfast support has been so instrumental in my development as a writer and photographer, I was honored they asked me to photograph their first family portrait session with baby, Jonah. (Clearly, Jonah is their second child, as the hairier lass on the right so nosily – and endearingly – implies)

Baby Jonah rests cradled in his mother's arms

This is one of my favorite shots of Jonah above. His eyes have the color of his dad and the kind inquiry of his mum.

Mom, Dad and their dog Lucy cuddle around baby Jonah on the bed

Shooting newborns can be tricky business! But this little stud kept me on my toes. As a preemie, his esophagus wasn’t quite done cookin’, so milk was a’ flyin’ between clicks. That’s why he’s on a towel. And maybe that’s why Corey’s whispering “Aaaaargh” into his ear!

Mom cradles Jonah against a black backdrop and smiles, with head cocked, at the camera

Jonah is looking away in this one (LUNCH!), but Tamara is a vision with her flowing hair, off-the-shoulder blouse and all-out grace as she welcomes her baby into the world.

Black and white portrait of Baby Jonah taking a bath

There’s something so special about babies and bath time. I shot this one in black and white to really emphasize the gentle purity and inherently ephemeral nature of newborns. They grow up so darn fast…


Finding simple: my cheeseless inspiration

Vertical headshot of actress and friend, Tanny, in a mint v-neck shirt against a tree

Headshot of young actress smiling mischievously from the side against a red backdrop in a green lace sweater

While film was what brought Tanny and I together years ago, pizza is one of the many delights that keeps us together. I can always count on Tanny to enjoy my homemade pizza. In fact it was her cheeseless pie request that led to some of the best pizza I’ve made across 15+ years. You see, while pizza lovers may bicker over the subject of toppings, most of them envision it to be a warm union of crust, sauce and cheese. Having been one of those people, I had my reservations about “reducing” the holy trinity to a plain duo. But in the end, focusing my efforts on just these two elements yielded far better crusts and sauces, both independently and in combination with each other, than any of their predecessors. Cheese I realized, with its weightiness and viscosity, would have diminished the overall product by masking the complex tastes underneath.

A long-time friend and mentor, Tanny has brought me “back to basics” in more areas than the kitchen. A seeming contradiction, she brings depth to life and living by peeling back those internal layers of perceived necessity and fortifying the simple values that lie underneath. In the end, as I have come to learn from her, a genuine person does not need the cheese.


Libraries offer more than good reads

Vertical black and white portrait of my friend Anil in the courtyard of Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan

Books brought Anil and I together. He had one of those highly coveted library jobs during college and I was a paranoid geek who wanted to befriend the desk staff to avoid pending late fees. Years later, despite different cities and time zones, we still find time to catch up on good eats, good reads (naturally), good movies and the like. I was lucky enough to make a short visit to his new home in the great state of New York this past February.

I admire Anil’s quiet endurance through life’s challenges. It makes his sense of humor that much more unexpected. He has a great smile when he laughs, as he did in this photo taken in the courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.


Grandpa Jim

Vertical black and white portrait of my grandfather smiling at the kitchen table

A former schoolteacher, constant gardener and devout correspondent, Grandpa Jim made himself a regular part of my life through letter writing (we lived on opposite coasts for 18 years). He regularly mailed packages, filled with LA Times newspaper clippings that tightly sandwiched a typed letter. Grandpa Jim’s correspondence was painstakingly personalized; he only chose those articles that aligned with my hobbies – music, art, travel and the like – and diligently edited his writing. Any typos were neatly whited out and corrected with his penciled handwriting. He only ever used capital letters.

While I credit many educators for my development as a writer, I feel I owe him the greatest debt in this capacity. Were it not for him, my interest in writing and indeed, the power of words may never have been born.


Starry eyes studying the skies

Portrait of Jean-Rene leaning forward with his head cocked towards the camera in front of a brick wallTwo side-by-side vertical portraits with Jean-Rene leaning against a fence and a brick wall, arms crossed on left and a closer crop on his face on right

This handsome chap and I met through a mutual friend over the summer of 2011. Born in Montreal, Jean-Rene eventually made his way to the states in pursuit of astronomy. After completing his PhD at the University of Chicago, he left the windy city for a highly coveted post-doctoral fellowship at CalTech in Pasadena.

While his resume speaks to his intelligence, I wanted to use this portrait session as an opportunity to highlight those less suspecting qualities of a math and science whiz: his integrity, his independence and most importantly, his gentle and kind nature. Though we spent some time indoors with a studio backdrop, my favorite images and his most genuine expressions came from our outdoor adventures in the local neighborhood. In retrospect, I would have swapped out his patterned button-down for a solid color to bring even more attention to his face.