Secret Garden Maternity Photo Session in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Two years ago, I photographed my first engagement session with Josh and Ellen.  Their love story is so unique in that they flew to San Francisco to elope at its famous city hall.  Well, here they are expecting their first baby. :) 

When Ellen contacted me to do their maternity photos, she told me that her baby's grandparents have a back yard that reminds her of a secret garden.  We both decided it would be the perfect location for the look that she wanted. What a sweet hideaway in little ole Baton Rouge!

Here is SOME of what we captured: 

Yucca Valley Anniversary Session

I am a firm believer in things aligning exactly as they should.

My husband loves camping and I've always had a desire to give it at least one try.  We were planning a California vacation and I had been wanting to see Joshua Tree National Park ever since reading my one of my favorite memoirs "The Glass Castle." We searched Airbnb to find tent rentals, in the area, and scored a tipi instead.  

As we pulled up to the campsite, my reservations about sleeping outdoors, in the middle of nowhere began to set it.  Once parked, I looked up to see a couple relaxing at the campsite's picnic table.  I felt an immediate sense of relief knowing that someone else would be sleeping near.  We walked up and made introductions and found out that they were there to celebrate their first year of marriage.  I thought that was just the sweetest thing ever! Because I had my camera on hand, I offered a mini photo session.  This was the icing on their cake and a dream come true for me.

After their picnic dinner of grilled steaks and chilled beer, they dug into their anniversary cake, which is the same cake they enjoyed on their wedding day. And how lucky were we that they had packed the cake stand that was also used on their special day?! 

This was definitely a session to remember. Thank you Erika and Casey!

 

Daijah A.

I love photographing high school seniors.  They have such a bright outlook on life and it inspires me to my core.  The excitement they have about their futures takes me back to that same feeling and renews a spirit of excitement in myself.

Daijah announced her college of choice to her dad during our session together. Super cool! I felt so special to be apart of that.

 

Bria G.

Miss Bria is the Editor-In-Chief of the 'Southern Digest,' which is the official campus newspaper of Southern University.  I was thrilled that she wanted me to capture her senior photos and even more excited to learn how adventurous she was.  We spent our time exploring various parts of campus and laughed the whole time.

Images from her session are below.

 

Plantation Cemetery Memorial Service

WRITTEN BY BRISTOL MAYO  |  BRISTOLMAYO@GMAIL.COM    MARCH 24, 2018

DARROW, La.-  “They tried to bury us, but did not know we were seeds”. In unmarked graves along the Mississippi River, slaves from the Monroe and Bruslie Plantations were scattered about the grounds, full of untold stories of strength, endurance, and hope. Beneath the Sugarcane fields and shade trees, they lay there waiting to be showered by the love of their descendants, searching for them through time. Listening to the call in their hearts and spirits to make the pilgrimage into the forgotten history of America and discover their tangible past. 

Kathe Hambrick, founder of the River Road African Burial Grounds Coalition, heeded that call, and the fruition of her efforts gathered descendants of Slaves and Slave Masters alike to Tezcuco Plantation, not far from the burial grounds. 

My God.

Here we were, on the lawn of the “Big House”, celebrating the lives of those Slaves cast aside by the indifference of the institution of slavery. Where our ancestors may not have been able to say the prayers, prepare their bodies, or show any emotion for their loss at all! The sentiment in that space danced from heart to heart, so new and vibrant! Like meeting a long lost family member for the first time. There are so many stories to share, so many songs to sing, and so much dancing to be done! Some attendees visited the burial site at dawn, following traditions and giving sacrifices to pay homage and prepare the spirits for the celebration to come. Maybe the Black people from long ago had to celebrate the life of the deceased in this manner, under the cover of darkness to protect their own lives. But when the light came, the drums announced the beginning of the ceremony, so that we could all get in rhythm with one another to lift this praise to our ancestors. We no longer had to suffer in secret! Negro Spirituals were sung in the way that has always brought us through our tough times. Libations were poured and The Elders lifted their voices as we sat in awe of their history. We brought our children to be a part of the story so that they could run into the future and carry word that the Ancestors actually existed! And in these hallowed grounds, they lay smiling, knowing that their efforts gave birth to the possibility of a better future. 

We mourned their suffering and sacrifice for us, understanding what they had to endure to give us this chance to honor them. The very wind and humidity graced us, just as it had the Slaves from the Plantations, and we made peace with the words we would never hear, the embraces we could never feel, from the names we may never know. Those things no longer mattered. Mrs. Hambrick and her team had given us the reality of our past. Folk tales and fireside stories became real history, and as we visited the Monroe Burial site, looking out over the Sugarcane I could see those Black faces toiling under the sun. Being there, in their space, was surreal. My strength was revived knowing that my people had already endured the worst, and their blood that courses through my veins is prepared for the fight forward. 

Bridging this gap in history is so important for the healing of the Black Community. Plantations can no longer be viewed as these monuments to the “Gallant South”. "A plantation was the scene of a crime against humanity, and there is nothing fine about owning people,” said Ingrid Palmquist, a descendant of the owners of Tezcuco Plantation and member of the River Road African Burial Grounds Coalition.

Historic discoveries such as this are ground breaking in the work of preserving a history meant to be forgotten. We do not mean to destroy what is known, but we have a right to our own past. And if the heavy weight of slavery continues to hang around the neck of America, unattended, we will all be choked to death under its weight. We must all breath in the truth of our history so that the stagnant stench of racism can be cleared from the air, and our ancestors can finally find peace in their rest. 

Ase! 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRITTANY MAYO OF SUGARCANE STILLS

Ericka M.

Graduate season is in full swing and I am having so much fun meeting new people and capturing this HUGE accomplishment.  Ericka is graduating from Southern University and we wanted to utilize some of the less frequented spots on campus for her session.  One of my favorite buildings has always been the SU Museum of Art, whose doorways are gorgeous! We also used the stairway of her department's building, along with one of it's classrooms. This campus is so full of history.  Let us not forget its past. 

Here is some of Ericka's session....

 

 

Caressa L.

This year I am turning 30. So are most of the women I grew up with.  I haven't been very happy about it.  I've had feelings of self-doubt and thoughts of not being EXACTLY where I had planned to be by this age.  My long-time friend came to me about photographing her to commemorate her 30th birthday.  She told me she wanted a boudoir session and because I had never done one, I eagerly obliged.  I knew that I didn't want to do the common "bedroom scene" session so we worked together on something that would both fit my brand and her vision for wanting something "different."  Here is what we came up with: 

 

Cheyenne W.

I love finding inspiration in other gorgeous, brilliant women. Cheyenne is about to graduate from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  I was so excited to help with the vision she had for her grad photo session.  We literally had so much fun! 

 

Kiddie New Year Session

When I became pregnant with my first child, I promised her that I would stay home with her until she was about four years of age.  I figured that she could confidently enter school at that time and that I would also feel confident in knowing that she could speak up, clearly, and report back to me.  Well, Sugarcane Stills was birthed not long after she turned two.  She is now almost four.  I have spent countless hours away from her to not only capture people, but to edit as well.  She has been so very patient with me and behaves in such a grown up manner that I decided to reward her.  We picked her outfit and got her all dolled up for her very own photo session- with all the trimmings.  She really felt so special and smiles so hard looking at her photos.

See below for all the fun she and I had!

 

When Brooklyn Met New Orleans

Lindsey (a first-generation Haitian-American) and Alvin (originally from New Orleans) first met at her apartment during a kickback that she was hosting.  Alvin was to be a "plus one" as his friend had been the one invited to the party.  He received word that his friend wouldn't be able to make it, but was encouraged to attend anyway.  He shows up not knowing many other guests.  Lindsey welcomes him with open arms. Five years later, they are engaged to be married.

Issa love story.

They are currently living in Louisiana and knew that New Orleans would be the best place for their engagement session. We were set on journeying through the French Quarter with their only request being that I didn't have them out there looking like "new love." Ha! We started at the 'French Market Inn,' which was the hotel they stayed in to celebrate their five years of dating.  As I waited for them to meet me downstairs, I realized the courtyard was so dreamy and would be our first setting.  We made our way through the hotel because there was such a vintage appeal that needed to be captured.  We then hit the streets, danced a little, and walked until sunset.  

They are so into each other that there was no problem capturing the true essence of their relationship. This was definitely a session to remember.

 

For Frida.

I have seen her face everywhere. In those gorgeous books at my favorite urban apparel store. On all the feminists blogs that preach about the empowering woman. Through the hipster feeds on social media sites. I finally took my own time to look into the world of Frida Kahlo.  Her life was pain. Her life was excitement. It was so full of passion. I even found myself to be repulsed by some of the things she did but there was no denying her freedom.  I was inspired by the fact that she taught herself to paint and became an amazing artist.  When I think of the power of one's own will to create and leave their designated mark on this world, I am overwhelmed. 

"I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling." -Frida Kahlo

Take a look at a fun, Frida-inspired shoot I did with the beautiful Meagan Callier...

 

 

 

Afrocubana x

Lately, in any spare moments, I've found myself reading new things and writing down my thoughts that come of it.  I look for inspiration any and everywhere.  My fondness for black, female writers led me to Nancy Morejón, an Afrocubana artist. Blank pages are her canvases and words, her brush strokes.  I can't stop reading her works and have placed an order for a couple of her published books.  For now, this is my muse:

Cold penetrates our feet
and the rose’s urgency
moves us, being born.
We are in a large dam
and the papers of the universe
whirl before those
flame tree leaves
that shade us in summer.
Lovers, struck by sun,
fling themselves
to the floor of a boat,
breathing with valves
moistened by sea wind
from the South.
A timid breeze appears
and our ear, it laughs for eternity.
— Nancy Morejón

                                                                                                   

A New Orleans Engagement

One thing that I've learned about love, through being in love, is that it needs no explanation. However, I often find myself trying to gather the perfect collection of words to describe what it feels like.  There are too many combinations of words to describe it and yet not enough.  One of my favorite writers, Zora Neale Hurston, once said that "Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place."  I may have never heard something more true.  We open ourselves up most to those we decide to spend the rest of our lives with.

I'm here to capture the love and the light so that it can touch others who are opened to receiving it.

Thank you, TaLoria and Ernest for letting me capture YOUR love.

 

Healing.

Healing.

It is a word I hear, often, among mothers who have breastfed multiple babies.  For the longest I wondered how "breastfeeding" and "healing" could possibly be used together.  

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I knew without question that I would be breastfeeding her.  She was born with no complications.  A cute little thing and her eyes were wide open for those first hours of her life.  Our nurse encouraged me to try her first feeding which was very unsuccessful.  We tried and tried again.  I pumped a TON, determined to not give her a drop of formula.

5 months flew by and there we were.  Me still trying to get her to latch and her looking up at me in confusion, with those sweet little eyes.  Each failed attempt ended with dad feeding her a bottle while I sat pumping.  We did that for her entire first year.  I was broken.  I had missed so many moments bonding with her because I was attached to a machine.  I wondered what was wrong with me that I hadn't been able to nurse my baby.

Once her first birthday rolled around and I was able to give her other types of milk, I began to push those thoughts to the back burner.  About 6 month later I found out that I was pregnant with baby number two.  Again, I knew that I'd be breastfeeding.  

I met my son on his birth day, with a renewed sense of hope.  THIS baby was going to latch.  I laid in our birthing room bed with him on my chest.  Skin-to-skin.  He began to root and found my breast.  He latched immediately.  I felt so releived. Two hours later, he was STILL nursing.  I'd unlatch him with my finger and he'd find his way back.  He spent his first days of life eating non-stop.  I was in so much pain by the time I was discharged that I knew something wasn't right.  I'd developed thrush. 

After a few months of battling improper latches, thrush, and an array of other complications that can arise in those early months of breastfeeding.  We were finally learning what and what not to do.  My baby was growing and I wasn't having to pump as much.  

Fast forward to one year...

I am now faced with that inevitable question of when to stop breastfeeding.  I've made it 12 months and now what?  There is no expiration date.  My son is happy and his comfort is found in my arms.  Who am I to take that away from him?  Why should I be so quick to end something that I fought so hard to get a grasp on?  

A sweet mom once shared these words, "Why, after all, would one rush to end something so tender and sweet? One wouldn't tear the petals of a rose in order to make it open more quickly, right? We don't have to rush a transition that is already in the works."

I agreed with her. I also realized in what way my healing had taken place.  Turns out it wasn't just about being able to physically breastfeed a child.  For me, it's more about relinquishing control.  The old me, always needed to be in control of everything in every moment.  Breastfeeding two children (one by way of pumping exclusively and the other by nursing) has shown me that we cannot control every thing. 

So, for now, I will continue nursing him, healing, and letting the chips fall where they may.

 

Below photos by Katherine Lea of clubscottie.com.

DeShay

I had the honor of photographing this beautiful spirit in celebration of her 27th birthday.  

What's crazy is, we had scheduled a date and had to cancel because of torrential rains.  Well, our rescheduled date was all too perfect.  The weather was not-so-typical of a spring day in Louisiana.  Warm, but not too hot.  Humid, but not so much that your hair could cling to your skin. We chose to meet closer to sunset so that the temperature would be more welcoming than not.  

We picked a location in the downtown Baton Rouge are that I am very fond of and that would be void of too many people.  We were so thankful for such a peaceful setting and even shared some words that were fitting for the moment.  What an amazing thing it is to know perfect peace.  The peace that washes over you like the tide washes over the sand upon a shore.  

DeShay works in an Intensive Care Unit.  I believe that only the strongest people, with the most golden hearts can do well in such a position.  It reminds me that we are all on our own, necessary, paths.  We are all equipped with what we need in order to do what we have to do.

Thank you, Deshay.

 

Behind the name.

Sugarcane blowin'
like my own restless free soul
I feel their spirits

sugarcane-louisiana-lifestyle photography-session-baton-rouge-austin-texas



As I stepped out of the car and my feet hit the dirt, my heart began to race.
The questions came pouring in. "Who walked these paths?" I needed to know their names and what they looked like. Did any of them share my exact face?

While doing some family research I found that some of my blood relatives had been registered "laborers" on the St. Louis Plantation in Plaquemine, Louisiana. My mother and father were born and raised in Plaquemine so I spent much of my time in that small town, growing up. No one had ever mentioned anything about St. Louis Plantation. I had never seen it prior to this day. Why? Did my grandparents and parents not know much about it themselves? Or did they prefer not to share what they knew about it or the stories they'd heard? All I knew is, I saw my own family's names listed as having "worked" there.  How many family members were never registered? How many of our own flesh and blood had been moved elsewhere without record of it?

...
I walked up to the first row of sugarcane and immediately stepped back. I'm 5'11'' and the cane had to at least be four feet over my head. Now, I love being outdoors and I love to explore, but I also refuse to set myself up to encounter snakes and other wild creatures. I decided I wasn't stepping into the unknown. My husband tried to coax me into walking a row and see how it felt. It wasn't happening. More questions raised: "Did a little girl (who may have looked like me) HAVE to walk these rows?" "Did my pregnant great great great great grandmother have to be out here in the heat planting seed?" I knew the answer.


My then, 2-month-old began to cry. I knew he was hungry and looking to nurse. We made our way around to the front of the "big house." I made a resting place of the stairs leading to the front door. Somewhere shaded, so my baby could eat comfortably. More questions flooded in. "How many of my female ancestors had to nurse someone else's infant while hearing their own crying for milk?" "How many of the babies, who shared my blood, had to nurse in the heat of the sun washed cane field swarmed with mosquitoes." My blood boiled. Then came the tears....

.... then came 'Sugarcane Stills.'

....for those who didn't have the freedom to do what they loved.

 

louisiana-photographer-brittany-mayo-austin-texas-baton-rouge-lifestyle-photography