M’s Senior Portraits & a little Basketball [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer]

2018-07-12_0001We started this senior’s session off with a little time in the gym.

2018-07-12_0002Whenever possible, I love to utilize the actual high school’s gym or track since that’s where students have spent so much of their time. (Many high schools are very good about working with the students on availability.)2018-07-11_0025It was a fun challenge to create some dramatic lighting. 2018-07-12_0003When we were done in the gym, we headed over to the park for some more traditional senior portraits. 2018-07-12_0004

2018-07-12_0005“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves…” -Marcel Proust

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Baby G’s Newborn Session at Home [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Newborn Photographer]

Meet Baby G. He’s darling.2018-07-11_0023It is necessary to introduce him before you get distracted by the Most Well-Behaved Dog in this next image!

2018-07-11_0011I love newborn sessions at home because you’re able to document the place most important to you – and it’s such an easy way to incorporate the furry members of the family. 2018-07-11_0016But, back to the star of the show…

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2018-07-11_0014Baby G is clearly loved

2018-07-11_0013and adored.2018-07-11_0012It’s always hard to narrow down a set of images to put in a blog post – I try to include a variety of settings and expressions. However – in this next set, I just wanted to show off their adorable nursery. Baby G’s dad built the crib based on his wife’s vision. She designed the space so beautifully!

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The words above the changing table say “To go to sleep I count tractors instead of sheep.”

2018-07-11_0021He looks pretty peaceful and serene in the images, but we did get a chance to listen to his lungs. I love his scrunched-up face.

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2018-07-11_0022“First we had each other, then we had you…. and now we have everything…”

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The J Family – Sunrise on Lake Michigan [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Family Photographer]

2018-07-11_0004-1This little boy was turning one, and we used his birthday as a great excuse for a sunrise family portrait session on Lake Michigan.2018-07-11_0002-1The wind was cold, the lake was angry, but the sky was stunning.

2018-07-11_0007-1The little guy took it all in stride as he showed off his new walking skills.

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2018-07-11_0003-1Big Brother tried his best to stay warm!

2018-07-11_0005-1Once we were back on dry land (and warmed up), we were treated to some toothy grins!

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Ms. J’s Senior Session at the Boerner Botanical Gardens [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer]

2018-07-11_0001J’s senior portrait session at the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners was well worth the trip.2018-07-11_0004Many areas of the Gardens were off limits to us due to the China Lights exhibit, but there were still plenty of beautiful backdrops for us to enjoy.2018-07-11_0006I loved how we could go from a white, farmhouse porch look to a tropical setting just by walking across the park. It gave us a wonderful variety in which to play!2018-07-11_0005

2018-07-11_0002“Every great dream began with a dreamer…”

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Mr. N – Senior Session at the Soccer Field [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer]

2018-07-09_0006We lucked out with a beautiful October afternoon for this senior’s portrait session. 2018-07-09_0008We breezed through the traditional senior portrait settings – and then after a quick outfit change, we headed over to the soccer field. 2018-07-09_0009

2018-07-09_0001Although I had a confidence rating of 99.5% in his ability – I still requested that he aim for the other side of the goal so that I wouldn’t get hit. (He graciously obliged.)2018-07-09_00022018-07-09_0003

 

 

 

Baby E at Home [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Newborn Photographer]

2018-05-14_0001This newborn lifestyle session took place over the winter. While the wind was rough and cold outside, Baby E stayed cosy right in his own home.

2018-05-14_0007His wispy hair makes me smile. Judging from his smile, I think he likes it, too.

2018-05-14_0006These moments where the mother’s face is so close to her baby are some of my absolute favorites. The new baby smell is something to be cherished.

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2018-05-14_0011The image below might be one of my all-time favorite new father images. Their matching profiles are perfect.

2018-05-14_0002In-home newborn sessions allow you to document the baby’s first room so that you can remember all of those very carefully chosen books and toys.

2018-05-14_0012“Let me love you a little more before you’re not so little anymore.”

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In honor of the mothers [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Family Documentary Photography]

Capturing motherhood might be my favorite part of my work. These small moments are fleeting, and to be able to capure them for a family is an honor. To celebrate the mothers, I’ve collected a few of my favorite moments of motherhood from the past year or so.Wisconsin Kenosha family photographer

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As children grow, the quiet moments you have together look less like this

2018-05-13_0014and more like this…

2018-05-13_0003And both are to be savored.

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Mothers are good at multi-tasking

2018-05-13_0004and managing what can, at times, feel like a small circus.

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Mothers take their children’s feelings seriously

2018-05-13_0010and know that just a small gesture can bring comfort.

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Mothers cherish the kisses,

2018-05-13_0007the cuddles,

2018-05-13_0006and the laughter…

2018-05-13_0009And that moment when you can physically feel your heart being so full of love, it might just burst.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Stories of Autism 2018: Everett [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Wisconsin Special Needs Photographer]

2018-04-26_0001In our old farmhouse, a ladder in the living room means that something needs fixing. In Everett’s home, it means that someone’s mind is working. I photographed Everett for the 2018 Stories of Autism gallery. He is a charming boy who wins you over immediately – and he loves to climb.

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2018-04-26_0007From his parents:

Everett is a typical 5-year-old boy who happens to have autism. He is fascinated with classic video games, Mickey Mouse, and playing at the park. He has a very vivid imagination and often prefers to play by himself in his fantasies.

2018-04-26_0009While Everett typically has no interest in playing with other children, his sister’s outgoing nature makes them excellent play partners. They are each others’ closest companions, and they do everything together.

2018-04-26_0003At school, he is at the same level with peers. However, his ability to verbally communicate is delayed, which can be frustrating. He also has difficulties transitioning from one activity to another and needs special consideration from teachers and therapists when he becomes overstimulated.2018-04-26_0006

2018-04-26_0010Everett finds the repetition of going up and down a staircase very reassuring, and calming, which is why we put a ladder in the living room for him to climb on. For us as his parents, life with Everett is about finding a balance and helping Everett to be himself.

Jason and Leah, parents of Everett
Sturtevant, Wisconsin

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A boy and some balloons [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Children’s Photographer]

2018-04-23_0002The stars aligned for this little session. Well – four specific items, anyway:

1. I had leftover balloons from an earlier photo shoot that day

2018-04-23_00032. We had a bright blue sky for the first time in (what seemed to be) forever.

3. We still had a little bit of a “lake” (the 6 inches of water that we get each spring in the bottom of the meadow).

2018-04-23_00044. I had a little boy willing to play in the water with balloons and his mud boots. (Actually – this wasn’t a stretch. He wears his mud boots every afternoon, and I think any child would be happy to play with balloons and splash in water!)

2018-04-23_0001(This last image isn’t as hopeless as it looks. The balloons had a bit of weight on the bottom of them – so he would throw them up in the air and chase them down when they fell. It was a fun little game!)

 

Ms. M’s Senior Picture Session [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photographer]

This senior photography session took place on the most amazing October day. (And she had the most amazing hair!)

Union Grove High School photographer Kenosha Burlington RacineWe started the session at the Kenosha Country Club which had trees and a hill that reminded me of a cross between The Hobbit and Harry Potter.

Union Grove family photographer teen

Union Grove High School photographer Kenosha BurlingtonWe finished up the session at the Kenosha lakefront. The wind was working with us!

Union Grove High School photographer Racine BurlingtonWe were excited to find the herringbone bricks.

Union Grove High School photographer Kenosha Burlington

This session had been rescheduled once due to weather conditions – and October sessions are notorious for that. It’s hard to know whether to go through with the session or not, but we lucked out with one of the very best October days that were left.

Union Grove High School photographer Kenosha Racine

Stories of Autism 2018: Olivia [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Wisconsin Special Needs Photographer]

2018-04-18_0001Each time you meet someone who is non-verbal, there is a question as to how much is actually understood. When I met Olivia for her Stories of Autism session, there was a quick flash in her eyes that made me realize that she is not to be underestimated! With Olivia’s spunk, her determination, and the support of her family, she’ll move mountains.

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From her parents:

Olivia is a 14 year old girl whose smile can light up any room. Although she has very few words, she communicates through her spirit to those who truly get to know her. Nothing is more powerful than the ability to express love without ever uttering a single sound.

2018-04-18_0010Since being diagnosed with Autism at the age of two, her life has been a story of ups and downs. Through it all, she continues to wrestle with a body that often doesn’t want to cooperate with a brilliant mind ready to explore all that life has to offer.

2018-04-18_0002Olivia is an intelligent teenage girl who loves to joke and mess with people. She is also a master manipulator and has more perseverance that any person we have ever met! With each year she learns more coping mechanisms to control her feelings and actions in a world that bombards her with challenging sights, sounds, and sensations.

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Olivia has helped us to look at the world from a different lens and pause to discover things that others miss.

2018-04-18_0005Olivia has taught our family more than we ever could have imagined about the precious little things in life that most of us have the luxury of taking for granted. Yes, there have been many sacrifices and autism has turned our lives upside down, but in a strange and almost calming way it has given us direction to focus on the small achievements and grab onto the smaller moments in life that bring us joy.

2018-04-18_0006Olivia is surrounded by people that love her. She very often expresses the return of that love through hugs and kisses and as I said, a smile that speaks for itself. Each day is an adventure and each week a challenge. Olivia has taught us to persevere through the tough times, seek the light through the darkness, and never ever give up on the possibilities of tomorrow!

Tom and Katie, parents of Olivia
Franksville, Wisconsin

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J’s Senior Session at the Skate Park [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Senior Photograher]

Kenosha Senior Photographer skatepark Union GroveWe lucked out with a beautiful fall day at the Skate Park and the sky was a brilliant blue.

Kenosha Senior Photographer skatepark Union GroveI was excited for the challenge of photographing at the skatepark, and only slightly nervous about getting run over by other skateboarders. (As it turned out, other skateboarders don’t care about photoshoots – they just want to talk to their friends.)

Kenosha Senior Photographer skatepark Union GroveI love this next image – notice how the curve of his flying shirt mimics the curve of the ramps behind him.

Kenosha Senior Photographer skatepark Union GroveWe got some headshots and some more traditional senior portraits in before we headed across the street to the lake front.

Racine headshot photographer Union Grove

Waterford High School Photographer Union Grove“Instruction ends in the schoolroom, but education ends only with life.” 

—Frederick W. Robertson

Kenosha Senior Photographer artistic lakefront

 

Stories of Autism 2018: Rachel [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Wisconsin Special Needs Photographer]

Gigi's Joy Photography: Stories of Autism Wisconsin 4Rachel was recommended for the Stories of Autism project by a staff member at Shepherds College, and as soon as I met her, it was easy to see why.  Rachel is extremely self-aware and was willing to share both her struggles as well as her accomplishments. I know many parents with young children on the Autism Spectrum will find great hope in Rachel’s words.

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This is Rachel’s essay:

I am in my third year at Shepherds College, but am from Rockton, Illinois. I am creative and enjoy cooking, baking, and singing. My teacher calls me “Joyful Rach.”

Gigi's Joy Photography: Stories of Autism Wisconsin 2My major challenge in my first year of college was figuring out how to get along with people who are different than me. I had to get used to new people. We learned about our different learning styles and personality traits.

Gigi's Joy Photography: Stories of Autism Wisconsin 1I have a job at the bakery in the grocery store in town. I wasn’t the best at frosting cupcakes, so I asked Chef for some help with extra piping lessons. I’m improving. Instead of saying “I can’t,” I asked for help.

Gigi's Joy Photography: Stories of Autism Wisconsin 3I am most proud of when I got my first solo in my first year at Shepherds College. I am in the Chorale now and growing physically, emotionally, and mentally. My parents have noticed the change in me!

Gigi's Joy Photography: Stories of Autism WisconsinMy advice to parents is to research and never give up. My mom joined groups online and did lots of Googling. My parents did not give up on me even though I had a disability. And they talked about God with me since Day One. They never gave up.

 

Rachel

Rockton, Illinois

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The S Family at Home [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Racine Family Documentary Photographer]

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Racine Baby photographerThis fall I had a photography session to document this sweet family. I was able to meet this little fellow with the biggest, bright eyes –

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Racine Baby photographerand his adoring big brother.

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha

And even when there were disagreements over toys (or a DVD, in this case)…

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Racine babyBig Brother returned to his smiling self.

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle RacineHe is curious about the world

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenoshaand loves time with his mom and dad.

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha Racine

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha Racine BurlingtonLittle brother could been cuddled all day!

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha Racine

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha baby

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha baby“True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows.” -Audrey Hepburn

Union Grove Family Photographer lifestyle Kenosha Racine baby

Stories of Autism 2018: Logan [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Wisconsin Special Needs Photographer]

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs WisconsinOh, Logan…

I have lost count of the number of people that I have chatted with about this fantastic little boy. Logan adores camouflage – not because he enjoys wearing it, but because of what he sees in it. His mother explained to me before I met him that Logan sees animals and figures in the pattern the way that many people can pick out shapes in the clouds in the sky. He very quickly pointed out the boy, the moose, and the trees in the light tan shapes. Logan has reminded me to slow down in order to look deeper… and that’s a skill that we all need to be reminded of.

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From his mother:

Logan is 11 years old. He currently loves everything camouflage, riding his scooter when weather permits, and collecting video game systems and games. He loves to swim and looks forward to our vacations to waterparks. Logan started middle school this year and is in a general ed classroom with some assistance and an IEP. He lives with me (his mom), his dad, his brother and our cat.

Burlington family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Logan’s brother is two years older than him. Because of this, we noticed the delays he was experiencing while growing up. While we realized that every child learns at their own pace, we had concerns. Logan’s pediatrician first thought he just had behavioral issues although we felt there was more going on with our son. Logan received Birth-3 services due to his needs since he wasn’t reaching typical milestones (crawling, walking, talking). I attended “It Takes Two To Talk” classes; this was at a time when he didn’t even say “Mama”.  Logan would bang his head on the floor in frustration due to not being able to talk. He didn’t answer to his name for a very long time.

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Logan started the Early Childhood program at age 3 through school. Logan was diagnosed with PDD-NOS around age 5 from Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP). He attended full day kindergarten and also had in-home ABA therapy several days each week. This therapy ended after 3 years. While therapy really helped him, it was initially difficult always having people in our home. Eventually, many of the therapists became almost like family. In fact, we still currently see a few of his former therapists because they really love Logan.

Racine family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Logan’s struggles now happen mainly at school because of demands and becoming overwhelmed.  Standardized tests don’t always show his knowledge. Logan is definitely a hands on and visual learner. He is working on inferring and drawing conclusions while reading. Being a literal thinker means he doesn’t always understand what others are really saying. Logan has come very far since the beginning of the year. He is maturing and has recently started advocating for his needs. Logan requires planned breaks at school and visual calming tools along with breathing techniques to help him be successful during the school day.

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Logan is very social but lacks some social skills. He loves talking about his interests but conversations tend to be mostly one sided. Logan can tell you about every game system and is really great at remembering dates. We are working on conversation skills, asking others questions, and listening. Logan loves hugs and asks us for them often. It’s amazing to me that he was once essentially non verbal.  I rarely tell him to be quiet because he was quiet for so many years.

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Logan has been involved in several activities over the years. He took swim lessons several times and does very well in the water. Jumping off the diving board over and over again is fun! Logan was involved in the Wisconsin Shores Little League Challenger Division for baseball last summer. Logan received a grant to receive therapeutic horseback riding last year. He also likes to go bowling with the family so we may look into getting him on a league in the future.

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Life with autism is definitely not easy. There are good days and not so good days. We celebrate the positive and try to learn from the negative. That’s how life works! Logan has many great ideas for the future. I am hoping he gets the chance to achieve many of his dreams. I can honestly say that being Logan’s mom has made me a better person. I am so proud of my son. I believe knowing Logan makes many people’s lives better. He’s just that kind of kid.

Lisa, mother of Logan

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Stories of Autism 2018: Zachary [Gigi’s Joy Photography: Wisconsin Special Needs Photographer]

Meet Zachary.

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The only time that this young man didn’t not stop moving was when he was doing his favorite puzzle! I fell in love with his spirit as much as his heart.  I photographed Zachary for the 2018 Stories of Autism gallery. This website features children and adults on the Autism Spectrum in order to promote acceptance as well as awareness for what makes each person unique.

From his mother:

“Dear Zachary, It is the day before Christmas and I am just waiting for you to decide to be born.  I heard someone say once that children choose their mothers. I used to think things like that were silly, but something has changed in me.  I can’t help but feel that I was destined to be your mother and you my son.” This is the start of a journal entry that I wrote to Zachary before he was born. I did not know the full meaning of those words or that feeling, but I soon would.

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Zachary was diagnosed with autism when he was 22 months old, although I knew months before.  It was a relief hearing a professional say those words, “his development can only be characterized as autistic.” Of course, I didn’t want this for my son — that was not the dream, but I wanted him to get help and I desperately needed someone to believe me.  

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

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Zachary was very severely affected.  He lost language, skills and his connection to the world.  Through six years of in-home ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and a special school he made great strides.  

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He uses an ipad to communicate, is learning new skills, starting to connect with people in different ways and is incredibly loving. I am thankful every day for the people who started out as strangers and through their quest to love, teach and accept Zachary became our family.  

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

When I think about that day in 2003 before Zachary was born, I think about the boy I wanted my son to be.  I wanted him to be kind, smart, curious and full of joy.

Racine family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

That is the boy I was destined to be the mother of and that is the boy who sits before me now.  I thank him for my beautiful life.

Kenosha family Photographer Special Needs Wisconsin

Hasmig, mother of Zachary

Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Stories of Autism Website