If my life were the Harry Potter series, 2016 would be called Harry Potter and the Year of Beautiful Surprises. It’s not about Harry Potter all the time though, so I just tend to call this the year of beautiful surprises. Let me tell you about my year in review…

Sure, 2016 wasn’t all beautiful, sometimes it was oh-so-dark, ugly, and perilous. One thing I love about my job is that I take it as my responsibility to look for and document the times that the joy shines through. One of my favorite books (Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, buy it.) says “Wherever you turn, the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?” In this life, I fight to have the courage to see where it shines. I fight to celebrate the small victories and the moments where joy meets us, whether that’s in the everyday or the spectacular.

In 2016, I saw how I have the power to show people their value and their beauty. I thought deeply about my place as a creator of a family’s visual history as I held my bff’s baby and with weeks-old eyes she fixated on the portrait I took of her parents at their wedding. What a weighty joy to have made something that will be one of her first visual memories.

In 2016, I saw how being kind may not always be the “best” business strategy, but I have yet to regret it.

In 2016, I was afforded the opportunity to

  • photograph gorgeous weddings and engagement sessions
  • travel to the Dominican Republic to encourage and learn from some dear women at a church there
  • meet many people who I didn’t end up working with, but who showed me plenty about myself and helped refine my art and style all the same
  • nanny for the most delicious baby ever
  • start to teach piano to 7 of the coolest kids I’ve ever met
  • photograph Prince Harry’s Sentebale Polo Cup for the St Regis Hotel chain, which led to a brunch at the fanciest hotel suite I’ve ever been to and hanging out in the “media pen” with a bunch of BBC News reporters who I got along with just fabulously. I can now confirm that Prince Harry is a normal 30 year old who goofs off with his friends and has a cute laugh. This was also my first trip to Miami, and the hotel that the St. Regis put me up in had the hugest bathtub I’ve ever been privileged to enjoy. I also had the greatest convo with my uber driver on the way back from the polo match, and Ingram, if you ever start that open mic night like you dream of, I can’t wait to attend.
  • Attend Heck Yeah Photo Camp  to meet and learn from phenomenal teachers and attendees. I respected so many of them before I went and met so many I look up to so much now. A starlit concert in the desert by Aaron Weiss and a beer with Anis Mojgani weren’t too lame either.
  • Launch my Intrepid Sessions and pursue my passion for showing women their true beauty and value
  • Go to Disney.
  • Photograph the 501’st at The Beach, Tampa thanks to my new friend Alyssa.
  • Get two new tattoos – a quote from my mom on my left forearm that says “March Forward, Child.” and a paper airplane on my left leg with swirls and tree roots coming out of it.
  • Work with All Faiths Food Bank to visually document and tell the “hunger narrative” in Sarasota County. I traveled out with a staff writer from the bank to meet people who receive aid from the food kitchens and hear their stories. My entire perception has honestly been flipped on its head and I’m so excited to continue doing what I can with what I’m good at to fight poverty and hunger here.
  • Work with Zahrah, helping them set up and maintain their social media accounts as they work to confront the sexual exploitation of women and fight sex trafficking as they empower survivors and aid in the healing process.
  • Take a day off and go to Dinosaur World and pretend to be an explorer.
  • Photograph an engagement session in IKEA and go viral on Buzzfeed Weddings. (As awesome as that was, that “fame” really does only last about 15 minutes and you just have a lot of notifications, in case you were wondering 😉 )
  • Spend a couple days in Los Angeles with some amazing friends relaxing and exploring
  • Visit Ryan in Michigan and help him photograph his sister’s wedding and a wedding the day after. Also got to experience ArtPrize and explore Grand Rapids and the Dunes by Lake Michigan. I kept calling the lake “The Ocean” much to everyone’s amusement.
  • Adopt the best dog ever, Morello, who is a joy every day, even if she eats out of the trash can and it has a fight with her stomach.
  • Had the best sushi of my life in Los Angeles with Monique at Sugarfish
  • Saw a bunch of concerts and only shot a few of them, which was fine with me, cause I was actually enjoying it, and wasn’t gonna be that person who has a bunch of unwatchable iPad videos, like the guy that was in front of me at most of the concerts. (Probably not the same guy, I know.)
  • Be part of a brand new church in Tampa that is one of the things I’m most excited about in life. If you’re curious and you live near me, please let me know and I’ll get you info to come gather with us!

This was my first full year being self-employed, and though it definitely kept me dependent on the grace of the Lord, the most beautiful surprise of all of it was that this is working, I get to keep loving people with what I do for work, and hey…I paid rent all year!

(P.S. Don’t let anyone tell you that you HAVE TO HAVE a fancy camera to take good photos, some of these are from my phone or a point & shoot)

Enjoy these photos, and my playlist of my favorite songs from the year.

Savannah Lauren | Photography
Bold intimate photography that tells your story