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LDP Client Feature | Latoya Warren

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LDP Client Feature | Latoya Warren

One thing I never really expected when I started my photography business was that the beautiful people I was afforded the opportunity to photograph would be some of the most community-minded, influential, and hardest working folks in their field.

I've photographed entrepreneurs, community organizers, non-profit business owners, and artists. There's never a shoot I begin where I'm not asking a client about what it is that they do and not only that, but finding out WHY it is they do what they do.

So, I've decided to use this space to share with you all the wonderful things they've been sharing and hope their stories inspire you and maybe even introduce and opportunity for you to connect. First up is Latoya Warren

Marqus and LaToya Warren, Co-Founders of Reaching Our Youth - Upstate  Photo via Facebook

Marqus and LaToya Warren, Co-Founders of Reaching Our Youth - Upstate

Photo via Facebook

What is the organization and your role in it? 

I am the Co-Founder of Reaching Our Youth – Upstate, Inc. Reaching Our Youth – Upstate is an organization that was created by myself and my husband in order to assist and empower the underprivileged and at risk youth in our community. We want to establish a plan for each child which will help create a solid foundation for growth in education, financial literacy, health/wellness and youth mentoring.

Tell us a little more about how and why you became part of it. 

We created this organization because we noticed that there was a lack of knowledge when a potential high school graduate was preparing to enter college and attempting to understand the process of financial aid and how to borrow without accumulating unnecessary debt. I have 5 years of experience working in Higher Education as a Director of Financial Services and have encountered a number of families that were misled through the financial aid process. I did not want to continue to be a contributor to that cycle, so I decided to give back to my community and create a service that educates the family about the steps of completing college and leaving with the least amount of debt as possible. I am very passionate about this because I came from a single-parent home and my mother did not have the “how-to” knowledge necessary to complete the financial process.  I began to do research in order to obtain the needed funds for college. I applied for numerous grants, scholarships and continually asked questions that pertained to acquiring more free funding. This experience allowed me to understand the depth of financial responsibility and why it is important to have a holistic approach, so that the potential college student has the support from their family and they can help make wise decisions for their child’s future. 

Why is this important? 

This organization is important because we not only want to help the student, we also want to tackle the everyday issues that plague their family in order to help them progress in a positive manner. I understand that the first battle is getting the child engaged in the programs offered but the other battle is fighting the culture that is at home daily. We want to provide services for the parents, as well, so that they understand the impact that a positive foundation creates and both the child and parent can move in the same direction of advancing mentally and physically.  

Explain the impact that it’s had. 

This organization has impacted a number of high school seniors lives by helping them become exposed to college life and this year we will have two students graduate college and pursue a career in their field of study. I also have helped ten current college students obtain $70,000 in scholarships from the United Way of Greenville County through their “Jobs to Careers” program. We have also helped to build self-esteem in our students by encouraging them to use their talents and advance in life. One is currently pursuing a career in singing, another has become an actor in a few local plays, and another has just won her first pageant. These are just a few accomplishments of our previous students and it shows how changing one’s perspective on life can help propel them into positive outcomes. 

How has it allowed those involved (yourself, even) to become more simple, genuine, or expressive? 

I believe that being involved in this program has allowed all parties to become more genuine. According to Webster, genuine is defined as being sincere or authentic. These two descriptions are indicative of how we would like to be viewed in the eyes of the community, the children and their parents. With our genuine investment into our children’s educational future and mental well-being, this is a great “set-up” for replenishing our community with positive and productive future leaders. 

Where can we find you/your organization online? 

I can be found on Facebook  (LaToya Irby-Warren) and LinkedIn (LaToya Warren). 

Anything more you’d like to share? 

I would like to leave you with a famous quote from Nelson Mandela:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

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DFinney Mentoring - Charlotte, NC

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DFinney Mentoring - Charlotte, NC

It’s no secret that Danielle Finney of DFinney Photography and Design is one of my favorite photographers. I was so thrilled to find out that she was hosting one of her mentoring sessions on how to master natural light close to me in Charlotte, NC.

My good friend and photographer, Sierra Collins, spent the day with Danielle learning technical tips to shooting in natural light, how to scout for natural light locations, and editing.

Danielle constructed a great team for the day and styled the shoot to perfection. 

MUA: @makeup_lush

Model: @kingkyah__

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Why I Will Never Get Photos Taken at Sears Again

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Why I Will Never Get Photos Taken at Sears Again

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Up until the past 3 years, I can’t remember ever needing photos and not having a Sears Portrait Studio, Walmart, Portrait Innovations, and the like come to mind (and of course, you know…that good ol’ gold Olan Mills crest in the corner of your photo which made it o-ffici-al)!

They’re cheap, they’re fast, and can usually result in you leaving the studio with prints in hand. Why not?

Both my maternity photos and Kent’s 6 month pictures were taken at The Picture People and Sears Portrait Studio, respectively. Actually, both sessions were booked because I’d found a “great deal” on Groupon.  Up until the past 3 years, I learned that cheap and fast photography does not equate to great pictures…and even more-so, rarely results in to a great experience.  And since pictures are worth a thousand words and essentially provide lifelong reminders of where you are and who you’re with at a point in time, a lasting bad memory from a photo session may not even be worth the $100 you ended up “saving”.

Lay Down on Your Stomach

I must admit, had I not gotten through this stage of “plastic portraits”, I wouldn’t have these stories to tell. And my fiance Lee and I wouldn’t be able to share these laughs over them. While proofing our maternity session (I was 38 weeks and HUUUUUGE), the young lady showing us our photos suddenly stopped her sales pitch, looked at Lee and said “Has anyone ever told you that you looked like Simba from the Lion King?” I couldn’t help myself and started laughing. He, embarrassed, politely smiled and said no. Okay, so that has nothing really to do with the quality of our portraits, but it was untimely and awkward. (And I’m still not loving these photos because I look as huge as I felt!)

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(Photo Cred: The Picture People)

Right before we moved to Upstate NY, we went to Sears to take family portraits.  Our session started 15 minutes late and the photographer seemed clueless as to why we were agitated at the beginning of our session, with a fussy 6-month old baby. She had captured a few shots of a couple of normal poses with a generic Christmas backdrop. Then, she looked at Lee and said “okay, now lay down on your stomach.” To both of our surprises, he said “No. No, I’m not doing that.” My fiance is a pretty agreeable guy, but that tummy pose was NOT happening that day! HAHA!

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(Photo Cred: Sears Portrait Studio)

Turning Point

My son was born 3 short years ago.  We did not take photos in the hospital, but my dear friend from college, Cameron Robinson of Arthur Cameron Photography had us covered and did not disappoint. I guess you could say that he birthed us into the world of independent photographers. Although, I’m sad to say that I no longer have the soft copies of those images. THANK GOD WE GOT PRINTS (yes, this is why you should always print your photos, people)!

While we lived in Upstate New York, we met a family through a mutual friend. Carolyn Hoerl, owner of Two Sparrows Headbands, is such a talented woman and a dear friend.  It was through Carolyn that I met her sister, Nancy Noble Barnes of (nancy.noble) photogragraphy. When I saw the images on Nancy’s Facebook page, I was nothing short of mesmerized.  Her images were genuine, clean, and very emotional.  I HAD to book her!  Blew. My. Mind. She’s so good, y'all. Before we moved back down to South Carolina, Nancy took our family portraits. I was nervous that day because I wanted everything to be perfect: our clothes, our hair, Kent’s mood. It was even supposed to rain later that day, so I’d called her to see if we could move it earlier. She agreed. During the session, we weren’t forced to lay on our stomachs or do awkward poses.  And no, she didn’t comment on how any of us looked like Disney characters. Even with a busy 16-month old she worked her magic. See for yourself.

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(Photo Cred: Nancy Noble Photography)

There was no turning back. There was no way I could ever pay the same price for a forced, uncomfortable session, with generic backdrops, instant turnaround (meaning no editing or fine tuning, except for a couple of black and white filters), and less of a connection with my photographer.  You simply cannot match the experience, not to mention the quality and deliberate artistry that went into each image.

Since then we’ve committed to booking photographers…artists who have a passion for what they produce which is evident by their style and quality.

This is us in Rincon, Puerto Rico in 2014. 

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(Photo Cred: Nilka Gissell) 

I debated earlier whether or not I was going to post a disclaimer for more or less knocking those big corporation turned photography studios…I think I should make clear that there’s nothing wrong with a Sears, Walmart, or Picture People.  They provide a service that many are satisfied with. As I look over the photos my family and I have taken over the past years, it’s evident which photos deserve to be printed, framed and placed on our living room walls, forever going into history as memories that should never fade.  Those moments can never be replaced. The photos will always be just photos, but the experience is always worth the investment.

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Michael Dantzler - Eastover Community Garden, Eastover, SC

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One Saturday morning, my brother and I drove out to Eastover, SC to meet photographer and gardener, Michael Dantzler in the Eastover Community Garden.  The garden lies behind the public library and local fire station in Eastover.  The garden boasts a wide array of foods; mustard greens, squash, green beans, kale, corn, cucumbers, and okra, to name a few.  However, the real satisfying thing about the garden is the vision that Dantzler has for this space he dedicates his time and labor into. Using food as the means, Dantzler hopes that the garden will foster better relationship among those in the Eastover Community.  It is solely kept up by the volunteer services of willing individuals in the community, who also pick the foods to give to local organizations.  Michael truly has a pure heart, driven by a faith in the ability of nature to bring people out and together, as a true community should.

Please check out the garden Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eastovercommunitygarden?fref=ts

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Purgasm Promo Shoot - Maxcy Gregg Park, Columbia, SC

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Purgasm Promo Shoot - Maxcy Gregg Park, Columbia, SC

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This month I had the pleasure of working with little bland brands’, lead brand stylist, Jessica Boyd on the rebranding for one her clients. I was ecstatic to be part of the team to capture the following images for Purgasm Shop, home of “gourmet beauty indulgences that tantalize and nourish every inch of you”. I am intently following the brand and wishing owner, Nicole Jennings, and her team the best as they revitalize their look and feel.  Meet them at the Essence Music Festival in July.

Team:

Creative Director: Jessica Boyd, little bland brands

MUA: Denise Jackson

Models: X’andria Sutton, Chanelle Johnson, Iman Edgers, Nicole Jennings

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