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The Journal

A Nashville photographer's story blog.

Erica: A Collaborative Yoga Session

Amy Roberts

I’m fond of quiet yoga sessions I maintain at home, but I can’t even come close to the skill Erica has built over years of dedicated practice. We met on Instagram, but her patience in finding the pose she wants and her utter bravery can’t break through the screen on your phone - trust me. She literally laughs in the face of danger, and our session at this local park was a joy.

Except for the fire ant colony I stepped on. No joy there. #fieldphotography 

It’s such a delight to capture someone as they do what they are most passionate about. Collaborative sessions like these are some of my favorites.

If you’ve got a passion like this, please reach out to me. Creators, artists, hobbyists of all sorts - it’s an honor to find the vision of your process. Let’s work together.


Departed: Photography and Grief

Amy Roberts

There was dust floating in the air. It’s always there, but today it caught the shafts of early light from the window and, suddenly, it wasn’t hidden anymore. Brought finally into light, the bits of lint and debris obscured my vision in that direction. It was early early, and I could think of nothing but the dead weight of grief that sat on me, that shot through me like those blades of light cutting through an invisible, dusty world.

Grief does this. It comes on in waves, months after the shock, the wailing, and the denial are all over. It hits hard and fast, with no context to anchor it. I always feel like doing something, not because I want to, but because the idea of doing nothing rings like a death knell in my frantic mind. There’s not really much to be done, though. He’s not coming back.

Remember when he was here? When I was a person who had him in her life? What did that look like? Why can’t I remember? What if, one day, I forget?

The blueish light from my phone felt wrong in the warmth of sunrise, but I was desperate. I scrolled to the right place, the right date. I have it memorized. The photos I collected the day he died appeared on the screen, and I felt free to feel again. In seeing his face, I felt like I was allowed to cry and allowed to feel better at the same time. He doesn’t mind at all. He’s not angry. I know it, because the photo is him and isn’t him. It’s a him that’s frozen in time, but I know where he really is as we look at each other over a chasm that others have only guessed how to cross, he into my streaming eyes, me into his never-blinking ones.

This is photography.

Representations of the long-gone have been safely guarded in the homes of their loved ones for… ever? Entire traditions have been built up around collecting, honoring, and clinging to the images we create to remember those we loose. We associate a person with their image, even though they are two separate things.

What I’ve realized is that I don’t just use photography as a means of expression, but as a kind of therapy. I use images to recuperate and process my grief. Photographs anchor our hearts to the person we’ve lost, keeping fresh in our minds where their dimples were, which eyebrow rose higher when smirking, which side they parted their hair on. And it works. It really helps. Eventually, I turned off my phone, gulped down some hot tea, and said another, smaller goodbye than the one I’d said last week. The ways my life has changed since he died came to my mind with less guilt, and I treated my current, him-less self with more compassion.

What is this we do with photos? Does it help to freshen the loss with reminders of who left, or does it comfort us to know we won’t forget the color of their eyes? Does it do both? This is photography, to be sure - a huge part of it. This preserving and providing options to which we can cling when we need to is part of why we get our pictures taken - not because we think we’ll die tomorrow, but because we know it won’t ever be quite the same as it is now, no matter what happens.

What do you think about this? It feels important. It feels like this is what’s at the heart of it all, in the end.

Simple Skin Care for Winter Weather

Amy Roberts

When I was a child, dry weather was my enemy. At the touch of the winter wind, the skin on my hands would inflame and my knuckles would crack like the Salt Flats of Utah, bleeding on my school books. My lips would split when I laughed, and my hair would break when I brushed it. By December, my mother was lathering my hands in solid lanolin nightly, sealing them with gloves to keep in the moisture.

Now that I’m older, things have leveled out a bit. Still, I struggle every year, not with coldness, but with the brittle air that creates static cling and breaks my skin to pieces.

I’m not a complex-beauty-routine kind of person, but I have found a few simple - maybe even obvious - tools that help me manage winter skincare, and I hope you’ll share any insights you have, too.

Drink water

This is honestly the one I struggle with the most. I’m terrible at drinking water, but it is so vitally important for overall health and makes a giant difference in how dry your skin looks and feels. 64 oz. or about two liters of water a day is a good place to start. There’s an app I find helpful and very charming called Plant Nanny which gives you pet plants to take care of. In order to keep them healthy, you must log your water intake. And they’re really cute, so you want them to make it!

Find the right chapstick

I am a chapstick fanatic. It’s a truth I’ve come to accept. I didn’t mean to be this way, but when Carmex and Blistex just made my chapped lips worse, I embarked on a years-long search to find a brand that really worked. For me, it turned out to be Vaseline’s Lip Therapy (I like the Creme Brulee flavor best), but take the time to try and find the best product for your skin type. It just elevates your comfort level in winter so much that I’ve found it worth the effort to find the perfect match for me.

PRO TIP: This also works great on a chapped nose!


The thing I’ve found most helpful other than moisturizing is exfoliation. Now obviously you don’t want to go too far here, but about once a week I “dry brush” my face with a face brush (I got mine from Amazon, I think they were these). I also love to use homemade scrubs, and if I ever get the chance for a bath, I’m hitting my hands and feet with everything I’ve got.

I don’t think I’m alone, here! Some of my favorite bloggers have shared their recipes for DIY scrubs (etc), so I thought I’d link the ones I like best below, in case you’re interested:

Siobhan Watts’ Herbal Bath Scrub

Kat Goldin’s Super Magic Cream (they also have a Natural Home + Beauty Kit here)

I’ll keep building this list as time goes by and I discover more products and recipes!

I know this post is super-simple, but I really have found that covering your bases and making sure that 1) you’re hydrated and 2) you’re moisturing and exfoliating properly generally keeps things under control long enough to make it to spring.

Any tips from you to me? I would really love to find more simple-but-effective ideas for surviving brittle winters. Let me know!


Wild + Sweet: Graduate Session with Julia

Amy Roberts

“i think photography is trying to find the poetry in people.”

- Wyn Wiley, Photographer

Just before Christmas, I had the joy of photographing a truly poetic soul. Julia graduated high school a semester early, and the story we told together during her senior portrait session was beautiful. It was layered with story, with deep courage, and with the buzz of final achievement. Julia is bookish and quiet, with a touch of the rebel soul and a healthy dose of hidden depths. It was truly a privilege to work with her.

It’s a real treat to photograph someone in such a transitory season. I love capturing this time of life, when identities are solidifying and we really come into our own. Many thanks to Julia for trusting me with her session.

Interested in some portraits of your own? Contact me and we can chat!


Winter Session: Brandon, Meg, and the Kids

Amy Roberts

It’s December in Tennessee, which means it’s raining.

I pulled up to the house on the end of the street at 9:00am on a Saturday to the chime of barking dogs and a rooster’s crow. I was let into a cozy, circa 1900 farmhouse that smelled like peppermint and got hugs all around (even from Will, the barefoot redhead that instantly became my shadow, which I loved).

It was so easy to see how these people lived as a unit and loved on each other daily. It was so easy to capture Will’s constant curiosity, sweet Noah’s newness and concern, and the ebb-and-flow of dad taking over, now mom, now dad again.

Light trickled in through drops of rain, and I began my process. In telling this family’s story, I wanted to shape something that said, “This is what it looks like to have deep, muddy roots. This is what it feels like to be many and one at the same time. It feels like color, like everything goes together on accident, like you can’t tell if something is warm or cool but it’s good and rich and tastes like chocolate.”

My favorite shoot to date, this family inspired me to dig deeper in my work. I also realized how it feels when the right clients find you. There is a genuine chemistry, that ignites between client and photographer when the right people find each other, and it just makes for comfy, deep photography when it happens.

And it’s pure magic.

Enjoy the season, folks. If you’ve been wanting a hearty, rainy photo session and you’re in the Nashville area, please feel free to contact me. Let’s make some magic.