Cynthia Viola Photography

Anniversary Portraits

Love for my LGBTQ Friends

Portraits, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Creativity is born of risk and refined from failure... This is the courage of the artisan - to know ourselves and be true to that knowledge. The artisan rejects all that makes us false and takes the huge risk of being true... There is no riskier way of life than the artisan way. Anything less is just existing
— Erwin McManus
Lesbian Wedding with flower girl

At the beginning of the year, as I was moving to Florida, I posted a blog about things I'd learned living in North Carolina. One of those things was the beauty of the LGBTQ community.

They'd taught me so much through the years and I'd wanted to give back. I vowed to give away a portrait session, or $500 off a booked wedding to one couple every month in 2018. I've posted several of them here already and some I'm sorry to say I was unable to post due to job constraints and some still having to live in fear of persecution. That said, I thought it would be fun to recap as best I could in a final post, to show the love that flows through us all equally. I'm so incredibly grateful for so many new friends. 

And yes I realize there are more than 12 couples here, so sue me ;)

In January, I met up with Joshua and Daniel on a trip back to NC, they met me downtown in the brightest colors I've ever seen and we had an absolute blast. 

Gay Couple Shoot in Downtown Raleigh

In February I attended a Rainbow Wedding Expo in St. Augustine where I was able to meet several new couples, fueling the following months, but I headed back to NC again in the cold and rain to capture Becca and Katie at their home with little Vivi. They made me breakfast and we talked for hours. I adore them. 

Photo shoot with Lesbian couple and daughter

As a bonus, I got to spend some time with them again in the fall after they moved to their new home in Charlotte!

LGBTQ Family of 3

Two different March couples fell through multiple times, so I planned to catch back up with them later in the year. April involved a couple I love and have known for years, we'll call them Steve and Dave; they came to St. Augustine to visit and stayed with us for a night, taking us to dinner and everything, it was so great to catch up. Unfortunately, Steve's job is yet unaware of his orientation and he would likely be let go. Ergo I won't be posting them here. Suffice it to say, that they are both incredible human beings who have done immense good in the world. 

May's shoot actually fell through as well, as Florida went through several torrential downpours, one actually resulting in massive hail damage and a neighbor's house catching fire from a lightening strike! So the May one will show up shortly as well. May did consist of Tiffany and Carlie's 5 year anniversary, that was not actually a part of the giveaway, but you should definitely go see all their cuteness anyway.  

June introduced me to Sam and Jess, who met up with me at the St. Augustine Pier, then afterwards took me to breakfast where we discussed relationships and faith and change. It was beautiful. 

LGBTQ Engagement Session

In June I was also able to make up for one of the earlier reschedules in one of the most fun photo shoots of my life. I had shot Anse and Allie's proposal, engagement and wedding last year and for their anniversary they thought it would be fun to go camping and capture all the fun in that setting. I was SO excited! We met up at a Roan Mountain State Park campsite, and I just captured everything from building the fire to roasting s'mores to snuggling in a hammock. It was glorious. 

Camping photo shoot

In July I drove up to Myrtle Beach, SC to capture the birthday party of an old friend and while there had the pleasure of capturing Sherry and Becky again! I'd shot their courthouse wedding three years ago and it was just a couple weeks shy of their anniversary! 

As and added bonus at the birthday weekend, I got to meet so many new friends and capture their beautiful relationships as well. :) This is Lisa and Jeannie, Tomi and Angie, who were all about adventuring with me on the beach for some portraits.

In August, while I was in Asheville to race the Spartan Super, I met up with Cindy and Marianne, who run the Rainbow Wedding Expo. We were able to get some fun anniversary and family photos in the Botanical Gardens. 

Asheville Botanical Gardens LGBTQ photo shoot

Fun fact: they both planned a secret proposal to each other years earlier on the same day! They knew it was meant to be when they both showed up with a ring! They were on a bridge together and wanted to recreate the moment at the shoot. So fun!

 In September I was busy moving back to NC and Hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I more than made up for it in the fall.

October is wedding month and as such, I was able to shoot Christy and Tina's big day as well as Jeff and Jeff’s. They had a fun-filled days surrounded by so many of their beautiful friends (who I’ve also included, because I can) ;)

LGBTQ farm wedding
LGBTQ wedding
LGBTQ couples

Additionally, while shooting Jessica and Jeff’s wedding this summer, I met and fell in love with the adorable relationship between Ryan and Henry. I loved they way they danced and generally interacted with each other and everyone around them. We caught up on Facebook afterward and I asked if they’d be interested in a shoot. Their 5 year anniversary was coming up so they were all for it. They even took me out for tacos and tequila after! So much fun!

LGBTQ couple downtown raleigh

In November Sandra and Caitlin married in Saint Augustine and I was able to capture them afterwards at Washington Oaks Garden with their little Mari who stole my heart instantly. She loved them both so much and loved helping me find the best spots to pose them.

LGBTQ wedding at washington oaks garden

When April, one of my former students contacted me to say she was interested in a shoot, I was of course, all about it, but when she said she needed to clarify and make sure it was ok that it was an engagement shoot…with another woman, I was simply heartbroken. That she had to clarify with me tells me I have a lot of work to do still, and that she had to clarify at all means we all have a lot of work to do. If people are not free to be themselves 100% of the time the rest of us suffer because of it. The world needs people who think outside the box as well as those comfortable inside it. We need every race, every gender, every background, every experience, every story.

April and Reese were supposed to meet up with me in Asheville this weekend but it didn’t work out, so I’ll have to share their story next year, in the meantime, here’s a few other couples along the way at family gatherings and paid shoots and weddings who I can’t help but thrown into the mix, if for no other reason than to show just how many unique and beautiful people there are in the world and that love knows no bounds.

LGBTQ couple portraits

I received a bit of push back from my own family and former clients who did not approve of this endeavor in the beginning. I lost a few relationships, and a few clients but what I've gained is immeasurable love and acceptance from a community I adore with my whole heart. I wouldn't change the decision for anything in the world. I hope that this small offering can help others take off blinders and see only love.

I am grateful to everyone who has been patient with my own journey through the years and who has helped formed my current world view. May we all continue to grow in love and welcome people different from ourselves into our lives. Allowing our hearts to love bigger, deeper, stronger and wider will never shrink who we are or pull us into darkness. It will serve instead to propel us forward into the light where we all see our mutual flaws and idiosyncrasies and stand united on common ground.

To dare - is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare - is to lose oneself
— Soren Kierkegaard

Anse and Allie's One Year Anniversary | Roan Mt. State Park

Anniversary PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
I’m not good as making specific plans. Just meet me under the sky somewhere and be alive with me
— Victoria Erickson
LGBTQ Camping Photos

You guys.

Never has a photoshoot been more suited to me. One of my favorite couples, celebrating a milestone while CAMPING and letting me tag along to capture the whole thing! When they asked if we could turn their anniversary session into a camping adventure I didn't even blink before jumping with joy. Our first attempt got rained out, but it worked out to add this to the end of my Appalachian Train Section Hike this weekend. I told them I'd probably be super smelly but of course, they didn't mind. They promised to bring the s'mores and bourbon and have a tent for me to sleep in so it worked out perfectly. 

After setting up the tent we went on a little hiking adventure then came back and built the most difficult fire ever. Our wood was wet so the three of us put in a serious labor of love to get that thing going, finally a super friendly neighbor gave us a little fire starter to help us out before we lost too much light. (People who love the outdoors are just the nicest people).

After making s'mores and hotdogs we just sat and talked about life til midnight then passed out in the tent and woke to a torrential downpour complete with massive thunder and lightening. I've never had so much fun! Thank you for such an awesome weekend you guys!

LGBTQ Camping Photos
LGBTQ Camping Photos
LGBTQ Camping Photos
LGBTQ Camping Photos

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy Anse and Allie's Wedding Day or this Anniversary Session

Joshuah + Daniel in Downtown Raleigh

Anniversary PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Love in such a way that the person you love feels free
— Thich Nhat Hanh
two grooms

Joshuah and Daniel are the first winners of our 2018 monthly photo session giveaways! And I must say I was the winner here, these two are such incredible guys! I absolutely loved getting to know them and hear their stories; they had so much to share about their time together so far and all they ways that they are grateful for and proud of each other. 

Daniel serves in the USAF so naturally I had a ton of questions for him, I'll never get over my love of flying. Annnnnd since he also happens to love adventure epics and dragons we were able to excitedly talk about our favorites while Joshuah rolled his eyes. When they first started dating Daniel asked him what his favorite type of movies were and he said anything that doesn't involve magic or dragons lol. Opposites attract I guess! :) 

Joshuah had Daniel blushing though before the day was over and I was so excited to have met them both, I hope you love these images as much as I do!

two grooms
two grooms
Two Grooms
Two Grooms
Two Grooms

If you enjoyed this you might also enjoy Jen & Erin or Safy & Randy

Alaria + Drew | 1st Anniversary

Anniversary PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen!
— Winnie the Pooh
Downtown Raleigh Anniversary

After my very first meeting with Alaria and Drew before their wedding she said I was like her spirit animal...and I'd have to say that definitely works both ways! She is so fun to be around and Drew definitely completes her! I absolutely love working with adventurous couples, willing to try new things and who are free to be themselves while we wander around. 

These high school sweethearts had no problem sharing with each other their favorite memories and talking about the struggle of living as a military family constantly separated. Drew will be heading to Korea early next year and they both felt the weight of that. We were so glad to get in these photos before hand so they can still have the memories while they're apart. 

Downtown Raleigh Anniversary
Downtown Raleigh Anniversary
Downtown Raleigh Anniversary
Downtown Raleigh Anniversary
Downtown Raleigh Anniversary

I was so excited to get some extra time with you guys before we're all worlds apart! Thanks for spending the afternoon with me!

Pullen Park Anniversary Session | Caity and Al

Anniversary PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies
— Aristotle
Maternity Photos

I was SO excited to catch up with Caity and Al this morning at Pullen Park! They've had such a busy year building a new home and getting ready to welcome a new little into the world! It seems like just last week we were walking around Eno River for their engagements and yesterday downtown for their beautiful wedding. Cannot believe it's been a whole year!

There's just something about anniversary sessions though. At an engagement shoot you're nervous and excited. You're not real sure about making out in a public park, but you're head over heels for each other so you do it anyway. Then the wedding day comes and you're just as excited but there's a timeline to be mindful of and guests you haven't seen in years to greet and it all goes by so fast you barely noticed you even had a few moments to spend together. Then there's an anniversary session. 

At this point you've just spent the last year doing life together. Some things were amazing, some things went wrong and you worked though it and on the other side you have a better understanding of each other, and your love is deeper. So it's at this point behind the lens that you can just breathe each other in, savor the last incredible year and enjoy each others continued presence in your life. Thanks for a great session today guys! So excited for this next season and can't wait to come back up in January to meet little Dylan!

Anniversary Photos
Maternity Photos
Anniversary Photos
Maternity Photos
Anniversary Photos
Anniversary Photos

When you have the opportunity to really consider all you've been through, it can be overwhelming. Caity had me all teary eyed behind the lens! I just love these guys. 

Maternity Photos
Anniversary Photos
Anniversary Photos

Anniversaries Bring Meaning to the Ordinary

Anniversary PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
The best thing to hold onto in life is each other
— Audrey Hepburn
first wedding anniversary photo shoot

I love anniversaries. (Birthdays and New Years as well) They remind us how far we have come. 

It's incredibly easy to get lost in the hubbub of life: to buy a house, get a promotion, make some babies, finish school. All of it is wonderful and fills our days with direction and our future with dreams. But I believe it's the moments we stop to take a look around that give our life meaning. 

It's great to fall in love and get married, but if you never stop to look each other in the eye, breathe each other in and savor the passing moments, you'll find yourself looking back over the past 25 or 50 years wondering how you got there. 100 nights of Netflix and Chill is fun, but it'll never replace 100 seconds of looking each other in the eye and saying "I love you, thank you for giving me the past year of your life. Let's do it again."

first wedding anniversary photo shoot

The same can be said of anything I suppose. If you don't stop to savor moments with your children at every age they'll be 30 before you know it and you'll wonder where the time went. Sunday afternoons at your parents house become a chore to check of your 'to do' list if you're running 100mph. But if you stop to listen to one of their stories, or capture of photo of them holding hands while they walk out onto the porch, the moment lasts forever and you don't have to wonder when they got so old, and why you weren't there to see it.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to capture a few of these "pauses" between engagement sessions, weddings, anniversaries, births and other celebrations. Witnessing others savor the moments of their lives is a constant reminder for me to do the same. 

first wedding anniversary photo shoot

Amber and Tony Trash the Dress at Vilano Beach, FL

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola2 Comments
You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it.
— Mandy Hale
Trash the Dress Florida

Oh my goodness! I must say I was a *little* nervous about the move to Florida and what I presumed would be a ton of beach photography, but this first session was FAR from ordinary! St. Augustine is amazing!

When Amber said she wanted to do a Trash the Dress session I was, of course, ecstatic, it's always been one of my favorite sessions to offer. I figured we'd finish on Vilano Beach with the sunset, but I was curious what else St. Augustine had to offer. Amber decided to include the Fort and St. George Street and now I'm totally hooked. This place is a photographer's dream! I cannot wait to get more couples and families out here to play! 

Of course, I could not have asked the universe for a more perfect couple for the inaugural session, Tony and Amber have been dancing in front of my lens from the moment they got engaged. This 1.5 year anniversary session was perfectly suited to their fun-loving character and style. A Trash the Dress session tends to pull the adventure out of people and the sheer audacity of it makes you feel wild and free for a day. Capturing all that wild emotion and love of life is what makes this job a dream come true. Thank you Amber and Tony for trusting me on rocky cliffs and in a wildly high tide. Your carefree spirits are everything. Love you both! 

Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Groom Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida

Moses Cone Anniversary Session with Chelsea and Toryn

Anniversary PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved
— George Sand
Moses Cone Anniversary Photos

Nothing makes me happier than to see our couples thriving and living their lives to the fullest. I got to spend some time with Chelsea and Toryn this week as they celebrated their one year anniversary and being able to catch up with them on their first blissful year of marriage and talk about their dreams for the future is what makes this job so fulfilling.

I adore these two so much and even though they had a setback or two and a couple tough decisions to make in their first year, they never strayed from their love and affection for each other. The way he makes her laugh and the way she pulls his smirk into a huge grin is incredible. I can't wait to see where this next year takes them.

Thanks for making some time to adventure with me guys! Hope you enjoy a few of these favorites!

Moses Cone Anniversary Photos
Moses Cone Anniversary Photos
Moses Cone Anniversary Photos
Moses Cone Anniversary Photos

Burly and Puff in Downtown Raleigh

Family PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
— Ernest Hemingway
Burly and Puff Photo Shoot

I fell in love with Safy and Randy the moment I started following them on Instagram. They are exactly what I look for in couples (and people in general). Full of life, willing to play, big adventurers; they don't take themselves too seriously and they adore each other! What more could you ask for?

These two have a genuine love of trying new things and traveling to new places, something I found out actually erupted out of their relationship; they brought it out of each other. After Randy gave her an adorable pet name of Puff, she wanted one for him as well, dubbing him Burly and the hashtag that followed sort of caught them by surprise. Everyone loved it (how could you not, omg, it's the more adorable description ever), and a blog was born. They both love their day jobs but spend all their extra time exploring the world, falling more deeply in love and living life to the fullest. You're just gonna love them. Here's a few of my favorite images from our adventures downtown!

Burly and Puff Photo Shoot
Burly and Puff Photo Shoot
Burly and Puff Photo Shoot
Burly and Puff Photo Shoot
Burly and Puff Photo Shoot
Burly and Puff Photo Shoot

Kate and Chris at Sunset Lake

Family PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
— Howard Thurman

You guys! I'm SO excited! We just finished filming our first video of one of our couple sessions! And by "we," I mean the incredible Damien Maass did the hard part (filming) and A.J. and I got to do what we love... play around by a waterfall making memories with our friends. It makes me so happy to be working with A.J. again!

Kate and Chris were perfect for this because I like a little adventure on my sessions and they trusted us enough to climb some rocks and risk the cold water to make sure we could get the best images. I may or may not have been in a tree at one point ;) 

The Reads have been married for five years and are just as much in love as they day they met; their genuine and carefree spirits make everyone just adore them.  I asked them to share what the love most about each other and I loved watching Chris beam when Kate whispered her affections and how Kate got all bashful when Chris whispered his, they are just the sweetest. 

We went to their house for dinner after and got to play this amazing marble game Kate's dad had as a child, their daughter Raeleigh was, of course, more than happy to show us the ropes. You just never know what you're going to learn on a Sunday evening in March. So grateful for new friendships, things to celebrate and a life filled with learning and adventure. Hope you guys enjoy some of these favorites from the day!

portraits at sunset lake
portraits at sunset lake
portraits at sunset lake
portraits at sunset lake
portraits at sunset lake

Again, thank you so much Damien! Always love working with you!! 

If you guys need a videographer, you can find his info here