Resurrection At The River
Yes, the title is a play on words because her last name is Rivers, but this senior session wasn't ordinary.
Emily is from my small, flat, Southern hometown, where every girl can be perfectly described by Josh Turner's song, "Hometown Girl." If you need an idea of what our town is like, just go listen to that song. Corn fields, cows, Friday Night Lights, football pride, you know where I'm going with this. Few of us (I am mostly speaking to the Southern crowd here) ever leave the towns in which we were "born and raised." Or, I guess down here in Georgia, they're referred to as counties. Nevertheless, even fewer of us experience what Emily and I have been through - very traumatic physical accidents in the midst of high school.
High school is hard enough without being the center of negative attention and conversation, or a headline in the newspaper, as "that girl in that wreck," or in my case, "that girl with the parasite." For Emily, it's a miracle she's even alive. One day as she was leaving school with her sister and cousin in the car, Emily was hit by an oncoming speeding school bus. Everything changed after that.
I was planning a girl's trip to Savannah this summer (there will be a blog + video coming soon about that, too) and I wasn't planning on doing any photography. I was going to be on vacation, right? I was hesitant to post anything about me traveling down that way, but I did. And I'm so glad I did. Not only had Emily been following my work for some time and asking her parents about hiring me, but the weekend I had chosen to go to Savannah just so happened to be her birthday, AND when she was hospitalized after her wreck (in 2016), guess where she had been? Savannah. Savannah has so much meaning to their family. "Meaning" is an understatement.
She contacted me, shared her story, and I didn't hesitate. I felt that nudge from God. "This is what your business is about. You're not sacrificing anything. This will be more of a blessing to you than you realize." I absolutely believe I was supposed to go to Savannah when I did (I had other dates picked out with my girlfriends), and I was supposed to be her photographer. This blog post is going to take forever to write if I keep tearing up like this, haha! I can't see my computer screen!
(Pictured later) Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul," is Emily's life verse, and God did just that for her. In the accident, the school bus made direct contact with her face. She had deep cuts and lacerations, as you can see from the photo. Her nose was broken, her jaw was broken, and her left eye socket was crushed. She was in surgery for over eight hours, requiring seven plates to reconstruct her face. She had to have her mouth wired shut for six weeks - no food, yikes! - and since then has had another surgery to correct her eye.
There's even more special sentiment tucked away in this session, though. I'm telling you, the Rivers family planned every detail to incorporate their love and gratitude for God's miracles. The sweater Emily is wearing in some of the beach photos is the sweater her mother wore when she got married in Blue Ridge, GA! How sweet! Later, you'll notice the ring Emily is wearing throughout some of the photos and that belonged her grandmother.
Then, Emily pulls out this amazing dress from Pink Lily Boutique and I start to believe she's secretly a mermaid or sea goddess. FYI: for any potential clients reading this, a dress like this is only every photographer's dream! What do y'all think? I'm obsessed!
She asked if she could get in the water. From a photographer perspective, the answer is always "YES!" or it should be, at least. I warned her though. That water will still be cold during sunrise even if it's summer, but what girl doesn't love to play in the ocean?
After a sunrise beach session on Tybee Island, we took a much needed coffee break to freshen up, and then regrouped in downtown Savannah for more photos. Keep reading, because it gets a little themed! ;)
Emily was so adventurous and willing to try anything. "Can I sit on this?" "Can I walk on these stairs?" "Is this gate open?" I don't think we ever trespassed (that I'm aware of, haha!), but I love a senior who's willing to try anything!
Emily asked me, "Can I sit in that tall grass?" We were in the middle of downtown. "Um yaaaah!" No, that spotlight in the grass is not photoshop. That's all Jesus, baby. Then, Emily asked me if she could lay down. I hesitated. It's not just one of my least favorite poses, but it's one of the least flattering; I don't care how skinny you are. Wow, I'm so glad I didn't discourage her. These shots were stunning! If she was willing to go for it, so was I!
Lastly, we had one more "look" in mind for her senior session, and one more stop to make. We headed over to the Soda Pop Shoppe.
We had so much fun with this! Emily had some retro themed attire, a glass-bottled Coca-Cola, a side of mystique, and the vintage bicycle to match!
God Bless America... and Savannah, GA.
On May 1st, 2016, during her sophomore year of high school, Emily rededicated her life to Jesus. On May 5th, just four days later, Emily was in that terrible accident, but it did not shake her faith. She may not have been "resurrected" like Jesus was, but she was resurrected in her faith through this trial. Unlike Emily, I found Jesus after a parasite tried to consume my left eye, but it's interesting how that also happened to me during my sophomore year... at the same high school, in 2010.
On July 29th, 2017, on her birthday, I met Emily for the first time and took photographs of someone who shouldn't be alive. That day wasn't just her birthday, but the start of a lifelong friendship and bond between two young women that understand pain, recovery, and little victories, despite our age differences and living hundreds of miles apart. Somehow, we went to the same little high school. Somehow, we started in the same place and ended up in the same square. No pun intended, Savannah.
Emily says, "I've learned that through all the pain there is peace. Not once during my recovery, surgeries, or circumstances did I worry about my outward appearance. I feel especially blessed to have met Jordan and for her to have been a part of this journey now. It's almost like the stars aligned! She was designed to be a part of my life, and she will be forever. Thank you, Jordan, so much, for making this so memorable! Love, Emily."