By now, even people in the mountains with no internet access have become aware of the night that changed everything here in Orlando: June 12th, 2016. A man filled with hatred, walked into PULSE Night Club, and in a split second, 49 lives were ripped from this earth. My friends were in there; one is never coming back again. Our community is shattered. Everyone knows someone who has been directly affected by that tragic event. On Monday evening I stood alongside friends at a vigil in Downtown Orlando, in front of the Dr. Phillips Event Center. We hugged strangers and grabbed extra bottles of water for them when we went to grab water for ourselves. We lit each other's candles, and wept together as the bells rang and each name called out into the silent crowd. It didn't matter that day who you were, who you knew, or who you loved. We were all family, standing there together. Our pain was united, we were all one person. One pulse. As the week went on, we all watched as again and again, people were helping each other, showing kindness to strangers, and pouring out their hearts to the community. People in other countries were lighting the streets with rainbows, and every night there was a vigil, fundraiser, or something that was benefiting the families, the victims, the bartenders. It was amazing. Our community decided to heal each other with love and damn, it's been a beautiful thing.
A few months ago, I shot the proposal of the sister of one of our faves, Brittaney, and on Friday, just 6 days after the Orlando community had been attacked with direct hatred to the LGBT community, we set out to capture their engagement - tandem bikes, and all! The love that we felt around the city was inspirational. Big smiles erupted on the faces of those around us and we were cheered on by strangers because I believe that we reminded them what we were all coming together for: love. Unabashed and beautiful. We ducked in and out of bars and rode around the city on bikes, laughing and stopping to take breathtaking photos all over the city. We stumbled upon a group of 49 beautiful individuals on Wall Street, that were painted in the colors of the rainbow, in a tribute to the fallen victims. We were thrilled when they were so excited about the engagement session, they formed a human rainbow behind Chelsea and Christina, who kissed under twinkle lights and between buildings lined with American and Rainbow flags alike, and I swear you could feel all of our souls lifting. This is the kind of love that we were all fighting for.
This engagement session is so unbelievably important to me, as a photographer. It was inspirational. I'm lucky enough to call Chelsea and Christina my friends, and as I look at these images, I feel like I captured their beautiful souls, exactly as I see them. I am proud of these moments captured on Friday night, and proud of my city for the endless support we felt while we celebrated love in these dark times. Life is beautiful. Love is beautiful. They are beautiful. Orlando, is beautiful. We are #orlandostrong.