lifestyle photography

The Girls

For the better part of 2017 and early 2018, my 11 year old daughter, Casey suffered from migraine headaches. They caused her to vomit profusely. Even on herself in her classroom, on one occasion. The anxiety that accompanied that incident made getting to school very difficult, for awhile. There were days when she had to physically force herself, through tears, to simply get through the door. And I know on those days, her good friend, Anna, would walk beside her silently, an arm draped around her shoulders. Ensuring Casey knew she didn’t make that walk alone. The significance of that small gesture is not lost on me. Sometimes the very best thing a friend can do is simply show up and walk beside you. No words are necessary. Their presence speaks volumes. I know this, first hand, and seeing my daughter share that bond with her friends was the motivation behind this shoot. These young women are Casey’s tribe. Her ride or die. Her core. And I love them all like my own. 

Writing about this subject and these young women has had my mind all over the place. I have so many thoughts on it because I can’t think of them without thinking of my own girlfriends. My sisters, really. I don’t have a biological sister. I’ve never felt I needed one because that role has been filled by so many wonderful women over the years.  

As I’ve grown older and been through more life experiences, both good and challenging, many things have happened in my friendships. My relationships with some have deepened, while others have run their course. And that’s ok. I’ve got cores from all aspects of my life. Sometimes it seems like a lot to keep up with. But they’re all there for a reason and I wouldn’t trade any of them. There’s grade school/high school (yep, I said grade school). There’s college and there’s my adult life. And in what I believe to be a unique situation, pretty much all of them have met one another and some have become friends, as well.

The importance of these women is coming full circle as I’ve watched Casey grow relationships with the young women in these photos. Their parents are friends of ours, so they met as infants. Went to different schools, then the same school and then different schools, again. But nothing about their bond has changed. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my post about Casey’s birthday. Every year, she wants nothing more than these three girls. And after their time together, she wants their families to join in, as well. She’s never needed the big hoopla party. She just wants time with her girls.

This is their “mess with one of us, mess with all of us” faces.

This is their “mess with one of us, mess with all of us” faces.

It was cute when they were little and they would play dress up (they still do sometimes) and make videos (still doing that too) under the watchful eyes of us parents. We’re still paying close attention, but as they are getting older, their freedom is expanding, and I know they are enjoying that. However, what also comes with getting older is a hell of a lot of changes. Relationships get more complicated, hormones kick in and the body reacts, schoolwork gets a little harder, drama is around every corner and no longer will everyone always make the team. In seeing all of this happen, I’ve really appreciated bearing witness to the solidity of this foursome.

What became glaringly obvious to me with the migraine situation is that these young friendships aren’t just giggles and dressing up anymore. They are morphing into strength and support when Mom and Dad can’t be there to provide it. When they have to be turned loose to handle tough situations without us, these friends will have each other. For that, I am so grateful and it is such a blessing to be able to watch, even if it has to be from afar.

But it also scares the hell out of me as it’s all happening so fast. Hence wanting to capture it in time, as best I know how. They’re still silly as hell. The eye rolling is at a minimum, for now. But, it’s coming. Henny and I just discussed with one of the girls parents last night, that soon, high school will come and we won’t see them from morning until evening, when after school practices are over. Then it’ll be dinner and homework. So all of what we get to witness now, will be happening where and when we can’t always see it. It frightens me and I often wonder who I will be when “all day mothering” isn’t as necessary. But that’s a subject for a completely different post.

For now, I wanted so badly to capture what I see as the purest form of beauty in these growing female friendships. Ride or die. Casey has some solid ladies in her life and I hope she always will. Try not to smile when looking through these photos. I dare you. 

Year in Review

I still look back at starting this journey more than 5 years ago and remember how afraid I was to start. What if I failed? Fell flat on my face? I had a hard time even saying I had started a business. I kinda felt like a fraud. That's a distant memory now. 2015 was a better year than I could have imagined. And rather than talk about it, I picked some of the many highlights from the year to share. Thank you to all who made it such an amazing year. From the cities and beaches of NJ and PA and all the way to Chicago. I'm beyond grateful.

Miracles Do Exist


Two out of the last three years, I’ve worked with the family of an honest to goodness miracle. Was to be three out of the last three, but Grayson fell ill on the day of our shoot last year and had to spend the day at CHOP. When I first met her, she was not yet 2 and was hooked up to oxygen. You could only tell if she was crying by her facial expressions. She did not make noise. But she’s long been off oxygen and she’s surpassed most predictions made about her to-date I just had the opportunity to photograph Grayson’s family again and I wanted share some images (from both 2013 and 2015) and information about this amazing girl. But the story is not mine. It’s Grayson, Stephanie and Tom’s story. So I’m letting Stephanie tell it. Thank you Stephanie and Tom for bringing me into your lives. Grayson is an inspiration. A miracle.  And you both are true examples of the strength of a parent's love for their child. Miracle. That is the word I use when I describe my special little girl.

On July 21, 2012 I was not feeling well and had pain in the back of my neck. I figured I slept on the pillow wrong and caused my neck to be stiff. I remember laying down on the couch and my husband and dog were sitting next to me. Next thing I know it was 4 days later and I was waking up in a hospital bed and was told I had my baby girl who was fighting for her life.

 I had sudden eclampsia with a seizure (and to think that I had a perfect exam the week before).  Over time I have had some brief memories come back, such as remembering it being dark out and hearing choppers from a helicopter and telling a dark haired man to not hurt my baby. This was me being airlifted to Jefferson University and talking to the doctor on flight. The doctors had informed my husband and parents that if they did not deliver the baby soon she and I could both die.

 Grayson was born at 26 weeks weighing 1lb 3oz and 11 inches. She fit in our hands. She was given a 10% chance of surviving the day and has a grade III brain bleed that never resolved.  She surpassed those odds and continues to defy so many, such as being told that she would never walk.  Today all she does is run!  We had to wait 34 days before we could even hold her. She was in the NICU for 236 days (a week shy of 8 LONG months). There were several times during those months where we didn't know if she would make it but whatever challenge was in her way, she pushed it aside and survived. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy but one I am thankful for because it taught me so much about myself and the meaning of strength and believing in miracles and the power of prayer. She was on oxygen until she was a few days over 2 and she is still gtube fed because she will not eat solid food.

 In March 2015, a few months before she turned 3, Grayson was diagnosed with Autism. We had a feeling for a while due to the "signs" (loss of speech, stimming behaviors, lack of engagement with others).  It's been hard to swallow her diagnosis some days (as a Mom I feel robbed at times, having a preemie and now a child with autism nothing has been "normal" but then again what is normal??). Grayson is nonverbal but has so much expression with her eyes!! I feel like we are on this journey and given the incredible blessing of our daughter for a reason. We do all that we can each and every day to help Grayson.  She is a very happy little girl who loves to run, swing, and give hugs and kisses.  She has taught us so much about life and we celebrate each and every milestone and we will continue to do so. I know I will be jumping from the rooftop whenever she says mommy again!!  She is proof that miracles do exist.

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No Predicting It

Put together a business plan. Isn’t that what they always tell you when starting a business? Whoever “they” are. Well, I started one but things began moving too quickly for me to complete it. What that reaffirms for me is that I could never have predicted, nor put to paper, what has transpired over the last 5+ years. The O’Shea family is no exception. Over the last four years, Amy and Sean have brought me into both their family and professional lives, time and again. From surprise Christmas gifts and numerous family sessions to professional portraits for more than 20 of Amy’s colleagues and helping Sean build his acting portfolio. They are my biggest source of referrals and two people I’m also lucky to call friends.

Our first project together was pictures of the kids as a surprise Christmas gift for Sean. Amy and I had only met in yoga so I did not know much about her family. Their youngest son, Quinn, is on the autism spectrum and Amy was understandably a little worried about how the session might go. I can assure you, her worry has since dissipated and I’ve been able to chronicle Quinn’s growth along with his twin brother and sister, Jack and Zoey. Oh and that first session had me driving over to Amy’s house late Christmas Eve with prints so the surprise would be legit. Don’t get any ideas. I don’t plan on doing that again.

What a lovely ride it has been since that first winter together. Most recently, Sean tried to return surprise Amy with some newer pictures. However, he and I both decided, the best gift would be family photos with her in them. And I’m so glad we did it. O’Shea family, I can’t thank you enough for the continued trust in me to work with your family and your colleagues. You have been a huge part of this “never could have predicted it” ride, and I so hope you will continue along with me.

In My Rearview

This blog is something I have been wanting to do for so many years. In fact, this post draft had an original date of June 6, 2011. That’s a long time ago. Originally, I had wanted to name this endeavor In My Rearview. My friends and brand experts at Untuck Design talked me into keeping it simple and close to my business brand. So it has a secondary name, and I’m sticking to it. Because this will be so much more than just about my business. But Kelly Hennigan Photography provided the platform and I jumped off. I’ll explain with two words. “Four eyes.” Not the reference to adolescent teasing of those who wore glasses. This four eyes explains my connection to In My Rearview and the origination of the concept in the lyrics of a Jack Johnson song.

Four eyes total. Two sets. That’s what I see In My Rearview mirror everyday. They belong to my partners in crime. My cohorts. My team. My passengers on this amazing road. More than anything, they are the reason this business exists. Not because I picked up a camera when I had these wonderful kids. Not even close. I’d picked it up long before that. But they are why I have been able to get here. Because in that mirror, I see nothing but motivation for chasing my dreams. Not only because they back me unconditionally. But more so because I catch myself almost daily wondering where their thoughts take them and what their dreams will be. Hoping they’ll have the guts to pursue them. Hoping they’ll see their Mom as another role model for doing just that. They already have one in their Dad.

In addition, In My Rearview, there are so many experiences and people that became the building blocks for this life. Each step and each stumble taught me more about how much I not only wanted to be here, but how to get here. In My Rearview, I faced the fear of failure and let it take a backseat to the fear of stagnation. To the fear of not being the best version of me. To the fear of 10 years from now, looking back and wishing I had done it. I knew the worst thing I could do for myself, my husband and those four eyes was to never do what I kept telling myself and others I “hoped” to do someday.

In My Rearview, I found that someday was now.

Now was actually five years ago and what a ride it has been. It’s gone beyond what I dreamed it could be so quickly and I cannot wait to find out what else it has in store. So I’ll keep looking In My Rearview. It has yet to steer me wrong.

“I gave you your life, but you gave me mine.” – Jack Johnson, Go On.