I don’t remember much from the years my parents were together (they divorced when I was five), but what I do have are the pictures they saved and the stories they tell.

Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and disco dance enthusiasts. They met on the dance floor and made the mistake of going into business together. My dad got into photography when I was born. Before their marriage ended, he was running a photography studio, and my mom opened a modeling agency- the only one at the time in Erie, PA.

In this collection of images are my parents’ favorites from my early years. My dad hung that picture of me after a bath in our family’s restaurant and would show it to my high school friends when they came in to eat. My mom loves to tell people how she would surround me with stuffed animals to blend me in like a Where’s Waldo game. She also reminds me constantly how during my teething years I would resort to chewing on them to the point they were worried I had Pica.

Also included are two images that I treasure. The first is one of the few images of the four of us together. It shows a lot about our family dynamic still to this day. My mom looks lovely, posed and smiling at the camera. My dad has his attention on us, probably trying to get my sister to look at the camera. I’m avoiding the camera and looking to make a break for it. Their marriage lasted a few more years after this was taken, but this is the last surviving image from their time together.

The second of my favorites is one with me and my paternal grandfather; also known as my Papou. That family restaurant I mentioned, he owned it. It, but mostly he, would help to define a lot of who I am, what I value, and how hard I work. If it wasn’t for the structure and responsibilities he gave to me at the restaurant in my teenage years, my life would probably be very different today. He passed away a month before my husband and I became pregnant with our first son. It makes me sad that my boys will never have a chance to meet him, but luckily I have many more pictures and stories of Papou to share with them.

So, remember that modeling agency I mentioned? My mom had us modeling as children. Meet my staged family. I have no idea who they are, but don’t we look happy together? And check out the blue steel face I had down. Ha! My mom shared my “book” with my husband a few years back, and I thought I would never live it down. It’s ironic that I can say I was a child model because as an adult I get really uncomfortable being in front of the camera. It’s also the reason why I appreciate real pictures of real moments so much more than the ones where everyone is looking “perfect” and smiling at the camera.

The rest of these pictures represent what I do know of my childhood- my sister and I were two peas in a pod. We were always together: choreographing our own dances, improvising a scene to a movie we were making, trying to sell random household items to our neighbors that didn’t spark joy (Kondo-style). The darkness of an ugly divorce and custody battle strengthened our ability to escape from it through imaginative play. Additionally, we spent a lot of time with the rest of our dad’s family that was close by. That picture from Halloween shows my great-grandmother, great aunt, aunt, my sister, and our cousins. They too played a huge role in my life as I found peace and appreciation for an “average” life and never saw the worth of being admired by strangers.

They say every child goes through a rebellious stage- mine happened to come at the worst possible time: ages 15-20. Nothing too crazy, I was a drama nerd no less (picture of me and the cast of Romeo and Juliet), but I was a lot of drama. No need to go into all the details, but here are some fun (and more mild) examples. I got my eyebrow pierced on a class trip to England in the summer. I came home to my mom’s house first.  She wasn’t thrilled, but was happy it wasn’t a permanent tattoo, so she tolerated it. A month later, just before the start of school, my dad finally found out about it. He chose not to say a word and instead took me to my grandfather and let him be the reason it came out. I still have the scar above my eye.

After high school the adventurous and daring side of me continued to run free. Between 17 and 20 I lived in five different states on my own. I jumped out of airplanes (tandem) a couple of times, but swore I would earn my license to jump on my own (I didn’t). And, my sister and I even attended an album release party for Ja Rule at the Playboy Mansion. (That one is more her story than mine, I just tagged along. But, this little fact about me is what I share when I play the “two truths and a lie” game).

Oh, and the night before my 21st birthday I did finally get that tattoo (and yes, now I wish I didn’t).

Don’t worry, it all works out in the end! During those drama-filled years my dad gave me his Nikon F4 camera and a few lenses to hopefully find a creative release- I did. I went to photography school in CA and knew I wanted to eventually make it my career.

I did do other things through my 20’s. I spent a few years in restaurant and bar management, was a flight attendant, and eventually moved to flight attendant training, curriculum developer, and technical writer. When I stopped flying I was able to start my first photography business which eventually turned into a partnership, Sona Photography. We specialized in South Asian Weddings. In 2015, after three years of technical writing from home and the birth of our second son, I left the safety of my corporate job so I could focus on our growing family and business. The Inspired Storytellers launched in late 2018 and quickly became my new baby. I’m so excited to be where I am now in life. To see current pictures of my life, comb through my portfolio. My husband and kids are my most favorite subjects!