On Pointe Dance Photography at Allaire State Park, NJ
May 13, 2020 | By: Kristen Barker
Gianna D’Antonio is no ordinary seventh grader. When school was in session, there wasn’t much opportunity to relax and sit on the couch after school like some 13-year-olds. Instead, school projects, studying, and homework sandwiched her heavy dance and contortion class schedule at the Dance Centre in Toms River, NJ. Although we grabbed these images just before the state was shut down, Gianna hasn’t let the quarantine stop her; her dedication to dance continues daily in her kitchen via online lessons by her studio.
Gianna and her mom, Jen, both wanted this dance portrait session for quite some time, each with her own reasons. Gianna wanted to embrace her passion and capture beautiful movement and Jen wanted something different than the standard dance photos she purchased every year. She dreamed of an outdoor session for Gianna and, after the session, said, “Greater Joy Portraits made my dream come true.”
The details were set weeks in advance. Both Jen and Gianna wanted both outdoor and studio images. As the date approached, the weather was not looking good for the outdoor portion. The cold and rainy March forecast would prevent us from capturing Gianna in front of the historic backdrop at Allaire. We agreed that the large space at Greater Joy would be sufficient for gorgeous images.
We were on our way to the studio for the session when Jen called from her car. The weatherman gave us the wrong forecast! A blue sky and a bright sun adorned the great state of NJ with no end in sight. Without hesitation, we anxiously agreed to revisit plan A.
Just an hour or so before sunset when the light is “just right,” Gianna arrived with her hair and makeup done to perfection. I marveled at how she did it by herself in a “rush” after school before meeting me at the park. (She’s certainly multi-talented!)
Jen mentioned that Gianna could have easily brought 14 costumes, but they narrowed it down to three. She began her session in her white leotard and tutu, complemented by the 1800’s architecture and the late afternoon sun glowing behind her.
She braved through moments of wind and the late-winter mud on her bare feet could not have been pleasant. Yet she did not once complain! Instead, she repeatedly lept, stretched, and posed happily image after image. I could imagine her with this same attitude and work ethic in her classes, lifting the morale of classmates and inspiring them to give it their all.
As the sun dropped closer to the horizon, we made our way to the studio, just a few minutes away from Allaire. Poor Gianna had to wash her cold, dirty feet, but we decided to keep her white tutu on for a few studio images before she changed into another costume.
Little did we know, this decision would prove to be worthwhile in her near future! In late April, we submitted a few of the white tutu images taken in the studio to two children’s modeling magazines, Kid Model Magazine and International Kid Model Magazine. Both publications quickly accepted her submission out of hundreds of entries. Gianna’s portraits are now published in their May 2020 issues.
Gianna’s next costume is nothing short of breathtaking, and it’s meaning will bring some to tears. It is custom-made and specially designed for an extraordinary routine she planned to dedicate to her twin brother, Anthony, who was diagnosed with cancer this past fall.
Gianna and her mom kept both the costume and the routine a secret to be revealed at her dance competitions this season, but Gianna never had the opportunity to perform with the COVID-19 shut downs. The purple-laced costume symbolizes the purple Hodgkin's Lymphoma ribbon she and many others wear to support Anthony, who is now cancer-free!! Praise God!! Her dance was created to bring him hope, and to show the love and support she has for her brother.
A third round of photos incorporated another leotard, also purple, embellished with a gold ribbon on the back in recognition of childhood cancer. Gianna, proficient in contortion, flexed and stretched for some amazing images showcasing her talent.
We wrapped up her session with some adorable images of Gianna in her everyday clothing. Naturally, Gianna posed sweetly and took direction like a true professional.
Some of the photographs from our session were to be used for her entries into dance competitions she had planned to perform in, but the intended purpose was void with the pandemic conditions. Nevertheless, the portrait session was far from a waste. The images have brought Gianna, her family, and others, a lot of joy amidst the quarantine. The pictures have also given her costume and its intended use a new purpose. Now that she and her family have them, they are forever a part of their home and their memories.
When Jen viewed Gianna’s gallery, she said, “I screamed. I cried. They were absolutely beautiful...breathtaking. I couldn’t have asked for more. Every picture was more beautiful than the next.”
It is my hope that my clients will love their photos, that they will feel beautiful and have an experience of a lifetime taking them, and that when they look back on them, they will find a place in their hearts that will remind them of the joy they felt in that moment.
Photos are precious gifts to ourselves and our loved ones for now and later. To capture such a treasure is an absolute blessing. I know these photographs will be a part of Jen and Gianna’s for a lifetime. I can imagine a day when Gianna will sit with her children and share these gorgeous images of herself in these costumes, telling stories of the classes and hard work she endured through her passion for dance, and how it carried her through a time when her brother had cancer. Jen will sit near, reliving the moment, and tell about how proud their mother has always made her. These pictures are stories that will outlive them and I could not be more honored to have helped them to create each one.
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