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rockin' NDSS Studios! {NYC edition}

***This is one in a three-part perspective on the #rockinNDSSstudios experience with the National Down Syndrome Society. To see more of this journey, visit my co-photographers Wendy and Nicole who are also sharing their adventures in blogs today. ***

Pinch me. Did that just happen?

Were we really in New York City last week?? No way!

Yep. Sherri Harnisch Picture Taker packed up her photography gear and took to the road…

I am humbled and so very grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside two fantastic photographers, Wendy Zook & Nicole Starr on a special photo project for National Down Syndrome Society.

A couple months ago NDSS put out a casting call for models who live in (or within driving distance of) the New York City area.

OF COURSE this absolutely sounded like something I would LOVE the chance to be a part of. A real live photo shoot in NYC? What photographer, in their right mind, wouldn’t want to check this off their bucket list? Never mind the fact that the timing wasn’t exactly ideal (The Fall/early Winter season is to photographers as Tax season is to most Accountants). who cares. We HAD to find a way to make it work. After a few sleepless nights, I finally got (mostly) caught up on all client galleries. I boarded the plane to NYC with a clear head, and one mission in mind. NDSS Rockstar shoot!

NDSS received an overwhelming response to their casting call, and had to narrow down a pool of hundreds of amazing candidates, down to 30 or so. Well, as you could imagine, that proved to be too difficult a task, so they ended up selecting 56 models to participate in this special photo shoot. And I am SOO glad they did. I could not imagine this shoot being complete without each and every individual who stepped foot in front of our cameras.

Our “rockinNDSSstudios” team was made up of individuals assembling from across the country. Ranging from photographers, hair stylists, make-up artists, costume assistants, etc... Each role was key in executing our event, and critical in ensuring our models felt welcomed, organized, beautified, adored, and appreciated!

In the weeks and days leading up to the shoot, we held several conference calls discussing details, and shooting day logistics. The staff of NDSS, Kristie Hagen especially, did a remarkable job piecing together all the details, and communicating important information to all the families involved.

It was a genuine joy and true pleasure capturing the "rock star/music icon" beauty of these awesome models. Every individual I had the pleasure of meeting had a great deal of confidence and swagger. Many walked around like they OWNED the place. I loved that they felt so at home! Most studied up on their respective musician and came in with their "game" faces on. Some had tunes qued up on their iPhones ready to sing and bust a move during their shoot. This made our job quite simple, not to mention fun.

As a fellow parent to a kiddo in the Extra Chromosome club (my Down syndrome Diva, Macy, is almost 6), I also took great joy in observing the pride on each their parents, and family members faces. Each session was full of energy...walking the "catwalk" like a super dance parties...solo singing performances...even FANS to get that true superstar effect...everyone had a fantastic time. I'm not gonna lie, I was physically and emotionally drained at the end of each shooting day. Although tired, I was sad to see each day end.

While I loved clicking my shutter and capturing these images in still frame (the main reason I was there), the memories that will stick with me the most was just how much FUN we all had hanging out together...I enjoyed chatting with and getting to know each of these wonderful people. Learning about their hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. Many of whom are already out there doing it up big! I am glad to know them, and look forward to keeping in touch and hopefully reconnecting at future NDSS events.

Since most families had to travel several hours to get to our photoshoot location, this was a family affair! School & college aged kiddos, took the day off (which was of course pretty special), and they were able to take in many tourist sights of NYC while downtown. It was neat hearing them talk about what they saw or are planning to see while in the Big Apple. NYC is an amazing place to visit this time of year, festive decor around every corner!

Being December and all, we figured the majority of our shoot would have to take place in the studio, however, as luck would have it Mother Nature was on our side. Producing above average temps. We were able to take to the streets...the areas outside the NDSS building lent itself perfectly to outdoor shooting. Photo-op spots galore (from alley ways, cobble stone road, graffiti walls, cool staircases, black gates, large white pillars, brick walls, unique doorways, not to mention tall NY skyscrapers filling the background of each shot)

The other AWESOME part about shooting on and around Broadway & Bond Streets were the people who passed by. Most just went about their day, barely noticed us...however some really took interest, even gathered around and watched our models pose like pros. Some took out their cell phones, and all in good nature, asked if they could snap some pics too. Of course our models were eating up the extra attention. The highlight of my experience was seeing all the attention Mickey (Elvis) drew. His dad and sister said this kind of attention is nothing new to him. In the 10 minutes we were outside, dozens of people stopped to watch and snap pics...a construction worker requested a selfie. that. was. AWESOME! It was neat to see the smiles on these stranger's faces.

How many strangers have you made smile today??

Amid the crazy/fun time being had, there were a handful of times (especially on day two), when us photogs needed to step out into the hallway. Pause. Take a deep breath. Allow this reality to sync in (we felt so incredibly privileged and honored to be snapping these photos of these amazing, talented, and beautiful individuals). Wipe our tears, and hug it out.

I recall sitting in my Uber on day 2. it was very early, still dark outside. I was tired! (not a morning person). Just as I got in the car, I turned on my iPhone where I was greeted with dozens and dozens of notes, messages, emails, and texts. Many from family members of our rock star (role) models, some from the advocate themselves. THIS. This is what makes it all worthwhile (this leaving my family during the busy Christmas season, boarding a plane, navigating around an unknown (to me) city). Their Thank you notes of appreciate were meaningful...but honestly...the pleasure was ALL MINE. HUGE thanks to all these famililes who put their lives on hold, rearranged busy schedules and travel hours, to participate in this one-hour shoot. Thank you for trusting us! And thank you for continuing to see the value in all that NDSS has to offer...they are the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

This "rockin' NDSS Studios" experience was phenomenal, something that will forever stick out in my heart as a true Mountain top experience.

Until next time????

pictured above: Kayla { Madonna } ~ Mickey { Elvis } ~ David [Adam Levine } ~ Janissa { Diana Ross } ~ Robert? { rockstar! } ~ Ashley { Lady Gaga } ~ Joshua { Bruce Springsteen } ~ Emely { Beyonce } ~ Catherine { Taylor Swift } ~ Sammy, Anthony, Race, Matthew { The Beatles } ~ Auren { Usher } ~ Logan { Enrique Eglesias ~ Grace { Aretha Franklin } ~ Elena Nicole { Joan Jet } ~ Michelle { Adele } ~ Grady { Frank Sinatra } ~ Francesca & Robbie { June Carter & Johnny Cash } ~ Philip { Justin Timberlake } ~ Katie { Kelly Clarkson } ~ Mason { KISS } ~ Riley { Marky Mark } ~ Madison { Pink } ~ Matthew { Brett Michaels } ~ Sofia { Katy Perry } ~ Ryan { Bob Dylan } ~ Aiden { Bruno Mars } ~ Christopher { Elvis Costello } ~ Kayla { Baby Spice }

I am so excited to see how NDSS will use/transform these images at their 30th Annual NDSS Gala & Auction in March at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York City.

American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Chris Burke will be honored at this year's Gala. Recognizing the impact he has made on the world. At the Annual Gala & Auction, NDSS gathers its friends and supporters to celebrate the NDSS mission, the accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome and those who contribute to the Down syndrome community.


Oh and here's my very own little Miss Macy...dressed up as the one and only...CYNDI LAUPER! Her look was inspired by the "Time After time" album. :-) She rocked it!

I was showing her various pics of Cyndi Lauper on my phone, and instructed her to give me her best "rockstar"'s what I got. silly girl! #suchadiva!


And finally, I'll leave you with these outtakes/SHERRI being all "groupie" and crashing the tail-end of some shoots ;-)

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