It’s a “valentine, pick your heart up, joanie has an empty nest” special. Session fee is 1/2 price.

We all need 10 hugs a day to thrive.  Have joanie capture those hugs during the week before or after school. You’ll feel great while your holding your kids and even better looking at the images for years to come.

Make sure you are in the pictures in 2017. It is important for you to be in images with your kids.

It’s a “valentine, pick your heart up, joanie has an empty nest” special. Session fee is 1/2 price.

Contact us to capture some love.


Take Your Practice Off the Mat

Take Your Practice off the Matt
Take Your Practice off the Mat


The group painting created
The group painting created


Mara at Friendship Circle
Mara drawing with her crew


Mara's Birthday at Friendship Circle 1
Mara’s Birthday at Friendship Circle 1
Mara's Birthday at Friendship Circle 2
Mara’s Birthday at Friendship Circle 2
Mara's Birthday at Friendship Circle 3
Mara’s Birthday at Friendship Circle 3
Mara's Birthday at Friendship Circle  4
Mara’s Birthday at Friendship Circle 4
Mara paints at Friendship Circle
Mara paints at Friendship Circle

Because I photograph lots of yogis, I love to contemplate what makes a beautiful yoga practice.

A beautiful yoga practice is one that goes beyond the mat. It is not about a beautifully toned body or perfect asana (pose). A true yogi takes his or her practice off the mat into the world. Meet Mara Berger. When I asked Mara to say something about why she gives herself so freely, she said, “Because I recognize the other person is me.”

“Mara is one of those amazing people who can look beyond the superficialities and see the beauty of a person within. Her warm, sunny smile immediately put people at ease when they meet her. As an art instructor who teaches teens with special needs at Friendship Circle, Mara helps them connect to their artistic side and create beautiful projects that the teens can be proud of. She gives them the tools they need to see how ordinary objects can become things of beauty. Mara’s focus on each teen as an individual allows her to create art that reflects who they are.” ~Toba Grossbaum  COO of Friendship Circle LifeTown

This is what Mara Berger has been doing every week for 5 years. Volunteering for Friendship Circle, a nonprofit whose mission envisions a world in which people with special needs and their families experience acceptance, inclusion, and friendship as contributing members of society. They foresee a future where they never again have to suffer the social isolation that has often been so prevalent in society.

These images are hanging at The Squirrel and the Bee  515 Millburn Ave Millburn NJ. To learn more about Friendship Circle and the new Building of LifeTown go to their website

To see more of my work go to

j o a n i e    s c h w a r z    p o r t r a i t u r e




“How’s Your Spirit?”

I am guessing it could use a little lift.
I am so proud of the work on these walls (A group show at The Squirrel and the Bee 515 Millburn Avenue Millburn NJ.)
We create to process our world.
I was going to write a piece about why artists make art. How it often gets us through the day. But since then, so many scary things have happened in the world that I literally am at a loss for words. So, instead I am asking that you read these words by David Bayles from his book Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
“The desire to make art begins early. Among the very young this is encouraged (or at least indulged as harmless) but the push toward a ‘serious’ education soon exacts a heavy toll on dreams and fantasies….Yet for some the desire persists, and sooner or later must be addressed. And with good reason: your desire to make art — beautiful or meaningful or emotive art — is integral to your sense of who you are. Life and Art, once entwined, can quickly become inseparable; at age ninety Frank Lloyd Wright was still designing, Imogen Cunningham still photographing, Stravinsky still composing, Picasso still painting.But if making art gives substance to your sense of self, the corresponding fear is that you’re not up to the task — that you can’t do it, or can’t do it well, or can’t do it again; or that you’re not a real artist, or not a good artist, or have no talent, or have nothing to say. The line between the artist and his/her work is a fine one at best, and for the artist it feels (quite naturally) like there is no such line. Making art can feel dangerous and revealing. Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be. For many people, that alone is enough to prevent their ever getting started at all — and for those who do, trouble isn’t long in coming. Doubts, in fact, soon rise in swarms:”I am not an artist — I am a phony. I have nothing worth saying. I’m not sure what I’m doing. Other people are better than I am. I’m only a [student/physicist/mother/whatever]. I’ve never had a real exhibit. No one understands my work. No one likes my work. I’m no good.Yet viewed objectively, these fears obviously have less to do with art than they do with the artist. And even less to do with the individual artworks. After all, in making art you bring your highest skills to bear upon the materials and ideas you most care about. Art is a high calling — fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, disguising themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others — indeed anything that keeps you from giving your work your best shot. What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the artmaking process puts that issue to the test.”
I will leave you with this. Make some art.
The Visual Art Center of New Jersey is a gem in our community.
Making art might be what you need to get through the day.

Feeling Vulnerable

Our Faith is Strong
Our Faith is Strong  ~ York Street Project ~ Mantras as Parenting tools


You are all invited to an opening of my new images of mothers and children July 9th at 7:00 pm. 515 Millburn Ave. Millburn New Jersey at  The Squirrel and the Bee a grain-free bake shop.

If you have met me in real life, you might know, or should know, that I would have paid for a body double at my wedding. NOT the marriage itself. Just the entire center of attention aspect of the day. I don’t care for being the center of attention. At all. So, having a show of my work really feels like I’ll be standing around naked.  Honestly, how many times can I refer to Brene Brown. She said it best AND on the record at TED2012. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” I feel like I am working all 3 right now.

Let’s start with innovation. Michelle Retik (Queen Bee at The Squirrel and the Bee) and I had a conversation early last fall about the vision she had for her walls at her new delicious, grain-free bake shop. We don’t think people in this area usually see bakeries as places for art shows and openings. But Michelle and I do. We think that her beautiful space is perfect for showing art that sparks conversation and for showing off some of the wonderful non-profits in our area. Starting with the partnership between Visual Art Center of New Jersey and York Street Project.

Next, creativity. The human condition is one about belonging. Creating Mantra images, and photographing the look of love between two people, are ways I process the world. Being brave enough to present these images on walls and not just in impersonal cyberspace is something I haven’t done in a long time. It makes me feel vulnerable, which then helps me feel more creative, and the cycle begins again.

Lastly, change.  I found this wonderful quote by John A. Powell who was interviewed by Krista Tippett. “Being human is about being in the right kind of relationships. I think being human is a process. It’s not something that we just are born with. We actually learn to celebrate our connection, learn to celebrate our love. If you suffer, it does not imply love. But if you love, it does imply suffering. To suffer with, though, compassion, not to suffer against. And if we can hold that space big enough, we also have joy and fun even as we suffer. And suffering will no longer divide us. And to me, that’s sort of the human journey.” When I heard John Powell say that, I made the connection that Mantras can be a powerful parenting tool in building the “right” relationships with children. The mothers and children I photographed at York Street Project created their Mantras together, which made the words meaningful, specifically to their relationship. Positive self talk creates positive change one child, one person at a time.

So again, join us  July 9th at 7:00 pm. 515 Millburn Ave. Millburn New Jersey at  The Squirrel and the Bee a grain-free bake shop.  My new friends from York street will be there and my body double will not.


York Street Project

Our Faith is Strong
“Our Faith is Strong”

My favorite mantra from this past Tuesday, two days before todays deadly church shooting in Charleston is  “Our Faith is Strong.”  Ann, Kim, Mara and I  visited York Street Project two days ago. York Street’s mission is to help end the cycle of poverty.  It was our third meeting there, and the first time I was able to create  portraits for the the most incredibly strong, beautiful women I have met in a long time. Some women are living at St. Joseph’s Residence, part of York Street.  All of the women are raising amazing children, some of whom are attending the Nurturing Place  while their mothers are finishing their high school diplomas at the Kenmare School which is a part of York Street. Some women are running from abusive relationships.  All of the women have jobs. I feel like we barely scratched the surface in our conversations about mantraspositive self talk, and the challenges/joys of motherhood.  The images we created together will be shown on July 9th at 7:00 pm at The Squirrel and the Bee  515 Millburn Ave  in Millburn New Jersey.  My new friends from York Street are invited. You are invited. Kids too. Join us.

ann’s words on being photographed

Ann About Face

Take a look in the mirror.


Really be there with your reflection for a while.


It can be a charged experience.  Most of our reflections are faced with one of the harshest critics we’ll ever encounter.  Society has done a thorough job on our “lenses” and it has become entirely too easy to see ourselves through the lens of “not enough”. And while it’s natural to want to shine out the best of ourselves as we step out into the great wide world, we’ve developed a rather scary tendency towards self-loathing as motivation to whip ourselves into even better shape so we can one day bask in the sunshine of approval.  Unfortunately, however, that kind of thinking is like digging a hole to fill a void because we distance ourselves from the parts of us that can experience joy and fulfillment as we continue to chase it outside of ourselves.


In the wake of Robin William’s suicide many of us are faced with the rather terrifying reality that a person can have “everything”, be a talented, accomplished and beloved performer, and still face acute loneliness and depression.  But there it is.  It wasn’t enough.  And more and more of us are coming to the conclusion that, despite our ever growing collections of gold stars, our sleek bodies, our fancy cars and our “happily ever after” Facebook profiles, we can’t get enough validation from the world to stay happy with those things for long.  Approval is an addiction.


So I’ve been embarking on a little journey, one that is turning out to be an epic journey – my attempt to look inward with compassion.  I am revisiting my reflection, bringing honesty and compassion along for the ride when I’m able, and what a bumpy and exhilarating ride it is turning out to be!

It takes courage to be seen. A ton of it actually.  And I’m still struggling to cultivate that courage.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me feel so vulnerable when attention is directed my way, but I have been feeling it acutely as I’ve made my way out into the world as me, unabridged.  Ok, less abridged.  But it has also been the gift I continue to give to myself as I allow more parts of me out into the sunlight.  Life is unfolding in a new way before me.


Saying “Yes” to participating in the Mantra Project was one of those acts of courage and I was quick to pat myself on the back for how far I’ve come.  And then Joanie pointed her camera at me and suggested that I refrain from smiling. I immediately heard the voice of my friend, Beth, quoting her yoga instructor: “Intimacy begins the moment you want to walk away.


Indeed it does. Courage is a journey, not a moment. My courage evaporated and was replaced by a desire to flee. In that instant there was nothing to hide behind, not even a facial expression. The prospect of relaxing my face became almost comically impossible.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt so naked.  Sometimes we don’t even recognize the accessories we hide behind until they’re taken away.


But I know what allowed for my willingness to try.  I trusted the lens.  Not the camera’s lens, but Joanie’s.  I trusted her to view me with compassion.  The result was a photograph that showed a version of me that I have never seen before and, once again, I found myself in uncharted territory.  More vulnerability and more fear as I realized how much my face reveals when I’m not “putting something out there”.   And then another realization.  I can decide what I want to put out there.  And I can choose my lens.


This is what I love about the Mantra Project.  Through it we are creating a community of women who are choosing how we want to perceive and embrace ourselves.  Instead of allowing society or family or friends to define us, we spend a little time thinking about the words we’d like to live by.  These words become our mantras, charged with the power of what really matters to us.  They give us strength to stand our ground when we’re inevitably confronted with the question, “Who do you think you are?”  And they give us roots and offer solace when the winds of change and public opinion threaten to blow us over.  Repeating our mantras connects us back to our hearts and our knowing.  So when we share our mantras, we are not asking for your opinion – we’re proclaiming ours.  And we’ve decided that our best sides are our “in” sides.  Yes, it makes us vulnerable, but it also makes us badass.  And the evidence is right there in the mirror.