Finding, moving, creating “home.”

Whilst in Maine last week with my family, my sister Beth and I were paddleboarding at dusk one day around the little cove of Pocasset Lake where our cabins are, when we noticed a very loud and large splash — abnormally large for a turtle or fish — but definitely too small for a human. Hmm. Soon after, we spotted two little brown noses jutting out of the water, gliding in smooth circles interspersed with splashes, coming from the same area. One of the curious little beavers came within 10 feet of Beth’s paddleboard, circling and eyeing us intently, bold and unalarmed. It was the cutest thing I’d seen in a long time; but despite going back to the same area at the same time the next night, we only saw the little beavers once.

Maine is probably the place on earth with the most sentimentality for my family and me. What used to be every summer — and with age and distance has become sporadic summers — the week that my family spent each year at our lakehouse in Wayne, Maine, has become timeless and infinite. These were weeks of endless, strewn-together days and nights of swimming, ice cream, cousins, waterskiing, lounging and tanning. People changed and grew up, lives were otherwise busy and eventful, milestones like weddings, kids, deaths and big moves came and went, but Wayne, Maine and Pocasset Lake has always been.

The osprey, the Great Blue Herons, the beavers, the kayaks and canoes and dress-ups, the General Store pizza or Five Islands lobster, the gentle hum of the motorboat on a sunny, lazy afternoon — these memories and the people I always spent them with — are bottled up and will be stored forever in the creaking, mouse-nibbled floorboards of Robmir and fraying, taped-together ropes securing the boats to the dock. The beauty and power of memory — and especially the power of a certain place to hold, for years upon years — memories that bring an entire family, an intergenerational, transnational family together — is nothing short of magical.

This is turning out to be basically just a post for me to reminisce on my family memories and how lucky I was to take a summer trip to Maine this year, particularly. However, I find myself moving in the next couple weeks to a new apartment in LA — what may be my 6th move in 4 years — and I can’t help but contrast that transience with the longevity and meaning of a family “home.”

What creates a sense of home or what makes a place a home?

I think people and memory have a lot to do with it. When a location, a building, a structure holds sentimentality and memories, it is much more than simply a place. And normally, those memories are associated with people and moments. Do you have places, spaces or ordinary structures in your life that mean much more to you because of the people and memories that you associate them with? What does “home” look like for you?

This post-college, yuppie, Trader Joe’s frozen food and IKEA plant version of myself is still struggling to find “home” in Los Angeles, and yet, in so many beautiful ways, this city has certainly become my home. Despite the transient lifestyle I’ve acquired and the changing scenery and friend groups every year or so, pieces of my ethno-cultural identity do feel much more secure and able to grow, question and develop themselves here than in other parts of the US or world that I’ve lived.

But is that “home”?

It is certainly something — and looking both behind and ahead as I consider this next move, I hope that my life continues to align itself toward and around creating — albeit an ever-elusive — sentiment that this (wherever I am in any given time or place) is “home.”

Maybe “home” in this season of life can be created through rhythms and patterns of slowing down, or being intentional, or cultivating meaningful moments and relationships. Because when I think about what makes the Frederich family lakehouse on Pocasset, in a random town in rural Maine, so special, it’s those exact things. The meaning comes with longevity and time, but it comes primarily because of the people, patterns and memories associated with that time. And if we don’t always have the luxury of owning a property or inhabiting a space for any extended period of time, especially as a young person in Los Angeles, then can we still create “home” and meaning and memory through rhythms and people — even if they are geographically changing or moving within or across a city?

I think so; I want to at least hope so.

The mourning dove.

Found myself at 3 am driving somewhere new
Cigarette smoke and clinking glasses, not a hospital room
Or quiet airport, a breeze through security
Checked in and at my gate before the fatigue hits me  

A different thing it is to look out a 6th story window
To see cars passing by, stoplights and billboards
Kids leaving school with dad, teens riding scooters
And know the child in front of you is breathing through tubes  

Standing on the corner of Sunset and Santa Monica
I hear your sound
Feel your voice
A tiny bird calls me
To remember my childhood  

Of summers riding my bike around the block
Stinky pear blossoms, flashcards, staring at the clock
Waiting for dad to come home and we could go to the pool
Reading and talking and the playground at school  

Had to google you because I didn’t know your name
Knew that sound but not from where you came
Harkened back to a time much simpler than this
Memories and feelings of love, joy, lightness and bliss  

Standing on the corner of Sunset and Santa Monica
I hear your sound
Feel your voice
A tiny bird calls me
To remember my childhood  

And there you were, little tiny bird with a whoo
A sound of innocence, of sadness, of youth
The cars in front of me rush by and I wonder
How such deep things a bird could make me ponder  

A season of mourning perhaps I’m now in
Standing with strangers and waiting for trains
Questions and loneliness and no one to ask
What meaning there is in the memories I grasp  

Shanghai.

The old woman’s wrinkles cradled secrets and stories
tucked within the folds of her worn linen shirt and dumpling basket
 
Her ebony, beady eyes hold years of pride and mystery
her small, dainty feet have pedaled all the crevices of the city
 
The noodle soup man stands at his stall every morning through evening
he makes the best Muslim noodles in my neighborhood
 
Is that even right to call them Muslim noodles? 
His food welcomes natives and foreigners while he himself was displaced
 
Sometimes we need to take a pause, the sounds are overwhelming
but our lungs are gripped by heavy smog, we cannot find pure oxygen
 
Picturesque, vintage scenes like from a postcard
where does the value in things lie? Is it all being commodified?
 
It’s early morning and everyone is moving,
why don’t people pause to rest, to sip their morning coffee?
 
To continue quietly in the comfort of their own image,
to take peace and satisfaction in all they have truly accomplished
 
Do they take moments for themselves like I do?
do they take pride in who they are?
 
How I wish I could know their hopes, loves and dreams
what was their dream job, their favorite memory as a child?
 
What gives them energy, what do they love the most?
How do they have strength to continue moving at this pace?
 
When whiteness is the highest standard, 
blonde hair and blue eyes worshipped,
than who tells the stories of the old, wrinkled woman,
the noodle man,
the ones who hold so much in their faces,
and in their grasps?
 
The ones whose stories I long to know, 
I cannot be the one to tell them, I am the foreigner.

Preserved.

My name is Emily Zamora, I’m a lifestyle and wedding photographer born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and now living with my husband and furbaby in Portland, OR.

Most photographers would say that their love of photography started when they got their first camera in their tweens/teens/college years and haven’t been able to put down the camera since.

My story with photos goes a bit farther back than that.

First, I guess I should start with a little blurb about my family history and how I came to be the woman writing this article.

I was born Emily Jean Stephens to a teenage, drug addicted, unwed mother who just wasn’t ready to be a mom. And that’s okay. Because that opened the door for me (and 3 of my biological siblings) to be adopted by her grandparents, my great-grandparents.

Can I just add that adoption is a BEAUTIFUL thing. It’s difficult, messy, political, scary, and yet oh so needed beautiful thing. And sadly, some children aren’t fortunate enough to be adopted by blood relatives. Some don’t find their forever homes for several months, years, or ever. All of that time spent in the system, passed around from place to place. With little to no documentation of their growth or preserved memories or knowledge of where they came from.

This breaks my heart.

By the grace of God, that was not my story exactly.

Like I mentioned earlier, I was adopted by my maternal great-grandparents. My own living family history. I even still visit my childhood home and grab my family photo album that documents ever milestone and accomplishment. But with this connection to my (well half of my) gene pool, also came the knowledge of our family’s history of memory loss and dementia. Especially among the females.

Yeah.

While I’m not guaranteed to inherit the disease, that doesn’t stop the worry that, someday, I just might.

Cue the part of the story where I get my first “real camera”, your mid 2000s basic point-and-shoot. I guess technically you can trace my VERY first camera back to the Kodak disposable film ones my mom would give me and my siblings when we did theatre in elementary schools. Every new play/production we’d get a new camera to fill. I even still have the images from those cameras. Man, the content you get from an 8 year old with a camera. But before I go too far on this tangent, I just want to explain how I’ve used cameras (and photography) since that first point-and-shoot. I took pictures of EVERYTHING. My food, family vacations, trips to the mall, my dogs, my feet … basically of anything to preserve the memory of what I was up to that day. Nowadays people get a bad rep for taking “food pics,” “shoe pics,” and basically over photographing every moment. But I say, take those photos! Preserve those days! And maybe refrain from the hundreds of selfies – those ones do get old.

Now as a professional photographer, I absofreakinglutely LOVE that I’m the one charged with preserving someone’s special moment. Whether that be the first look between a bride and groom, the sibling meltdowns that happen at basically every family session, or that special moment when someone asks their significant other to spend the rest of their lives together. I get to play the comic relief, the peacekeeper, the quiet fly on the wall, and so much more. How freaking lucky can one person be?!

And because I feel like I started off this whole thing pretty heavy, I’m going to close with some of my favorite camera/photography related memories …

  • When my husband and I were dating, during the Summer before my first year of college he bought a disposable camera and documented random moments during the summer. He then developed the photos so I could have them before I left for school. The images weren’t the greatest, but the memories are some of my favorite.
  • When I’d get my middle school+high school besties group together for dinners and then turn them into mini friendship photoshoots. We even posed on my dad’s Mustang during one of them. Serious dorks.
  • The childhood summers during my Jr. Lifeguard years where I’d create FULL albums of images of my friends/what we did that day and upload them to Facebook. Almost EVERYDAY. I’m talking heavily filtered. All uploaded to the internet. One upside was that they made for great end-of-the-summer slideshows.
  • My mom taking our “special occasion outfit” photos in the same exact spot in our house my entire life. I’m talking toddler years to present day. Talk about consistency!
  • And basically anytime someone prints a photo I’ve taken. It gives me the feels every time.

And with that, I’ll sign off. Thanks for reading! Enjoy some of my favorite life moments encapsulated in the following photos.

PHOTOS

That underwater point and shoot that was my constant companion.
Pictures of everything, I tell ya.
Even food.
Some of my earliest memories are hanging with my aunt. I’d later learn to actually play on this same piano and continue to play on it for over a decade.
Kindergarten Emily. Probably why I chose to be in FRONT of the camera.
That iconic photo location!
While the people in front of it grew, it always stayed the same. Pictured here with my biological brother, the first to get adopted by our great-grandparents.
Young, probably around 7 years old, Emily showing off her new found skill of hand sewing. Sporting an ever-present, during those years, Snow White costume.
There were never any bad pictures for me growing up. I kept everything.
One of those friendship photoshoots, location was usually one of our houses.
Or in this case, my dad’s car!
Funny how photos can also help you remember “pose trends” from the time?
An early photo of me and my now husband.
A candid from my highschool grad night. I’m sure on of my sisters caught hold of my camera for this one.
And this one.
A college sophomore roommate shoot, on the last day as we were packing up to leave for the summer.
And another, this one commemorating that we had made it. Finally.
I truly have a love for photos that capture movement or a candid moment in time, I definitely chose our wedding day photographers carefully based on this fact.
Commemorating a moment in time during our honeymoon in Spain. It was so surreal to feel the Mediterranean between our toes.
And the Sagrada Familia. I never wanted to forget this view.
And another lifetime moment as I looked out over such a magnificent sight while hiking in Zion for my 23rd birthday.
Here’s that iconic photo location again. This one was for Easter family photos. Featuring my younger biological sister and our parents [great-grandparents].
As a photographer, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to be in front of the lens with your loved ones, so moments like these are near and dear to my heart. [and ALWAYS printed out multiple times and scattered throughout our home].
And now a few special moments that I’ve been able to capture for others…

Because I want my small business to have an element that does something for others without any expectation of anything in return and as a way to “pay it forward”, I’d love to offer any foster or adoptive families in the Portland, OR area (or Los Angeles, CA area with coordination with my return visits schedule) a complimentary family or portrait session.

I’d like to gift these sessions as a way to say thank you and offer these families, who open their homes and hearts to other children, a way to preserve the memories of their growing families and the lives of those they foster. If I can provide some memento of this time in their lives with the people who helped them grow, to be able to look back on when they are grown, I will have accomplished my mission.

If you or someone you know is interested, please reach out!

Love, Em