Aleigha Long's hard work in school, dedication and volunteering in her community landed her a free senior portrait session. Mindy from the Salvation Army Youth Program told me all about Aleigha. She is a well-deserving young lady! Her package was worth over $1,100.
Hair and makeup done by Haley Watkins of Sapphire Salon.
Well, that didn't last long! lol I was doing sooo good then, I got busy with business stuff. So, here they are. The last three weeks.
Meet Ginger. She is my mannequin. She is often my model when I cannot get a human in front of my camera. She always nails her poses.
This week I decided to show you a shot I got from Miles' senior session. He has an older BMW and wanted some portraits taken with it. His mamma likes this one.
A young girl admiring her beautiful necklace.
I took this at Merle Norman's at the makeup demonstration table. The funny thing about this shot is the little girl thought that I would be in the photo too! hahaha
Here is our sweet Ozzie!
I have an old dusty mirror that is propped up against a wall in my headshot room. My son, Chance, has been asking for more photos of Ozzie. He was in the room, had a reflective surface so, I thought I can kill two birds! I then smeared some good ol' peanut butter on the mirror. That's how I got this shot. Peanut butter! lol
Nothing like a healthy challenge for myself at the genesis of 2020! My mission is to become more creative with what I have in and around my studios while using reflections. I plan to post a new photo every week. Please comment and tell me what you think of the photos.
My self-imposed rules:
I chose two portraits... just because I like them both. lol No particular reason I chose a faux flower. It was handy. I do love photographing cameras. :)
Questions for you: Which photo do you like most? Why? Do you prefer color or black and white?
An invitation to share my work in a public place is always exciting. Heath and Krystal Browning allowed me two separate displays at their former Mattoon restaurant, Bidwell's. The first one was my High Note Piano Series. I used to have this glorious piano as part of my outdoor studio. Even though I stripped the varnish and gave it three coats of poly, the sun baked her up pretty good. (insert very sad face right here__). She was falling apart and quickly.
Just a few days before my sons took a sledge hammer to it, I took photos of every angle. It was a beautiful summer day and it just so happened that a few random wildflowers grew around it which made it perfect.
A few months later, Dano Reible asked if I would like to have a display at his place of business, Jackson Avenue Coffee House. (See video below). Even sold one of the pieces there!
I wanted to do something totally different from anything I had ever done before so, I created the Bearded Wonder Project. Twenty-five men volunteered to become my muses. It's my favorite endeavor to date. Once again, the owners of Bidwell's were open to my displays. I took it a couple steps further by having an event including a dinner, radio coverage, and WCIA's ClLiving came to my studio to interview myself and one of the Wonders and even came to the event. Jeramy Buckles was also interviewed (in a video below).
At the event, the men were available so guests could have their photos taken with them. With his harmonica, Bill Belleau entertained us all with his version of Chicken Train. It was a successful and fun time! I am still so very thankful to Heath and Krystal.
I loved and enjoyed the Beards so much that I thought decided to do a Tatted Wonders series as well. I was on the hunt for the most tatted up folks around. The most interesting and fun was Cindy Davidson of Paris, IL. She is a woman who is so colorful that you just want to stare (but don't. It's rude!) Head to toe, Cindy has tatts everywhere except her derrière (because she can't see it). I wanted to show, through my lens, what she looks like without tatts by covering her entire face and neck with makeup. Lots of it. She was not happy with it on. You can even see it in the portraits. Then, I asked her to remove half of the makeup to show the difference. It was then that her smile was coming out. Once all of the makeup was off she was all smiles. Please watch her video below.
Lewis Whitrock was a joy to photograph as well. If I would have met him while he was at work I would have never known he has not one tattoo let alone entire sleeves, chest, and full back tatts! He has made sure that while he is at his job that his tatts are not visible.
Billie Lawrence told me that people are so surprised at how nice and mannerly she is even with all of her tatts.
Rico Thomas told me that his tatts serve as a force field of sorts. They keep most people completely away from him.
Harlo Watkins, a talented welder, created a camera out of scrap as a gift to me. I was floored by his creativity and thoughtfulness.
Moral of the story is you may never know who you encounter, who may be a walking billboard of art on their bodies. They are just more colorful, as Cindy Davidson says.
Their portraits were displayed at the Jackson Avenue Coffeehouse. Dano put a notice in the newspaper and on social media sites for the event. Cindy, Billie, and Harlo came to the event to see the display. It was a great evening.
The Gentry family came to my studio for family and maternity portraits. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to get this opportunity. I mean, this family, they are all beautiful!
Kiaus and Alex are two balls of awesome energy! It took about twenty shots to get two of the boys looking right at me and when they did you could see a twinkle in their eyes. Being a mom of two boys myself, I can hear some saying, "That's mischief" but I don't know. Perhaps they are excited about the arrival of there lil sis.
What stole my heart was how endearing Andrew gazed at his expecting bride. I mean, a romance novel series could have been written on how he lovingly doted on her. It was a moment I don't ever want to forget. I also love it that she said, "He always does that" when I mentioned how sweet it was that his gently kissed her neck.
Jennifer is an outgoing, loves-to-laugh and a makes everything fun mamma! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her. We laughed a lot! Check out these goofy picks I got of her while we were messing around. I'm telling ya.. she is sooo much fun!
Jennifer just glows! I can't decide which maternity gown I like most; the white one looks so regal while the purple gown is stunning! You take a look and judge for yourself. Click on each portrait to see it fully. :)
Again, I cannot stress to you just how much fun we had together! I will leave with a slideshow highlight of The Gentry family. ((Cannot wait to meet baby girl Gentry soon!))
What is your favorite holiday?
Did you know there is one for almost everyday of the year? Some are traditional, some to honor special people in our history, however most are just for fun. I thought it would be a great experience to celebrate these joyous days by taking portraits of some pretty awesome kids (and adults too).
We went all around town to get these special shots. Here is a list of businesses where we got the shots you see below: Merle Norman, deBuhr's Feed & Seed, D to Z Sports, Shore's Jewelers, Burger King, The Pet Shoppe, Cole County Memorial Airport, Suite Dreams Hotel, Dairy Queen, Cracker Barrel, Mattoon Public Library, 24 Hour Gym, Mattoon Flower Shop, Daisy Lane Scrapbooking & Craft Mall, and of course, Studio 21 .
We are still working on this project so, I will upload the posts as soon as possible.
Click each image to enlarge.
Because weddings are not on my list of specialties, I always declined for various reasons. When one of your very best friends in all of the world asks you to shoot her wedding, well, you just do it.
So, I did.
David and Nina could not have asked for a more perfect day. In October at the Mattoon Country Club, the weather was gorgeous and the venue equally as much. Everyone there was bright with warm and loving smiles. It was a day I'll never forget. I am forever thankful to be asked to capture their day.
Congratulations David and Nina!!
Love your tog friend,
In need of updated family portraits, Karen touched base with me. She was excited because her family was going to be together for Christmas. The Amtrak Depot was her choice because she loves the architecture there. This family loves hard and laughs even harder. All of them are incredibly photogenic! My favorite portrait from this session is the one of them laughing together.
Our families have been friends for many years. We always enjoy getting together with them. They were pleased with their portraits when I revealed them however Karen was extremely happy when she opened the box to her prints. We are planning another family shoot in the spring for a large, wall art portrait. I simply cannot wait!
It was just this November that "Trina" the mobile medical unit, MMU, was delivered to Choices Pregnancy and Health Center and I was there to capture the ribbon cutting ceremony and blessing.
Serving Charleston, Mattoon, Paris, and Casey Illinois, the MMU is equip with an ultrasound machine. Limited ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests, parenting classes, parenting classes, and abortion counseling are all available for free.
As you can see from the slide show, the brand new MMU features the comforts of a cozy home-like office. The staff are some of the most caring women I've ever met.
Please pray for their endeavors as they assist many women and families in the east central Illinois area.
On a Saturday afternoon in 1985, my sister took me out to lunch. We ended up at our favorite fast food joint, Burger King.It was very busy so I boldly claimed that I’d never work there. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill chain restaurant either. This is the ORIGINAL Burger King I’m talking about. See, the owner, Gene Hoots, opened Burger King back in 1957. Since Hoots had a federal trademark on the name they won a case to keep the chain restaurants from opening within a twenty mile radius of his. You can read more about the original Burger King’s history here.
Burger King ended up being my first real job. It was a great learning experience. We weren’t allowed to use the cash register feature that told us how much change to give back. We were required to count it back. Thankfully, a coworker taught me how.
When I first started I got the honor of grinding the onions. I honestly tried everything I could think of to stop my eyes from watering; sunglasses, pinched my nose with a clothespin, wore a handkerchief over my nose and mouth. Nothing worked. I was relieved when another rookie entered the scene.
There was never any idle time. We had a plenty to do after a rush of customers like filling ketchup and mustard bottles, writing up new numbers for drive through, and washing those aluminum ashtrays. Who remembers rolling out paper towels after the grill cooks mopped the floor? On Saturdays the former manager, Bill Douglas, would pull up to the back door with a trunk-full of packaged meat from Morgan’s Meat Market. We would take a specially designated scoop and “ball up” the meat for the infamous burgers.
The burgers have always been great however it’s the nasally number calling that is so unique. After you place your order, you are given a number. You then take a seat. When your order is ready the shift manager will call your number. For drive through orders, you would drive around the block, park, and listen for your number to be called and go back to the window. On a good day you can hear the number calls on the furthest ends of Mattoon.
It was winter of 2015 that Gene Hoots retired and sold his iconic restaurant to businessman Cory Sanders who updated most of the interior and added cool decor like the corrugated metal and new flooring. Cory has recently sold it to former manager Ernie Drummond and his wife Jodi. Back in the day, Ernie was the only shift manager who could call numbers just like Bill.
Ernie started at Burger King back in ‘77 as a grill cook. He then became a shift manager and remained for twenty-five years. He and Jodi had a unique opportunity to purchase the restaurant and boy am I ever glad they did! He has made some necessary changes to the menu options like bringing back the customer favorite, Blues Hog BBQ. Something special Gene Hoots started that has never changed are the 25¢ ice cream cones for the sports programs. Ernie told me that they now have people who are bringing their grandchildren in for those cold treat rewards just like they used to get.
Some little known facts about OG Burger King is that dollar-wise they do better than the chain restaurants without a breakfast menu. With only one little window, half of the business is from their drive-up. It’s number one seller is the double cheeseburger. I asked Ernie if his customers ever asked for unusual items. He told me that someone once asked for grilled pickles. One day the staff was looking for the cherry juice. Interestingly enough, they ended up finding it at a table where a customer was dipping her french fries in it.
Even though I claimed I’d never work there, I am sure glad I did. So many great memories and lessons learned. I truly enjoyed working with Ernie and Jodi and it thrills my heart that they are the new owners. So, CONGRATULATIONS to Ernie and Jodi! They will be celebrating their official grand opening on Friday, March 3rd. So, order up a double cheeseburger, fry, and a shake and play a game of Ms. Pacman until they call your number.
Melissa M. Harden
The Original Burger King
1508 Charleston Ave
Mattoon, IL 61938
Hours: All week 9:00am - 9:00pm
Burger King's Facebook Page
One step onto the creaky wood floor of this store and you will be taken back into time. deBuhr’s Feed & Seed located at 2001 Western Ave has been serving my community for nearly one hundred and four years (that’s 104 YEARS!). It has been passed down from generation to generation. The current owner and my friend, Bernie deBuhr loves to tell the story about his ancestor’s journey to our great land. Henry deBuhr, Bernie’s great grandfather, came to the US from Germany with nothing more than a wicker basket to hold his possessions.
Henry arrived in Mattoon, IL and became the farm manager of the Mattoon Odd Fellows and Old Folks Home. It was March 1st of 1914 that he opened deBuhr’s Seed & Feed. He and his wife, Marie Catherine, made the upstairs of their new business their home. They had two children, Herman and Folene.
deBuhrs’ biggest sellers at the time was produce, feed, and full-sized chickens. At the end of every week the ladies would come into the store to pick out the best chicken to dress for the weekend.
Passing his business to the next generation, it was the late 1920’s that Herman took possession of the business. With his passing, his son, Bernard took over in 1957. It was 1999 that his junior, Bernie took the reins.
Bernie Jr. is a natural at making his customers feel more like family. No matter how busy he is he always asks how you are, what you’re up to, or what’s new in your life. “We provide service and products at good prices, and treat people nicely. Our customers can be confident in our products and service.”
Another little known service Bernie provides is more for the other businesses in town. He loves to recommend his customers to support Villa Pizza, House Brothers, Shore’s Jewelry, Jack & Bill’s, D to Z, Dairy Queen, and many others. He has told me they all have long histories in our town.
Bernie enjoys telling this story; back in 1993 he was advised to use a mixture of linseed and turpentine to preserve the old wood floors. It never cured so it was like walking on super glue. The burlap feed bags were stuck to the floor, it was a big mess. You can still see remnants of it in low traffic areas.
From bird feeders to horse feed and specialty dog and cat foods and toys deBuhr’s has your pets covered. They also feature some incredible BBQ sauces and some of the hottest hot sauces on the planet like; Vicious Viper, Smokin’ Mary, and Beware! to name a few. Adjacent to their store is a greenhouse. In early spring, they have a wonderful variety of gardening plants and flowers.
deBuhr’s is a staple at the Celebrate Downtown festivities where I usually set up a small photobooth. I photograph children or costume-clad fur pets. There always happens to be a special Disney character available for photos too.
Community involvement, family-like customer service, competitive prices, and a trip down memory lane, who could ask for more?
Melissa M. Harden
deBuhr’s Feed & Seed
2001 Western Ave,
Mattoon, IL 61938
7:30am to 5:30pm Sat. 7:30 to 4pm
Check out their Facebook page
Just as her grandmother, mother, and her aunt, Renee England has a love for Merle Norman cosmetics. It was 1995 when she found out the studio in Sullivan, IL was closing up. She decided to give up her office job at an insurance agency on the square and made the jump into the makeup business. She didn't realize this shop had been struggling for a while. Hoping a better location would help, she purchased a different building. Because of the failing local economy, it just wasn't doing well so, she closed it for good.
It was 2005 when Fran Whitley, the owner of the Mattoon Merle Norman, was nearing retirement and needed some operational assistance. Renee ended up working for Fran. Going to meetings and working with her, she learned the ins and outs of the trade. It was 2007 that Renee decided to purchase the Mattoon studio and she couldn't be happier! She truly loves the satisfaction on her client's faces when they are pleased with the way they look.
Keeping the staples, every single year the product line just gets better! My favorite is the Lasting Foundation, Ultra Powder, Lip Liner Plus, and the mascara primer.
If you've never been there or if it's been a while, you will be pleasantly surprised at the array of offerings. There are luxury boutique items such as jewelry, scarves, and fashion outer wear. Need a lil pampering? Merle Norman now features a relaxing spa retreat! Shannon Dearing, a licensed Esthetician, offers professional skin care services including Microdermabrasion, Merle Norman exclusive facials, body wax and tintings.
If you have a teenage daughter then you've probably heard of Renee's Merle Girl Program. Young ladies apply to Merle Norman then they are invited to come in for a complimentary make-over. Judges then decide who would best represent Merle Norman. I have had the honor to photograph the last three Merle Girls.
Now if you wanna go waaay back...
It was back in the early 80's when I first met my now very good friend and daughter of Fran, Nancy Whitley Dearing. She showed me how to apply make-up just like her mom did. Nancy always made me look good for important events like dances, nights out, and even our graduation in 1988. When I would go to her home it always amazed me that the bathroom had as much makeup as the store!
Now, back to Renee... I hope this blog has peeked your interest because Renee is awesome and the products she carries are high quality. You are going to thank me!
Melissa M. Harden
Merle Norman's hours are:
Monday through Friday 9:30am - 5pm and Saturdays 9:30am to 3pm
1608 Broadway Ave.
Mattoon, IL 61938
My favorite pizza in all of the world? Instead of telling you, I’ll give you the phone number 235-0880. Villa Pizza, Home of the Massive Pie! Here is a lil history... In 1971, Sicilian father and son duo, Sammy and Sarafino, came to Mattoon and started Villa Pizza. Sarafino’s girlfriend was still in Sicily. She didn’t want to come to the United States and he didn’t want to go back. He knew he would be required to join the army for two years. Eventually, his heart was overtaken so he decided to go back, and he joined the army so he could soon be with the love of his life.
In 1975, Sammy put the restaurant up for sale. Anthony G. Arena, also Italian and former college MVP and pro football player for the Detroit Lions, came to Mattoon from Chicago and purchased the pizzeria. Once their house sold, his son Jon came down and the two worked side by side. Jon had quite a culture shock and missed his friends. He quickly learned that he was going to love it here. Within a few short months he made some lifelong friends. Eventually, the entire Arena family came to Mattoon and helped out at the new business.
Carrying on with tradition, Villa’s beloved sausage is a secret Arena family recipe which is locked up in a safe at Mark’s My Store. The amazingly rich sauce and all of the ingredients are fresh.
Villa’s pies come in bambino, small, medium, large, family, and of course the Big Tony, plus there is the Original Stand Up Pepperoni Pizza! Pick-up, delivery, dine-in, and there is even an area for parties.
You’re gonna love it!
Melissa M. Harden
2023 Western Ave
Mattoon, IL 61938
My son, Chance, LOVES Floyd’s Barbershop in Tuscola, IL. Jason Armstrong graduated from the Decatur's infamous Lockhart Barber College in '15. Chance loves everything about going into see Jason from getting greeted by Conner, to the great cut with an awesome hard part, to the warm towel after a neck shave. He always comes out looking like a million bucks! Walk-ins, conversations flowing, and jokes flying is how Jason tends to keep the traditional styling alive at Floyd’s.
Da Bomb, Cuban Tobacco, and Old Time Barbershop are names of the Armstrong Gentleman’s Care product line. The all-natural beard oils, washes, soaps, and balms are handcrafted by Jason’s wife Kelsey. The ingredients Kelsey blends are paraben and GMO free. Also, they have no harsh chemicals or dyes. The men rave about these locally made products because their beards are now soft without an oily residue which the spouses love!
And... now you know why we love Floyd's Barbershop!
Melissa M. Harden
107 W Sale St, Tuscola, IL 61953
How well does your profile picture depict you and your desire to move ahead in your career? Is it a simple coworker snap of you or a selfie? As a professional, you should take steps toward making yourself appealing to the people who can take your career to the next level.
Do you think professional headshots are expensive? That free photo by a friend could be killing your career growth. In one click, your profile photo may or may not express your motivation to be the best in your field. With a few minutes and dollars I can help you create the dynamic images you need to attach to your social media and marketing materials. Lighting, backdrops, hair, make-up, posture, and clothing are all taken into consideration. So, do you leave that responsibility to a selfie or well-meaning friend's snap, or do you go to a headshot specialist?
People will form an opinion of you based on your headshot before they read anything you have written. A profile with a professional headshot will get more clicks than a profile without one. How professional and accessible you appear will impact the recruiters who decide your interview future. So I ask you, how well does your headshot portray you as a professional?
To say I am having fun with these pet minis is to put it mildly! I have had the pleasure of meeting and falling head over heels in love with these awesome fur babies. Each one of them has a unique and touching story. Just in case you don't know how these special sessions work... I will explain.
Your pet will get a thirty minute mini photography session with me at Studio 21 for only $49. Within a few days, you will view the edited portraits. You will then choose your favorite for a matted 8x10. Also, that portrait will be entered into a Facebook "Like" contest. The pet with the most likes wins the contest.
The winner will receive a full indoor and outdoor pet photography session, $100 studio credit, and a gift certificates to a local pet supply store.
Bugsy, Winston, Conner, Chloe, Buddy, Fancy Pants, Gypsy, Fluffy, Mystic, Marley, and Rowan will tell you they enjoyed the crazy noises, smells, and snacks here at Studio 21.
If you are interested in the My Pet Project just call Studio 21 at 217-962-0048, email at melissamharden@gmail or message me on social media.
~Melissa M. Harden
Psssssst.... our cat, Sparky, is a little less than happy to have all of this intrusion to his space. So, I won't tell him about your appointment. ;)
My niece Laci wanted maternity portraits for her baby to have as keepsakes. She is a beautiful young woman whom I've witnessed grow from a little little girl to now an expecting mamma. When I look at her I can still see the face of the child she once was. While planning, she explained to me that she really didn't know what type of outfits to bring to her portrait session. I told her not to worry about it. We can work it out with some fabric I have at the studio.
During the session I draped her with a long, black, silky cloth, making sure her blossomed belly was exposed. At my request, she pulled her hair back and up. To my surprise she then, all of a sudden, transformed in this gorgeous woman... a soon-to-be-mom! It took a lot however I held back my emotions. Frequent back aches, leg cramps, and feeling bloated sure didn't help her feel glowing as she has heard it described by her friends. That night, no matter what she was feeling, she was radiant!
There were so many times I could see how much she reflects the beauty of her own mamma. Once I was editing her portraits, I could see her mother so clearly in her features. To some hearing that you look like your parent may not be a compliment for her it surely is.
Baby Ryker is so blessed to have a loving and beeeautiful mamma like Laci. You are going to be a fine mamma. ((Psssssst... Ryker, I sure cannot wait to meet you!))
Well, of course it isn't exactly glamour however the guys do get to have some fun as you can see in the portraits below.
The reason for this blog...
IT'S A MODEL CALL:
Is there a man in your life who should be photographed? How about a bearded wonder.. have one of those? If so, I am currently in search of men with beards. It is a personal portrait project I am pursuing. (say that five times!) Neighbor, brother, co-worker, boyfriend, hubby, pastor, or grandpa if they have hair on their chinny chin chin I want to know!
Be on the lookout for the following: Muttonchops, soul patches, five o'clock shadows, toothbrushes, goatees, walrus', Zappas, sideburns, full mustaches, Fu Manchus, and of course trusty full beards.
Please call my studio 217.234.2415 to let me know about a gentleman in your live who has a cool Chaplin or perhaps a chin puff. You can submit by email or Facebook private message too.
What's in it for you? For helping me, I will submit your name into a drawing for one of my full glamour experiences. It can be for you, someone you love, or like really well. The entire session, including hair and make-up by professionals and a two hour portrait session with me, is worth $250.
The deadline for this mane event is Monday, August 1, 2016.
WAIT THERE'S MORE!
To get your name entered more than once, submit a clever name for glamour for men. I have tried manmour... it just doesn't work. lol
Ok, I cannot wait to hear from you both about the hairy men in your life and a name for man glamour.
Let me tell you about my dear friend Nina. She is always there when I need her. Last April I decided to sign up for two events to promote my glamour photography business and she was right there to help me along. Two expos for women almost back to back! They both ended up being at the same venue too, the Unique Suits in Charleston. I should have went around and snapped some pictures of the entire place because it was so impressive.
She and I has such a good time at both events. Entertainment, dancing, food, shopping and a lot of giveaways! All the things we ladies love!
I am so happy to have these photographs so we can look back. Click each one to read the caption. Thank you Jen Harp for most of them. :)