Aaron + Tony | Target Engagement Goes Viral

Aaron + Tony | Target Engagement Goes Viral

Funniest couple award goes to - Aaron and Tony and their Target themed engagement session. I don’t think we stopped laughing the entire time.

As a photographer it can be challenging to document personalities in a public place. Knowing you’re being photographed can be intimidating and sometimes difficult for people to be themselves. My goal is to act as a professional third wheel - to get you to forget I’m there and just be yourself.

After a long engagement Aaron and Tony both knew they wanted photos that documented their interests and personalities. We talked, laughed and walked around the store and took some photographs. Then we went back to key locations after they had loosened up and the images started flowing more naturally. Aaron playfully pushed Tony through the aisles of Target while they shopped for their kitties (they have three), shopped for groceries and browsed the home goods section. Just your typical Friday night date night for these two.

Engagement photos don’t have to be traditional or look like everyone else’s insta-worthy photos. Photographs should tell a story about your life and if the photograph captures your personality and memories successfully any setting can be “conventional”. Your photographs are meant to celebrate YOU and your decision to start a life together.

Officially adding “long romantic walks through target to my bio” and literally can’t wait to photograph these two on New Year’s Eve!

Update: This adorable and fun engagement session went VIRAL in August, 2019

New York Post - Couple Takes over Target

Insider Inc. - Target Engagement Photos Go Viral

Huff Post - Couple Takes Engagement Photos at Target

KDKA 2 CBS Pittsburgh - Couple takes Engagement Photos at Erie Target

5 Ways to Get out of a Creative Funk

5 Ways to Get out of a Creative Funk

Ever have a creative block? Sure. We’ve all had them. It’s pretty frustrating and can sometimes cause doubt and depression when the ideas aren’t flowing. I’ve struggled with this for years. But it’s NORMAL. Sometimes we just need to change things up. Find new ways to increase our creativity and realize it’s like everything else, it has highs and lows. The key is to know how to roll with it. So here are five tips I’ve learned over the years to getting out of a creative funk.

Get the Funk Outta Town

I’ve been addicted to travel since my parents packed me in a onesie and hiked up to Pike’s Peak. Ever since I’ve had an itch to see new places and find that if I’m too long in one place I find both my work and mental health suffers. Sometimes I just need to change my environment to gain a new perspective. I guarantee if you find yourself creatively stuck – pack up your gear, grab a few friends and hit the road. You don’t have to travel to another country or even another state. Take a walk on the beach or drive to a nearby town, hike in woods or act like a tourist in your own city. Visit local coffee shops, café’s bookstores museums, amusement parks. 

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CARPE THE DIEM!

Get out of your comfort zone:)

Unplug

Turn your phone off. No social media, no emails, no texts. OFF! (Tip: Switching your phone to airplane mode works great for this.) I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just have to unplug. It sounds simple but we’ve become so attached to those tiny little computers in our pockets we don’t even realize the anxiety they can cause. 

Staring at those little blue screens all day isn’t healthy – I can go hours without taking a break editing or watching educational videos, planning and filming my tutorials (spoiler alert!!) But I need to recharge too. This past weekend after three days of watching fireworks, eating too much and a very long day trip my boyfriend and I spent the weekend relaxing. It was hard. My brain was moving so fast and I had so many things I wanted to do. Sitting still is not easy for me. But my body needed to rest. So we went grocery shopping, cooked dinner, watched an episode of our new favorite Netflix show (What/If) and spent time together. In those quiet moments I began to hear new ideas chattering inside my brain that I might not have heard over the noise of life’s busyness. It was while my friend and her daughter were asking me to explain some of my recent photography ideas that new concepts started forming. 

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Unplug

Spend time away from technology

Collaborate

Talk about your work to other people. Explaining my work to my friends forced me to work out the details and see where I might run into trouble. It also made me excited about my work and generated NEW IDEAS. Have you ever tried to work out a puzzle and stared for hours but couldn’t figure out where the pieces fit? Then someone comes along and suddenly snaps the pieces into place? For me that’s what collaborating does. It helps me “snap the pieces” of an idea together when I’m stuck.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!”
– African Proverb

We need other people to help stimulate our ideas and push those ideas farther. Working together is another way to create a new perspective that as an individual we may not have seen. Next time you’re stuck – talk about it with a friend. They could be another creative or someone who just appreciates art. A fresh pair of ears and eyes can help when you’ve been staring at the problem too long.

As entrepreneurs we’ve been taught to compete, but creativity is not a competition it’s an expression. You are the only one of you and that makes you unique. Share that! Social media is SOCIAL!! Ask for feedback, shoot with others. Compare your work – but don’t compare yourself. There is a difference between learning from each other and falling into the comparison trap. LEARN from each other. Don’t envy each other.

Write it Down

The worst lie I’ve ever told myself is – “I’ll write that down later” and losing a great idea. Now I try to write down all my ideas as soon as they happen so I won’t forget. I keep a pen and notebook in my camera bag, a few in my bedroom, and a few scattered around my studio. When I’m finished with a project I can pull out my notebook, no more scrambling for ideas they’re already written down. 

 It also helps keep me organized so my ideas are all in one place. I use mine to write down ideas, goals, blog ideas,  travel notes, even sketches of my ideas. Get the picture?

Try keeping a notebook. Make sure you take it with you everywhere because you never know when an idea may find you. 

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Switch it Up

Try something new. If you’re a portrait photographer try photographing landscapes, if you’re a landscape photographer try photographing cities or architecture. Whatever you do switch it up. Whenever I’m traveling I shoot a lot of street and landscape photography. I imagine my subjects in those settings as if I were scouting a wedding or portrait session and try to photograph them from a unique perspective. 

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One of the most important things a creative can do is keep learning, working with other artists and stretch their imagination. There are thousands of photography tutorials on the internet, my personal faves are YouTube and Skillshare. Recently I’ve been teaching myself website and SEO design. Technology is always changing. Learning new skills will only help you craft a better story. 

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I hope this helps! If you have any tips for getting out of your creative funk please leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you stay creative. 

5 Tips in Review

1.    Get the Funk Outta Town

2.    Unplug

3.    Collaborate

4.    Write it Down 

5.    Try Something New

And don’t forget… to Carpe the Diem!

Why I'm Leaving Pennsylvania for California

Why I'm Leaving Pennsylvania for California

self portrait photography

Hola! I don’t know about you – But I couldn’t be more excited for summer. Outdoor grilling, patio chilling, and vacation getaways. Does it get any better than that? Every summer I plan a trip outside my hometown, and usually outside my state, and this year I’m headed back to Cali (to Cali, to Cali…going back to Cali) land of the avocado, wine and perpetual sunshine. Because self-care and growing my business are both important and if I can combine them into a fun-filled week long getaway I’m there!

TURNING A NETWORKING OPPORTUNITY INTO A VACATION

I was scrolling through the gram and came across an ad for The Shootout Society If you’re not familiar with them, The Shootout Society hosts fully stylized photoshoots in California for small groups of photographers, each with a different and unique theme. They collaborate with vendors and models providing over two hours of shooting time. It’s a great opportunity to network, practice posing, build portfolios and boost your marketing.

This year, June 17, they have a killer beach shoot in San Diego – the “Celestial Dusty Grey Inspired Wedding” and the colors and edgy look were AH-MAAAZING! My first instinct was to book right away – they only have 15 tickets available – then I came to myself and did a little research. I asked my sweet friend and photographer Lauren if she knew anything about TSOS. Not only did she highly recommend them but she had gone to last year’s event and was still gushing about it. “Go for it girl!” were her exact words I think… 

Which was pretty much what my BF said when I mentioned it to him, “Do it. Just go for it.” 

He supports anything that will push my dreams further, and he’s the first one to speak positively when I’m down on myself. Ladies find you a man who will support your dreams and chase them along with you! He just purchased his first ever DSLR camera, the Canon 5D Mark IV so he can learn photography and work along with me. 

So fast forward a few months and here we are – one week from my first ever stylized shoot in San Diego. 

We are leaving Pennsylvania for California! I. AM. PUMPED. 

We ordered new camera bags, mine lasted for about 5- 6 years before the zipper gave out - no bueno– and planned a list of places to see and photograph. BF has been binge-watching YouTube photography tutorials and reading digital photography magazines. We made sure to maximize our time to include vacation days around our marketing and photography opportunities. 

FUTURE PLANS

We’re still talking about traveling to New York/Connecticut in early August and will probably take a few weekend trips. If you have any fun plans this summer I’d love to hear them. We’re always looking for new places to visit so if you have any ideas drop me a message in the comments below.

And if you’re in the San Diego area make sure you say hola! Don’t mind us we’ll be “shooting” our way through Cali. Feel free to follow my adventures on instagram. Click the link below or find me at @ericawhitingphoto

Lets be friends:)

More Than Just a Pretty Face

More Than Just a Pretty Face | A Portrait Session Just for Her

"We need to reshape our own perception of how we see ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead." – Beyonce Knowles

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The first time I met Kristy was on social media. She was dressed as the main character from Clueless and we swapped DM’s and memes about girl power. She recently spoke at Gannon University about breaking free from domestic violence and the stigmas surrounding it. Anyone who’s followed me for a while knows my passion for advocating for survivors of domestic abuse. I knew immediately this girl was bold, strong, and I wanted to meet her. 

Kristy contacted me requesting a portrait session: something that showed her as a powerful person, not just a pretty face. She wanted to strip away the feminine stereotype and just be SEEN. She didn’t want to be photographed for someone else, this was a gift for herself. (YES GIRL!) I knew immediately I wanted to photograph her in an urban setting, somewhere gritty and masculine. I contacted Mark Tannenbaum at PACA, Performing Arts Collective Alliance, and reserved the space. 

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“It looks so urban and dirty and hard. I love it!” – Kristy

Fast forward through messages, scheduling conflicts, and exchanging conceptual images to a few weeks ago. A few hectic texts of “I think I failed on the look I’m going for” and “I’m here, I brought a bunch of different clothes” and two forces met on a cold Sunday afternoon.  

Let me tell ya… It. Was. Magic. The light was perfect and Ms. Kristy, of Beyond Kristy, was sooo much fun to work with! She revealed some big plans in the works, but that’s gonna stay locked in the vault cause your girl can keep a secret. She’s a force to be reckoned with, one of the best examples of why having a portrait session for yourself is so important and one I’d be happy to have in front of my lens again any time! 

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“Thank you for making me feel so amazing.” 

When a woman says I’ve made her feel beautiful, or amazing or powerful. I know I’ve done my job. If you have a session with me and you’re thinking about doing it for yourself – GO FOR IT! 

Giving your portrait as a gift for a partner or special occasion is a personal, intimate gift. But having a session for yourself by the right photographer (hello!) will make you feel beautiful and love the skin you’re in.

Until next time, I dare you not to feel empowered scrolling through her gallery. Go ahead and try! 

Do it for yourself. You’ll thank YOU for it!


To visit Beyond Kristy’s Instagram and Blog click below:
https://www.instagram.com/beyondkristy/

Special Thank you to Mark Tannenbaum and PACA for permitting us to shoot on location.
https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/259274686/paca/

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Project Erie: A Man and A Mission

Andy Kerr | A man and A Mission

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“I fell in love with the city (Erie) and with the people.”

What if…. 

Your parents didn’t care about your education? If no one in your family ever went to college?  Would you even know how to apply? What if everyone you knew put you down every time you tried to improve yourself? What if you were a single mother of four with no money and no transportation – how would you do laundry? 

The Man

Andy Kerr, part-time Chaplain of the Erie City Mission, explained that for most of us these are realities we don’t think about. But for those living in poverty in Erie these issues create roadblocks most of us can’t comprehend. If you don’t know Andy, he can be found regularly on Facebook hosting “Wake Up with Andy.” 

He became friends with the people of Erie, “Poverty turned into faces and real people. It was no longer an issue to solve,” Andy realized the things we struggle with and how we cope with them may be different but given our circumstances any one of us could end up in poverty or face an addiction. That was a real “come to Jesus moment. We are all the same.” 

Poverty is About Survival

I’m sure you’ve heard people say it – the people on the corners asking for help, they’re scamming. They’re lazy. Why don’t they get a job… But Andy says poverty is about survival, nobody dreams about standing on a corner with a cardboard sign begging for food or asking for help. People in poverty are in a DAILY survival mode. Some just need food, or they’re trying to get by or maybe they’re supporting a drug habit; but he stresses not everyone is mentally ill or an addict. For many it’s simply learned helplessness, they believe it’s never going to get better, so it doesn’t. Belief is powerful - if we believe it’s never going to better it probably won’t.

Andy believes these roadblocks can be overcome for those who want to. He compares it to the Twelve Step program. He says the first step is owning your reality and wanting to get help. surrendering your life and will to God, inviting a sponsor into your life, working on character defects, then giving back to other people. He says “That process works for anyone that wants to do something with their life. If we want to do anything we have to own the problem to over-come it. We have to be humble enough to receive the help.”

The Erie City Mission’s nine-month addiction recovery programs help people get on their feet, find apartments, look for and help them find work. In fact, the third phase of construction is being built by a gentleman who graduated from their program. He’s essentially working for the company on the building that helped get him on his feet.

 Andy says, “It’s awesome to see men and women get reestablished in the Erie Community, sponsoring others in their recovery.”

Over the past forty years 95% of the funding for the Erie City Mission has come from private donors. In the history of Erie Gives Day the mission is usually towards the top in amount and almost always highest in the number of donors. What does this mean? People believe in and support the ECM. Being a mostly private funded non-profit organization allows the ECM to maintain their core values which is a Christ centered. Love God and love your neighbor.

The Mission

The Erie City Mission’s goal is to restore hope and transform lives. Every day they provide a public lunch and Tuesdays and Thursdays they offer a Food Pantry. It’s not just about living in poverty. Andy says there are working class poor who use the public lunch to help stretch their budget, many can’t afford groceries. Some people come to connect, listen to a good message and participate. He says it’s all about meeting people right where they’re at.

“Stories are the things that transform us...We all have a story. We all have certain experiences. We’ve all been through stuff and I believe our story can help change somebody else to connect with. But we gotta take the time to listen to other people’s stories too instead of assuming you know the story and why they’re in the situation they’re in. I think that’s why I love the city mission so much is because I’ve heard so many amazing stories from people that given their circumstances I would be right where they are or worse off.” 

Andy believes we need to work both sides of the issue if we’re going to solve poverty in Erie. We have to create better leaders as well as work with those in poverty if we’re going to solve the issue. “It’s also why I started my business. We can’t just work with people in poverty. We need to be a city that is attracting business. Creating a better place for people to work. Working on the problem from two different directions starting life coaching and speaking.”

We can avoid problems or can take a little risk and maybe get a great story or experience out of trying to help. What if the next time you see someone on the street you say hello? What if you simply ask their name? You might make a new friend. Buy them a coffee and listen to their story. You might just make a difference! 

To find out more about Andy Kerr Coaching click here


Erica Whiting is a Pennsylvania based portrait photographer

Project Erie Entrepreneur: Iron Empire

Project Erie Entrepreneur: Iron Empire

Leaving a Legacy | The Iron Empire

It’s true you can’t judge a book by its cover, or rather its skin. If you live in Erie, PA you’ve seen R.J. Messenger, you may own one of his shirts (you probably know someone who does) or have even seen his TEDxErie talk. But you definitely know who he is “the guy with the tattoos” the co-owner of Iron Empire (click here to connect on facebook). 

 “...the business has helped my image and look almost become acceptable especially when it comes to being successful in life with whatever it is.” 

Beneath that beautifully inked surface there’s so much more. Let me introduce you.

Lounging on his custom blacked out motorcycle that sits outside the Empire store, R.J. acknowledges he's starting to get recognized outside the city (Cleveland and Pittsburgh) from attending and promoting events, but says, "You never wanna let it get to your head."

Lounging on his custom blacked out motorcycle that sits outside the Empire store, R.J. acknowledges he's starting to get recognized outside the city (Cleveland and Pittsburgh) from attending and promoting events, but says, "You never wanna let it get to your head."

R.J. Messenger is the co-owner of Iron Empire, a clothing brand that supports building your own life on your own terms with the skills you were born with. He’s a firm believer on relying on yourself to get things done right and overcoming your obstacles. Because if he can “work his ass off” on the back of a garbage truck and turn his hobby into his dream – so can you.

Inside the shop shirts are custom (and hand) screen printed, ready for this week's Roar on the Shore event. Iron Empire is the FIRST local screen printing company to land the Roar on the Shore account.

Inside the shop shirts are custom (and hand) screen printed, ready for this week's Roar on the Shore event. Iron Empire is the FIRST local screen printing company to land the Roar on the Shore account.

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In fact, Iron Empire isn’t just a clothing brand – it’s a following. Strangers wearing the clothing line give each other the “Iron Empire nod”, or wave hello the way bikers signal each other on the highway - a sign of comradery. I met with R.J. and asked him why he believed people were so supportive. His answer was simple. 

“I think it’s the personable feeling that people like, the realness behind it. We really do what we do because we want to make a difference in people’s lives.” 

For R.J. it’s a job of passion and dedication. He didn’t go into it for the fame or money, he does it because he likes to. To date he hasn’t turned down a donation yet; he knows the values of giving small now can lead to being able to do more as the company grows. Erie is home, and he doesn’t take that lightly.

“If it wasn’t for Erie I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

A quote taped to wall reads "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." John F. Kennedy

A quote taped to wall reads "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." John F. Kennedy

Screens for the new Roar on the Shore tees #shoplocal #erieentrepreneur #ironempire

Screens for the new Roar on the Shore tees #shoplocal #erieentrepreneur #ironempire

Why build your business in Erie, PA?

R.J. could’ve started this business in another city, but he doesn’t believe it would’ve been as successful. 90% of the reason is because of the story.

“It’s a pride thing…Erie is so homegrown and tightknit. If you get one person behind you, you’re gonna have the whole city behind you.”

Erie has clearly gotten behind Iron Empire. The brand has sold to forty-seven states and dropped off their fourth order to Field and Stream, making their Erie branch the most successful because of the Iron Empire Brand. “They can’t keep it in stock.” R.J. said.

If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. 

“If you think Erie’s dying you clearly aren’t getting involved. Everyone thinks that Erie is dying and on the verge of failure but all those people that think that aren’t involved in what’s going on.”

It’s a good thing R.J. is got involved. He’s had opportunities in Hollywood appearing not only in a Jay-Z music video but also the movie Warrior. What started as a small part as an extra lead to a red-carpet appearance in Hollywood and his own section in The Men of Warrior. But R.J. is a hometown boy at heart. He gets homesick if he’s away for more than a few days, preferring familiar faces and places where people don’t look at him strangely. 

Appearances can be deceiving. 

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Before his Iron Empire Days, R.J. was in the orchestra at Mercyhurst Prep, they had received the rites to perform Les Miserable and he played the drums - his response? 

“I don’t know if I’m gonna like this.” (BTW He now owns every single DVD of the musical) 

It opened his eyes to musicals and Broadway and he spent a few years touring the country in a van with his straightedge band. 

Tattoos? Fughettaboutit.

“I don’t like getting tattooed anymore. I think I did way too much too quick.”

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A small Iron Empire Tattoo is probably one of his most recent and last tattoos. He says he’s not trying to erase his past, but rather they represent where’s he’s been and where he’s going. 

His ink - phrases, images, and the memories – represent a large part of his life that he credits with turning him into the man he is today. Some represent R.J.’s previous straight edge life style – no alcohol, drugs, tobacco – (he didn’t have his first drink until he was 25 years old.)

It wasn’t a subject he wanted to go into at length, and I didn’t pry. If you’ve ever had any ink, you know how personal they can be. 

“It’s almost kinda like a therapy,” R.J. said. Most were completed by personal friends he’s known from his travels.

He acquired the majority of his visible ink between 19-24 years old, starting when he was sixteen and becoming quickly addicted, covered his legs, shins, and a half sleeve by the time he graduated high-school. After realizing a “normal lifestyle” wasn’t in the plan he went on to cover his face.

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R.J.’s father, a supervisor with the city, got him a part-time job with the city opening doors to pension, benefits and an income. He knew it was a good opportunity, and while he accepted those offers from Hollywood he always came home. After getting in trouble with the law in Cleveland and Canada he was fortunate to keep his job with the city. But it was a wake-up call. He realized he didn’t want that lifestyle. R.J. quit the band, stopped hanging out with his friends and acquired his CDL license and “worked his ass off on the back of a garbage truck” for three years before being awarded a full-time position with the city. But still he knew he wanted more. 

Not Your 9 - 5, the Struggles of Owning a Small Business

R.J. admits it hasn’t always been easy. As an entrepreneur he still faces obstacles. 

It’s not your nine to five job. It’s a balance between your business and personal life. R.J., who started the business with co-owner and ex-wife Jamie Messenger, says there’s a lot of stress to owning and operating your own company. 

“Whether you work with your significant other or not it’s really hard to own your own business and cut off. Hey I’m done at 5 o’clock today. I’m going home. That doesn’t happen. If you think you’re gonna have a small business and its gonna be ‘I’m going into my store today at 9 and leaving at 5’ you’re not, and if you are, you’re not working hard enough - you’re not busy enough.”

There are still times where he has to decide whether to pay the mortgage or his employees. 

“What if we have two bad weeks in a row or not enough custom jobs coming in?”

As the business expands R.J. has had to start delegating responsibility as his time is pulled in different directions. Meetings, phone calls… he realizes one person just can’t do it all.

R.J. is a visible presence in the day to day operations, more than likely if you visit the store you’ll be dealing with him, and while he has a support system and staff, he doesn’t believe on complete reliance on others. 

“… the more you start relying on other people for yourself or your business the more chances you have of getting let down… (other people) don’t have that same drive as you…When you start relying on other people you almost get used to it, it’s just a mindset I never agreed with.”

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Thinking about starting a business?

R.J.’s advice? Just do it! “You’re really not going to know if it’s going to work until you just do it. From there adapting and overcoming.”

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Co-Owners R.J. and Jamie Messenger have publically and cordially announced they are going in different directions, this year’s Roar on the Shore event will be Jamie’s last event with Iron Empire. 

R.J. will be taking over the business by himself. He admits this will be new to him but is relying on those around him to “keep doing what they’re doing.”

Empire Expansion?

Can we expect to see more from the Iron Empire? R.J. thinks so, he’s planning on more online sales and an increase in custom screen printing as more companies outside of Erie discover their services. This year Iron Empire will be the FIRST local screen printing company to get the Roar on The Shore bid. Looking for something fresh and new, ROTS approached Iron Empire and asked them to put in a bid, “we like what your brand stands for, we’ve seen what you’ve done.” 

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We’re thankful R.J. and Jamie got involved, we got behind them and turned their hobby into a business that gives back. Iron Empire makes you feel good about yourself, about where we live. A wave of hometown pride built on hard work and dedication and the proof that any obstacle can be overcome if you want it bad enough. So, the next time you see another Iron Empire subject wearing a tee, tank or hoodie – give a nod. You’re part of the Empire. 

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Erica Whiting is a Pennsylvania based portrait photographer specializing in creative portraits celebrating individuals, couples and special moments. Whether you’re celebrating a major milestone, life event or just want to celebrate yourself Erica Whiting illustrates your individuality. We are all unique! #whatsyourstory #everystorymatters  | Instagram: ericawhitingphoto

Project Erie Entrpreneur: Pointe Foure Vintage Boutique

Welcome To The DOLLHOUSE

Emily Lynn George, is the blonde, bubbly, effervescent Owner/Operator of Pointe Foure LLC., Creator of the D.O.L.L. Project, and Treasurer of Independence Hill Collaborative of Erie LLC. Her mission is “to teach others how vintage is truly a trend on saving the planet, teaching the awareness of poor work conditions to make fast fashion, how it creates jobs, and educates us on the value and beauty behind the scenes of each piece.” She is that and SO MUCH MORE!

There’s a reason Emily was named Erie’s 40 under 40! She is also working to revitalize Erie’s Independence Hill while empowering self-confidence. Her D.O.L.L. Project was inspired by the story of a young anorexic girl, whose mother contacted Emily with a simple request. Could Emily style her daughter in an effort to improve her self-image? What happened next inspired a movement. 

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Emily George, photographed in Pointe Foure Vintage Boutique, and recently named one of Erie's 40 Under 40

D.O.L.L. | Dare to Own a Life You Love

“Everyone has a talent and it kills me not to see them shine. We all have a purpose on this earth and we should all dare to own a life we love one day at a time.

“Everyone has a talent and it kills me not to see them shine. We all have a purpose on this earth and we should all dare to own a life we love one day at a time.

When I questioned Emily about the D.O.L.L. Project she literally lit up. “THIS is the story!” she said. Emily admits she struggles with being an introvert/extrovert and still has her own insecurities, she said she went through the process with them. “It helped me too. Every day I dare to own a life I love, and I truly want that for every walk of life. Depression, low self-esteem, traumatic pasts experiences should not define your present nor your future... I want others to hold their heads high and with confidence because I understand how hard it is to do daily. Being mad, sad, hopeless is draining and feeling good is so rewarding. 

“Everyone has a talent and it kills me not to see them shine. We all have a purpose on this earth and we should all dare to own a life we love one day at a time. Every day is a fresh start to make that happen. My talent is to make inner beauty shine from the outside in.”

What is the D.O.L.L. Project? Twelve women, ages seventeen to thirty-six, were styled and photographed. Each woman was nominated by someone else or themselves with an explanation why they should be chosen. These weren’t women who thought of themselves as models, they were outsiders. Emily was looking to help build their self-esteem. Emily, her assistant Morgan Destefano, the makeup artists and photographers chose which photos to reveal to the women. Each D.O.L.L then chose a single photo to represent themselves. Empowering and inspiring it helped each one of them come out of their shell. 

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What is Vintage?

“Vintage is anything that’s 20 years or older,” explains Emily. “During the 50’s and 60’s clothing was made by hand and more durable.” In a world of fast, disposable fashion where consumers find it increasingly easy to purchase more for less, Pointe Foure, provides authentic, unique and sustainable fashion.

Old is the New, New

“Fashion repeats itself just like history. Major fashion labels such as American Eagle and Anthropologie search vintage shops taking old clothing from decades before us and pattern their clothing from the designs. At Pointe Foure what you’re getting is new versus vintage. Vintage has withheld time, most of it has lasted over 20 decades because it was made with love. It’s owners treasured them because they were either hand-made, came from a big city boutique made of the finest fabrics, and or hand tailored.

They truly are pieces of art which, just like anything, will become extremely rare to come across an authentic roaring 20s piece of clothing. We have a few museum pieces at the store. It’s always amazing to have older people come through the door and take a step back in time. A piece of clothing from the past will make them giggle and bring back old memories. It’s not all about purchasing the clothing at Pointe Foure, it’s about leaving an imprint when you walk out the door.” 

Emily is passionate about making sure her store supports local.

“95% of my merchandise is sourced locally. Which means I have historical pieces from some of the old amazing boutiques we had here. Like Trasks, London’s, Kaufman’s, The Boston Store, Kramer’s, P.A Meyer’s & Sons, & Halle’s. I love that I get to showcase the pieces, tell the history of them and then give them a second home!”

Behind the scenes in the Pointe Foure Vintage Boutique storage room, Emily says they "constantly make fun of this room"

Behind the scenes in the Pointe Foure Vintage Boutique storage room, Emily says they "constantly make fun of this room"

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How important is sustainable fashion and how do you feel it impacts our community?

Throwing away those “last-season” fashions costs an average of $45 per ton to dispose of and equates to the amount of water needed to fill 1,000 bathtubs or carbon emissions from a modern car for 6,000 miles. Emily explained that many clothing brands are unethically made outside the U.S. by under-paid workers and, in some cases, children. 

“95% of clothing that is thrown away, taking up our landfills, can be reclaimed, recycled, or repurposed! A new survey found that the average American will toss out 81 pounds of clothing this year. That amounts to 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothes ending up in landfills — so I want to keep the community educated on the environment shopping smart, sustainable, local, the effects fast fashion has on us, and on the opportunity to give clothing a second life… whether it be via hand me downs, secondhand shopping, upcycling old clothing articles to make new products, or donating your old clothes to others in need. It’s like doing your part to save not only our earth but our hometown and all the beauty it withholds.”  

Who inspires you?

When asked what inspires her, the answer was no surprise. 

“Truth be told vintage inspires me. The blood sweat, time and tears it took for a team of people to create one piece of art. Someone has to grown the cotton/ then pick it and or manufacture it, make it into fabric, dye it, make a print, a design, a pattern, sew it, and then it becomes what makes the first impression when others see you. To me fashion is more than just a piece of clothing it is a representation of how we feel and who we are. And I solute all those who have dedicated their time to making us feel and look fabulous even if it’s a paper bag. A team of people had to work hard to me that. Lol. Fast fact I actually use to make outfits out of paper bags and have fashion shows when I was like 6 at my parents’ house lol. 

What is your Philosophy on Supporting Local? 

“We can’t survive without each other period. Love hate and all the emotions aside. A village takes a tribe to survive and thrive and why not do it together. We all are so different and bringing our talents, duties, and knowledge to the table can only make us stronger. It’s like pieces to a puzzle and we are all just trying to fit in, and grow within.”

If you’ve attended a recent or past Erie ARTrageous event or Gallery Night you’ve likely witnessed Emily herself or one of the DOLL’s in person. She’s actively involved in the art scene and collaborates with other female entrepreneurs. Emily is the epitome of collaboration over competition.  She recently brought together a host of female artists for the most recent and probably ambitious ARTrageous event to date.

“ARTrageous for me is the big event where I get to showcase my ever so artsy side, my fashion designer side….This year was truly ARTrageous because a lot of the models I have watched grow since they were 14 when the boutique first opened its doors. This year they all graduated high school… I had my Event Flagshipflea, an outdoor local artisan marketplace that I host once a month up on Independence Hill during the day a couple months out of the summer, and then at night seeing 16 Avant Gard pieces myself, my team of Pointe Foure, Head Cases, and Rachel Berlin of RLB, come to life was everything! A dream team collaboration of some of Erie’s most creative female entrepreneurs! I asked these women to come on board and mesh our artistic abilities tighter because that’s how it should be done.”

Why Did You Choose Erie To Build Your Business?

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For this single mother and entrepreneur, you could say fashion is in Emily’s blood. Her mother, Regina George, was her inspiration. “For as long as I can remember…I was always tagging along with her when she would go ‘treasure hunting’ Her motto was ‘you’ll never see one like it again… so you just have to get it!’”

“My first vintage obsession was and still is scarves! Each and every single one is uniquely beautiful in its own way. They truly are pieces of art. I probably have over 100 in my own personal collection. I would say they inspired and sparked my love for all things vintage.” 

Emily’s grandmother was a tailor for Halle’s, a high-end boutique in Erie, and saved buttons and trimmings to repurpose later, which inspired Emily’s clothing line for her portfolio in college. Emily, who always knew she wanted to open a boutique, earnedan Associate of arts degree in Fashion Designat Bauder College in Georgia, then went on to receive her Associate of Arts Degree in Fashion Merchandising. 

She then moved back to Erie, worked a number of retail jobs and quickly found out the corporate world wasn’t for her. After having her son Cy, who she calls the "apple of her eye and the reason and blessing as to why I have a wonderful boutique in my hometown” she realized it was time to follow her dreams and open her own boutique. But she admits it wasn’t always easy.

Emily explains that for most female business owners there seems to be a shift in power and juggling between business and family can be difficult. It is “meant for survival.” In her experience many small business owners in the Erie area wouldn’t be able to stay afloat without second jobs and the stress can create problems in relationships or strengthen them. 

 “There is no turning back. If it was not for my family...for Cy and how much he believes in his momma I couldn’t do it all. He is our future and I want him to grow up knowing about the importance of hard work, dedication to make a change, difference, and an impact on this world. How to be a leader. Bluntly...It’s not an easy life…" She admits she cries daily, and the future isn't certain. But she will tell you Cy understands it all... “For instance he always wants to go to work with me, proudly tells people that I own Pointe Foure as soon as he meets them…”

There is little question as to why this real-life wonder woman was named Erie's 40 under 40. Single mother, Entrepreneur, supporting local artisans and strengthening female self-esteem and self-image she is a force to be reckoned with. 

 She says, "I’m here to take on interns from our surrounding colleges to show them what real life is like being a small business fashion design merchandising major in a small town and how to be creative and business like with the bare essentials and a creative mind. Through the tough and fun times. How to laugh while being kind and I’m here to help the Erie economy... One day I will find balance but for right now I’m okay with being off balance because I’m weird like that.”

And THAT, is what Keeping Erie Weird is all about.  

Erica Whiting is a Pennsylvania based portrait photographer specializing in creative portraits celebrating individuals, couples and special moments. So whether you’re celebrating a major milestone, life event or just want to celebrate yourself Erica Whiting illustrates your individuality. We are all unique! #whatsyourstory #everystorymatters  | Instagram: ericawhitingphoto

Project Erie Entrepreneur: McGreevey Cake Co.

Matthew's Story

If you haven't tried something sweet from Mcgreevey Cake Co you're missing out! Mcgreevey Cake's look big city but they're all local. Matthew John McGreevey's hand-crafted gourmet cupcakes and cake pop's have exploded on the Erie food scene. They are one of a kind and personalized to fit you. Being creative means something different for all of us, and for Matthew that meant baking.

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Mcgreevey Cake's look big city but they're all local.

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I met up with Matthew at his studio downtown on a windy Sunday. He pulled up and met me in front of the Renaissance Building and smiled. Matthew is ALWAYS smiling. He is probably one of the happiest people I know. We popped up to the studio and chatted away like old friends. Just like any artist he clicked on his playlist and we got to work. When I suggested I wanted to smear frosting on his face for some photos, there was NO hesitation. He just said, "Let's do it." And then we kept going for GOLD. 

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Mathew has been creating cakes since he was a child. Knowing he wanted to run and own a business he decided to turn that passion into a bakery. But his success didn't happen overnight (does anybody's?) Matthew played around with a few different business models, until one day he made a smash cake for a friend. She suggested he try turning that into a business and see if he could monetize his beautiful creations. So he gathered photos of his work and late one night he uploaded his vision onto facebook and we LOVED him. 

But it didn't stop there. He pounded the pavement, handed out business cards, talked to business owners, traded services and provided free services at times. It was hard work. But he never gave up. And slowly the calls came in. He signed a lease for a small studio space while his wife Brittany spent a year in military training. He admits it gave him the time to focus on his business and is proud to show her what he's accomplished while she was away. 

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Over the past year Matthew has built a small bakery empire through word of mouth and a smart social media platform and he has partnered with other Erie local businesses like Juice Jar, Pressed, Pop Luck and Tipsy Bean.  Currently he's working on the Mcgreevey Cake Co YouTube channel with DIY tutorials. You can subscribe here Mcgreevey Cake Co Youtube

We need more of THIS. People who are INSPIRED, who LOVE what they do and a community who SUPPORT them. This is Matthew's story. What's yours? #whatsyourstory #createdtobecreative #purposedrivenlife

A variety of McGreevey Cake Co. treats can be purchased at Franco's Cafe and Courthouse Cafe by Lisa in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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For ordering or more information about Mcgreevey Cake Co.
Orders: orders@mcgreeveycakeco.com
Catering Requests:catering@mcgreeveycakeco.com
General Inquiries: info@mcgreeveycakeco.com 
Mcgreevey Cake Co Youtube

"We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand." - Isaiah 64:8


Erica Whiting is a Pennsylvania based portrait photographer specializing in creative portraits celebrating individuals, couples and special moments. So whether you’re celebrating a major milestone, life event or just want to celebrate yourself Erica Whiting illustrates your individuality. We are all unique! #whatsyourstory #everystorymatters  | Instagram: ericawhitingphoto

Let Them Eat Cake!

I met her mother CaraLee when she was eight years old over pizza and bowling. I nick-named her Diva because even then she always knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to speak her mind. We strung cranberries and popcorn on a homemade Christmas Tree; and I still hang the ornaments she and her sister made me on my tree every year. I watched her grow up from a sassy brassy little girl into a beautiful strong mama. Now CaraLee has two daughters of her own and I'm honored she asked me to capture their story.

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Hard-working, full-time mother of two girls CaraLee wanted to give this photo session to herself as a Mother's Day gift. And why not? We work hard, we deserve it! We started chatting in September. She still knew exactly what she wanted. But life gets busy. Months passed, but CaraLee knew she wanted to do this. So after messaging back and forth looking for just the RIGHT location, we finally set a date in April at the AH-mazing McGreevey Cake Co. (seriously if you haven't tried his cakes you should!) Matt graciously opened his doors to us (literally) and I had a little surprise waiting for these three beautiful girls.

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In toddled Miss T. with all the sass, and just like her mama she knew exactly what she wanted:)

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Did someone say Starbucks?

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Teagan gleefully wandered around the shop while I got introduced to Miss H! 

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After the introductions we let Teagan have the run of the place! (Don't worry Matt - we cleaned up after) Ever wondered what it'd be like to play in a bakery? We gave her some flour which she delicately sprinkled on the floor.... looking at us like "Mom are you sure about this?"

"Okay, let's do this!" 

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The sass is strong with this one... 

Pro Tip: Frosting can be used as hair product. 

Matthew McGreevey didn't disappoint, as we pulled out a mini cake specially ordered to match the Teagan's outfit. Sometimes you just have to let them eat cake! 

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Dear Divas,
Thank you for spending the day with me. I know this was supposed to be a gift for yourself, a way to capture memories to cherish forever. But to be able to do this for you was the best gift you could have given me! You're gonna do great things, and you are all beautiful, strong and one of a kind!

Special thank you: to Matthew McGreevey of McGreevey Cake Co. for allowing us to use his bakery for this special photo session, and for customizing his amazing almond flavored mini cake and cake pops as my special gift. YOU ROCK!

Erica Whiting is a Pennsylvania based portrait photographer specializing in creative portraits celebrating individuals, couples and special moments. So whether you’re celebrating a major milestone, life event or just want to celebrate yourself Erica Whiting illustrates your individuality. We are all unique! #whatsyourstory #everystorymatters  | Instagram: ericawhitingphoto

Boneyard Bucket List

Do you have a bucket list? You know... a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket? One of mine was to visit the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas and last month I checked it off the list! 

To get to The Neon Museum, where the Boneyard is housed, we had to leave the colorful characters and lights of the strip behind. We opted to walk rather than take a cab. Outside of the main city there are no grand casinos or glittering lights, just bus stations, small businesses and convenience stores.

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Some of the most famous neon signs in Sin City are stored here. Now they sit in piles like a neon Stonehenge. Waiting for visitors to imagine them in their glory. Its not hard, they are still impressive. Still glorious. Still bold. Even in their aging state. 

Standing beneath their technicolor defiance I heard the words of Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

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Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
— Dylan Thomas
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I hope I rage against the light. I don't want to waste a moment, and when it's my time I will not go quietly, I will rage against the dying of the light. The Boneyard was hard to leave, but I have the memories. Don't waste your moments. What's on your bucket list?

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Vegas Baby...Doing it MY way

I just came back from Las Vegas. I know what you're thinking... Sin City, gambling, adult playground right? Not for me! I did Vegas MY way. I don't gamble (I don't like losing my money LOL) I went for the entertainment (and photo ops of course!) and Vegas didn't disappoint. Right on the strip we saw singers, snakes, performers, a few "female officers" (that weren't exactly regulation...) and even a wedding. Vegas Baby. ONLY in Vegas. 

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One of my favorite subjects to photograph is people. I love capturing personalities like messages in a bottle. Who are they? What's their story? Where are they going? Questions suspended for a moment as their image is frozen in front of my camera. 

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For a small donation I could have had this reptilian beauty wrapped around my neck. Ummm no thanks. But can I just take your photo? There were a lot of characters on the strip with gimmicks like this asking for donations for money.
Traveler's Tip: Keep your distance, and be careful when talking to strangers. Don't flash your money or credit cards on the street.

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Outside the Mandalay Bay Resort we stumbled across this lovely couple in the middle of their photo shoot. I couldn't resist capturing this sweet moment as we were passing through. 

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People's reactions are always different, Some people pose boldly for me. Others are shy, and some I capture like an observer from afar. 

I LOVE these real, authentic moments. Life as it happens. No script, no posing. Natural light. Just real people doing their THANG! Because being yourself is AWESOME. Whatever you do.. do it YOUR way!