MEET TERESA & JUSTIN
When you’re in love, you bring out the best in each other, and we have been in love since we met at a church 4th of July picnic in 2005. Across the potluck, laughing with the crowd, we noticed each other quoting the same 90s sitcom (“Relax, Relate, Release!” . . .who can name it?) and when Teresa offered Justin a can of Coke from the kitchen he
In 2012 our lives as a couple changed forever when Teresa had a devastating car accident. Through the shock of the crash and the months of
Now, with a young daughter, life is beautifully chaotic and working together just the two of us feels like our date nights. Some of our favorite times as a couple are talking about ideas for a session, getting excited when it goes really well, and replaying our favorite moments on the backs of our cameras once we get home. Well that, and when we find a really good binge-worthy Netflix show.
We are often asked, with a knowing wink, ‘how is it working with your spouse?’ and the answer is, it is awesome. Working together only makes us stronger as individuals. We each feel braver to try new things when we are together. We encourage each other and push each other to stay creative. When one of us needs a minute to collect our thoughts or set up a light, the other is right there to keep the energy of a session going. When one of us has a crazy idea (“let’s do an underwater session!”) the other is there to say “let’s do it but remember you hated scuba diving because you float!!”. Laughter and love, we hope when you’re with us you feel surrounded by both.
Ever since she could unbuckle her own seatbelt, Teresa has been insisting someone turn the car around so she can jump out and grab a picture. She has been trying to make people laugh since her first popsicle. She always sat with the new kid in school, rocked a safety vest on safety patrol, and cried along with anyone who had their feelings hurt. After going to Elon University and a brief career as a social worker, (and once being a candidate for ordination), Teresa picked up a camera and wait for it… it clicked. Pun definitely intended.
Now all the cheesey jokes, building quick rapport, and looking to the sky for creative inspiration mix together for a perfect photography combination. A little therapy for when you’re not feeling camera-ready. A little humor for the camera-shy person who doesn’t like to smile. A little safety patrol anxiety for catching the smallest details. Tears of joy to share with you when it all comes together better than you could ever imagine. And a chair, slid out to greet you, to say let’s be friends.
If you’ve seen a totally glittered Honda Accord driving around Cary, wave, because it’s Justin. A bit of an online celebrity, Justin has a growing network of cussing crafters who love how he artfully puts Mod Podge and glitter on everything from his fingernails, to his car, to custom wonder woman sneakers. Through the development of his online presence he became a master at telling stories through videos. The smallest details get his attention, from the way you brush your hair out of your eyes, to the rain drops dripping from the flowers as we create your photographs. His eye for composition, style, and design transform the most seemingly mundane moments into powerful behind the scenes videos.
One of Justin’s most surprising gifts is his musical talent (especially in a busy parking garage where the acoustics are just perfect for belting out the theme song from Annie). When Justin hears a new song, he sees the video that goes with it play out in his head. When creating video stories Justin often starts with the music, sometimes spending hours picking it out after the first planning meeting. His film style follows along with the music until the final creation is as rich in cinematography as it is in sound.
She’s been in the passenger seat of a twin-prop plane high in the air, and deep under water in a scuba diving excursion but her most exciting adventure has been as a newborn and childhood portrait photographer. For all her travel she has seen one thing – beauty is in simplicity. Her photographic work is soulfully simplistic, transforming life’s first moments in to elevated portraiture. Aurora joins My Friend Teresa Studios as our exclusive newborn and childhood photographer.
Aurora’s list of professional accomplishments is long, including her Masters of Photography from the Professional Photographers of America as well as the Photographic Craftsman degree. She is a Professional Photographers of North Carolina Fellow of Photography and was a Grand Imaging Award Finalist in 2018. Teresa and Justin were excited to have her talents join the team in October 2019.
Meet the Staff
Helen Smith – Studio Manager
Do you remember that mom that you wished was your mom? Well, meet Helen (or, as some call her, MiMi) the mom of our studio and the person everyone wishes, just a little, was their mom too. She will feed you snacks, make sure you remember your appointments, and give you a hug whenever you need it. She has been keeping her on track for 30+ years as her real life mom. She’s not all snacks and snuggles though, she keeps our studio going behind the scenes at every step She is exceedingly qualified, she holds a PhD in Chemistry and her MBA. Having semi-retired from an acclaimed career in the pharmaceutical industry, she is bringing her talents to our Studio. She is a treasure that will make you wish, as many have, that she was your mom too.
SCOTT SMITH – ART INSTALLER
“Hey Dad, can you install a few canvases for one of my clients?” So began Scott’s second career: – lab operations consultant during the week, professional installer on weekends. The Ph.D. he earned in Analytical Chemistry at NC State now stands for ‘Picture-hangin’ Dad’. Scott is also the person who executes Teresa’s crazy ideas like “hey Dad, can you build a waterfall?” or “I need a backdrop made of whitewashed pallets . . . portable.”. Scott has been hanging pictures and mirrors for My Friend Teresa Studios clients and others under the banner of Radiance Art Installation for 5+ years. Sometimes it’s just a picture in a hallway, other times it is a house full of portraits on newly-painted walls. It’s no secret, Teresa is his favorite artist but he will install artwork for interior designers, other photographers, and everyday folk who need help.
Erica Kelley – Content Creator
We met Erica when in 2011 when we photographed her senior portraits which seems like long ago but not long enough ago for Teresa to forget the loud, surprise fart that hit her in the middle of Erica’s session. If you can laugh at that, like we did, you are certainly going to make a great member of our team. Erica started training as a retoucher with us in 2013 and has continued to be our resident Photoshop and design expert. Erica graduated from Wake Forest University in 2015 with a major in Psychology and works in marketing. Erica’s got the country-girl soul and loves sunshine, sweet tea, and breaking in a new pair of cowboy boots (oh, and her new husband!).
Bridget Johnson – Lighting Assistant
When Teresa says “don’t worry, I got this” Bridget knows to worry, because Teresa don’t got it. Bridget and Teresa have known each other since they worked together and like all co-workers turned best friends just couldn’t stand to be apart when that chapter closed. Bridget is an accomplished marketing professional at her day job and a full-on, make you jealous, Pinterest-perfect mom all the time. She is naturally creative, amazingly fast at seeing the way through a problem, and really good at knowing when someone is about to fall in a creek (ahem). She knows what you need before you even know it yourself, and makes everyone feel like they have known her for years.
Will Gibson – Lighting Assistant
Sometimes you just need a boy scout to get you out of a jam, and as an eagle scout candidate, Will has helped us out of many, many jams. A bright and involved student, Will is as good at building computers as he is building houses for Habitat for Humanity. On sessions Will can be found setting up lighting gear, spraying smoke or tossing a ball for shoot effects, or making little kids laugh with his funny expressions. As the honorary little brother of the team, Will keeps us young with his boundless energy and helpful pop culture references.