Bunn Salarzon - portland newborn photography

I HAD THE PERFECT PHOTO STUDIO… THEN I LOST IT.

Actually, I got scammed out of my Portland photo studio.

Never did I think it could happen to me. We had a signed lease agreement and everything; I read every single word of it, there was nothing on it that said the guy was a scheming con artist. I didn’t discover this until I Googled his name Christopher Wyland… after the judge awarded the Plaintiff (building owner) and evicted me from it. This happened in 2015 and I still haven’t gotten over it.

I worked so hard on this photo studio, invested a lot of money and poured so much love into it. It was almost perfect for me. I no longer had to rent from others because I had a space of my own to be creative as I wanted to be. And I was just getting started. (Sadly, it didn’t last long.)

I didn’t take official photos of the space but these are images I took on my smartphone to quickly capture angles to share with friends. To say that I was so proud of all that I’ve accomplished thus far is an understatement. It was a photo studio where I created artwork for my clients, but I didn’t want it to look and feel like a typical studio… I was making it into a home and that’s what I wanted everyone to feel the second they stepped inside my little world. It was barely all coming together, still so much left to do to design it like a live-in condo— then I found an eviction notice taped on the door. It devastated me.

white portrait studio with large windows
white office space with big windows
white office space with windows and skylight
white IKEA KALLAX bookcase
high ceiling white photography studio

Fast forward five years later into a new decade and a new me, I’ve returned to the photography world and I am looking for a creative space of my own. Again. However, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that I still compare everything to this first space that I got to call my own, albeit for such a short time.

It was 657 SF with a glass wall dividing the space where I did all my photo shoots and the other side was the client lounge area complete with a skylight and changing area behind those green curtains. It was on the top/third floor so there was not a single building or tree blocking the large window which means there was always a good amount of light coming into the studio even on cloudy days. It would’ve been perfect if it was a corner suite with two large windows. The building had an industrial elevator like something out of New York City; although it always had issues it was still super cute and great photo opp for city-themed photo shoots. (I called it the NYC Loft.)

Bluehour Restaurant was right across the way as well as TILT (a great burger and beer joint!); down the street was Whole Foods Market and easy freeway access. Honestly, it was almost perfect despite unpredictable street parking availability.

My monthly rent was just a little over $1,000 which was doable on my own so I didn’t have to rely on co-opt. I did rent it out to hourly and daily renters, that was a very effective option for when I wasn’t using the space. So, where do I go from here? Will I ever find a space like this or better? Unfortunately, I’ve found nothing like it so far.

Liz Marek - filming bear cake in Pretty Ponies episode

Let Me Tell You What Really Happened During Filming

I cried a lot… everything seemed fine; Romie and I were beyond excited to have been chosen to get to appear on a huge network television show, like the Food Network Ridiculous Cakes, although I wasn’t sure what we had done to deserve it.

We arrived for pre-event filming at Sugar Geek Show with butterflies in our stomachs because we didn’t know what to expect as we’ve never filmed for a TV show before. We sat down at the table with Liz Marek, the amazingly talented baker and very successful owner of Sugar Geek Show, as the producer prepped us for everything… Then the cameras started rolling.

Liz asked questions about what kind of cake we’d like to have for Oliver’s first birthday party, what were meaningful items and colors to include, etc., and I answered— because Romie didn’t want to talk!? I felt like I did well, no stuttering or making up words like how I usually would do when I get really nervous. Yeah, it was going well. Then she asked me about Oliver and our story… that is when I started to cry and couldn’t stop.

I recounted all the years that we had prayed to have a child of our own then Oliver arrived when we least expected, after the loss of Romie’s mom whom we adoringly refer to as Lola in reference to the online journal that I kept of her via Instagram called The Lola Diaries. To realize that being on the show and all the blessings that have come forth since were all because of Lola (and our many angels in Heaven who have watched over us as we prayed and cried for 15 years). How did we get so lucky?!

The final footage that aired did not include a second of my tears, or any parts about our adoption journey. It wasn’t about us, per se. Which wasn’t a total surprise since the show was about the ridiculously amazing cake that Liz created just for Oliver. But, what I wouldn’t give to see footage of all those raw moments because I’m the one who is usually behind the camera capturing the emotions of others. Sadly, it also omitted the emotional moment when Liz surprised Romie with a special song that played on the bear’s suitcase to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine” which was his mom’s most favorite nursery rhyme that she sang to all her grandchildren and their children.

You can watch the episode titled “Pretty Ponies” that includes two other cake stories along with our three-foot tall bear cake that appears towards the end. Unfortunately, you will need to sign in with your TV provider that has Food Network access. Also, see the photo gallery from Oliver’s 1st Birthday Party; photos by ANIKO Photography.

Fun Fact: My sister, owner of White Elephant Asian Fusion food cart, and I have both made an appearance on the Food Network, but on different shows.

black and white family studio portraits

Confession: A family of three is easiest to work with (for me).

Okay, let me explain…

I can better visualize poses for two parents and their little baby (who is at the barely-crawling stage) because them babies cannot run away yet! haha. It’s just easier for me to have parents pose with their one child than it is for me to pose and keep the momentum when there are a lot more people to pose, as well, and make sure everyone’s hair and outfits are in place. Sure, I can just have everyone stand next to each other and smile — shoot, shoot, shoot! — but that is not my style whatsoever. It’s very traditional, and I’m not a traditional photographer.

For me, when I’m photographing a big family (I have photographed a family of 21+ persons at one time!) then I’d want to connect each person with their spouse and/or child within the large group shot. Then I’d break it up into smaller groups so there is a good amount of combinations, including individual headshots. I’d need to direct everyone in a way that is more intimate, as if everyone likes each other. HA! In all of this, I want it to be very non-traditional so not every single person is looking at the camera when I am focusing on just one or two persons in the shot (within the group). This is what I do when photographing family formals at every wedding.

I guess what I’m saying is, my strength lies in photographing smaller families (a family of three works best for me!) but I have photographed bigger families than that and continue to receive inquiries. I hope this explains why I don’t showcase large family/group photos. I know what I do best so just letting you know… and the entire world. ;)

Bunn Salarzon - family photographer

This family met me at Portland IKEA for their photo shoot…

I am looking for new spots for photo shoots within 30 minutes drive from the Portland International Airport, so I’d love any suggestions that you may have!?

Spots? Yes, because I don’t need an entire location; that one awesome spot you always pass by during a drive or walk is just perfect for me.

Sometimes the best place to do a photo shoot isn’t at the most obvious places. Well, at least not for my style of photography. The first thing I look for is light then background. I try to avoid other people and cars, and even buildings unless I’m doing a specific photo shoot in the city or something like that. 

What I crave for is those hidden gems; the kinds that you’d find while driving here and there and then you’d see it along the way, but didn’t really notice it before because it’s not an obvious place for photo shoots. But, the light. Ooh! And this angle, that angle— thinking to yourself, “Bunn would love this spot!” Yes, that’s what I want. :) 
 
I shot those photos at IKEA, could you tell?!

I would drive along I-205 from Vancouver, Washington and see this big field behind IKEA, but thought what a crazy spot to do a photo shoot. However, the more I saw it the more that I wanted to do it! So, this family met me at IKEA and this is what we created that day. I love how these photos turned out on film!

These hidden gems don’t have to look exactly like this field— and it doesn’t even have to be a field. It can be a driveway with a cool garage door, or a stunning lonesome tree nearby a schoolyard. Oh, what I would really love to find is a driveway with a beautiful tree line like from the scene in Rain Man with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

If you see anything that would make a lovely backdrop for my style of work, then please do not hesitate to let me know. Thank you in advance!

interracial adoptive family white baby boy

//HELLO! I’M BACK.

When my son was born, I decided that I needed to step away from the photography business that required for me to be physically away to shoot. And when I was home, or when we were traveling, I was still physically “away” from him because I was always on my laptop to edit photos… and he’d have to play by himself. I just couldn’t keep doing that anymore and miss out on his growing years. I mean, I waited 15 years to have these moments and I didn’t want to be too busy to experience them.

So, I retired my 10-year photography business at the end of 2017 (nine months after I became a mom).

In the few years since, I focused on growing another business that allowed me to be at home with Oliver and work whenever I wanted to; I became a stay-at-home mom. Although things were moving along, I was feeling like I was slowly losing a part of myself… but, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. I just felt lost, very lost.

I announced to the entire world that I was “retired” and my Yelp account was reported as closed, but I was still secretly shooting weddings and portraits here and there. Those times are when I felt alive. I tried to deny it, but I realized that I just missed being a photographer and I wanted to return to the world that I loved so much.

But, there was a problem. How do I come back from retirement? Is it ethical?!

I remember when Michael Jordan (Jay-Z too!) announced his retirement from the NBA. It didn’t make any sense because basketball was Michael Jordan, that’s what we loved seeing him do and he did it so well! Basketball wasn’t the same without him, but we all moved along without him. Then he came back. Huh? I thought he retired. That was confusing. (I’m not comparing myself to the greatest basketball of all time though! It’s his retirement and return that I kinda relate to.)

That’s how I feel about the idea of me returning to photography. Is it confusing? Has everyone already moved along without me in those few years since my “retirement”? What if my time has already passed? Does it really make much sense for me to return now, or ever?

I suppose there’s really no right or wrong answer, it’s just a feeling that I have deep down that I’m ready to start my photography business over again. Okay, maybe not start all over but more refine and showcase only the kind of art that makes me proud to create. The kind of art that will attract the right clients who want to work with me.

I’m going to end this post here so it’s not a longer novel than it already is. Basically, I’m saying that I’m back in business! Thanks for welcoming me home. ❤️