This is one HECK of a story.
It was two months before I headed to Texas and it came to me. A vision of something a little darker than anything else I had ever shot with a dash of glamour. This idea literally came to life over a few weeks of reaching out to people that I knew in Texas.The flowers were picked up the night before around midnight from Raquel Lovern! She was in the middle of prepping for an entire wedding the next day and somehow fit us in a BEAUTIFUL bouquet that lasted all day through the heat. She is AMAZING.Whitney was a former bride that I absolutely love who was doing a beauty session with me the week I was in town. We dolled her up a little extra after her session with Sonia Still and then met up with the amazing Jonathan Attaway. These two gave up an entire day of their time to get dolled up, drive 2.5 hrs, shoot in over 100 degree heat and made it look GOOD. Jessica Rambo was my partner in crime. She has an amazing eye for styling and she is down right awesome to shoot with. We put our two models in the back seat, packed the trunk full of props and clothing and headed on a journey that would forever change us. We started down Hwy 35 going South not knowing what we were going see along the way or when we arrived at the Trinity Institute. From the stories we had heard- it was dark, dirty, spooky and possibly haunted. GREAT- sounds like somewhere we all wanted to hang out!!
Along the way we watched the beautiful field of sunflowers in full bloom. We pulled over, jumped the mud puddles and ran for the flowers. Some rose as big as 6′ high. It was a break in our trip and a memory to add to our journey. Our conversations flowed as we drove the many, many miles. Whitney and Jonathan shared their stories and passion for traveling, missions and music. They were bonding and they were going to be incredible models. Those 2.5 hours were fun filled and definitely the footing we would need as a team to make this happen.
As we pulled up into the small town of just a little over 200 people…you started to see less and less. And then there it stood. A large mansion literally in the middle of nowhere. We were all giddy with excitement and in the very same breathe scared out of our minds. We pulled up, opened the trunk and started to go through our things. We were looking for “Bob”. He was in charge of the Institute. Out of nowhere a giant black pickup truck barrels through throwing up dust in our faces that stuck to the sweat on our faces. It was miserably hot…the light was falling quick and honestly, we were a little weirded out. Out of the truck steps a man in giant black cowboy hat and all black clothing. He reaches in the back of his pick up truck and grabs a guitar case. As he walks towards us, my heart rate rises. He takes off his shades as his long dark hair stuck to his neck from the heat of the day. He was mysterious, sarcastic, confusing and intriguing. We introduced ourselves and he kindly let us know that he just left a funeral where he donated his singing talents to his community. He says that is mostly what he does these days- sing for funerals. We literally were in shock and had no idea who this man was and where all of his stories were coming from. He agreed to give us a tour of the mansion and answer any questions after putting his guitar away. As he walked away, we all looked at each other with confusion and continued to unpack the car. Jonathan was on his phone with very little internet reception and he kept repeating, “I know this guy.” As the man made his way back towards us, Jonathan straight up asked the man, “Are you Josh Pearson??”. He tipped his hat and said, “You’re lookin’ at him. This is pretty much what I do now; I sing at funerals. I was big in Europe once.” Jonathan flipped out, got a picture with him and we were all very impressed. Jonathan has an extensive music history and a musician himself. So, this trip was starting off incredibly cool. Mr. Pearson went on to take us through the very hot and dirty mansion. On the 3rd floor was the abandoned chapel with the large stage and piano. Some of the stained glass was broken and you could feel a light breeze come through the shattered colors. This is where we went to get a breathe of fresh air. It was well over 100 degrees inside. Whitney’s make up was melting, her curls were falling out and Jonathan was soaking wet. Not once…I repeat, NOT ONCE did either one of these two complain. They took it like champions and never mentioned the heat once. “Anything we can do to make whats in your head come to life”, they would say. Mr Pearson took as far as the 4th floor and said if you want to any further up you are on your own. OOOOOK. What did that mean? We literally held onto each other as we crept up to the next floor. There was a vulture in one of the rooms, a murder scene from a movie recently filmed and a tree that was coming from the ceiling. It was INSANE. There was a constant presence in the place and we all knew it. We didn’t have time to figure out if it was good or bad. Time to start shooting.
The light was falling fast and no one wanted to be stuck in this place after dark! Sweat was literally running down our bodies as we started to shoot. Honestly, I didn’t think we were going to make it through this heat. Setting up props took some time. Unwrapping the 30 candles was another big time sucker. It was all the little things that were sucking the time and life out of us. It was go time. Time to pull ourselves together and take advantage of this amazing venue. We literally mapped out where we would shoot according to where the sun would be. It was a race from floor to floor. Each level we got more and more excited. The goal- to reach the tree on the 4th floor. It’s why we drove so far. It was the most mysterious part of this entire journey. We had to be there right when the light came through the window on the west side. JACKPOT. The light was stunning and we shot our little hearts out. Then came the candle lit scene. I wanted it to be very near dusk before I took those shots. I didn’t overshoot. I got what I needed and got out of there! Time to gather the candles, pick up the gear, run down dark flights of stairs and start packing as fast as possible. Not a single one of us wanted to be stuck in that place after the sun went down. We were half elated with smiles and high fives and half packing as fast as our fingers would allow as we carried loads of things to the car. Going outdoors was a good 20 degrees cooler…it made going back in so much harder! It was something we all knew we would never forget.
The car ride home was full of excitement for the first 3o minutes or so as we reminisced what just happened. The things we saw. The things we felt. The people we met. It was all very surreal. As our journey home came closer to and end the conversations lessened and the quite took over. It was like a spiritual journey had just taken place and we were all brought together to do this. The four of us are forever bonded. I truly believe God put us all together to experience something other worldly, feel his presence, make new friends and connect on a deeper level. We all gave everything we had. No money was exchanged. Only hugs and high fives as we sat in the parking lot of Chick-fil-a saying our goodbyes.
We all thanked God for this amazing adventure to the middle of nowhere. That nowhere was somewhere we all needed to be.
Thank you to everyone who was apart of this. It was one of the greatest adventures and mysterious journeys of my life. Crazy Awesome. Everyone needs to do something completely freeing every once in a while. It’s in the quiet you find answers that you need. The long car ride…the quite hallways of the mansion…it was exactly what I needed. To this day we are all very close after shooting together. I love each and everyone one of them. So very grateful for the opportunity.
A HUGE THANK YOU to Denim and Grace Magazine for featuring us in their online and print magazine! Truly honored to grace these pages with other fabulous photographers!
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Thank you to the vendors and friends that made this dream come to reality.
Venue: The Trinity Institute
Floral: R Love Floral
Hair & Makeup: Sonia Still, Dallas/Fort Worth, Tx
Headband: Wonderful Bride on Etsy
Stylist: Jessica Rambo
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