Four years. 48 Cover Stories. Hundreds of residents and local organizations profiled. Thousands of loyal local readers. Yardley Living celebrates its 4th Anniversary this August by giving you a peek behind the curtain and introducing you to the 4 local photographers that have made stories come to life with their artistic vision. Story by Heather DiPrato.
Back in 2017 when Jim and I envisioned this community magazine, the one thing that we knew for sure was that quality photography for our stories was a necessity. What we could not have predicted was how much fun we’d have working alongside our photographers and featured locals every month!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and if so, the work of the four primary photographers we work with speaks volumes. In celebration of our 4th anniversary, we decided to help you get to know the talented photographers behind the beautiful feature stories. Meet local photographers Michele Freiling, Brooke Straiton, Frank Pronesti, and Cindy Fatsis, and check out the Yardley cover stories each helped us create over the past 4 years. Let’s go!
Michele Freiling Photography
Michele Freiling grew up in Solebury Township and currently resides in Holland. She attended Bloomsburg University and earned her Master’s in Special Education from Gwynedd-Mercy. In addition to being a professional photographer for the past 11 years, she is also a beloved teacher at the Bucks County Montessori Charter School teaching students from 4th – 6th grade. Her students lovingly refer to her as “FryGuy” and she is passionate about both photography and teaching.
Months before we launched the magazine, Michele and I met to discuss the concept, and I loved her enthusiasm! Since then, she has photographed about half of our Yardley cover stories, and our featured families love her!
“Michele was casual and fun, with a quick eye for detail,” says Julie McGoldrick, whose family was featured in July of 2018. “She made us feel comfortable and collaborated on ideas. We quickly forgot she was snapping away as we played and picnicked in the fields, and her photos showed our family relaxed and comfortable. It was a fun experience and a fond memory for my family!”
Michele is incredible with children, they naturally gravitate to her. Maybe it’s because of her teaching background, or maybe she’s just a big kid at heart! She also has a knack for taking shots from the ground (and I’ve often stopped traffic for her to get the perfect cover shot). She has been either a winner or finalist of Bucks Happening in the category of photography for the past 5 out of 6 years, quite a feat given the competition in this field! She specializes in portrait photography.
“I’m a people person and love meeting new people,” says Michele, “What I love about photography is that the photos I take are truly making time stand still. Life goes by so fast, so I make it a point for my sessions to be fun and stress-free!” To check out more of Michele’s photography, you can visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/michelefreilingphotography/.
Brooke Straiton Photography
Brooke is long time resident of Bucks County. She earned her M.S. from Temple University in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. After years of putting her degree to use in the corporate world, switched careers to have more time with her husband and boys. She’s been a full-time photographer since 2016 and has a studio in Fairless Hills, which she plans to expand in 2022.
“Photographing people and sharing a story with an image is what I love most,” says Brooke. “Mostly I love to connect with the person on the other side of the camera to help them love their photos as much as I do.” Brooke specializes in portraits, fashion, and commercial/business photography. “Anything that involves people,” she tells us. “I love that I get to meet people with fantastic stories through my work with these publications. And that remains true for all of the people that I have photographed over the years.” She has won numerous photography awards, and her fashion photography has been featured in national magazines, including a recent cover.
In Yardley Living and Newtown Neighbors, Brooke’s impromptu ideas have turned into some excellent covers. One of our favorites Brooke shot was for the Holden Family. When she noticed the kids playing on aerial equipment in the gym, she captured the entire family having fun! “One of my favorite memories was taking photos of focaccia bread being made,” says Brooke. “The family’s kitchen was just full of color, and you couldn’t help but be inspired by the creativity happening in front of you!”
As she looks to the future, mentoring and teaching photography is a path she enjoys. “I am starting to give lessons to young photographers who are looking to explore more,” Brooke shares. “I really had to do a lot of searching to navigate through all of the advice out there online and am looking to guide people through that maze to help them embrace their own creativity.” To see Brooke’s work, visit brookestraiton.com, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/straitonphotos/, or Instagram @straitonphotos.
Frank Pronesti of Heirloom Studio
Frank is an experienced photographer with decades of professional experience and a BFA in Photography from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “For me, photography is a way to appreciate and reflect on life,” says Frank. “By documenting each milestone, we gain a greater understanding of our place in this world.”
Frank chose the name Heirloom Studio for his business because he believes that finely-crafted portraits are treasured objects to be handed down for generations. “Even in the digital age,” says Frank, “our desire for the photographic object remains steadfast.” Frank’s body of work is diverse, “I shoot everything – from a baby’s first portrait, to their high school graduation, to their wedding portraits, and their children and their children’s children. I make photographs of what the local businesses do, who they are and what makes them unique.”
When I first visited Frank’s studio in Newtown, I was impressed with his eye for detail. His method of preparation for our photo shoots includes getting to know the story in advance and looking for ways to ensure the images help tell the story in a compelling way. He has great artistic vision yet is collaborative in his approach, and I always enjoy working together to share a story. Frank is an expert with lighting and night photography and does a great job with evening and interior projects.
“Looking at my images,” says Frank, “I believe they represent milestones in one’s business and personal life. Thoughtfully crafted images of your family’s special occasions such as Christening, Mitzvah, First Holy Communion, Wedding, and even Corporate events.” To learn more about Frank’s work, visit www.heirloomstudio.com or https://www.facebook.com/photographeryardley/.
Cindy Fatsis Photography
Cindy Fatsis is a photographer and a long-time resident of Yardley, Pennsylvania. She has a degree in Photography from Bucks County Community College and considers herself a lifelong student of the craft. “Before photography, I had a wonderful career as an interior designer,” says Cindy. “My passion for connecting with people in their homes eventually led me to want to capture the essence of people with my camera.”
Cindy and I are both actively involved in Experience Yardley, a community non-profit, and met during the creation of the Yardley Mural off Main Street in the summer of 2020. “I specialize in relaxed portraits & headshots,” says Cindy, “and especially love shooting artists in their work-spaces. When the person I’m photographing can also connect to their beauty and their unique gifts, this is what’s most rewarding for me! I have also met so many wonderful people as a photographer for Yardley Living and Newtown Neighbors!”
Cindy tells us one of her favorite experiences thus far was working with the Schuler family for the November 2020 issue. “They were totally accustomed to being in front of a camera,” Cindy laughs. “Music & media stars in their own right! It was so much fun and so easy to be with them. Their family bond is so strong.” We were so glad to have met the family and shared their story during Reverend Schuler’s life. “I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing,” Cindy shares.
“If every picture tells a story, then beginning in the spring of 2020, many of our stories were being rewritten,” Cindy continues. “During the first months of Covid-19 as people were reinventing themselves and their businesses, I saw an opportunity to use my photography to tell the stories of their strength and resilience. I strive to capture the core of each person’s character, their courage and authenticity.”
Cindy’s business, LOCAL FOCUS, offers relaxed and convenient headshots and portrait sessions for individuals, couples and business-people in Bucks County, Philadelphia, New Jersey and beyond. “If you’re looking for a distinctive headshot that brings your unique story to life, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you!” To follow Cindy on Facebook, visit: https:// www.facebook.com/localfocuscindyfatsis/
In addition to our contracted photographers, we have had several fantastic guest photographers over the years. We value their work as well!
Thanks to all of the artists that have helped bring these local stories to life within our publications over the years. And special thanks to Patricia Feigle, our talented graphic designer, for all of her artistry and hard work!
Take a look back at the past 4 years...