Patty V Photography - Family Photo Journalism & Portraits - NW Arkansas & SW Missouri


Mami Celi - A Women Of Strength

It has been over a month since my Grandmother has passed away. Not being home possibly removes the pain of having to be reminded of such a tremendous loss. However, processing this is just as important. Losing a family member can bring about a lot of different emotions. I have learned to process death differently as a Paramedic. I have heard the cries of mothers losing their children. I have seen the look of disbelief when trying to explain to family or friends that their loved one is not going to make it or has already passed and there is nothing else we can do to revive them. And although death is incredibly difficult to wrap my mind around, it is something I have learned to accept despite my gut screaming against it.

Mami Celi (as she was known by) was a resilient woman. She was born and raised in Peru as the last child of her siblings. She was very much not planned which blows my mind to my own existence. However she lived a fierce life. If any one showed me what unconditional love looked like it was her. Although she spoke spanish and I english she communicated love in a way that anyone could understand it. She sacrificed, she protected, she gave you whatever she had to make you feel welcomed. Everyone belonged at her table. My Mami Celi was stubborn and feisty at times. Perhaps I gleaned this from her. She was creative and loved to crochet.

Getting ready on her own was becoming a fading ability.

Getting ready on her own was becoming a fading ability.

Mami Celi had passed with a disease that is far too familiar to too many families, Alzheimer’s. Her understanding of the present was disappearing as the days went by. My visitations became Shorter as she could not recognize me. Eating became a distant ability as well as self care. My mother, her daughter, paved the way in what total and complete care looks like. What it is to feed your mother and clean her with love and tenderness. This was not an easy task by any means. My Grandmothers brain reverted back to a time no one would understand. A time in Peru that was not as rich and vibrant and relationships that were driven from a place of pain. Not all memories are as glorious as we hope and my mother had to choose to love her despite her own mothers confused state of mind. I can not applaud her enough for the task that was placed before her. For the example she gave in passing on the legend my Grandmother had taught her as a child. What it is like to serve those you love no matter how easy or hard it is.

While visiting home for Mami Celi’s 89th birthday the entire family came to wish her well, as we knew this may be the last birthday we will be celebrating. At this time my Grandmother had very short moments of recognition and understanding of what was becominging of herself. I came home with my camera with the focus to capture her and the family. To hold onto memories that mattered.

I will never forget this moment, as I stood from the hallway observing what was unfolding before me. I was moved. My mother was helping my Grandmother get ready for her big day. Family from ALL over the country would come to celebrate. As she was helping my Grandmother with her hair, my Grandmother looked up and recognized my mother for the first time that day. As tears rolled down Mami Celi’s face she grabbed her daughter and held her. Knowing that this moment was fleeting, she kissed her face and spoke into her words of love. My mother wiped her tears and reassured her that she is ok, and that people were here to celebrate and honor her today. This friends, is why I am passionate about capturing moments that matter.

“As tears rolled down Mami Celi’s face she grabbed her daughter and held her. Knowing that this moment was fleeting she kissed her face and spoke to her with words of love.”

“As tears rolled down Mami Celi’s face she grabbed her daughter and held her. Knowing that this moment was fleeting she kissed her face and spoke to her with words of love.”

“My mother wiped her tears and reassured her that she is ok, and that people were here to celebrate and honor her today.”

“My mother wiped her tears and reassured her that she is ok, and that people were here to celebrate and honor her today.”

My grandmother passed away peacefully with her children at her side at home. The process of the body passing is not an easy one. But my mother kept her comfortable and pain free. My grandmother passed away leaving behind the Fernandez name. My Grandmother passed away leaving behind her three sons and one daughter. My Grandmother passed away leaving behind an example of strength, courage and a fierce ability to love despite circumstance. She may have passed but her story is still with us.

My mother (Laura) and my Grandmother (Mami Celi)

My mother (Laura) and my Grandmother (Mami Celi)

I am a professional photographer that longs to capture your story and the legend that comes with it. Whether it is the story of your children, parents or friends your story matters. Your time here matters. This photo now hangs in my mother’s house as a reminder. A reminder of a mothers love and acceptance. It reminds everyone that we are each welcome to the table despite our choices. It reminds us of unconditional love.

What is your story? What will your children have to look back to? Let us help capture that for you and for the generations to come.

Meet Andi

Some people search their whole life for a place to belong and some people just get lucky and that place finds them.  Andi’s story is one of luck mixed with hard work. She was 18 and needed a job. Her neighbor in Seattle was the manager of a bigger local bike shop so he put in a good word for her.  She started off working in sales and riding road bikes when she wasn’t in school.

With hard work and persistence Andi worked her way from sales back to repairs.  Once she started working on bikes Andi started hanging out with the other mechanics who road mostly mountain bikes.  She gave it a try and found that she was able to pick it up quickly. Before long she was working as a mechanic at cyclocross races and shredding through the trees on a mountain bike.  She really enjoyed the races. There was a lot of comradery amongst the competitors and she started to form strong friendships with many of the racers.

Because of her natural talent for mountain biking, the sport really made Andi feel more confident in all aspects of her life.  Andi enjoyed racing so much she quit her job at the bike shop and started working in a dental office because that gave her the weekends off to race. In the beginning there weren’t many women competing.  Over time the races grew from an average of 2 or 3 riders to somewhere between 8 and 10. This was thanks, in part to brand ambassadors who were out at these events encouraging women to try racing.

Eventually Andi went pro.  She raced mostly in small local races and did some work to encourage other women to join in.  When Andi saw that one of her sponsors, Liv bikes, had a position opening up for a Brand ambassador, she was stoked.  She applied for the position and that is when she met Ash Bodine. Ash was the exiting ambassador and owner of ROAM events.  

As luck would have it, Andi did not get the job with Liv but she did form a lasting connection with Ash.  Within a year she had quit her job at the dental office and was working full time with Roam events as a mechanic and a ride leader.  Andi was really pulled into the whole idea of Roam because the biking community she found in racing had become so important in her life.  You can now find Andi sharing in a hug, listening with absolute attention or encouraging fellow riders. People come to the Roam events because they need to belong and Andi is able to help them find that.

When Andi was starting out she had to really search for female riding companions.  Over time her biking community grew until there was always someone ready to join her for a ride.  Andi realized that most women didn’t have that. She loves to help the women who show up at the Roam events build that community and form lasting connections with each other.  Thanks in part to Andi, at every Roam event, brand new communities of women riders are born.

Meet Sarah
Sarah Bodine

Sarah Bodine didn’t even own a bike when she decided to join a friend and three strangers on a cross country cycling trip.  She picked up a used road bike and packed her bags for a journey from Oregon to the Atlantic Ocean. She had no idea what she was in for, she remembers that “within the first two weeks of riding through the mountain ranges on the coast I basically cried every day.”  She had much less experience than her companions and frequently got left behind with nothing but a calling card and a phone number where they would inform one of their parents on their location from time to time.

Sarah Bodine

On that first trip Sarah found herself mostly alone and occasionally in serious danger.  She “often had to pass semi trucks or cross bridges or tunnels with other vehicles and the fear was real. I would have the fear of moving forward but I knew if I stayed where I was I could die”. Most would have given up and gone home, but Sarah had set a goal and she didn’t want to give in to the temptation to get on that greyhound bus back to Oregon.  She pushed forward and beyond all reason, she made it all the way across the country in two and a half months.

During that time Sarah learned a lot about herself and she met some amazing people.  Somewhere in Iowa Sarah met a man who sparked her interest in Mountain Biking. Upon her return to Oregon Sarah hit the trails.  She didn’t have her own mountain bike but she found a sisterhood of riders who were willing to take her in. They would lend her a bike and share their knowledge and comradery as Sarah learned the ropes.

Sarah Bodine

She had never thought of herself as an athlete until she found cycling and began to compete with herself.  It turned out that Sarah could be quite competitive. She eventually got her own bike and found a passion for punishment.  In the days before Bend Oregon was equipped with mechanical lifts, Sarah was grinding her way up the mountains, enjoying the brutal climbs as much as the thrilling descents.

Today, Sarah has been riding for over 15 years.  She still loves to explore the word on bike, spending many of her weekends bikepacking with friends.  She also enjoys sharing her passion and her strength with girls in her community through the Little Bellas, a program of women mountain bike mentors.  Sarah enjoys the opportunity to challenge and inspire confidence in girl’s lives. As Sarah says, “You don’t have to be the best and you don’t have to be the worst, you can just support each other wherever you are.” By surrounding herself in a community that does just this, Sarah hopes to continue to share that love with others.  She ended our conversation with: “life on a bike is a really good pace for me,” and I couldn’t agree more with her.

patricia valencia
Meet Ash

An adventure is an exciting experience that is typically a bold, sometimes risky, undertaking.  Adventures can take on many shapes; getting a new job, whitewater rafting the colorado river, mountain biking unknown trails, or starting a business.  Adventure in its many forms is what makes life worth living.

Ash Bocast is an adventure expert.  Right after completing her degree in event management Ash hopped a plane to New Zealand.  She got a job at an outdoor store and fell in with some local Mountain Bikers. Ash had always been interested in Mountain biking and now she had the time and guidance to really gain some skill in the sport.  While most of the guys she road with were up and coming professionals, Ash felt accepted and included when they rode together.

Ash eventually found a job working with a company hosting high end events in New Zealand.  Through this company she began working as a guide until 2010 when her visa ran out. Forced to leave New Zealand, Ash did some traveling and ended up in Thailand learning to rock climb.  She had been away from the United States for about two years at this point so she was excited to hear some familiar accents climbing nearby.

Ash approached the American climbers and they hit it off.  Over dinner later that night they asked her about herself and what she would do when she went home to the States.  Ash told the group that she had a degree in event management so she hoped to get an interview with a group called Bold Earth, a teen adventure summer camp.  The group began to laugh then the man at the head of the table told her she was hired. It turned out the whole group was with Bold Earth and they thought she would be a perfect fit for the company. Ash spent two summers with Bold Earth and Loved every minute of it

Eventually Ash found herself longing to work back home in Chico California.  She found a job with Backroads tours. She began leading trips all over the United States, including many cross country road cycling trips.  Ash loved her job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else until a friend from the Girls Gone Riding cycling club in LA put her in contact with Liv, a women’s specific cycling brand.  After speaking with the people at Liv Ash quit her job and joined their Demo team. She worked as a field Marketing Coordinator, helping shops better market to women and running Demo events.

In 2015 Ash had a great idea for a Liv demo event.  She booked a Whitefish Bike Retreat where women would be able to demo many bikes over a 3 day weekend event.  She had already sold out the event when she was told by Liv that they loved the idea but couldn’t host a bike retreat, their insurance wouldn’t cover it.  Rather than cancel the event Ash quickly set up a business online. She named it Roam Events and had Liv hire her company to host this demo retreat for them.  The weekend was a total success, of the 12 women who attended 6 bought a new bike.

That was all the evidence Ash needed that this was a much needed service for women mountain bikers.  She continued to work for Liv and began hosting Roam Events on her weekends off.  For about a year she grew her business, learning from each weekend how to make it even better.  Finally she was ready to go all in. She quit her job at Liv to build up Roam full time. She met Andi, a pro rider who had applied to take her place at Liv, and asked for her help as a bike mechanic and trail guide.

Roam has grown and evolved in amazing ways since that first year.  They now have two main events. The first is their bike fest, held twice a year.  The festival is like a grown up sleep away camp. This is an event for intermediate to advanced women riders to get together and “play bikes”.  They have guide led trail rides, bikes to demo, tons of mouth-watering food for sale, and 300 of your newest friends to offer support and encouragement.  The second type of event is the small and more intimate Mountain bike retreat. This is a build your own adventure, all inclusive vacation. They provide the bike, the trail guide and all the food for the weekend.  As the rider; you just show up, make friends and ride as much or as little as you want.

Ash started her career taking chances.  Weather she is traveling the globe, starting a business or shredding down unknow trails, Ash Bocase is a master of adventure.  Now, thanks to Roam any one of us is welcome to join her, at least for a weekend.

Meet Kourtney
Kourtney Barrett

It can be so hard to stay close to your kids as they get older.  Once they hit about twelve years old, they know everything and they “just can’t even” with you anymore.  All moms handle this difficult transition, from cute baby to monsterous teen, differently. Some moms ignore the snotty comments and live safely under a blanket of denial.  Others drink heavily and wait for the phase to run its course. Then there are the heroes of motherhood. The moms who find a passion to share with their child so they can stay connected against all odds.

Kourtney Barrett

Kourtney is one such hero.  She once lived a normal life like everyone else but that all changed when she started making her two mile commute by bicycle rather than car.  It made her feel so happy and alive that she started to convert other car drivers to the cycling life. She even started to take her family to local mountain biking events to gawk at the crazy people who rode bikes down dangerous rocky trails.

Kourtney didn’t see any women riding in these events but she did notice boys not much older than her own son.  She could have taken the easy way out and sent her son off to learn the trails on his own but what would be the fun in that.  Instead she tried taking her commuter bike on the trails. All that did was remind her of the time in fourth grade when she took a bike with no brakes down the biggest hill in town.  That is to say, it didn’t end well. As a kid she threw down the bike vowing never to ride again, as an adult she realized she just needed some pointers.

Kourtney hired Dustin Slaughter, a local expert, to teach her entire family more about Mountain biking.  He taught them what to look for in a bike, showed them around the local trails and gave them some valuable safety tips.  Kourtney, and her family, enjoyed the lesson so much she bought a bike from him on the spot.  

Since then you can see Kourtney and her younger kids enjoying the easy greenway trail or you might see her with her husband and older son shredding on the single track.  In order to keep up with her son as he began taking jumps and speeding around berms, Kourtney took some skills classes. She heard that NICA offered an instructor course, where she would learn to introduce others to the trails the way Dustin Slaughter had helped her family.  

Kourtney Barrett

Kourtney really wanted other moms to be able to experience the bonding and comradery that mountain biking with your kids can offer.  That’s why she took that instructors class then started a Tuesday afternoon women’s ride. Kourtney said, “I think at the time this town needed a consistent ride for women and I wanted to offer that”.   Her goal was to help other women discover how the joy of riding can help them connect to their family.  Why sit on the sideline while dad takes the kids riding? This is a sport for everyone and a great way for kids and their parents to connect in a positive way.

Kourtney doesn’t want her kids to grow up with a tablet in their hands.  She could just tell them to go out and play but instead she has found a way to play with them.  They go out together on bikes and discover nature, develop their riding skills, talk, laugh and just enjoy each other’s company.  Really, why would any mom want to miss out on that?

patricia valencia
Meet Debi
Zelda Tibbens

71 year old Debi Phelps has been mountain biking since she was 37 years old.  If you do the math that puts her on the trails in 1985, only 7 years after the very first purpose built mountain bikes were manufactured.  She lived in the beautiful town of Crested Butte, known for its stellar ski resorts but also home to one of the longest running Mountain bike festivals in the country.  It all started when some college kids from the bike shop took Debi on her first ride up Single Peek. She had to push her bike up most of the way but after riding down the other side, she was hooked.  She went straight home and told her husband he had to get himself a mountain bike too.

Zelda Tibbens

Debi started riding all the time.  She would ride with friends and with her husband.  Through the 80’s and 90’s they were shredding across the country from the Monarch Crest trail to Moab’s porcupine rim.  She loves biking because “it has changed so much” over the years. At first she road rigid bikes with narrow bars and as bikes changed the riding got easier but the challenges to harder.  Debi believes in taking clinics to constantly improve her riding skills.

Debi had a bad crash in 2013.  She lost a lot of her confidence on the trail so she went to a clinic.  They suggested she get a more modern bike with bigger wheels and wider handlebars.  She got a new 29er and headed out to another clinic in Crested Butte. At the clinic she “felt like she had a coach on her shoulder” and she was able  to regain a lot of her confidence on the bike. She even took a class to get Ride Leader Certified, so she can lead local rides.

Zelda Tibbens

After 34 years of riding the trails, Debi mostly rides on her own these days.  She finds it is hard to keep up with the younger riders, especially on the uphills, but she enjoys this time.  She likes riding with the freedom to ride at her own pace and stop to session a section of trail whenever she wants.  Even after so many years, Debi still loves solving the problems of riding. She wants to continue to grow and learn with every ride.  This is why she really enjoys joining clinics to ride with other women and hone her skills for a weekend.

Debi has gone to riding weekends all over the world.  She recently joined a Roam Retreat in Bentonville Arkansas for a weekend. Women’s clinics like Roam are great because the women are supportive and just have fun encouraging each other.  In past years, she has gone all over the world and ridden with my different groups. She has ridden in the Yukon, British Columbia, Iceland, Scotland and Switzerland.  

Debi still enjoys traveling the world with her bike, this year she will head over to Croatia for another cycling adventure.  Right now Debi is “dumping out her bucket list”. She knows she won’t always be physically able to enjoy adventures like these but right now she is strong and healthy so she’s doing it.  There are several lessons we can all learn from Debi Phelps; always keep learning, go at your own pace, and do it today because we don’t know how long we have in this world.

patricia valencia
Meet Dani
Dani Shamburger

Every new Mountain Biker finds themselves drawn to the sport for a different reason.  For officer Dani Shamburger it was a way to connect to the community she serves. Dani’s friend and fellow officer, Travis, invited her to check out the Bentonville Police Task Force Mountain Bike Team.  She was instantly enamored by both the physical challenge of the sport as well as the positive interactions it fostered within the community.

Dani knew she wanted to qualify for this team someday but she didn’t really know where to start.  She mentioned her new desire to her girlfriend, MK. That was all it took for Dani to find herself standing in Phat Tire, the local bike shop, getting fitted for her very first Mountain Bike.  After making a sizeable investment in a beautiful hardtail Trek, they headed out to a trail called Tatamagouche and Dani “got her butt kicked”.

That first ride made her question her ability to break into the sport, admitting too that she had an irrational fear of breaking her knee caps while trail riding.  Rather than let her give up, MK marched her right back into the bike shop and purchased a set of knee and elbow pads.  The pads gave Dani the confidence that she wouldn’t “bust a cap” while she and MK hit the trails daily to build both her strength and skill. She was making good progress but there is only so much you can learn on your own.  Dani and MK needed to find a larger community to ride with.

Dani Shamburger

They were turned on to some group rides through the bike shop and decided to join in on a few even though the participants were almost entirely male.  Dani said “riding with men really forced me to push myself harder and some days I couldn’t even catch up.” It was good training but she was still looking for more.  She finally found her community when she started volunteering with the Little Bellas. Little Bellas is a group of women Mountain Bikers who mentor and guide girls who are interested in biking.  This organization gave her purpose and a growing circle of skilled female riding companions.

Over three years Dani trained.  She got stronger and faster and she never gave up on her dream to join the Bentonville Police Mountain Bike Team. She had to complete a three mile ride in 14 minutes, combined with a running sprint to the bike and a footrace after the ride.  MK and their new riding friends continued to push her, helped her train and gave her tips to improve her time. Dani finally tried out for the team, she smoked it, finishing in 13 minutes and 45 seconds.

Dani Shamburger

When asked what making the team means to her, Dani says,  “It has been so important for me to be a strong female role model. I’ve gained the respect of the community I serve, as well as boosted my confidence in talking to and meeting new people. I grew up as an introvert and this has given me the ability to talk with people I probably would never have had the courage to talk to.” Dani prides herself in the work and service she provides to the city of Bentonville, “We don’t just serve locals, we see people from all over the world. We want them to know we are out here to serve them, even on the trails.”

Dani never imagined that riding a bike could be so much more than exercise.  It has changed her life in so many important ways. She has found a way to be a leader in her community, a role model for young girls and has made some of the best friends of her life, all because she wanted to ride a bike.   Dani says, “Of all the friends I have in my adult life, the women I bike with have been here the most for me.” Getting out of your norm is hard for anyone but some of the most precious people you meet are in the most surprising places.  Dani will tell you that she could not have gotten this far and achieved so much if it were not for the support of her wife, MK, and their friends. This reminds us, the trails are for more than just biking, they are building a community.

We all ride for different reasons.  For Dani Shamburger riding is a way to be a strong female role model in the community she adores.  It also helped her build some amazing friendships and became an intrical part of her marriage.

patricia valencia
Lifestyle Photography: The Bigger Story

Life style photography is a fun and creative way to share the memorable moments of you and your children. People often over look these shoots because they either don’t understand them or they feel too vulnreable to particpiate in them. To be honest, I as a photographer struggled with the concept initially. I felt that a more journalistic approach is more raw and real. However, as I have begun to explore this concept I realized that I was able to bring out genuine expressions through planned moments.
You may be wondering what exactly is a “Life Style” Photoshoot? And thats great that youre thinking that!

Life style photography is depicting a fun situation that may or may not happen often in your home. For parents with children this could be a water color fight, baking in the kitchen or jumping on the bed with pillows. For young couples this could be a scenario set up in the home such as cooking a romantic meal, playing your favorite games or making music together. Truly I could spend a lot of time here with examples but I wont.

The point is, capturing your life style in a fun envorment is more than planning out a scenario. It is more than matching your clothes, setting the house up just right or executing a giant master plan of ideas to photograph. It is capturing the life style that represents you and your family. It is capturing a very special, well planned moment shared between families and sometimes friends. It is a photograph that is more than a pose in a field, it’s a memory and representation of who you are individually and who you are as a unit. And I must say, these are so much fun to photograph! some of the best smiles, glances and moments are capured in these sessions.


Perhaps you are used to the traditional family photo that hangs in your living room wall or mantle, and thats ok. But perhaps you may be curious about a photo that speaks more about your family than words. If so, reach out to us and we would love to help capture these into photos that will last a lifetime!

patricia valencia
Holidays: A time for Family and Reflections

Holidays always bring about time spent with family or for some time spent reflecting on the losses and gains of the past year. Sometimes these two occur together.

As a paramedic I am able to evaluate the loss and the gains. I am able to be a part of the stories of people who have had major losses and major come backs. As a photographer I get to capture these moments. Both important and both treasured.

This past Holiday season I was asked to capture some family gatherings. I can not express how important these photos are for everyones present and future. Photos that capture family together is un-replaceable. Wether it is a family portrait or a journalistic approach you will always look back wanting that photo.

Have you lost someone and found a photo that reminded you of a moment spent with that person. The emotions that unfold reminding you of a time so special. A photo that brings an instant smile on your face? Perhaps it causes butterflies in your stomach. Often times may even lead to warm tears as the story un folds in your mind.

Photos have the power to do that. Photos have the power to bring us to a place of joy and peace. Photos have the ability to tell a story that speaks more than just words. It can document the love between people that stands strong over time.

Capturing your family is more important than these simple words can express. Often times people will approach me with regret for not making the time to have photos done right. As a paramedic and a photographer I can attest to this. Whether it is a simple portrait or a more complex shoot, book with us to get your shoot done right. It is worth the investment, I can promise you that.

patricia valencia