Meet Jeff DeLaCruz, a good friend and a very talented Chicago based fashion photographer. 
His work can be viewed on facebook @ Jeff DeLaCruz Photography  and his website @ He also has a successful product photography company called  POW  Product On White Photography. It was created as a way to help small business and start ups get better product photography for new e-commerce websites.  The ironic thing about our friendship is that he is a photographer originally from Lacey, Wa that ended up in Chicago and I am a photographer originally from Chicago that ended up in Lacey, Wa. Who knows, maybe we will be neighbors again soon. 
“After all those years of struggling, I’ve finally created a photography business that people love and helps people who dare to dream of creating a business for themselves.”

This is the home you grew up in. How old were you when you moved out? 

We moved here when I was 5 and I lived here up until I left for the Army when I was 17. I enlisted in the early entry program and I left for boot camp right after I graduated high school. I came back home after basic training and pretty much after any big changes in my life. I moved back home after basic training for a short time I ended up leaving for college.  When school didn’t work out I moved back home again.  After a while of being at home, I moved down to Santa Barbra. Shortly after that I ended up going to Iraq for the Army. After Iraq, I moved back home again. Home has always been kind of a safety net for me. Knowing I could always go home if needed was a good feeling and really allowed me to chase after me dreams.
As a kid what did you dream about being when you grew up? 
When I was younger I wanted to be a creative writer. It was something I always had an interest in. Even with that I was always taking pictures but never really thought of photography as a career. Besides, I was never really close with my real father and he was a photographer. Him being a photographer made me not want to have anything to do with it. For some reason I just kept shooting and I really enjoyed it. The want to be a creative writer never left me so I went to college for writing right after basic training. It was a terrible experience. I realized I was not a naturally gifted writer and I didn’t have the stamina to write a novel. Even while in school for writing, for some reason I kept shooting. I even had a dark room in my friend’s garage. I tried to get into the film program in Western, Wa. When Western wouldn’t let me into the film program I ended up moving back home to try and figure out my next step in life. While at home this time I took a photo class at the community college. I thought if I am going to do this, (pursue photography) I have to go to the best school and surround myself with the best people. I wanted to be the best photographer that I could be. In my mind, that meant go to the best school.  I decided on Brooks Institute in Santa Barbra. They were the most technical school in my opinion. The other schools I looked at taught more about the art of photography. I figured I was already taking artistic photos, so I needed to be as technical behind the camera as I could be. After all, I wanted to make money as a photographer.

I have always lived under the idea you have to be all in. I know I couldn’t work a side job while going to school, so I went full time and immersed myself in photography. I feel you can’t be successful if you are not all in because you will have these other things pulling at you. You need to be able to focus on that one thing. I  also think you need that fire under your ass. If you don’t have any other source of income you will find a way to make it with photographer or what that one thing your passionate about.

Did your parents encourage you to be creative? 

My mom said that whatever I do she will always love me. She was always super supportive and proud of whatever I was doing.  She still has some of my first photos hanging on the walls.
At this point in your life are you happy where you are? 

Sometime I am and sometimes I am not. It’s been a pretty hard road. I had to go to the Army in order to go to photography school. Even with that, I have a mound of school debt. I worked through the recession as a photographer, which was extremely difficult. I made it through all that and I am still here. I have a product photography business that generates a steady stream of revenue and I am proud of what I have accomplished as a photographer so far.

“I don’t know, am I happy? Well, it is kind of complicated…. LOL!”

If there is one significant thing in your life right now that you could change, what would it be? 


How about a few changes? I wish I didn’t have so much debt. I wish I could take back the recession. I wish we never switch to Digital photography. It just seems photography has become so devalued. Everyone with a digital camera thinks they can do the job themselves.

Eventually, I want to get more into the multimedia industry. Something like motion graphics.

What is one of your most vivid childhood memories? 
I don’t know, my memory is pretty bad, which is probably why I became a photographer.  I clearly don’t remember anything until I was at least four.  Apparently, there was some pretty rocky beginnings prior to that time.  Perhaps, my first memories are of my little sister Becki, who was born around that time.  I remember holding her and playing with her. She’s always been very special to me.  Faded memories, like an un-coated type 55 Polaroid
What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
From a survival stand point, there a few key things that I’ve done in my life that I feel that I’m proud of.  First, was surviving the Iraq War.  I was soldier back in 2004 right after the invasion and Baghdad which was a dicey place to be.  I  joined the reserves when I was 17 to help pay for college.  In 2001, on my first day of school at Brooks Institute of Photography I watched the towers fall as I was packing up my books to head to class in the morning.  Less than 2 years later I was packing my duffel bags and hugging my college friends goodbye.  
When I returned in 2005, I did very little except exist and drink, but finally went back to school a year later and finished my degree at the beginning of 2007.  This is moment number 2 I was most proud of; being the first person in my family to graduate from college and with highest honors.  
After that, I moved to Chicago.  Things were great, then things got bad.  As a young freelancer in Chicago between 2008 – 2010, life was hard, as it was for a lot of people during the recession.  Somehow, I managed to keep shooting as a photographer and didn’t give up through those extremely difficult years.  After surviving those terrible years and not giving up, there are many people that I know who should feel as proud as I do.  
Finally, as of July 26th, a business that I started during the heart of the recession years hits it’s third year.  POW  Product On White Photography was created as a way to help small business and start-ups get better product photography for new eCommerce websites.  I’m crazy proud of what we do there and I can’t believe that after all those years of struggling I’ve finally created a photography business that people love.  It helps people who dare to dream of creating a business for themselves.  
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self? 

Don’t join the Army, that was kind of a foolish idea. Please try not to accumulate so much debt.



Meet Christina Schock. A friend and very talented makeup-hair artist. Her work can be viewed on facebook @ SchockMakeup and her website @
Don’t get so distracted and stay focussed, always believe in yourself and never give up, even when others don’t!!! .
So this is the home you grew up in. How old were you when you moved out? 
I lived there my whole life. From the moment I was born and they brought my home from the hospital. To the moment I moved out on my own to Seattle, when I was about 20 years old.
As a kid what did you dream about being when you grew up? 
Many different things. It would always change but it always be something creative. I wanted to be a make-up artist through my preteen years and when I was younger I wanted to be an artist, actor and even a musician. Until I realized it was really difficult to play an instrument, LOL. Playing an instrument just didn’t come the easily to me and that was when I realized I was a much more a visual person. Which lead into photography. Which I still do and enjoy from time to time.
Did your parents encourage you to be creative? 

It was a little bit of both. I am really happy that my mother always encouraged me to be creative. I always had crayons, markers paper and she taught me how to sew. She really encouraged me to do what ever I wanted do. She always said I could be anything I really wanted to be. That of course was until I reached high school and she was like you need to get a job LOL. So there was both sides. Be creative but don’t forget to be responsible.  I ended up going to College for Photography and Video but still ended up pursuing hair/make-up. I remember when I was a little girl I used to take my moms magazines and with my pens and markers I would draw more eye liner and play with people’s eyebrows in the magazine. It was fun to see how they would look differently when I changed their make-up, eyebrows and bigger eye leashes.
At this point in your life are you happy were you are at? 

Umm….kind of back and forth. In a way I am happy with all the things I accomplished so far. By no means I am done and I want to go further with it. I put it slightly on pause to have a child which I am truly grateful and happy I did, but there is still more to come. Just because you have to pause for a moment it doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming or pursing your passion. It just means it might be a slightly different path then you originally start out on.

If there is one significant thing in your life right now you could change what would it be? 


I wish right now I was in a bigger market for what I do. I moved back to Seattle from LA to be with my family while my husband and I raise our child. I feel when I moved to LA my career really took off. I am now trying to figure out what the next step might be. Don’t get me wrong moving back to Seattle was the right move for us at this point in our lives and I am happy we did it.
One of your most vivid childhood memories? 
My cousin and I were obsessed with the band Kiss.  Around the age of 10 we would make guitars out different things and we would do our make-up to look like them. We would perform concerts in our living room and make our mothers be the audience. I was always Paul Stanley and my cousin would go back between Peter Criss and Gene Simmons. He really wanted to be Ace Frehley but not only for the fact I couldn’t do the star, we also didn’t have any silver make-up. We would spend hours in front of the mirror practicing before our big living room gigs.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
It has to be in 2010 when my work made it onto a billboard and it was totally unexpected. My roommate called me when I was out of town and was like I just saw that photo you worked on a billboard. It was such an awesome feeling when I flew back into to town and got to drive by and see it.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self? 
To not get so distracted and stay focussed. I knew I always wanted to do something creative and I eventually got there. It was just such a hard journey, as it should be. Anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy. I feel it is so easy to say its to hard and just give up and et a regular 9 to 5 job. I fell into trap  for a brief period of time. A couple years passed but thankfully I was able to refocus and continue on that creative path. I have to say you always believe in yourself and never give up, even when others don’t!!!

Dogs of Valhalla Rescue “Cooper”

Adoption story #4 Dogs Renea and her bond with our dog Cooper
Have you ever had a dog before?
When I was little we had a dog for a brief time.  We moved to a house that did not allow pets so my mom had to get rid of him and after that the only pet we had growing up was a bird.
What made you want to get a dog now?

When I moved in with my boyfriend and his dog Maverick. I saw the bond he had with him and was amazed on how quickly I grew attached to Maverick. We were both deeply saddened when we had to put him down last August. After a few months passed we started talking about getting a dog together, but I wasn’t pushing it since I knew Shawn was still sad about Maverick. Once I started to look and Shawn became more interested, I then knew there was no turning back.
Why adoption instead of a breeder? 

When we decided to get a dog, we didn’t really have a preference. We had a bad experience with a breeder that was trying to sell puppies thorough Craigslist. He wouldn’t meet us at the place he kept and breed the dogs, as he keep tying to have us meet him in a parking lot somewhere. It seemed a little strange to us so when we came across Pet Finder on the internet we decided to adopt/rescue.
How has having a dog changed or effected your life?

In so many ways, First off I never knew that I could love a dog as much as I love Cooper. I moved to Washington from Chicago and it is really hard on me being away from my family and friends. The bond I formed with Cooper helped with this a lot. I love playing with him, taking him on hikes, the way he always comes and sits in my lap when I am on the floor and most of all I love how is waiting by the door for me when I get home from work. It is truly an unconditional love.

Funny Story or Instance with Cooper

The day we picked Cooper up from Laurie’s house (thats where he was being fostered) he was so little and only 8 weeks old. When we left, Laurie gave us a pee pad for the car ride home and suggested to lay the pad on my lap. But of course I didn’t take her advice. Shortly after leaving Cooper started whining and seemed very anxious. We stopped to let him out of the car to see if he had to go to the bathroom. We Walked around for a few minutes and nothing so we got back in the car and continued home. We were a block away from our house and he decided to poop while sitting on my lap and I did not have the pee pad on cover my lap so it went all over my pants. Shawn was laughing so hard, of course I wasn’t. After I cleaned Cooper and myself up I was laughed a little 

What is one of coopers favorite behavior traits?
He lays on his back when he is playing with a bone and holds it with his paws in his mouth.  Also when I put his favorite toy away he goes and gets it out even if he doesn’t want to play with it just so it is next to him.
Are you glad you decide to adopt? Would you do it again? 
Yes and Yes..

How did Valhalla help with the adoption experience?
They made it very easy for us. Cooper (Poe) was the dog I had seen on pet finder first and that adorable face just made me wanted him. We went to Laurie’s  and she brought out a few of the puppies but Cooper was the one that stood out for us (His markings and his energy) he was all over the place. Valhalla had us fill out an application then brought Cooper over to our house to check things out.  Shortly after they approved our house we got the call that we can adopt him and the rest is History.

Would you recommend Valhalla to others? 
Yes, I would Patti does so many wonderful things for dogs. I especially like how much she helps out special need dogs. The whole experience with Cooper was great and they really care about the animals.

Cooper’s 1st Birth Day
As Cooper turned one I cant help but to love how the relationship between Cooper and Renea has developed. I remember when we first got him, Renea didn’t quit feel the connection at first. This was partly do to the fact that Cooper and I spent so much time together and Cooper was trying to figure out were he stood in the family dynamic. I must say their relationship has gotten very strong and is only getting stronger. I am so looking for to the many years ahead of us as their excitement and love grow for each other. As it will only bring us closer together. Thanks again Patti and the Valhalla Rescue. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere without these two. This is from our camping trip on San Juan Island over Labor Day weekend.