By Kaylor Jones / Photo by Claudia Johnstone
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Gretchen Wakeman knows better than anyone how some photos are much more valuable than that.
When she was 18, Wakeman was gifted her first single-lens reflex camera, and what began as an interest in developing film in her high school’s darkroom turned into something more.
“I have always been a creative person, and creating beautiful images makes me incredibly happy,” says Wakeman, who graduated from Purdue University with a degree in landscape architecture and relocated to Seattle before settling in Arizona in 2001.
As her surroundings changed, so did her outlook on photography. “My career has definitely evolved as my hobby became my full-time job, and I have settled into my own style,” Wakeman says.
After the birth of her first child in 2007, Wakeman was inspired to get serious about her hobby. During this time, the recession had stalled her job in urban development, and by “fortunate accident,” Wakeman was freed up to pursue her passion.
It was in 2010 that she began photographing weddings. “When I first started in wedding photography, I set out to do one thing above all else – to create beautiful work for amazing couples,” Wakeman shares.
Wakeman’s photos demonstrate an equilibrium between practiced technique and artistic elegance, with the most intricate details of each special day set against stunning natural landscapes. One of the most important tasks for Wakeman is ensuring the bride and groom feel comfortable enough in front of the camera to let their personalities shine through.
“I want the images to have balance and feel very real, with a hint of curated artistry,” she shares.
In her free time, Wakeman enjoys attending workshops and photography education courses to make sure her inspiration stays fresh, revealing a commitment to her career that’s apparent in her three-time spot on The Knot’s annual Best of Weddings list.
Wakeman has two daughters with her husband of 12 years, so she knows that love is all about the little things. “I love documenting not only the details of a wedding day but also the unscripted moments happening in between,” Wakeman says. “I know how important it is to have memories to share with family for a lifetime, and I feel honored to help people accomplish that.”
By Mandy Holmes / Photo by Claudia Johnstone
In the world of DJs, men notoriously dominate the music scene. But Valley moms Bryna Hansen and Jamie Andersen are changing that, playing today’s hottest tracks behind the decks at some of the biggest events in town under their DJing brand, Jyna Music, while juggling eight kids between them.
Hansen’s entry onto the music scene began with an absolute passion for music. After a successful career in the fitness industry, she sold her shares of the company she built over 15 years and tuned in to learning the ins and outs of DJing while raising five kids alongside her husband, Max. A career change and a new skillset served as a release for Hansen, but the road hasn’t always been easy.
“It has taught me that you have to work hard to be good at something and achieve what you want in life,” she says.
The other half of the DJ duo, Andersen, was used to entertaining crowds at Phoenix Suns games and on Royal Caribbean Cruises thanks to a background in competitive dance from a young age. Her passion for performing fueled the wife to Jakob and mom of three boys to pursue DJing after a playdate with Hansen’s kids where the moms came up with the idea to perform as a pair.
“Our career has evolved from playing in my home office to private parties, clubs in San Diego, and bigger events including the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships and Waste Management Phoenix Open,” Andersen says.
Both women draw inspiration from their families and agree that seeing others have a good time because of the atmosphere their playlists create is the best part of their musical pursuits. With a goal of performing at a music festival, the ladies are also committed to giving back to the community any way they can.
Hansen and Andersen have both competed in – and won – Dancing with the Stars Arizona, a fundraiser for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona. In fact, this year, Andersen chaired the event, which raised more than $500,000.
Whether they are cheering on their kids’ sports teams or dropping the beat at a trendy event, Hansen and Andersen are committed to finding balance between family, fun, philanthropy and following their passion. Follow their journey on Instagram at @jynamusic.