RED SWEATER PHOTOGRAPHY is a business started by myself, Ellen Swalley, in 2014. The picture on the left is of me and an orphan in Addis, Ethiopia. I've always had a strong pull to do mission work in Africa, and in 2009, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Ethiopia for a month with a group called Mocha Club. At this particular orphanage, some of the kids running around were wearing red sweaters. I asked one of our translators why some of the kids had red sweaters on and others didn't. After he inquired of an orphanage worker (who didn't speak English), he told me that if a child was wearing a red sweater, it meant they had been given a bath. There were so many kids in the orphanage, that the sweaters were how they remembered which one had gotten a bath or not. It was a way for the workers to keep track of the kids. I was broken over this, as I couldn't imagine living in a situation where the person caring for me didn't know if I was given a basic thing, like a bath.
This trip to Ethiopia is also where I had the privilege to serve alongside a professional photographer, and watch her every move (in a non-creepy way). Seeing the pictures she took was inspiring. I've always had an interest in photography, but it was truly elevated during that trip, and then really kicked into gear a few years later when I had my first baby, and realized all I wanted to do was take pictures of her all day long cause she was so stinkin' cute. I decided that I not only wanted to take pictures of her, but anyone else that would let me, as there is something completely beautiful about capturing everyday moments and telling a story through them. When coming up with a name for my business, the vision of those orphans running around in red sweaters always stayed with me, in particular this little guy in the picture, as he was drawn to me, and I, him. If I had my way I would have smuggled him home with me! I have a huge heart for adoption, and always have. My trip to Africa, as well as other mission trips where I've worked with orphans have only fueled the fire that was already a part of me. Adoption is a beautiful picture of what God, in His great love for us, has done in our lives. He has adopted us as His own. My husband and I intend to adopt within the next few years, and a portion of the funds generated by RED SWEATER PHOTOGRAPHY will go towards our personal adoption funds, as well as to adoption ministries we support.
About Ellen Swalley
I live in the western suburbs of Chicago with my handsome, breakdancer husband Michael, and our sweet and spunky baby girls, Emerson (4), Shay (3)and Jovie (almost 2). As you can see from their ages, we have 3 girlies 4 and under, so the fun never stops at the Swalley house!
Things I love: my sweet little family, taking lots of pictures, watching my husband breakdance, shopping at Target, coffee black, spending quality time with friends, and hair products, lots of them. I also love to refurbish thrifted furniture and attempt lots of diy crafts. I love to do impersonations of people, but my only celebrity impersonation is singing like Aaron Neville, so basically I do impersonations of regular people. Is Elmo a celebrity? Because my daughter thinks I sound just like him, so maybe that counts too :) I love to study the Bible and discuss it with my husband, as well as read it to my daughters, although currently Shay just wants to stay on the pages that show animals, and Jovie just likes to rip the pages.
My love story, aka my favorite story:
I have lived in IL my whole life, except for a brief hiatus in 2008 when I moved to Dallas, TX to attend seminary at Dallas Theological Seminary. Surprisingly, they let me graduate with my Masters Degree in Biblical Studies (though I'm still waiting for a call that they want their degree back). I was far more social than academic while there...I digress. The greatest blessing while I was in seminary is that I met my husband there in the Spring of 2011, in the apartment building on campus where we both lived. We had been attending the same seminary for two years, had mutual friends, but never met. We happened to pass by each other in the hallway one January day in 2011, introduce ourselves...and then not run into each other again for a good three months. Then, on May 19th, three weeks before I was moving back to IL, he decided to knock on my apartment door and ask me on a date. Dilemma ensued. He still had two years to go in seminary in Dallas, I was done and moving back home. So we did what any right-minded couple would do who were realllllly into each other: we speed-dated for those three weeks in Dallas, then dated long distance while I was in IL, got engaged 10 weeks after our first date (yep!), and then got married, almost six months to the day of our first date. What can I say, we just 'knew'. Our little miracle girl Emerson was born in May of 2013, our baby girl Shay was born in September of 2014, and our newest girl, Jovie, was born March 2016. The five of us currently reside in the suburbs of IL and yes, we love the cold weather. Really, we do. We run a nonprofit breakdance ministry out of our home called Breakfree Ministries and we are passionate about serving Jesus Christ with our lives, our marriage, and our family. We'd love to get to know you and hopefully meet you soon!