Senior Portraits with the Heart of a Lion – Dallas Frisco Family Photographer – FIORIA by Me Ra Koh
We could not be more honored and excited to share Joel’s Senior Portraits and story with you! This one is close to my heart. Joel is the kind of person you never forget.
THE FIORIA DIFFERENCE – SENIOR PORTRAITS
Senior Portraits at FIORIA are not your typical experience.
Before the photo shoot, we do a call with each person in the family to hear what they love most about the graduating senior. This huge milestone is something the whole family is experiencing. Doesn’t it deserve a powerful, meaningful experience where everyone gets a voice?
I also find that parents don’t realize they need to know what their graduating senior has taken from them. It’s like the thing we didn’t know we needed. And so we do a special call with the senior too that draws the whole family closer.
On the day of the shoot, we share all these amazing words of life with the senior. The confidence, joy and pride that surfaces is transformational and amazing to photograph.
A LIFE WITH GRIT AND GRACE
Meet Joel Hatton, an inspiring young man who exudes grit and grace. For some, it can take years of adulthood and difficult life circumstances to discover the true definition of grit. For most, we would argue that grace does not come easily. This young man has experienced more in the last few years than some do in a lifetime and through it all, he has emerged triumphant, strong and truly grace-filled. Joel now walks through life with the biggest heart for others…but it took him a while to get here.
LOST BEFORE DISCOVERY
Joel will be the first to tell you that he’s spent the past few years feeling lost. In a negative, unhappy mental state, he really struggled to find joy and acceptance in himself and the world around him. Joel and his family were struck with immense tragedy and unfathomable pain following the loss of his older brother, Gabriel.
Anyone would grant grace given what Joel has been through the past couple of years. Unfortunately, with an ever-present attitude of “screw this, I hate everything”, Joel hit ‘rock bottom’. Grades failing, no care for school and feeling devastatingly lost, Joel made the staggeringly difficult choice to move toward discovery…a discovery of light and happiness.
WHERE THERE IS DARKNESS, LIGHT CAN ALSO BE FOUND
Joel has worked hard to regain control over his mentality toward life and finally, he found light in the darkness. Rediscovering his will to TRY, he turned a corner and has made incredible strides in a short period of time! Joel soon finished 2 semesters worth of school in 3 weeks and graduated from high school in December.
He has discovered a deeper appreciation for life and the people around him. Most importantly, he has even discovered a love for himself! It is through our love for ourselves and our Heavenly Father that we truly figure out how to love others and the world we’re living in.
“I am proud of myself for not giving up when I easily could have.. because I definitely could have.” Joel got this special tattoo of his brother with the phrase “Mindset is key.” That phrase came from one of his darkest nights and became the beginning of his breakthrough.
Joel, I can’t even fathom how proud Gabriel is of you. Every day you choose to fight in activating those words. We are so proud of you and know your family is overjoyed at how far you’ve come. And how you push through, especially on the hard days. You inspire us all!
WHAT JOEL SEES RISING WITHIN HIMSELF
When we asked what top 3 qualities Joel sees rising within himself, he was sure and steady in his response. We love the confidence he’s gained! First, he is proud of his mental state. He has worked so hard in overcoming depression and building a love for himself that he never had before.
Next, he said he loves his ability to overcome. We know how critical this skill is in life and wish we could bottle up this kind of grit and share it with young and old. Joel’s newfound joy and resilience will have a huge impact on all he comes in contact with.
Last, Joel shared with us how his ‘will to do things’ is bubbling up to the surface and over into so many areas of his life. Last year, he found motivation and determination and worked hard to not only bring his grades up in school but keep them at 90% or above – no easy feat! Once he sets his mind to something, his will to see it through is amazing to behold.
Joel is also incredibly loyal. His football coach will say, “If I’m ever going to rob a bank, you’re the guy I’m going to take with me. You’ll have my back.” Loyal to a fault, Joel would never give the others guys up.
DREAMS WITH DETERMINATION
Joel’s story is such an inspiration. We are thrilled to watch him step into a future that he has created through strength of character. His dreams, once small fragments just out of reach, are now being woven into the fabric of his life – being made reality thanks to his incredible determination! Joel is now going to his DREAM college!
His mom shared that the day after Gabriel’s accident, she told the boys they didn’t have to go to school that day. Joel replied, “No, I need to go. I want to play in my game tomorrow and play it for my brother.” It was the football homecoming game and he was determined. A crowd of 75 people showed up with signs. The first play of the whole game, Joel ran the ball for a touchdown. He knelt down and pointed his finger up for his brother. When he puts his heart and mind into it, Joel can do anything.”
We are OVERJOYED to watch Joel shine and find success when following his dreams with determination.
WHAT HIS MOM LOVES ABOUT HIM
TENACITY – Joel’s mom absolutely loves his determination and tenacity! He has a goal, he wants to succeed in life, and be an influence to bless people. She told us that once he realized how capable he is to do a test he had to take, he went after it with tutoring and re-taking it.
DEFENDER OF MAN – Joel Alexander means, ‘ warrior, defender of man’. He has always displayed it! He’s a defender and protector of people. All of these things combined make him an outstanding leader!
LOVES LIFE – Joel’s mom says he is also SO MUCH FUN. He loves life! He brings people along and wants everyone to enjoy what they’re doing. She says that they are so similar in this way. They love to laugh and both love to sing and dance. In the car, Joel will blare the music and he’s not afraid to be silly.
When we asked for an example of how Joel loves life, his mom shared that when they were in Florida at Grandpa’s Christmas party, Joel had never sang in front of people but he did for the first time! In Spanish even and it was SO good. “It broke things in the party and something in Joel shifted. The family was so impressed he could really sing. Then he danced with me and Liam joined us. It was just so fun!”
HOW JOEL DESCRIBES HIS MOM
Joel has so much love and respect for his mom. “My mom has coached me to be a strong person, know my worth, because she knows how hard I work, and how I can give myself to people. She’s always encouraging me to stay true to who I am, not trying to form myself to others.”
“Losing Gabriel, her first born, was hardest on her. What she went through with Gabriel in the beginning… …She’s very outstanding. She has overcome it mentally. My mom keeps going, it’s made her want to do more than before. She was limited before, and she’s become unlimited. That’s my mom,” said Joel.
WHAT HIS DAD LOVES ABOUT HIM
When we asked Joel’s dad about his top 3 qualities the first thing he said was “JOY, without question”. Then he said ‘loyalty’ and ‘warrior’. “He’s always been such a warrior and fighter for people he loves. After all the things he went through over the last four years, some would downward spiral but Joel has never quit.”
His dad also talks about the big game Joel chose to play the day after his brother passed away. He says, “He posted all over social media that he was going to play for his brother. I remember thinking he puts so much on his own back, can he even do it? The first play broke, and he ran a 40-yard touchdown! Somehow he kicked into an extra gear and took off. After the game, outside the locker room, I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Great job, Joel.’ He responded, ‘Everyone keeps telling me what a great job but it’s not me, it’s my brother’. I told him, ‘I appreciate your sentiment, but that was you. And I know your brother is proud.’ It’s such a vivid memory for me because it inspired me, so much deeper,” said his dad.
Joel shared with us how much he admires his dad for how strong he is. “He’s had a huge impact on what it means to me to be strong as a man, not just a person. How it’s important to step forward no matter what type of situation. He and mom are always good at communicating, they never argue. My dad is good at diffusing things, keeping his cool now matter how mad he is – he stays positive. I love hanging out watching a game with him or talking about things. Negativity for him is rare.”
THE HEART OF A LION
Joel has a ‘justice’ mentality, his dad tells us. “If he is going to get upset about a wrong done, it’s from a justice standpoint. If he screws up, he can take the consequence. But if he is attacked or a friend is unjust, a lion emerges.”
Like two sides to every coin, the ‘heart of a lion’ doesn’t just speak to his boldness in standing up for others, but of his tender heart for others as well. His dad recalls that within a month of Gabriel passing away, Joel had bought himself a new pair of sneakers with his own money. Having been a ‘sneaker head’ for years, Joel was so proud of these shoes. He only wore them once or twice however…
He emerged from him room having just had an unexpected experience. Joel said he felt like God told him to give Eli, the neighbor down the street, his new shoes with a note. On the note, Joel told Eli, the oldest brother of three, to be the best big brother he can be because ‘you never know how long you’ll have that opportunity’. We were in tears as Clint shared this with us.
A BOND OF BROTHERS
The bond between Joel and his little brother, Liam, is so special.
Liam says “Joel is a good leader, not just to him but others too. He goes up to any challenge and overcomes it. Joel has dealt with losing Gabriel really well, even if someone says something, he handles it well. I can tell he cares for me a lot every day. If I’m doing something, he’s always there to help. I can ask him questions and not have to worry about his response. He’ll respond really well.”
SUPERPOWER – Liam says Joel’s superpower is being able to actually have a good conversation and use the right words with him, mom, dad and everyone. If something happens with him and another person, he can talk with them and find a way to fix it, even if he doesn’t’ feel good – Joel makes it right.
“The fact that I can feel comfortable around him is huge. Some brothers don’t talk and can get in the wrong mess with siblings. Makes my day feel better knowing I have a brother I can trust, who cares for me and has real conversations with me. And I’m so proud of him for getting in to Oklahoma State. Our Grandpa went there and we grew up with him talking about the games. He’s a big fan. It’s a big deal for all of us that Joel is going there too.”
Joel calls Liam the ‘Quiet Killer’. “You wouldn’t think he can do anything because he’s small, but he’s a black belt and his words are impactful too.” Joel also says Liam is very, very smart – more than he gives himself credit for. He says they like to go on trips and that their time together is more fun and healthier than ever. They like to joke around about how he’s in an awkward ’13’ stage.
THE MOST UNEXPECTED WORD
Towards the end of my call with Liam, I asked him what words he would use to describe what he loves most about his family. I knew they hadn’t had a family portrait since Gabriel’s death four years ago. And I wanted their family portrait to be inspired by their words.
Liam chose the word “complete” to describe what he loves most about his family. I was honestly speechless. With tears, I said “Liam, that isn’t the word I would expect you to say with Gabriel being gone.”
This 13 year old with wisdom beyond his years said “We’re not complete because Gabriel was and isn’t with us. We’re complete because we can still stay healthy after all that has come at us.”
This was the most unexpected word for his parents to hear. How healing…powerful, so beyond what I could ever fathom. There is nothing more powerful than hearing the words our kids choose.
We asked Joel what he hopes to see when he looks at these portraits and he said, “I think it’ll be beneficial to see how far I’ve come.” With so much respect and awe for you, Joel, we could not agree more. We hope that every time you look at these portraits, you’re reminded of not only everything you’ve overcome but the traits you display that have made your life so beautiful and worth living well.
Thank you for telling me at your graduation party that you needed a family portrait to take to college. Brian and I consider it a huge honor to celebrate who you are. Happy birthday, Joel! We are ALL in your corner!
Joel’s Dad and His Book
How does a family survive such a great loss? Joel’s dad, Clint Hatton, is the author of Big, Bold, Brave. If you have experienced loss or feel lost from deep pain, I highly recommend his book. Joel’s mom is also an amazing painter. You must see her work and her recent tribute to Gabriel. CLICK HERE for both.
This family is the real deal. They are a gift to all of us.
SEE JOEL’S ALBUM!
This week is Joel’s birthday, and it perfect timing for him to see his album!
We printed the beautiful words from his family in the front cover sleeve so he always has them close.
We heard he LOVES it! YAY! We love you, Joel!
LOVE all these photos they sent us! Happy tears!
GIVE YOUR RISING SENIOR OUR PORTRAIT EXPERIENCE
This experience has been LIFE CHANGING for so many seniors! (Especially those who hate photos!)
Are you looking for a meaningful way to celebrate your rising senior as a family? When we say “rising” we’re not referring to them being a junior. We’re referring to how they’ve risen above all the challenges they faced.
When they go to college, what do you want them to never forget about who they are?
What challenges has your rising senior overcome?
What resilience lives within them and your family?
That is what FIORIA captures–the Rising Phoenix within them. This experience is unlike any other type of senior portraits you’ve heard of. It all starts with a Discovery Call.
Schedule Your First Discovery Call by Filling Out Our Contact Form. We are so excited to take you and your graduating senior on an unforgettable journey.
still we rise, Me Ra
SEE MORE RISING SENIOR EXAMPLES
Zoie’s mom wasn’t sure if her daughter would show for the photo shoot. She has genuinely never liked photos of herself. All that changed with her Rising Senior Experience!
CLICK HERE to see Zoie’s Rising Senior Experience!
Noah’s mom said “We had the privilege of having FIORIA capture both of our boys Senior photos. But it was more than a photo session. It changed their VISION. It changed their countenance. I believe it will change their destiny as they prepare to leave the nest! The family interviews gave each family member a chance to speak life over each senior. It has changed the trajectory of their belief system, therefore their paths. I would recommend anyone to utilize this opportunity to show your young person WHO they are, so they believe it. Thank you FIORIA for the amazing LIFE work you do!”
CLICK HERE to see Noah’s Rising Senior Experience!
Lucas has also never liked photos of himself. He told his mom he was doing this photo experience for her. But our call with Lucas changed everything! It was so POWERFUL! Lucas ended up loving every single portrait and has wall art reminding him of who he is every morning. This experienced transformed how he sees himself! And just in time before leaving for college.
CLICK HERE to see Lucas’s Rising Senior Experience!
When Halle started singing her voice filled the studio taking us all to another place. It was magical. Halle’s proud of all the work she’s put into her voice. You’ve got to see her portraits and read her story!
CLICK HERE to see Halle’s Rising Senior Experience!