About

From early elementary school days, I was fascinated by cameras and what they did. I remember taking my dad’s yellow Minolta waterproof 110-film camera to field trips, snapping pictures, and then having to wait til the photos were developed (yes, this was back in the “olden days” when you had to wait and see what you took pictures of). Then in early high school, I got my very first camera, an Ansco 35mm point and shoot that I thought was the greatest thing in the world. I felt so “professional” having to load those 35mm rolls into it. Just before I went to college, I bought my first (used) Sears 35mm SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. I really felt like a big timer then!

Little did I know then, that small seeds of curiosity and passion would start to sprout into a desire to capture those fleeting moments around me.

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Up until recently in 2017, photography had just been a side-job. I had a full-time job that demanded a lot of my time and energy, so all of the early weddings, senior sessions, and family portraits were not my main focus. As much as I wanted to be a photographer full time, it wasn’t until recently that I made the official jump…feet first. (I’d like to thank all those who have given me the opportunity and privilege of capturing their special events through photography. From weddings, senior sessions, and even newborn and family portraits, you have all taken a chance and given me an awesome opportunity to capture moments that are truly once in a lifetime).

Having worked in the creative arena for over 15 years as a graphic designer (most recently in the attractions design arena for nearly 12 years), I always had good “day jobs.” You know, the ones that paid the bills. The ones that you try to move up the ladder to achieve higher positions. The ones that you consider “careers” that you would eventually retire from. I enjoyed what I did but always had a desire to do something with photography. But I never really pushed myself to go full speed ahead. So, I continued shooting weddings and senior sessions as a side job and never really focused whole-heartedly on it, and would tell myself “one of these days, I’ll do it.” And I continued at my usual pace at day job with an occasional photo shoot once a year. I was happy, but I wasn’t truly satisfied deep down inside. The day job became increasingly more demanding of my time, and my desire and availability for photography started to diminish. I started to feel like I was sinking into a rut creatively. I found myself focused more on the projects than on my own wife and the family we were hoping to raise.

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But no amount of work or experience would prepare me for the moment in 2015 when my wife and I first became foster parents. I believe at that moment, a tiny spark reignited within me that would continue to grow over the next couple years, and bring back a long-lost desire.  I came to a realization that I was focusing on the job and the projects, not on what was truly my ultimate calling in this life, to be the husband and father I need to be.

From the moment we got that call for our first placement, our lives would never be the same.

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In our home, we have a wall where we have framed hand and footprints of each of our foster placements. From a 6 month old’s little footprint, to the handprint of a 6 year old, each one is a reminder to us of the lives that we have had the blessing of touching. Each one is a reminder of how special each child will always be. As our most recent placement drew on longer, my day job’s demand also increased. I saw the look in our kids’ eyes (and my wife’s) when I had to leave them at home so I could go back to the office. Although I felt that the work I was doing had a reward in itself with the satisfaction of knowing it would touch many peoples lives, I felt like I was neglecting the lives that I was entrusted with at home.

So, in 2017, I came to the realization that work was keeping me from being the father that I needed to be; my career was keeping me from being the husband my wife needed. And I made that decision to leave my job and to focus on starting something from home that would allow me the opportunity to be available to my family when they need me most. It was definitely a scary moment the day I resigned from my job. But knowing that my decision was something we’ve prayed about gave us a sense of peace, even in the midst of the unknown.

As I thought through what my business would be called, so many ideas came to mind. But I wanted something that would always be a reminder to me of why I started it in the first place. I thought it would be clever to have a name related to “house” or “home” (since I would start out working from home), but came up empty on any great ideas. After a few days or brainstorming, and in a moment of frustration, I sat on our couch, staring at our fireplace. Then words like “warmth, family, love, holidays, memories” came to mind. As I looked at our fireplace, I jotted down the word hearth. I thought for another moment in silence and recalled some Scripture that my dad has taught us years ago “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Then I jotted down the word heart. As I sat there, I thought about those two words…then I added an “&” between them.

And that, my friends is how the name Hearth & Heart Studio came about. It’s a continual reminder to be of the warmth of family and the memories we all share. And we truly hope that you will allow us to share in these moments with you.

On my desk, I have an old copy of Winnie the Pooh. In it is a short passage that gives insight to the beginning of this new chapter in our lives. It reads…

Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on his Big Boots. As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was going to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.
Winnie the Pooh | by AA Milne | CHAPTER VIII

So, let’s start a grand adventure together and see what exciting memories and moments we can share together!

James de Leon
Hearth & Heart Studio

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