In February, I announced that I was creating a contest to search for a story to tell. I wanted to look at the real meaning of love, not the flashy heart-candy and flowers definition. I wanted something gritty, real. A story of love that challenges people to love better.
I knew when Amanda and Brian submitted to the contest that I wanted to tell their story.
They are a young couple in love, dealing with the distance of a relationship for a year while Brian is stationed with the marines in Okinawa, Japan. I saw their picture and heard some of their story – and I was thrilled when they won the contest!
Amanda met Brian at their church’s school, 6 years ago, when they first started talking. Brian’s sister is one of Amanda’s best friends! They both were interested in each other, but when they went to public school for awhile, they lost contact. Then, last December, Brian was home on leave for New Year’s, they started talking. Brian went back to Okinawa the next day, and when he came home again in February, they went on their first date! And ever since then, they’ve been inseparable.
It is such a testament to their love that they are able to grow stronger in their relationship, even from across the globe. They show what I truly believe, that love can conquer anything.
I couldn’t wait to photograph Amanda and Brian!! I took them to one of my favorite spots ever, the trails at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and the Rockefeller Preserve. We had the most beautiful sunlight ever! We took some beautiful pictures of them on the trails, which like English countryside right out of a storybook. Then, Amanda made a box to hold the love letters Brian sent her from Japan. We photographed with the letters and had some fun with confetti!
Then, they changed into something more casual and we went on a further walk to Swan Lake to catch the sunset. And on the way, right next to a field of cows, we saw the most gorgeous, Pride and Prejudice light!!! It was breathtaking! We kept walking on the trail all the way to the lake, and the sunset was just magnificent for them. The lake was still, the blue sky was streaked with pink clouds – I was so happy for them!
It was such a joy to meet Amanda and Brian! I hope you love their story – and be sure to read their interview after the photos
Such perfect light for these two!
Love this classic shot – they perfected it!!
Amanda made this box, “Love Doesn’t Know What Distance Is,” to hold some of the letters Brian has sent her from Okinawa. Care packages and letters are a huge part of their relationship!
The magic Pride & Prejudice light came out for them!!
Does this not look like a movie poster?! So romantic!!
KL: When was Brian deployed to Okinawa for the first time? What can you tell me about the first time he left – and was that hard for both of you?
A: Brian left for Okinawa last April, it was the worst. When we first started dating, he didn’t know where he’d be stationed. He found out in March and I was devastated. All the feelings I had for him back in high school came back so it was extra hard. I felt like I was losing him again. I remember I was very unsure about how we would work. We lost contact when we went to different high schools – how would it be when we were in different countries?! Looking back, I see how God works in mysterious ways, brings people back together in situations that seem odd, and it turns out better than we could imagine. It’s incredible how this distance has made us so close.
B: Leaving for Okinawa was difficult. I wasn’t excited about being stationed there, but we took a leap of faith together. We decided to wait for each other, even though our relationship had just begun.
KL: What has been the hardest thing about having a long distance relationship?
A: Everything about it is hard. When he first left, I’d see couples in the mall together and I’d just start crying. It gets lonely. Skype and FaceTime have helped, but sometimes it made me miss him even more. Holidays are the worst, all I do is think about him and wish we were all together with family.
B: The hardest thing about having a long distance relationship is not being there. I feel helpless sometimes when all I want to do is hold her.
KL: What has given you the most joy in your relationship?
A: What gives me the most joy is the fact that what we have is real. Our entire relationship is based on an emotional connection, unlike many other people our age whose relationship is based on physical connection. We’ve gotten to know each other so well, we’re both on the same page and it’s amazing. Watching Brian grow in his faith has made me so happy, and it excites me because I know we’ll both get far together as a couple if we both have a strong relationship with God.
B: What gives me the most joy is that Amanda is always there for me. She’s never given up on me and that means the world.
KL: Amanda, what advice would you give to another young woman who is about to be separated from her boyfriend for a long time?
A: Get a hobby! Haha. Pray. Stay busy. I wouldn’t have made it without doing those two things. It’s easy to sit at home and cry all day, because it is sad, and it’s not ideal. But surround yourself with friends, join groups, start working out, that’s what I did. And write letters – there’s something about handwritten notes that hold more emotion. I really got into writing letters and making care packages.
KL: Brian, what advice would you give to another young man about to be deployed and separated from his girlfriend?
B: Trust her. Trust is the bedrock and foundation of a long distance relationship as well as faith.
KL: What have you both learned about love that you can share with other couples?
A: “Love is patient and kind…” Relationships are work, but when the connection is there, it’s worth it. I know I’m young, but I’ve never been happier. The level of respect and trust we have for each other is uplifting. These are important things in a healthy relationship. Don’t give up because things seem rough – you never know what amazing plans God has in store!
B: Love will last through difficult situations, you just have to keep holding on.
“Love knows not its own depths until the hour of separation.” -Kahlil Gibran