Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Talk about Hidden Artists! Nicole Wandrie, Joyful Photography

Operation: Love ReUnited captures the moment


Nicole Wandrie/Joyful Heart Photography

Sholauna, along with their children, tearfully hugs her husband, John, upon his arrival at Hector International Airport in Fargo following a months-long deployment.


Yellow Pages

By Natalie J. Ostgaard, City Editor
Posted Jul 21, 2011 @ 11:55 AM
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Military overseas deployment is often a difficult time for both the soldier and his or her family, with emotions going into overdrive before, during and after the tour. Operation: Love ReUnited, an organization that involves photographers all over the United States including one in Crookston, is helping them cope by offering free photography services that capture once-in-a-lifetime moments these families will cherish for years to come.
“Several members of my family who have or still are serving in the military and am very supportive of those who serve, so when I heard about Op Love, as it's called, I said, 'This is something I can do,'” said Nicole Wandrie, owner of Joyful Heart Photography.
Op Love was founded five years ago by an Air Force wife who, after being unable to capture the faces of her young children when they first saw their father after months of deployment, came up with idea. Now, hundreds of professional photographers have signed on to provide free sessions to military families and members who are getting ready to deploy,  currently deployed or coming home.
Wandrie noted that she is, at this time, the only Op Love photographer within a 200-mile radius, according to the search engine provided on the organization's website. She has, so far, only conducted a handful of sessions. While there have been no recent mass deployments of soldiers in the Crookston area, she could find herself extremely swamped should one occur.
“It's not real well-known around here, but I would love to see other studios in the area join in,” she said. “Even at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, where most of my sessions have gone through, not a whole lot of people seem to be aware of it.”
Wandrie explained that there are three types of photo sessions. Pre-deployment sessions include the entire family in posed, studio shots. Sessions in which the soldier is already deployed involve family members at home. Homecoming sessions are, as one can expect, more candid shots on location where the soldier arrives to greet his/her family.
“These are more photo-journalistic in nature,” she said. “I got to do one of those, in Fargo, and it was pretty impressive with all the emotions and waving. It even got me a little teary.”
The complimentary package offerings vary depending on the type of session, said Wandrie, which include: two waived session fees per year; for pre-deployment and deployment packages, a small photo book with at least 15 images to be sent to the soldier overseas (for an extra special boost of moral) and a 11×14 wall portrait for the family; for homecoming sessions, a small photo book or CD of 15 final documentary style images.
In addition, Joyful Heart Photography offers a 15 percent discount on all services and products to anyone who is a member – past or present – of our nation’s armed forces.
Those who benefitted from Wandrie's generosity with Op Love have nothing but good things to say about the program.
“Prior to my deployment to Iraq, we had family photos taken through Joyful Heart Photography, and Nicole did a super job,” CMSgt. Scott (last names are not used as per Op Love confidentiality policy) wrote in an e-mail.  “She sent me a complimentary photo booklet with several photos of our family. It was great to have current professional quality photos of my family with me as a year is a long time to be away from family. As my deployment draws to an end, I'm very thankful to 'Operation: Love Reunited' and the blessing they provided us and so many other families during their separation.”
From a military spouse's point of view, “The photo session was extremely bittersweet. It was amazing to have time to get photos done with my husband and son and you made it such a fun day,” Hanah wrote in an e-mail to Wandrie. “It was difficult to know our time was coming to an end and he was going to have to leave. I can’t thank you as a photographer and the program enough. It gave us that time together and it also gave us amazing memories. We look at the photos so often! It has been a blessing for our son to sit down with me and look at the photos.
“Jason got his book at a time when he needed it most,” she went on. “He had received word of a death in his family and he was unable to get home for the funeral. He got his book of photos the day after he found out. It brought him back of days he got to snuggle and hold his son. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Our photos hang proud in our home and will for a very long time. We still wait for the day that he can come home, but until then we have photos near and far to look at and remember each other,” Hanah concluded.
Wandrie stressed that the program is not just for married military members.
“Moms, dads, sisters and brothers all have to cope with their deployment, too,” she said.
For more information on Op Love, visit the website at

Joyful Heart Photography
An Idaho transplant, Wandrie started Joyful Heart Photography in 2007 which, up until about a year and a half ago, she operated out of her home, lugging large pieces of equipment to shoot on location. The studio is located inside Head East Salon at 515 E Robert St.
She came into the business more than seven years of experience working in professional studios, including LeMars in Crookston, and holds an associates degree in photography. Her interest in photography came at a young age by helping her father, who was a yearbook teacher “back in the days of black and white in the dark room.” She also brings her photo expertise to her part-time job in the Wal-Mart photo center.  
One thing Wandrie said she is particularly proud of is being a Certified Professional Photographer, a designation she achieved in October. The requirements to become certified are fairly strict, she noted, with fewer than 10 percent of professional photographers in the U.S. earning the designation.
Wandrie specializes in maternity, newborn, weddings, family, children and senior photography. She said she tries to keep on top of the trends with what seniors want, but at the same time be unique.
“They don't want the same picture as their best friend they want something completely different,” she said.
She also considers herself “old school” when it comes to using the computer to enhance images.
“I like to get it right in front of the camera instead of spending hours at the computer post processing,” Wandrie asserted. “I have better things to do with time.”
To keep up with the latest software and techniques, which she said change yearly, Wandrie periodically attends workshops. She also does a lot of networking, something she finds particularly helpful in her line of work.
“You can learn a lot from others who do the same thing as you,” she said.
Joyful Heart currently has no set hours, but Wandrie said she hopes to change that in the near future. In the meantime, to set up an appointment, contact her at or by calling 218-289-1320. Visit the website or Facebook page for samples of her work and more information.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for featuring Op:Love and Joyful Heart Photography on your website! I hope to be able to continue to serve the Crookston community, as well as our military in the years to come!
    Nicole Wandrie
    Joyful Heart Photography