Several of Scott’s clients lost homes in the May 22 tornado in Joplin

Several of Whitney Scott’s clients lost homes in the May 22 tornado in Joplin. One newlywed couple had moved into their new home about seven weeks ago. While the home was destroyed, the bride found her wedding dress in the wreckage.

Scott had also booked sessions at clients’ homes.

“Of the three sessions we had booked, two of them lost their houses, and the third we rescheduled,” she said.

Even more dramatic is the story of Jake and Lindsey Lawver and their new baby, Hadley. Hadley, the couple’s first child, was born on May 20, just two days before the tornado.

“They had the room ready, everything for the baby,” Scott said.

Lindsey Lawver said they brought their new daughter home from the hospital about 3 p.m. that fateful Sunday. The tornado hit at 5:41.

“I got to use the glider once. I got to use the changing table once, and then it was all gone,” Lindsey Lawver said.

“I had everything perfect for her, everything just the way I wanted it to be. When I think about those moments when I was able to use them, when I think back on how I felt, how normal I felt, how happy I felt, and I’m not going to get that feeling again for months,” she said.

The tornado destroyed the house, ripping off three quarters of the roof. It left the bedrooms intact, but almost everything in them was destroyed.

The new family rushed to Jake Lawver’s parents’ home nearby and took shelter in the basement. The two-story brick house was also destroyed. “They had been remodeling it so everything was out in the shop, all the pictures and everything,” Lindsey Lawver said. They were able to recover some photos, but most were gone, and those that were left were water damaged.

Lindsey Lawver says she has other friends who have also lost their homes. “I’ve done a lot of crying,” she said. Her husband owns a moving company, and he says he has been swamped, trying to help people recover from the storm.

That’s where Scott and her husband and partner Dave stepped in.

The Lawvers had purchased Scott’s Baby Club package, which includes a newborn session, followed by sittings at six months and one year. The Lawvers added a maternity session, which the Scotts had recently posted on their website.

Usually, the newborn session takes place in the baby’s nursery, with all the personal touches the new parents have lovingly collected.

“I didn’t want them to lose this moment,” Whitney Scott said. “They grow so fast.”

She contacted Judy Hill, manager of the Phelps House, to see if she could hold a photo shoot in the historic mansion. Hill said such sessions are usually $100, but she donated the site, and the Scotts donated the session, including a CD of all the images, an $1,800 value. Whitney Scott said the Baby Club package is $250, which includes the sessions and a folio with seven images.

“People usually end up spending a lot more than that,” she commented. “I just couldn’t ask them to pay for that right now. I don’t want them to miss the whole first year.”

Lindsey Lawver said that she was afraid she would be upset at not getting to take the newborn photos in her own nursery.

“Surprisingly, I handled it really well,” she said. “I think the Phelps House, just them offering to do it for us, kind of overwhelmed any sadness I might have felt.”

In fact, Lindsey Lawver said she has been overwhelmed by the response to the tornado in general.

“Some could look at this tornado as an evil thing,” she said, “but to be honest, I have never seen God so clearly in my life.” She said an observer might expect bitterness and hatred from people who have lost everything. “It’s totally opposite that. The amount of support we’ve been given, the compassion, it’s just overwhelming. The day after it happened, I’m not going to lie, I cried. I had my moments of weakness. We lost our earthly things, but we still have all our heavenly things. Our heartbreak is for the people who lost someone close to them.”

Whitney Scott has been documenting the devastation in Joplin for a website, Angels_Over_Joplin.com, but for the photo shoot at the Phelps House, she was willing to put aside the sorrow and concentrate on joy.

She was excited to shoot at the Phelps House, which she had never seen before. Part of the fun for her is letting things flow. She has an idea of what she’ll do, but it’s the unexpected that makes it work.

“We’ve never shot here before so this is a lot of fun for me. If I took everybody the same way … pfft.” She made a face.

The Scotts are parents themselves, and Whitney Scott said she could never be as comfortable doing the newborn photos if she weren’t an experienced mom. She has two children, 8-month-old Emma and 4-year-old Ben. “It takes you a couple to get really relaxed,” she said.

She has been working as a professional photographer for about six years. The first four were on and off, part time, but she said two years ago the couple decided to jump into the business full time. “We’re kind of unusual in that we both work from home and we home school our children,” she said. She’s also a little unusual in that she has little formal training as a photographer, just passion and a good eye. “I actually have a master’s degree in psychology,” she said. “My training’s nothing formal, just do it til you get it right.”

As she focuses on the new baby, she tells the Lawvers, “You’re not alone in this. Your story is now going to bring relief money in.”

The Carthage Press