Many, if not all those near and dear to me know of my love for photography and culture.  My interest began as a kid while leafing through pages of National Geographic.  Two things fascinated me: a world I had yet to discover & the magical way in which it was captured.

I began shooting as a teenager.  My Dad was my mentor, introducing me to window light and teaching me how to twist the dials. I fell in love with the magic of freezing time. I was totally hooked.  I studied, practiced, interned, and even taught.

Having my photography business is wonderful–I’m lucky that I love my work. Still, I can’t deny the tug that brings me back to photojournalism. It not only enables me to feed the part of my spirit that yearns to travel and discover, but it also gives me the opportunity to document the intimate moments of everyday life that connects all humans.

Connection art project photography (13)

In January, I headed to the Philippines with two other artist to pursue these two passions.  With a local Filipino crew, we took a journey to immerse ourselves in the culture to better connect with the people and land.  Funny thing is, we went with an agenda to “create” something, but in the process realized the story was our journey. Each of us discovered something while there-my pieces were visual journal entries, chronicling the close physical and emotion connections Filipinos share not just with one another, but also with the environment.

I found in the Philippines the emphasis on the “we” versus the “I” to be a defining value and a glaring departure from common American thinking. I believe this is an important and enriching value, which I hope to practice in my life and share with others. The Connection Art Project is one way in which I’m striving to do so.Connection art project photography (11)

I believe exploring other cultures moves humanity forward by facilitating understanding.  We may be geographically divided, but we’re all connected despite spaces separating us. You can help support this project and our mission to promote cultural awareness and global artistic expression by pledging a donation to the project. We’re offering rewards for all contributions.  Check it all out here:

Thank you for supporting my more personal work.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Connection art project photography (24)


Connection art project photography (23)


Connection art project photography (22)


Connection art project photography (21)


Connection art project photography (20)


Connection art project photography (19)


Connection art project photography (18)


Connection art project photography (17)


Connection art project photography (16)


Connection art project photography (15)


Connection art project photography (14)




Connection art project photography (12)

Connection art project photography (10)


Connection art project photography (9)


Connection art project photography (8)


Connection art project photography (7)


Connection art project photography (6)


Connection art project photography (5)


Connection art project photography (4)


Connection art project photography (3)


Connection art project photography (2)


Connection art project photography (1)



My turn. A Wedding Photographer on Planning a Wedding.

On September 11, 2011, Anthony surprised me that Sunday evening with a note that read, “Sorry, sweet, I had to go. Why’d I ditch you? Soon you’ll know! I know you’re thinking “why?” and “where?” It’s up to you to meet me there! Here’s a hint (so don’t be late) It’s where we sat…on our first date”

With a fluttering heart, I hopped in the car and drove over to Montrose Harbor, where, under a clear night’s sky, Anthony proposed to me.

Nearly one year later, on September 8th, we lived out the vision of our wedding. Throughout the last few years, I’ve shared many of my clients’ wedding images on my blog. Now, as someone who finally lived through the experience of planning–going over and over all the details, crunching numbers, and crafting spreadsheets, I thought I’d share a little about my own experience. For you future brides out there, this is my and Anthony’s wedding story.

Photos by my friend and colleague Sonya Martin as well as one of my second photographers, Anthony’s couisn, Tom Root.

Our Wedding-41.jpg

When Anthony and I started talking about wedding plans, we both agreed we wanted something that reflected who we are and involved our family and friends.

Our first decision came on an airplane to California while traveling to our other friends’ wedding. As the plane ascended into the clouds, I thought to myself, “What if we have Don officiate our wedding?”  Don is the father of Anthony’s best friend. He’s thoughtful, well-spoken, and he happens to be a couples therapist (I didn’t even realize this at the time, but it was an added bonus when I learned). It was one of the best decisions we made. Don was dedicated to the job, meeting with us every six weeks for almost the whole year before the wedding to get to know me (he’s known Anthony for nearly 20 years) and us as a couple. He was a great source of wisdom and helped us stay grounded throughout the planning process. With two busy schedules, there were times when we felt stressed out and overwhelmed by all the details and tasks to take care of before the day arrived. Meeting with Don reminded us what it was all for:  a worthy cause for sure!
Our Wedding-02.jpg

When I was still a young girl living back in Nebraska, I remember discovering a box tucked beneath my Dad’s bed with a note scrawled by my mom reading, “Do not open till a Murphy Rife daughter wedding.”

After the engagement, my sister and I cut the seal on the box, and slowly pulled out layers of tissue, till we got to the treasure beneath. It was a magical moment for us to unwrap my mom’s wedding dress from 1979, still preserved, looking great (save for a few small stains.) I love those stains. They were like time capsules, transporting me back to my parents’ wedding night, where I imagined her dancing with a glass of wine.

I stepped into the dress, a long-sleeved, high-necked style fitting of the 70’s. My sister buttoned me up and looked me over. “It fits almost perfectly!”

That was it. I tried on one dress, and only one dress. I was lucky to be referred to a very talented designer and seamstress, Shirley, of Grass Orchids. She and her assistant, Reina, transformed the dress into what you see in the pictures. I couldn’t love it more!

Our Wedding-03.jpgIn keeping with the idea of involving friends and family, my dear friend Kelly Feldmiller made ALL of our cupcakes and our cutting cake for the wedding in the days leading up to the wedding. The bourbon vanilla infused, lemon cupcakes were to die for, and the cake was the sweetest, most perfect creation!

Alongside Kelly is my little sister, Neriah, a constant source of entertainment.
Our Wedding-04.jpgMy Dad stopped by as I got ready to snap some pictures. Where do you think I got it from?
Our Wedding-05.jpgTop: My BIL (brother-in-law) Ty with my adorable nephew, Reed. BL: Beth stocks her flask with bourbon for the day. BR: Jenn-social media expert, she storified our wedding here.
Our Wedding-06.jpg
Our Wedding-07.jpg

My sister zips me up in the wedding dress, then gives me a kiss, sending me into a mini-sob-session.
Our Wedding-08.jpg
Our Wedding-11.jpg

The wedding venue  is Anthony’s Aunt and Uncle’s property, a place I fell in love with, like the rest of the family, during my first  visit. It’s a beautiful setting with elements that reminded me of growing up in Nebraska. I am so grateful to Jim and Elizabeth for giving us permission to use it!

When Anthony and I showed up to the event, we were thrilled to see all the decorations in place, and vendors busy making the day possible. Hilary Carpenter and her team at Estera Events came up huge for us!  Their wedding planning services allowed Anthony and I to relax and enjoy the day, rather than worrying about directing.

Our Wedding-12.jpg

About the decorations:

1. Banners: Anthony’s dad, Phil Ponce, creates custom-designed paper cutting called papel picado, traditional of Mexican celebrations (see a video by WTTW Chicago Tonight showing Phil in action and some of his other creations). For our wedding, he used the image of a dragonfly, an important symbol for my family. Before my mom passed away, she said, “think of me when you see a dragonfly.”

2. The Flowers: We wanted to use flowers native of the prairie. Originally we were going to use the flowers on the property where we were married, but the drought last year depleted the supply to an abismal level. Instead I connected with vendors at my local farmers market in Andersonville, buying more than enough for a steal!

3. The Arrangements: The very talented Joanne Lieman of Flowers Flowers designed my and my sister’s bouquets and the centerpieces. The blue bottles in the center pieces were found in Nebraska, Missouri, and Illinois at flea markets and antique shops-collected by my sister, my friends Emilie and Agustina, and myself.

4. The Signs: Built using reclaimed wood from Rebuilders Exchange by Agustina and Johann. I have the best friends in the world!

5. The Altar: Built by myself and Anthony’s mom, Ann Ponce, using PVC piping for ease of assembly and transportation. Unfortunately I can’t sew, which meant Ann had to tackle the drapery. All the fabric was purchased from Vogue in Evanston.
Our Wedding-13.jpgAgustina designed postcards for guests to send after the wedding, rather than a guest book. That way, we had notes to look forward to after returning from our honeymoon. The chalkboard sign was built with reclaimed wood and painted with chalk paint from Blick.
Our Wedding-14.jpg
Our Wedding-15.jpg
Our Wedding-17.jpgAnthony and I opted to do a ‘first look’ so we wouldn’t lose it too much during the ceremony, AND so we could spend more time together with our family and friends.
Our Wedding-18.jpg

Our Wedding-20.jpg
Our Wedding-21.jpgThe tractor was brought to the property from a neighbor of Jim and Elizabeth. It was a last-minute surprise that I loved!
Our Wedding-22.jpg
Our Wedding-23.jpgTop: Neriah arrives to the venue and runs down the hill in excitement!
Maggie Wedding-©SonyaMartin-_0178Our families.

Our Wedding-26.jpgAf few of my darling aunts. Love these ladies!

Our Wedding-28.jpg
Our Wedding-29.jpgWe were lucky to have our friend, the professional violinist, Dawn Marlowe play the call to processional for the wedding alongside Anthony’s buddy, Cyrus. They played the Ashokan Farewell (listen to it here)
Our Wedding-30.jpg
Our Wedding-32.jpg
Our Wedding-33.jpg
Our Wedding-34.jpgThe Processional: The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” played by Anthony. This is the moment in the day where I really lost it. The song I walked down to was very special for me and Anthony.   My friend, Beth, posted the piano version of it on my Facebook wall before Anthony and I had ever had a first date. Anthony decided he’d learn the song, and played it for me when we started dating.

As the music started, my Dad said to me, “This may very well be the most important moment of your life. You chose well.”

Our Wedding-35.jpg

I wasn’t the only one with tears…
Our Wedding-36.jpg
Our Wedding-40 Our Wedding-39

Our unity ceremony involved passing around our vows, which we wrote for each other, so each person at the wedding could bless them.

Our Wedding-42.jpg
Our Wedding-43.jpg
Our Wedding-44.jpg

We opted not to have formal seating arrangements, instead encouraging all our guests to intermingle.

Maggie Wedding-©SonyaMartin-_0180Top: Shadow box display of my mom in the original dress, alongside her hat, and my Aunt Beth’s piece titled: One Dress, Two weddings.

Honey Jars were custom made by Custom Love on Etsy.

BL: Cupcakes made by Kelly Feldmiller

BR: Centerpiece wood cut by Jim Root from fallen trees on the property.
Our Wedding-45.jpgThe Mariachis were a gift to us from Anthony’s dad. We loved having them!
Our Wedding-46.jpgWe LOVED HUE Catering. They made fresh Mexican food, including amazing guacamole, rice and beans, and made-to-order tacos!  One of the best meals I’ve ever had!
Our Wedding-47.jpgAnthony’s co-worker at NBC, Rob Elgas, was our gracious host.
Our Wedding-48.jpgCheers to Don, Anthony’s parents, and The Roots!
Our Wedding-49.jpgNeriah snuck in while we were cutting the cake, stealing the first bite. How could we be upset with this little cutie?

Our Wedding-51.jpg
The speeches were…EPIC! Anthony’s Granddad sang a special song for me, followed up by his aunts, sister, and cousins, performing a tune from the Sound of Music.
Our Wedding-53.jpgAnthony’s brother brought down the house, imitating Anthony circa his middle school years.
Our Wedding-54.jpgMy sister brought us all to tears with a very moving speech.
Our Wedding-55.jpg
Our Wedding-56.jpgMy Dad and I boogied down for our Father-Daughter dance.
Our Wedding-57.jpgThen everyone hit the dance floor!
Our Wedding-58.jpg
Our Wedding-59.jpg
Our Wedding-60.jpg
Our Wedding-61.jpg
Our Wedding-63.jpgHeidi joined the party!
Our Wedding-64.jpgAfter the music ended, we headed for the bonfire, a perfect way to end the night!
Our Wedding-66.jpgLast thing of note, with the wedding came a new last name, therefor Maggie Rife Photography will now be going by Rife Ponce Photography.  You’ll still be able to follow all my updates here at, but I’ll also be hosting my website at

All the best!


Please join me for Ascend the Andes

Experience the beauty and culture of the Andes by exploring Bolivia and Argentina.  Please join me and Agustina Diez Sierra on April 27th, at 7 pm at Maria Ponce Studio, located in the coach house of  4553 N. Wolcott Ave. Chicago, IL 60640

Sight: PHOTOS by Maggie Rife and mixed-media pieces by Agustina Diez Sierra.

Sound: Hear traditional MUSIC from the high altitudes of Bolivia’s villages.

Touch: Feel the handwoven TEXTILES in Agustina Diez Sierra’s fusion art.

After all that, let us entertain you a little more with a special performance from the high-energy dancers of Bolivia!

Maggie Rife Photography photography show with Agustina Diez Sierra

Bolivia Gallery One

In November of 2011, I traveled to South America to photograph Agustina and Johann’s wedding. Before and after the wedding, I spent a few weeks traveling through parts of Argentina and Bolivia.

In La Paz, Bolivia, Agustina and I started each morning with coco mate, an herbal tea to help with altitude sickness. Then, we strapped our cameras to our shoulders and hit the streets. We scaled the winding roads, (slowly!! The altitude was pretty rough.) heading first to the black markets where indigenous women in black boiler top hats and long velvet skirts, sold dried baby llama carcasses, plants, and herbs for good fortunes.

Though the gutters were grimy, the vendor stalls were filled with vivid colors. Past the black markets, we reached shops filled with woven Alpaca fabric and handmade crafts. With a light tone, Agust called to the shopkeeper, “Case,” using the native local word for a title of respect.

Slowly each woman went back and forth, offering one price and shaking their heads at the other. Often, after 20 minutes of negotiating, we’d leave without making a purchase. ‘What happened?’ I’d ask.

“I told them to remember my face for when I return after the wedding because I’ll back and want them to make me a good price”

I was surprised by this,”Will they really remember you?”

“Oh yes, and they’ll give me the Bilivian price.”

We spent hours absorbed in this simple routine. We took our time. What habits of America I still held on to slipped away she as each afternoon we walked without glancing at a clock and each night we ate dinner later and later.

By the time I arrived in Argentina, I knew if there was a schedule, it would be up for interpretation. Of all people, Agustina’s Grandma maintained these culture traditions with fervid dedication. She invited us to dinner and we spent an hour chatting in the living room-she speaking loud, enthusiastic bits of English, while I racked my mind for to remember phrases from my high school Spamish lessons.

More images to come… Check back for Part 2

Photo Snowfari with Laurie

When I told my Dad yesterday morning that Laurie and I were going on a photo snowfari, he immediately quipped about it being a  a little cold for outdoor boudoir. Funny Dad, real funny.

While our shoots together these days are typically for Revealed, we try to make it a point to exercise our eye in other avenues.  With two feet of snow creating a natural softbox, we agreed a trip outdoors was in order.

I can’t deny I LOVE Montrose Harbor, so we opted to go there. Parents pushed their children down well-worn sled runs, dogs ran circles in the snow, and the light made it all feel magical.

Snow DAY!

Who doesn’t love a snow day?  Between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the weather Gods had their way with Chicago. There was snow, there was lightning, there was thunder, and there was wind. Yes, I know, it’s Chicago, we’re used to the wind, but 70 mph gusts were strong even for us.  After all was said and done, people made the most of their day off, taking to the street for a snow ball fights, shoveling parties, and even a game of Wiffle ball.

My hungry Sister

She picks…


and slurps

devouring the bowl of Cheerios.

When she finishes, she lifts her face, cocks her head to the side and smiles proudly. Her hair flays about like a mass of hands at a rock concert. There’s a bit of milk beneath one side of her mouth. My hungry sister is now full.

Simply Cold.

It was cold when I woke this morning, but gold light filtered through the windows.

“I’ll take it,” I thought.

The frigid, finger numbing, skin burning, cough inducing winter air is unpleasant, but so long as the sky’s not grey–100 shades of grey, I can deal. I suck it up. I layer. I wear two hats, a sweatshirt, a jacket, fury boots, tights, jeans, double up on the socks, then top it all off with what my aunt calls the “El coat”–a puffy black number covering me from head to nearly toe during the winter months.  It may be fugly, but it’s functional.

Then I play a “get pumped” mix. Today’s included “Power” from Mr. West’s most recent release. I eat my words while listening to the song. A few weeks back I went off on a tirade about Kayne-“I’ve been with him since ‘through the wire,’ but I don’t think he’s that good anymore.”

“Well I hear this ones supposed to be the album of the decade,” Amanda says to me.

“He can’t sing!”

I still don’t think he’s a very good singer, but neither am I. The album…well….I might just be slightly, maybe, sorta kinda, hate to admit it, but if I’m going to be honest, addicted. I can own up when I’m wrong. I was wrong.

So, I’m pumped, dressed, armed with my camera, charged battery, and my arsenal of lenses. Off to North Ave. Here’s the thing about the winter, the days are SO short. In July, you’ve got hours and hours to shoot. Today the sun was set by 4:20;  my grand ambitions of shooting the Lake Shore then heading back to Gary were quickly adjusted. I’ll have to save Gary for another day. Till then…

This last shot is dedicated to my cousin Lizard. Merry Christmas.  I’ll make you a print. <3

Urban Photo Safari #1

I went to the rainforest Sunday. After a morning photo shoot and before Nebraska’s sad loss, some friends and I slipped away from the streets of Chicago that were slowly filling with a soft, white layer of snow into the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

It was so warm and humid beneath the steamy, green canopy that big, wet drops of condensation formed above and fell on our heads.

The rainforest inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory is a nice substitute to the jungles sprawling across Latin America. It’s also a great place for a photo lesson when the weather outside is frightful.

We started talking about this little “workshop” a few months back. It was one of the last warm days of fall–the day of the marathon. The heat drew buckets of sweat from runners and broad, silly smiles from spectators. After the three in our group crossed the finish line, we all got together to toast their achievement.

Sometime after that first toast, over a platter of loaded nachos, Cyrus and Ali signed on to an idea I had–A chicago photo workshop.   I’m pretty sure I was rambling on about how much I loved teaching photography in SE Asia and how I wanted to start something up in Chicago when Ali (Baj) piped in, “I’d be interested in a lesson.” Beside him Cyrus jumped in, “Me too.”

“Really? Great!” I said.

“So here’s what I’m thinking: informal workshops designed to be like urban photo safaris where the group explores a cool spot in the city.  Along the way, I’ll teach a little something, then give everyone the chance to practice what they learn.”

About a month later (I told the guys October would be nuts and we’d have to wait till November to arrange something) I received this email:

Hey Maggie,

I would love to take you up on that offer (if it still stands) on photography lessons.  Let me know what you’re thinking. /Ali”

Followed by Cyrus’ quick response:

“Keep me posted too!”

Sunday we were all able to meet. The guys were a little green, so we went over the basic functions of their SLR’s (single lens reflex camera’s–here’s a fun link“). By the end of it, they were able to manually set their camera’s shutter, aperture, and ISO for the correct exposure, understand how white balance affects their image, and identify a few exotic species of trees and plants 🙂

“Oh, there’s the rare electric tree,” Baj said, pointing in the distance.

“I didn’t know you could find those in here.” Cyrus said.

Yep, even the Lincoln Park Conservatory was decked for the holidays…