Tracey Noelle Luz and Eric Brown’s #dayinthelifejc

September 10, 2016 Catherine Hecht

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This is the eighth profile in a series for the #dayinthelifejc JCI Instagram take over, brought to you by Honey and Moon Photography and the Jersey City Independent.

Tracey Noelle Luz and Eric Brown, owners of Honey and Moon Photography, have brought back “Day in the Life Jersey City” for a second year and they are calling on all residents to document their day on September 10 as part of the citywide photography project. For today’s one day Instagram takeover we thought it would be fun to turned things around and have Tracey and Eric, take over the JCI instagram feed. We also wanted to profile two of the people behind this project so readers could get to know who they are and why they started #dayinthelifejc.

They’ll be driving all over the city today, following people on Instagram who use the hashtag #dayinthelifejc, featuring them as part of their takeover. Follow them via the JCI Instagram feed (@jcindependent). Enjoy!

Tracey and Eric can’t exactly agree on where they met, Eric thinks it was a Waterbug open mic and Tracey is sure it was at a 58 Gallery event. They have both been long time residents of Jersey City though Eric now lives in Brooklyn. In addition to being entrepreneurs, building up their business Honey and Moon Photography, Eric also spends his days as a production artist and doing photo-editing. He is also home beer brewer, an avid bicyclist, and he’s won some some beard competition trophies.

Tracey fills in her time creating branded content for businesses, rehearsing with her band the “Pounding 40’s” and continues to work on her documentary film They Will Be Heard. Currently in post production the film is about the Cuban metal band Escape. But even more, it’s a story about Cuba and what it meant to live there in the years before President Obama began to normalize relations. In 2011, she launched UnBlock the Rock, with Jennifer Hernandez, the key board player of Escape who immigrated to New Jersey with the goal of bringing Escape to perform in the United States as the first metal band to come from Cuba and perform here. Part of the campaign included a “rockupation” of City Hall in Jersey City with Alex Skolnick of Testament and other metal musicians. In 2013, it was almost impossible to bring Cuban salsa musicians to the U.S., much less a metal band. With the help of Skolnick , film producer Monica Hampton and so many others, they brought Escape to perform in South by South West (SXSW). Eric Brown photographed almost all of their events during this time.

Tracey and Eric started Honey and Moon Photography, a full service wedding photography company two years ago. Their combined talents specializing in event, portraiture and documentary photography, helps them provide photos of their clients weddings that truly reflect their personality, capturing their loved ones and the energy of the day. Their goal is to preserving your memories for a lifetime! Eric and Tracey also believe that strong families thrive in strong communities and since starting Honey and Moon Photography, they have worked with the community in many ways. They have volunteered their services for local organizations like the York Street Project and they are working closely with the Jersey City Department of Recreation to support and sponsor the Jersey City Boxing Program.

Wedding Photo © Honey and Moon Photography

Wedding Photo © Honey and Moon Photography

Where does the name Honey and Moon come from?

Eric: We wanted a name that was “wedding” and also wanted it to have something to do with beer. (Beers and mead can be made with honey, and we’re going to start surprising clients with a free large bottle of beer custom brewed by me!)

Tracey: We were looking up names that would have a strong symbolism of what marriage means. We looked up the meaning of honeymoon, and we found a Celtic interpretation that stated that newlyweds would go off for a month (moon) and the bride would sweeten her mead with honey when celebrating. We felt that tied in directly with Eric’s beer brewing prowess!

Why wedding photography?

Tracey: We’d both been working as photographers for years and had shot some weddings together. We love photography and we love working with people. Whenever I worked with Eric, people were always so happy with their photographs and I love working with Eric, he’s totally calm and professional, super knowledgeable about cameras and the technical side of things and people love Eric. After a wedding we shot in December of 2014, the event planner approached me as though we were a company and would we like to continue working together. I contacted Eric to see if he’d be interested in formally starting a wedding photography business and he said Sure!

What’s you worst experience shooting a wedding so far?

Eric: A bride was 2 hours late once, but everyone remained calm and everything was all good!

Tracey: I actually haven’t had a bad experience. Knock on wood!

What was your best?

Eric : When you’re there with your camera and people are experiencing moments of true joy or strong emotion and you’re helping them create beautiful imagery they’ll be able to look at for decades to come…that is a source of pride and happiness to me.

Tracey: One wedding I shot, the bride and groom entered to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. It was electric! Although, now that I’m thinking about it, I really loved the ceremony for these two men who had been married already for 20 years, but then decided to throw the wedding. Their officiant, a rabbi, said something like, “It’s like the world had to catch up to you.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We were both very touched!

Family Portrait © Honey and Moon Photography

Family Portrait © Honey and Moon Photography

Do you provide other photography services?

Tracey: Weddings, engagement photography, dating profile photography, family portraiture and maternity as well as anniversaries and all types of family get-togethers. Anyway we can use photography to help you find love, celebrate it and bring it to others!

Anything else you’d want people to know about Honey and Moon?

Tracey: Aside from our photography, I am really proud of our customer service. We really work with you to help you customize your wedding packages so you get everything you need. It’s not like you give us a deposit and then we show up 3 months later to shoot your wedding. We take your day, your relationship with your family, the importance of your wedding, and all the time and effort you put into planning it very seriously. I think that’s one of the things that guarantee beautiful photographs.

How did you come up with the idea for #dayinthelifejc?

Tracey: In college, I found a book, Day in the Life of the Soviet Union that included the work of 100 western photographers who shot all over the USSR. This was in the mid-90’s, when Russia was still a mysterious, far off forbidden land.  The Soviet Union had just fallen, the internet was still relatively young, and this book was a window into the lives of these people we had been “at war” with for so long. It struck me, I spent so many hours looking at these gorgeous photos. Eric and I talked about modifying the concept, making the people of Jersey City the photographers, and bringing together images from all the different wards using social media would to create a tapestry of moments Jersey City and it just flowed from there.

Eric Brown setting up the 2015 #dayinthelifejc photo exhibit at the Lackawana Building during the Jersey City Arts and Studio Tour © Honey and Moon Photography

Eric Brown setting up the 2015 #dayinthelifejc photo exhibit at the Lackawana Building during the Jersey City Arts and Studio Tour © Honey and Moon Photography

What makes you want to keep it going?

Tracey: We didn’t realize people would be so happy to be a part of studio tour. We were kind of surprised by the response we got over that weekend, people were thanking us for hosting the project, and they were really touched by seeing their photo as part of the exhibit and on the banner. Collectively, the exhibit and the banner are really cool, it’s really personal and yet public at the same time. And people LOVED the photo booth. We really were hard pressed for time to put this project together last year, we didn’t even come up with the concept until July. We got a lot of help from City Hall, Luca Cusolito met with us almost immediately. Even in that short time, we were able to get some beautiful props made by local artist Gail-Marie Boykewich. But some of them, I was drawing with marker the night before. People didn’t care, they just love Jersey City. We have some fun new surprises for folks at this year’s photo booth!

Is there something you would want to say about the monthly instagram take overs we have been doing? Or anything else you want people to know about the project?

Tracey: I love the monthly JCI takeovers. It’s really heartening to see how seriously people take it. It just shows this love for Jersey City that people share, even though their backgrounds and experiences are totally different. When there is so much change, it is really important to highlight institutions and communities that have been here for decades.

In your opinion, what is the most amazing thing about Jersey City?

Eric: Although most of my experience in Jersey City is couched in the art scene from some years back, the massive diversity in terms of culture in JC is totally amazing to me.

Tracey: Last year, when we first did #dayinthelifejc we drove all over the city and even though I had moved here in 2002, I think Eric got here maybe a year before me, there were still people and places I was discovering about this city. There are so many neighborhoods with so many histories, it really is such a special place that is distinct from anywhere else.

People taking part in the photo booth at 2015 #dayinthelifejc photo exhibit at the Lackawana Building during the Jersey City Arts and Studio Tour © Honey and Moon Photography

People taking part in the photo booth at 2015 #dayinthelifejc photo exhibit at the Lackawana Building during the Jersey City Arts and Studio Tour © Honey and Moon Photography

Can you give us a rundown on your basic #dayinthelifejc?

Tracey: Most days I go running early in the morning, I alternate between the waterfront and Liberty State Park, and I would say 80% of the time, I am still blown away by how beautiful both of those areas are and how grateful I am to be able to run through them.

Eric and I have been shooting weddings and family portraits on the side for years, but we formally established Honey and Moon Photography two years ago. So I spend a lot of time trying to build the business. Most of this is coming up with ideas that will be super fun for me and lots of extra work for Eric since in addition to being half of our photo staff, he does all the web and design and technical stuff.

Right now, I spend a good amount of time rehearsing with my band, Pounding 40’s, a  Bikini Kill cover band at JC Studios or Pearl Studios, to prepare for the Annual Ghost of Uncle Joe’s Halloween party at Harsimus Cemetery. I love this event, it’s one of my favorite things about Jersey City.

Otherwise, I’m always out trying to support all the amazing artists, entrepreneurs and events in Jersey City. It seems like no matter what time of year, there are always a million really great things going on any day of the night.

My ultimate go to, if I’ve been working from home all day and just need to get out and relax is Keyhole. I’ve been going there since I moved here. I’m always so happy to go in and see Rey or one of the bartenders and just relax and enjoy myself.

What would you like to see happen in Jersey City in the next five years?

Eric: More affordable housing!

Tracey: In addition to more affordable housing, a significant portion of all the revenue that’s coming into Jersey City has to go back into our infrastructure, like the Fire Department or the Library, or the Recreation program or our public schools. Everyone should benefit from this development.

Is there someone from Jersey City you always wanted to meet? If so why?

Tracey: Captain Zodiac! I want to know my future! I’m a leo!

Wedding Photo © Honey and Moon Photography

Wedding Photo © Honey and Moon Photography

What’s your Jersey City “hidden” gem?

Eric: Pecoraro Bakery, right downtown.

Tracey: I have crazy admiration for our boxing program. It’s really a testament to the greatness of this city. Mosquito, who built the program, runs it on an all volunteer basis but there should be ridiculous funding going into that program, including enough money to pay the volunteers. It’s laudable that it started off that way, but I would love to see it be sustainable. Not only are they building up children, including girls and young women, because boxing makes you feel powerful, but it gives teens in this city a place to go to get healthy and develop confidence. And it’s a solid operation. Looking on the outside, you have no idea it’s all volunteer. It is incredibly professional.

Where are you favorite places to go or things to do in Jersey City?

Eric: Bicycling around, Barcade, and seeing anything at the Loew’s Theater.

Tracey: I love Van Vorst Park, what an oasis! Keyhole, like I said, Rey is the King! But there are so many places in Jersey City I love, Wednesday nights at Dull Boy, live music at The Citizen, anything Rock-it docket or ChickpeaJC has got going on. I love the Pet Shop Bar. I can’t believe that wasn’t the first place to open up in Jersey City, to me it’s the perfect embodiment of the local music scene. Arthouse, Gallery 313, so many others.

Do you have a favorite “Jersey City” story or memory?

Eric: 111 closing events and marrying my roommates in Van Vorst Park come to mind.

Tracey: God, so many. I moved here after living in Newark for three years. I lived in this amazing loft, but it was zoned for commercial space, and we got the boot. I was looking for a place in Manhattan, but found a listing in Jersey City. I didn’t know anything about Jersey City at the time, and the only thing on Grove Street was the Hard Grove Cafe (where they used to have animals walk around on Easter) and The Merchant had just opened up. I fatefully moved into what would become, “THE HOUSE OF YAY” a nickname for the apartment where I would live in for 6 years creating some of the most important relationships in my life that are still one of my most important treasures.

Soon after I moved in, I went out to Grace Church with Hamlet, a local artist who was really one of the major influences of the early Jersey City arts scene. I remember walking in and Donald Gallagher was having a solstice event in the church, so there were all these Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence involved in some kind of beautiful ritual. When I walked through to the gym, there was a Mexican wedding going on where everyone was dancing around in a circle and someone dressed in a bear costume was chasing the children around running and laughing. I knew at that moment I was home.

Thank you for sharing your story with us Tracey & Eric!

You can keep up with Eric and Tracey on Instagram: @honeyandmoonphotography, Twitter: @honeyandmoonpix and on Facebook: Honey and Moon. For more information visit, honeyandmoonphotography.com.

Follow Eric and Tracey’s #dayinthelifejc at @jcindependent.

Want to be considered for the #dayinthelifejc JCI Instagram Takeover? Have questions? Contact: Catherine Hecht at checht(at)jerseycityindependent.com or Tracey Luz and Eric Brown at info(at)honeyandmoonphotography.com.

Photo courtesy Honey and Moon Photography

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