When Amanda Kershaw and her new husband Andy arrived in San Francisco from Boston in late 2008, she set out to explore her new city.
"One of the things she started to do was walk around with her point-and-shoot camera and just take photos," Andy Kershaw says. "And I was noticing and our friends were noticing there was something to them -- they had really good composition, and she just had that eye."
Not too long after, Andy Kershaw got his wife what he calls "a so-called real camera," a digital SLR, and she started what would become a serious pursuit as a photographer.
The portfolio Kershaw built over the last five years or so under the name Panda Snaps exhibits a warm connection to other people, a love affair with color and motion, and a tireless enthusiasm for the world of DJs and dance parties.
Kershaw, 34, grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, in a house full of brothers -- Brandon, Christopher and her twin, Patrick. She graduated summa cum laude from Bridgewater State University and wrote her honors thesis on radical feminism.
Kershaw worked for several years as a staffer in the entomology department of the California Academy of Sciences. For the past five years, she'd been on the staff of the Oakland-based Trust for Conservation Innovation, where she served as human resources and operations manager.
Andy Kershaw met his future wife -- then Amanda Allen -- in 2005, when they both lived in Boston. They married two years later, and after saving up cash for their adventure west, hit the road for San Francisco on Dec. 2, 2008 -- eight years to the day before the Ghost Ship fire.
Andy Kershaw says that his wife's talents shone most spectacularly in the after-work worlds she embraced -- electronica, dance and bringing people together. A DJ who does independent record production, Andy Kershaw says that his spouse was a force to be reckoned with when she started organizing her own gatherings under the name Pulse Generator. "We were sort of like a 'power couple' in this scene that could draw a lot of people together," he says. "She became a better promoter than I was."
Andy Kershaw says his wife had a magnetic personality. "Everybody she encountered absolutely adored her. She had one of the best personalities and attitudes -- she always transcended any drama that was going on around her."
Recently, Amanda and Andy had separated, and Amanda had started dating Johnny Igaz, who also died in the Oakland warehouse fire. The last photo she posted was of Igaz DJing that night. In a touching remembrance of her relationship with Igaz, Hunter Leight says that the night before the fire, Amanda told her some news: that she and Johnny "had been dating for a month or so, and it had been low key, but she wanted to tell me and get my blessing. I was happy and supportive, as she was a gem and Johnny had been crushing on her for a while."
Adds Leight, "They were both lovely people."
When asked a reporter's boilerplate question -- "What haven't I asked that you'd like people to know about Amanda?" – Andy Kershaw is at a loss.
But later he texts: "Please include something about Amanda's infectious smile and deep, loud, genuine laugh."
Done. And it's clearly a smile and laugh her friends miss.
For more of Amanda's photography, see her Panda Snaps Smugmug page.