I’m Jenna. You probably already know that, or possibly not. But… well, here I am.
Recently, an assignment was given to me. It was an assignment I didn’t take lightly, but waited till the last-minute to complete. The truth is though, I had every intention of finishing this “on time”, but I was being taught a lesson about myself during this creative assignment – one that may have taken me several years to figure out or even pursue.
You might be wondering who is behind this assignment and where my motivation came from for such a project (because as I divulge more, you’ll see that this was more like a huge project for me – with several hurdles and hiccups). I think I’ve mentioned here at least once, that I will be taking a workshop in a couple of weeks (OMG, it’s that soon!) and the widely known and highly revered Barb Uil of Jinky Art is my instructor. Exciting, eh?
When I came across her work more than a year ago, I was in awe. Actually, I had never seen anything like it! I admired her in so many ways, but mostly because she was a master in her craft. She had clearly found her niche’ and knew how to execute her ideas better than anyone in the industry. Initially, I thought I wanted to be her – in every way imaginable! I wanted to take photos the same way, process the same way, and get so amazingly good that people would want to learn from me too.
Time passed, and so did this phase. I started noticing something in my work that was recurring, almost habitual – especially from my personal work. It was pure, organic, raw, real, nostalgic, and moody. It was mine – reflective of me and my personality. (Yes, I am moody at times and I keep it real) It wasn’t Jinky, but that was okay.
When I first read the assignment, I thought it would be pretty easy. It basically wanted us to write a list of things about ourselves – who we are and how we’d like to be viewed by others. Then, with that knowledge in mind, create a self-portrait that reflects those things. I thought, “Simple, I know who I am and how I want others to see me.” I didn’t write the list down, but I had the words in my head – nurturing, thoughtful, confident, intelligent, and spontaneous. I didn’t know how I’d capture any of that in one single image though.
What happened after this initial brainstorming was an epiphany really.
I planned to go out to the desert one evening to take the photos. I planned on going alone. That night, I gathered all of my gear and was ready to head out the door, when I realized I was missing my remote for my camera. I looked for at least an hour, but to no avail. The sun was already on the horizon and I decided to search the next day.
I got in the car the following day to pick up my nephew from his drama camp. I decided to bring our dog, Phoebe – this is not a normal thing for me and I still can’t think of why I brought her. Oddly enough, she found my remote in the car! I became hopeful! Again, I planned to go out that evening and shoot… then we got a monsoon storm. uhhhh! But yay for my plants!
We had plans for the next several evenings, so I sat and pondered the shoot and wondered if I’d actually complete it or not.
Finally, my chance came. It was a Thursday and I had my equipment gathered by the door and was ready to go when I realized my remote was missing AGAIN! After over an hour of searching, my nephew found it. (Way to go, kid!) I was in such a hurry to leave and had ultimately decided to include my kids in the shoot, that I forgot my brand new tripod. (which I had bought mostly for this exact project, of course)
As I was driving to the location, I realized my tail light was not working and sneakily pulled off to the side road to avoid a ticket from a cop that was a few cars behind me. (That bloody light goes out almost monthly!)
I got to my location (ticket-less, thank goodness) and turn around to find my son completely and utterly passed out in the back seat. I would have woken him under normal circumstances, but he hadn’t had decent sleep in days and I just didn’t have the heart to interrupt his little cat nap. I unloaded Annabelle and my equipment. As I was unpacking my items from the back of the car, I discovered a light/umbrella-stand I had left in my car from a session months ago (when I was still using lights) and realized, although it wouldn’t allow me to take ANY vertical shots, it was better than using a rock as a tripod. 😉
Nurturing, Thoughtful and Intelligent. 😉 (Wow, I’m really on a roll here!)
I felt really weird taking pictures of myself, but I also felt pretty. I wore this red dress I had purchased in Spain. I bought it 10 years ago while living in Europe and it represented my freedom and spunk. It’s also a dress I wore on one of my first dates with my husband, and have never worn it for anyone but him. We are partners in everything we do, and although he HATES being in front of the camera and didn’t want to be in the photos, wearing the dress reminds me of my first taste of Lambrusco, that quaint Italian restaurant that he’d been eating at for years with his family, and the way he looked at me when I came down the stairs that night for our date.
I wore my Grammy’s necklace as a way of having her there. She has always been a source of laughter, connection and confidence for me and when faced with a decision, I oftentimes ask myself, “Would this make Grammy proud?”
I wanted my children in the photos, but I never had any intention of them posing with me. I wanted them to do their own thing while weaving in and out of the frame. I felt like I’d be that much more appreciative of the ones where they’re hugging me or kissing me or talking with me if it was a real moment. I also feel like this symbolizes the way they are and always will be a part of me. By not having them always “with me” in the photos though, I feel like I’m representing “me” and my wish to model individuality, confidence and leadership for my children.
What’s unique to me about this journey and process, is that I discovered the story, experience and the images complete the story of me.
And here’s the real epiphany folks… THAT is what I want for my clients. I realized my purpose in photography. My photography represents people – their lifestyle and their personalities. I want my sessions to be an experience, a memory, something to share for years and years. I want it to remind families about what is truly important in life. It’s so easy to get caught up in what you want, but being happy with what you’ve got is such a gift. I want spouses to see something in one another that they haven’t seen for a while or have been too busy to see. I want real connections and moments for families to look back on and have a story that accompanies it. I want children to look at these images as adults and be reminded of a time when their parents played Candy Land or helped them get dressed.
I love simple. I love real. I love honesty. And, I absolutely cherish memories!
Thank you, Barb! I already feel like I have gotten so much out of this workshop and I haven’t even begun it. I mean, look at these mother/daughter moments I’ll have for a lifetime! I am so thankful already! I can’t wait to meet you and the other photographer attendees! *overwhelming gratitude over here*