Wow. What a year 2016 has been… There is a silence that cannot be broken when standing face to face with your existence. This blogpost won’t be like the others—there won’t be too many sly jokes, puns, or quips thrown in (or at least I’ll try, but who knows). I just want to revisit this past year and reflect on my first step into my journey.
*WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST. But don’t worry, I’ve got pictures*
HOW I GOT STARTED
Many of you guys have asked where it all began: “Jenn, when did you decide to switch paths?”. For those close to me, you know I studied graphic design at UC Davis, dabbling in photography here and there but not really center pointing it in my life. I liked taking photos and I took grad photos during the summer for fast cash but I never thought in a million years that I could turn it into something.
I graduated in 2015 (cum laude, but that doesn’t mean anything anymore so I have to always tell people to justify why I studied in college). After road tripping across the US and spending too much money on strippers (damnit Jenn, you said you wouldn’t joke around), I realized it was time to plunge myself headfirst into adulthood and find myself a real job. Thankfully, it didn’t take long and after a week of searching, I was employed to a wholesale fashion company in Vernon as their graphic designer.
After working a couple months there, I realized I was feeling very unfulfilled. See, what they don’t teach you in school is that creativity in the corporate world is very specific. There is not much room for exploring once the brand has a very specific demographic, branding, and image they need to convey. I wanted to do something more innovative, something that pushed the boundaries and let me do all the exploring I wanted to. Plus, I realize I can’t sit still to save my life and the office chair will continue to haunt my dreams.
One thing I love and hate about myself is that I’m spontaneous. I act upon gut intuition and feeling a lot and tend to jump into situations without planning things through. So you guessed it, I quit my job without looking back and had nowhere to go from there. But I will tell you this: nothing scares you more than uncertainty and that fear is what pushed me to look for other options and not wait for something to come to me.
So unemployed and eager to find myself, I of course had no idea where to start and slumped into a mild state of depression (mild because I had my good friend Don Julio to keep me company). I found myself shooting a lot around LA and I loving every second of it. I get to be outdoors, walking around, and letting my mind run free with endless possibilities…Sorry, I didn’t realize I turned into a Hallmark card. But long story short, I fell in love with shooting and when the New Year came around, I sent out my portfolio and cover letter to around 25 studios.
THE FIRST STEP
"Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." -Rafiki
Yes, I just quoted Lion King 11/2. No shame. I rang into the new year with high hopes and spirits now that I had a new goal set, and by the end of January, I’ve gotten a interview for an internship position with Lin & Jirsa, a big wedding studio in socal and started working with Toviah Photography. I wasn’t sure at this time where I wanted to head in photography yet but weddings seemed like a promising start! By February, my portfolio on 500px was noticed by their team and I was connected with a 3 week long project for Airbnb to capture 40 cities.
MY FIRST FASHION BLOGGER MEETUP
After my project ended, I was down in a slump again and restless to get back out there and shoot. I hate being stagnant because it gives me anxiety of what my future holds, so I decided to hit up an old co-worker/colleague of mine, @grazfed. His ig game was super strong and his aesthetic was on point, so I wanted to reconnect with him and get some insight to how he approaches his photography.
A huge thing that I took away from our hangout was how he explained to me that consistency is all about keeping to set guidelines you create for yourself in the beginning. In order for me to improve and grow as a photographer, I need to find my niche and figure out what type of photography and what style I want to embody. He ended up linking me to a good friend/fashion blogger of his, @indaheart, so I decided to meet up with her and try my hand at lifestyle photography to see if that was another form I’d like to explore.
I met up with Indah at Eightfold Coffee, a new hip coffee shop in LA. If you haven’t known already, Indah is a coffee fanatic and has a 6th sense for it. She always know when a new one pops up in LA. We grabbed some coffee and shot in the neighborhood surrounding it. I was a little nervous but she was super nice and we clicked instantly—this conveyed super well through the camera as our collab compatibility made shooting super easy and fun. I got an adrenaline rush on how good it felt to shoot a subject and having the freedom to explore their relationship to their background. It was a different feeling than taking grad photos or doing weddings, everything is a little more raw and unscripted. Soon after that, I started shooting more and more bloggers, meeting people that I now consider good friends now. Instagram is an interesting community and it’s amazing how easy it is to bond with those with similar interests and hobbies.
From there on out, I kept pushing myself harder and harder to improve and make a style all of my own. That is the trickiest part and even now, I don’t even know if I have it down yet. The way that I shoot, the way that I edit now is so different than a few months ago. I’m always experimenting to see what could be better.
On top of that, a fact that not too many people know, is that I slept around 3 hours a night for months on end. I was cranking out 30 shoots a month, barely sleeping, barely eating, and barely making enough to sustain a happy lifestyle. It wasn’t until 5 or 6 months of hard work that it started paying off and I started to make a decent living.
For those of you that have asked me how I do it, you gotta first ask yourself if you’re making up excuses on why you can’t. Saying toxic things like “if only I had that camera, I’d be set” or “if only I had more time” or “if only I knew the right people”, will get you nowhere. I’m not saying that I made it, because obviously I haven’t, but don’t assume that successful people just got lucky and had everything handed to them. The most successful people are the ones that don’t make up excuses and just goes out there to conquer. So stop saying “if only” and start saying “I can”.
WHERE I STAND
Now that I reached my 1 year mark, it’s time to reevaluate my career and figure out next steps. I definitely want to keep pursuing fashion and I have a huge passion for it. My goals for next year are to shoot my first official lookbook, to be published in a magazine, and to get an internship with a creative studio to get hands on experience working in the fashion industry. I don’t know where my future lies, but I am excited to see where the next year takes me. So much has happened that I am so grateful for and blessed with, and I’ve met so many inspiring and wonderful people in the industry who are also chasing their dreams and/or helping me grow in mine. For those of you that have stuck with me through the beginning, thank you guys so much for believing in me and helping me through my first year.
I hope that when I write my next blog post about my 2nd year, I’ll be able to have more insight and good things to say!
Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart,