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Following Dreams


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Following Dreams


Taylor: Tell me about being a photographer in Europe.

Jessica: I had majored in biology. I had one more class to finish and I realized I didn’t like the structure that was necessary in that field. I decided to take a photography class and went to London. It was there that I decided to pursue photography. I worked for a paper called The Daily Mail. Every day, it was different. One day I even had to photograph a dog show! J I also worked for Reuters International News Agency. It was fun to work there because I was able to do big stuff… like “London Fashion Week.” However, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my photography.  I wanted to interact more with people. I love what I do now because I have a relationship with the people that I work with. It was good that I went to London because it helped me narrow what I wanted to do in Photography.


Taylor: What is it like to own your own studio?

Jessica: I come to work every day and I am so excited to see the people that I am working with. It is awesome owning your own studio, but it did take work to get to this point.  To make enough money, I taught for five years and did this business on the side. I also had to take a huge leap acquiring my retail space. I love that every day is different. I may photograph a baby in the morning, a head shot in the afternoon and then a family in the evening.


Taylor: Did you have any dreams and what did you want to be at the age of twelve?

Jessica: I wanted to be a pediatrician! I loved working with kids and I had worked at a day care when I was younger. I enjoyed biology, so I thought I wanted to go in that direction. When I had to do an internship at a women’s hospital, I realized that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to this kind of work every day. I understand now why I felt so drawn to photography though. I liked working with people and getting to know them.


Taylor: What influenced you to change?

Jessica: Organic chemistry! I was in my second semester and I called my dad and said, “I hate this and I don’t want to do this forever. I don’t want this much structure and I need something more creative!” He said, “Drop it and take something you want to take.” This wasn’t normal advice from a dad, but after his suggestion, I started asking myself what I really wanted to do. I ended up taking a photography class and I had a fantastic professor.


Taylor: Where did you study to be a photographer?

Jessica: I went to Gilford College which is a small liberal arts school in Greensboro, North Carolina. The nice thing about Gilford is that it has many areas of study. Even though I was originally studying biology, they did have a very strong arts program which included photography.


Taylor: Who encouraged and mentored you through it all?

Jessica: My dad encouraged me the most. He had worked at a job that he didn’t necessarily enjoy, but it made good money. He was the kind of person that would say, “Do it because you love it!” Also, my friend Suzy Clark was my professor in photography and she really helped me as well.


Taylor: What made you take the path of being a news photographer and then going on to having your own studio?

Jessica: When I went to London I did a series of portraits of the people I was with. So when I got back to Gilford, I knew that it was what I wanted to do. I loved working with the people and finding out who they were and bringing that input into the portraits. It was either by the words underneath or the location they were taken.


Taylor: What was one of your favorite pictures as a news photographer?

Jessica:  There was one photograph that we did for the Women’s Fashion Week that I really liked. There was a woman’s expression and the way she was posed. It made it a really cool image. The picture was almost in black and white because she had on a white dress. The background was black and her skin was very pale. I have always been drawn to black and white images.


Taylor: What is one of your favorite pictures that you have taken at the studio?

Jessica:  The pictures that bring emotion really are my favorites. I had a dad pick up a portrait and there was a moment where he was just gathering himself and looking at his family. At that moment, that is my favorite image. Those images that really capture a person even in the small amount of time that I spend with them are precious.


Taylor: What is one of the hardest pictures you have had to take?

Jessica: The ones for “Now I lay me down to sleep” are definitely the hardest. They are photographs of terminally ill children and their families. It is a wonderful thing for me to do because I know that it’s my way of giving back to all the people I’m with. That is defiantly some of the hardest work that I do.


Taylor: As a girl, what were some of the peer pressures that you remember having?

Jessica: I grew up in North Carolina on the beach, so the beach was a huge part of my life. When I went into 9th grade I had a very clear set of friends and when I graduated I had very different friends. The ones that were drinking and doing drugs were not the ones that I was friends with when I graduated. It was always a huge fear of mine, because I would look at them and I know that it wasn’t what I wanted to do in my life.


Taylor: What was one of your fondest memories growing up?

Jessica: My dad took the family across country for 6 weeks.  We camped and stayed in hotels and there were three of us kids. The idea was to just see the country.


Taylor: Were you involved in any school programs?

Jessica: I was president of the National Honor Society and vice president of H.O.S.O.A which was “Health Occupation Students of America”. I played tennis all four years and I was in S.A.D.D., which was “Students against drunk driving.” I think being involved in your school and community are important for both students and adults.


Taylor: What kind of friends did you try to surround yourself with when you were growing up?

Jessica: A lot of my friends were the same academically. They were the kind of people that really knew what they wanted to do in life, so they worked for it. A lot of my friends were very genuine and had great families.  Even now, it is still very important to me to surround myself with people that are genuine.


Taylor: Were there any fears that you had that you had to overcome?

Jessica: I wish I could go back and tell myself to be proud and secure with who I was. I think growing up at the beach was one of the hardest things to deal with because my fear was that my body wasn’t perfect and I didn’t look like someone else in a bikini.  It’s silly looking back at it now, but fitting in was one of my fears.  In a way fear can be healthy, like the fear of getting bad grades, because it can help you work a little bit harder at what you are doing.


Taylor: If there are any girls out there that want to become photographers when they grow up, what advice do you have for them?

Jessica: I would still suggest going to a four-year-college because then you’ll be at a place that has options.  Then if you do change your mind, you can have the option to do something else you love.


Taylor: You are going to be speaking to girls all around the world through What words of encouragement would you have for them?

Jessica: I think it’s important to have long and short term goals and to have a plan.  Then you can figure out what school you want to go to and what it takes to get there. You need to set yourself up for those goals and then you will be successful.  Also, stay true to who you are and what you want to do and be in life. Then surround yourself with people that can help you get there.     



Click to play a video "shout out" from Jessica


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