We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenn D. Ridgeway and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenn, what are you inspired by?
Authenticity. Overlooked/unrealized beauty. Pain. My inspirations are not conventional, which makes them even more inspiring in themselves. I think when we hear the word “inspire” we kind of assume or anticipate that the topic will be pretty, light, and airy. But – that is not always the case. During the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns I spent some time soul searching and honing in on who I am as an artist. My story completely changed! I tapped into a place that I had closed off and since then have realized that my story is what inspires me to create. My inspirations come from places that have been painful for me. The pain of feeling overlooked, unattractive, in the background while all the other girls shined, and like I did not belong in front of the camera are very much places of me that inspire me to be an artist. I create for the people like me. I want to capture my subjects as authentically as possible because I want to showcase who they truly are. Seeing a person who feels overlooked or like they do not deserve the spotlight come to life in front of my lens is incredibly fulfilling. Watching a person see their image, as the beautiful person they are, through my lens inspires me to keep creating. Knowing that my photos can be part of the healing process for a broken person to see themselves as whole is why I keep picking up my camera. Shifting my brand to be fully truly in line with what inspires me has been the best decision I have ever made!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I always say (as cliché as it may be) that every image I create is a tiny piece of my soul that I set free into the world. It is 100% true though. In a saturated competitive industry, I have the secret sauce. Me! There are so many amazing photographers who put out top notch work, but there is only one me. My hope is that what sets me apart as a photographer is my connection with the people I photograph. My clients become my best friends. They are so often the people I text “let’s grab a donut” when I am in their part of town. Speaking of that saturated competitive industry, I think I went into photography very uniformed. So uninformed. I thought “I have a good camera, the rest will figure itself out” and boy was I wrong. People have the perceived notion that being an artist is easy, but that is often miles from the truth. Visualizing your dreams is pretty low key, executing them, however, that is where the grit comes in. There have been so many obstacles and moments I wanted to hang up my camera for good because I thought I was not good enough to be in the arena. Overcoming that obstacle takes a mindful intention to stay in my lane and remember why I shoot and why I chose this gig. My motto to overcome the feelings of inadequacy is ” just make every photo you take better than the last one” so that my competition remains my own. More than seeing my pretty photos I want people to see the story behind them. A huge part of that story is mine. I would not be the artist I am without the hard parts of my story. Those are the pieces that built me. Through my work I aim to advocate for the stories of people like mine. I want my platform to be a place where conversations happen. I am an artist who lives with Bipolar 2 and who has walked the journey of some pretty intense mental illness struggles. There are so so many moments that my camera is my place of peace where I feel free to be who I am. Photography has given me a voice!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This question is my jam! This girl loves all things urban and loves to eat! I travel through 3 states every month and DFW is the only place that has my heart. Planning an itinerary for a week would be only a tad tough as I am a crime show binger and would spend half the week on the couch with Velvet Taco, Hurts Donuts, and Netflix, but I will give it a go. In no particular order (because let’s be real I am an artist and structure is no fun): I would absolutely make sure my friend is fed every food I love in the city. We would: 1. Eat a fish taco and drink a margarita at Velvet Taco. 2. Grab a dozen donuts from Hurts. 3. Dive into some Q at Terry Blacks, Heim, and Panther City (I LOVE BBQ). 4. Stop for a burger and a beer at Rodeo Goat. 5. Enjoy a pizza at Cane Rosso. 6. Chat over brunch at Yolk. I would also be sure we stopped in at Kate Weiser to stock up on gourmet pieces of heaven and we would spend an afternoon at Klyde Warren Park soaking in the sun and people watching. A stroll through Deep Ellum would be a must for some culture. No doubt we would scope out the Farmers Market, any local pop up shops, and any current museum attractions around the city. We would also make time to visit local animal shelters to give some fur babies some human time. I have zero friends who are not animal lovers!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout is dedicated to the people along my journey who have said “you can do this” and who believed in me when I did not believe in myself. To my boys who have sacrificed time with me so I could build my business, to my partner and my friends who have held me when I cried because the industry is tough, and to the clients who have trusted me with their most important moments from the day I picked up my camera…THANK YOU. You are my drive and my motivation. You are the real MVP’s.
Facebook: Jennmark Photography
All images by Jennmark Photography