We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Ambuehl and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessica, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
As a photojournalist, I use imagery to connect the world through human experiences by evoking emotions in the audience to desire to learn more, value differences, discover beauty in brokenness, and expose them to a world they didn’t know existed but can now no longer deny.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Most people are surprised to learn that I fell into photojournalism. I have no formal training nor was seeking out this particular profession. I learned that a small nonprofit serving Uganda was lacking promotional materials to brand their work with excellence . . . so I offered my help with their graphic design projects which led for the need of quality pictures . . . which led to me traveling to Africa to take the photos myself on their next medical team trip. That one act of faith – stepping out not knowing what the future had but simply wanting to help – led to an extensive journey photographing the work of numerous nonprofits around the world for over 10 years. And thus, discovering what feeds my soul . . . capturing life through my lens and meeting strangers in foreign lands.
Before this trip, I had traveled overseas many times on mission trips and found a love for people that were not like me. I discovered that what typically made others uncomfortable or fearful, actually drew me in. I began to feel more at home thousands of miles away rather than in my own backyard. It was not hard to leave the U.S. – as many believed – but rather, more difficult to return . . . to come back to a materialistic culture after experiencing so much poverty, raw beauty and humanity on a deeper level than the average-person knows.
One thing that surprises many who see me “in action” is that I rarely use a big lens. This prohibits me from getting close-up pictures from far distances. Yet, as a friend once said . . . my “superpower” is the ability to quickly connect to and create trust with people without a shared look or common spoken language. I never realized this gift until years later but treasure it as a blessing. The consistent challenge is to see “humanity before circumstances” and share images with the world for audiences to do the same.
Samples of my work can be viewed online at www.UnderTheTreeDesigns.org.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live near St. Louis which is sometimes referred to as “the flyover city.” But people don’t realize how much we have to offer . . . lakes, caves, hiking, food, cities, sports and much more.
I would definitely take them to a Cardinal’s baseball game at Busch Stadium followed by a short walk down the street to the Broadway Oyster Bar for dinner. We’d enjoy the eclectic decor, delicious food (including my favorite alligator cheesecake), and live music.
I would take them to see a live stage performance at the Fox Theatre with its grandeur decor and spectacular shows. We’d head to The Hill to introduce them to authentic Italian cuisine like toasted ravioli and then gooey butter cake for dessert.
Our zoo is hands-down one of the best in the nation . . . and it’s FREE! If my guests had kids, I would definitely take them to the City Museum downtown: a “10-story, 600,000 square-foot warehouse of the International Shoe Company transformed into a mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects.” There is nothing like it!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A big shoutout to my parents who always encouraged me in all my endeavors and to my husband and kids who consistently support my passion to tell stories – no matter where in this beautiful world they take me.
Other: www.JessicaAmbuehl.com (storytelling in front of the camera . . . aka, my performance website)