Christie Stockstill- I think many of us in the [fa] forum know who you are already, but we are adding people all the time, so, for starters, tell us a little about yourself. Where you live, what sort of work you do there, etc.
Jenna Martin- Well, I live in Billings, MT, and I am a conceptual photographer. I shoot weddings from time to time, but I spend most if my time shooting new work for galleries and teaching workshops. I also live with my fiancé and 6 pets – and trust me if he let me there would be even more, lol
Christie Stockstill- Congratulations on the coming marriage. He must be a supportive guy to live with an artist who travels and a growing pet family.
Jenna Martin- Ha he really is . He is very, very good at balancing out my crazy. And there is a lot of crazy
Christie Stockstill- Amen to that. I’m coming to terms with my own brand of crazy. Fine art and workshops are your primary means of paying bills, etc? Did you do other types of photography previously? Or has it always been personal work with a few weddings here and there?
Jenna Martin- It’s always been personal work. I’ve shot a few families and seniors, but pretty sparingly. If I want a new lens or something I’ll do a senior photo special, but I definitely focus more on gallery work than on client work. I do love shooting weddings – they take a ton of work though so I like to shoot them sparingly and really make them count
Christie Stockstill- That’s wonderful! I know there are a lot of us who would love to create personal work full-time, and there are so many talented artists in this group who could do their own workshops. Let me ask you about workshops, and we’ll get back to galleries in a second. You did a workshop with Joshua Malik, recently. Right? Or is that coming up soon?
Jenna Martin- That’s coming up this weekend in Vegas!
I literally can’t wait, it’s going to be awesome. We’re putting so much information into it.
Christie Stockstill- I tried to win a spot…obviously didn’t happen.
Is it full?
Jenna Martin- It’s technically full, but if anyone else wanted to sign up we would make room for them. We don’t want to leave anyone out!
Christie Stockstill- I’m jealous. Wish I could be there! You guys have a lot to offer. When you decide to do your workshop, how do you start? Do you make your own plans? Or do you typically work with someone else who wants to work with you? I’ve done workshops for moms who want to learn to use their camera better, but I wouldn’t know how to reach other photographers, let alone have the courage to assume I could teach them anything.
Jenna Martin- I’ve done workshops with a few other photographers before, but it’s usually broken up. So one person teaches a portion and then I teach a portion. Usually it’s been with different styles of photography, so the other photographer might teach fashion photography the first day, and then I’d teach retouching or marketing the second day
Christie Stockstill- I want to do that!!
Jenna Martin- …but with josh, we met in Houston and got along really well, and were like hey we should do a workshop together! So we’re basically both co-teaching this one
Christie Stockstill- Did you go to school for photography?
Jenna Martin- Nope
CS- So you and Josh met at the BeHuman Gallery? I think I met you that night.
JM- Yeah! at the BeHuman Gallery
CS- You’re self-taught? Photography, Photoshop, marketing? All that?
JM- Right. I didn’t go to school for photography at all. I have 3 college degrees, and was working as a counselor. I HATED it! I was so depressed. So I came home and told my fiancé I was starting over and wanted to do something creative. So I chose photography. Yup! I literally made a list of creative jobs, and chose photography out of the list. I knew NOTHING about it.
CS- Well that’s annoying. Just kidding. You’re so good already! How long have you been creating images?
JM- I emailed every photographer in Billings (there were 63 of them) and asked if I could intern for free. 4 wrote back: 3 sat me down and very angrily explained why this was the stupidest decision i had ever made in my life, and that i needed to go back to counseling, and then 1 wrote me back and said she’s let me help her pose babies for newborn photography
JM- Let’s see that was about… I want to say it was about 2 years ago. I know I officially started my business December 2012
CS- Do you mind telling me how old you are? I was surprised to learn that Josh is only nineteen.
JM- I’m 29.
CS- I love photographers who are willing to share their knowledge and help others. Pay it forward. Thank you, Jill Nauman!
JM- Ha she was amazing (her business is @Jill Nauman Photography) and she was crazy helpful. The first time she showed me how to composite it was all over. I went home and spent every second on YouTube. Was kind of funny spending all this time in college studying something totally different, but I knew something had to change.
People feel obligated to follow a path they’ve been on just because of the amount of time and effort they’ve put into it, but following a dead road only means you’re wasting more time and effort. So I did a complete 180. I got a lot of weird looks for essentially “throwing away” all those degrees I worked so hard for (and paid a lot of money for), but it was either now or never.
CS- Speaking of photographers who give back… You just spent a lot of time in New York with Lindsay Adler. Right? How was that? What did you do? Tell us everything.
JM- Ha it was great! It was a little difficult at first, mainly because we’re the exact same person. We’re both very competitive and stand our ground, and that can be tough to navigate at first. But we quickly got on the same page . I know she does mostly fashion photography, but that wasn’t why I was there – I wanted to learn from a business standpoint. She’s crazy motivated, and driven, and hardworking and has a take no shit attitude – and I love that! I wanted to learn about turning photography into a successful business and she seriously answered EVERY SINGLE QUESTION I could think of. I’ve been putting as much into practice as I possibly can since I’ve gotten home. I can’t thank her enough!
CS- What an incredible opportunity! How did you get there in the first place?
JM- It was all very strange! And a long story. Bonnie knew Lindsay from earlier, and I had a question about fashion photography, and she encouraged me to email Lindsay and ask. For a brief moment I was considering working more in fashion photography). Lindsay answered my question and then some, so that was awesome! She mentioned internships, and I thought it would be a great opportunity, but the internship was a long one in the summer – and during a time I had booked many weddings. I knew there was no way I could afford to give back $10,000 in wedding deposits, so the talk pretty much ended there.
Then when I was in Houston, I told Bonnie how cool it would be to be able to intern, but that it probably couldn’t happen at that time because of the money issue. Then when I got back to Montana I had a message from Bonnie saying, “Email Lindsay now – She needs an intern for April!” So I emailed her, she told me to be there by April 6 and I bought a plane ticket and flew out 2 days later!
JM- It was all very, very crazy.
Even at the point when I bought the plane ticket I knew I wasn’t interested in fashion photography anymore as a career, but I still really, really wanted to learn from someone that was so good at creating a business from the ground up. No way I could pass up an opportunity like that.
CS- That is insane! Awesomely, beautifully insane. Must have been serendipity.
JM- Ha yeah it was pretty crazy! And then of course Julie Belton lives in Jersey, and I told her about the internship and she was like YOU’RE STAYING WITH ME AND THAT’S THE END OF IT! We were roomies for the month, it was awesome
CS- The universe has been good to you! Can you share one or two little gems? Advice or tips you learned from working with her?
(I met Julie in Houston too! Damn! I did NOT make the most of that event! Lesson learned.)
JM- One would be to contact the right person. When it come to submitting work for publishing, it’s not about just writing the info@ address for the magazine, it’s about really finding the person in charge of choosing editorial pieces and writing them. Same goes with sponsors or people you want to work with. Do a little digging and find the RIGHT person. It makes a huge difference. Another would just be that New York attitude she has. There is a ton of rejection in fashion, and she just brushes it off and goes on to the next one. Makes you step up your game a bit!
CS- That’s a great bit of advice. Do you have a few minutes for a couple of questions about gallery work?
JM- Of course!
CS- I assume approaching a gallery is also about getting in touch with the right person. True? What is your best suggestion for someone who has not had work up in a gallery at all? Roughly, how many pieces should be included in a series? I struggle with that one, and also with just how closely related to one another the images should be. Sometimes it seems a series is all one model or one set, other times it’s a very general concept that connects the pieces.
JM- Gallery work is so much more complicated than I originally thought it was. That a large part of what I learned at Fotofest. Your first thing is to create a cohesive collection, and that where many of us fall short. Just because something is conceptual, doesn’t mean it goes together. That’s the problem many new artists have – they don’t have a ton of work, so they assume all their work must go together, when it really doesn’t. I got eaten alive on that concept down there!
JM- Learning how to create a cohesive collection is something I’ve been adding to my workshops. I had no idea how tough it is until I got broken down with it
CS- That is so helpful to hear. So what makes a series cohesive?
Did you hear all sorts of advice or was there something you could latch on to?
JM- There are a great number of things – from the model, to the composition, to the color tone, to the position the model is in, to the various components in the photo – so much i had to learn
CS- Me, too! Come back to Texas and do a workshop. I’ll either attend or teach it with you.
JM- What I latched onto was how many judges called me out on my use of fabric – they said I was using it as a crutch. Fabric makes a cool effect and I was using it to make a cool photo. I needed to push myself outside the “swirly fabric” concept
Ha I am definitely coming back to Texas – Houston was awesome!
CS- So they’re on to that, huh?
JM- Oh so fast! They also called me out on using women in feminine or vulnerable poses. While it may make for a pretty photo, it’s also very expected and boring. The stereotype of women is feminine and vulnerable – a photo of it really isn’t that interesting
I explain it this way – take a photo of a pretty girl in a dress in a field (which we’ve all seen a million times). Now put that girl in a suit. Just that small switch from a feminine to a masculine article of clothing makes it a much more interesting photo. It’s unexpected.
CS- I’m kinda glad to hear this, actually — not that you were called out, but that there is some push-back. I could say the same thing about adding birds to images! (No offense to anyone.)
JM- They’ve seen it all. It’s a small world for us, but I literally had someone say, “I am so sick of seeing a photo of a girl in a white dress, laying in the woods looking dead.” I told that to Bonnie and the rest of the group and they all said, “Um, I think we were probably making that exact same photo, as she was saying that to you.” It was hilarious.
JM- Yeah it was definitely tough to handle – hearing, “Sure that’s a great photo, but it’s easy. And expected. We want to see more.” I’m thankful for it though – work has improved exponentially since I came back! I wish you were too!! We’ll have to come to Texas when the heat dies down a bit.
Yes. It’s supposed to hit 100 degrees today.
I’m so thankful you had time to talk today. You’ve been open and helpful, and I just wish I was heading to Vegas soon to play with you and Josh!