Photographer’s Q&A – Jennifer Roberts
This week’s Q&A is with freelancer Jennifer Roberts. Her web site is www.jenniferroberts.ca
All photos accompanying this Q&A are of residents of the Jeffersonville Adult Home in Jeffersonville, N.Y. The pictures were taken October 10 or 11, 2009 during the Eddie Adams Workshop.
You went to Barnstorm 2009, the recent Eddie Adams Workshop. Could you tell us about the experience, what you got from it and how the weekend was run?
I can try to answer that, but as it happened just a few weeks ago (Oct. 9 – 12), I feel like I’m still digesting the experience.
The Barnstorm schedule was rigorous, to say the least. Students were divided into 10 teams, with every group given a theme, and each photographer was given an assignment related to their team’s theme. I was in an absolutely amazing team (woo-hoo, Rust!) with a solid faculty and group of students.
To give you an idea: our fearless leader was photographer Yunghi Kim; our editor was Scott Thode of Fortune magazine; and our producer was Melissa Lyttle of aphotoaday.org. Melissa did a phenomenal job getting us all wicked assignments within our team’s theme of “working family”. Each photog came back with amazing, diverse work. I really liked that throughout the workshop, students were encouraged to experiment and deviate from their routine shooting styles.
When you weren’t shooting or editing, there were countless incredible lectures to attend throughout the day. Then in the evening, some of the best photographers and photo editors were available, both formally and informally, for portfolio reviews. I think, for a lot of us, this led to post-workshop meetings with photo editors in NYC.
Over the weekend, I think I logged about three hours of sleep a night. Afterwards, I got sicker than I’ve been in years – but it was well worth it. I feel like it’s the most you could possibly learn in four days, a humbling and rewarding experience. I wish I could do it all over again.
What were your first steps in the industry?
I am still making steps into the industry, but when I graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), I was lucky enough to be hired by smaller community newspapers such as The Gleaner in Toronto and Metroland’s Durham Region papers (east of Toronto). The work provided a great opportunity to shoot many different types of assignments and to help develop a style.
As a student, I attended conferences and arranged to meet with photo editors and photographers to get their advice and input, which was invaluable. I was (and still am) pretty shy but I forced myself to do it because if I didn’t, I knew no one would ever see my photos and I’d never get work.
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation and are you where you thought you would be now?
I’ve always wanted to be a photojournalist. I can’t imagine a better job. Right now, I am lucky because I am freelancing for publications which I always wanted to contribute to.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
I’m sure, like many photographers, the people whom I meet while making photos are my biggest inspirations. It’s why I became interested in photography.
I recently had the honour of working with Yunghi Kim (yunghikim.com). She was my group leader at the Eddie Adams workshop. I find her vision very unique and inspiring. Her work has a very intimate way of telling stories.
I also like a lot of photography that isn’t photojournalism, and I think aspects of that can inform our work. Right now, I’m quite in love with German conceptual photographer Julia Fullerton Batten’s work (juliafullerton-batten.com). It’s so stunning, I can stare at it forever – I look at her web site almost every day (whoa, creepy). Really, there are countless photographers that I find inspiring, particularly a lot of Canadian photojournalists.
Did you have a mentor? How important are mentors?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had one mentor for an extended period of time, but in general, I’ve found that Canadian photojournalism is very supportive of emerging photographers.
While I was a student, something that stood out as being particularly helpful was an educational afternoon sponsored by OCAD alum Louie Palu, which allowed students to meet with The Globe and Mail photo editors at Louie’s home. Other than that, I’ve always tried to show work to Moe Doiron (Globe and Mail director of photography) at conferences and such – he gives great advice and feedback.
Also, working with Globe and Mail photographer John Lehmann in Vancouver last summer, (during my 2008 summer internship with The Globe), was the most I’ve ever learned from anyone. And lucky for me, John continues to let me call and harass him when I have questions, such as if I’m stressing about sizing of a video, etc.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I’m still developing my career but interning for The Globe and Mail in the summer of 2008 was an amazing opportunity. I learned an incredible amount during those four months. It also opened the door to regular freelance work which has been wonderful.
I was also lucky enough to recently attend the Eddie Adams Workshop.
How important to you is multimedia?
Important, when it’s done well. I think multimedia can be an amazing way to tell stories. It’s a progressive way to take advantage of the online newspaper platform. A couple of short pieces I recently did for The Globe, which incorporated audio and stills, taught me a lot.
How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?
I’m not really an authority on this because I am just starting out. But I always try to learn and attempt to keep on top of trends in the industry. I started an MFA in Ryerson’s Documentary Media program in 2007 because I want to learn more about multimedia and documentary film. It’s exciting and clearly it’s going to be a huge part of our jobs in the future. Additionally, like most people, I spend hours looking through photo books, photo web sites, etc.
What are some of the must-see websites you visit?
I suspect I look at some of the same sites we all do:
What is your favourite way to unwind?
I don’t really unwind. When I’m not working, I kinda wish I was working, so I make projects for myself.