Doing It Because You Want To – Day 5 – Jennifer Osborne

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An image from my series PUBLIC Parts, a personal project that explores ambiguous forms of sexuality. Here, a Cuban and an Italian tourist play with each other on the beaches of Cojimar, just outside Havana. (Jennifer Osborne)

I want to leave this week long blog off by saying that as a photographer, there is nothing more important than doing work for you, work that you want to do. It is fine to get assignments, and commercial jobs here and there, and it’s really great to get published, especially when you have a full-page spread, or multiple pages at that… But something about photography always leaves me understanding that things are ephemeral, temporary, transient etc… People will always forget that 6 page spread, or that exhibition from a year ago… This is why it is important to have your own projects to work on – projects that make you as the photographer gratified. I think it is important to do meaningful work because it will always be there for you, even when the jobs aren’t.

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An image from my series PUBLIC Parts, a personal project that explores ambiguous forms of sexuality. These two boys lay next to each other at 3am on a week night. (Jennifer Osborne)

I read a great quote by Lauren Greenfield, who is a big influence of mine, and she said, “it is a privilege to do this work (to be a photographer)”, and what she essentially meant is that it is not a right. So, I am under the strong belief that, if it allows you to make more meaningful work, it is better to get a part-time job than to try and get tons of hideous corporate headshot or wedding photo gigs. Those things are great for money and supporting fine art or documentary work, but the hazard is that they can possibly contaminate your flavour for picking up the camera to make beautiful work.

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An image from my series PUBLIC Parts, a personal project that explores ambiguous forms of sexuality. Here, two boys at an internet addicts’ recovery camp hold each other. (Jennifer Osborne)

I myself have a part-time job; it involves working with mentally ill and drug-addicted people in Canada’s poorest postal code. It is sometimes stressful work, but it has allowed me to achieve important relationships with people who are helping me access the content I would like to deal with in my projects. It also provides a deeper understanding for my subjects. In all honesty, I would much rather earn money in this environment, than via shooting flimsy (content wise) weddings or headshots. But that is just my preference.

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An image from my series PUBLIC Parts, a personal project that explores ambiguous forms of sexuality. (Jennifer Osborne)

There is also this thing about maintaining integrity and representing yourself in a way that you want to be perceived by the world, as a photographer. I don’t want people to consider me as a ‘wedding’ or ‘family portrait’ photographer, so I don’t advertise or use my energy towards getting that kind of work. I shoot what I want, and sometimes I get money for doing that – but not always. Also, shooting the things you want will inherently allow you to be employed on cooler projects because the big boss will see that you have a vision, that you see the world in a certain way. And this is appealing. And sometimes I loose interest and I don’t want to shoot at all, but I always seem to come back to it, and I always come back with something new to the way I approach things. So it is important to keep in mind, things require some distance to remain fresh sometimes.

XXX,
Jen Osborne

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An image from my series PUBLIC Parts, a personal project that explores ambiguous forms of sexuality. (Jennifer Osborne)

Jen Osborne is a freelance photographer. She has worked with COLORS Magazine and United COLORS of Benetton, Vanity Fair Italy, DIESEL U-Music, Maisonneuve Magazine, The Walrus (Online), and other notable publications. She recently exhibited at the Museum de l’Elysee in Switzerland as part of the ReGeneration2 project and was included in the 2010 Flash Forward book publication. Jen was recently nominated for PDN 30, a 2010 National Magazine Award, and the Joop Swart Masterclass while residing in Vancouver, Canada.

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