The Importance of Learning – Day 1 – Jennifer Osborne

Jennifer Osborne/COLORS
New Orleans, July 2010. Bounce is a very popular music movement originating in New Orleans, USA. It came from the streets and is a mix between Rap, Jazz, and Electronic music. It is popular amongst young adults due to its hard, fast and sexual nature, which inspires eccentric fashion trends. It also appeals to the gay community because Bounce music now contains various gay entertainers. (Jennifer Osborne/COLORS)

Hello, I am Jen Osborne and I guess you can say I am an emerging Photographer.

The past few years have been filled with a lot photographic growth and it is important to me that this doesn’t stop – no matter how much work I get, how many exhibitions I am in or how many book publications I am a part of. My biggest catalyst for growth has always been making mistakes. Some mishaps were embarrassing or hurtful to myself, others were gentle reminders of things I was told but did not LEARN. Mistakes teach us lessons quickly, even if they are hard to take at the time. But they usually prevent us from doing the same thing again!

I always think back to this amazing quote by Einstein “insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results”. This reminds me of two things: (A) It is inevitable that we all use methods that sometimes don’t work, repeatedly even, and this should be forgiven because it is the human condition and (B) If we refuse to learn from the past and its tribulations we will constantly find ourselves disappointed. Part of being a person, who interprets the world in a way that is conducive to meaningful imagery, is being fallible – otherwise we would have a mechanical outlook in our interpretations of life. I remember how hard I used to be on myself for doing things “wrong” or for making a really bad picture. But now I trust in those mistakes, and don’t become so deterred or depressed by them. And this was a very important realization that allows me to continue on in this somewhat challenging and competitive field.

Jennifer Osborne/COLORS
New Orleans, USA. July 2010. Portraits of Sissy Nobby (left) and Big Freedia (right). These two gay entertainers are major performers in New Orleans’ bounce scene – which is a style of music merging rap, electronic, jazz and ‘call and response’. Gay rappers were once controversial until male fans realized their lyrics and melody bring girls out to the party… (Jennifer Osborne/COLORS)


Part of learning is adapting to new technology and accumulating new skills to tell a story in the most effective way possible. Understanding how to light images, film, record sound, and edit effectively are things that fall under my learning curve in addition to just being a competent documentary photographer. My post today includes a video, and 6 images from one assignment I shot about Bounce Music in New Orleans to exemplify a small range of shooting styles I draw from when I approach a photo story. Sometimes it is more effective to visually reveal a situation through the use of posed and/or light portraiture because documentary imagery may not be accessible in the way it requires to make really powerful or meaningful imagery. Or, sometimes your subject matter is too shy to pose candidly so finding natural images may be through shooting their actions. My posted images include a couple candid scenarios (with and without external flash) and a few posed portraits – again one with available light, another with flash. My video post utilizes some externally recorded sound I took from a separate camcorder. Because video work is new to me, I made a lot of mistakes in filming this clip! But a great editing team at COLORS Magazine, who sent me on this assignment I pitched, was able to compile my footage into something great.

Jennifer Osborne/COLORS
New Orleans. July 12, 2010. Bounce music is always changing and recreating itself. Out of this, three queer artists have emerged on the Bounce scene named Katie Red, Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby. This is a very interesting time for New Orleans musically, and also for the gay community which faces less descrimitation since the emergence of these well respected ‘Man Divas’. (Jennifer Osborne/COLORS)

Jennifer Osborne/COLORS
New Orleans. July 12, 2010. One of New Orlean’s best bounce dancers, ‘Diamond’, shows Bounce Dancing is all about being extreme and getting attention. She is friends with New Orlean’s local legend, Monsta wit da Fade, who projects music from his car stereo for Diamond to move to. Bounce dance happens in night clubs, but it’s also common to find great parties in the road, even with a small gathering of friends. (Jennifer Osborne/COLORS)

Here are some four crucial things I truly learned about video work wile on my assignment in New Orleans this summer:

  • Try to film a situation for as long as possible to get a variety of actions, and to be ready for something sporadic that may occur.
  • Don’t zoom in and out with your lens, but physically move in and out of the scene with your body to get some good transitions between shooting wide and close.
  • It is helpful to record sound externally from the video camera to enhance sound quality. You can either put a mic on the subject, or do interviews separately from shooting to later overlay sound in Final Cut pro.
  • When recording sound, always get room tone (the natural ambient sound of your location) to help out with editing later in the game.

Jennifer Osborne/COLORS
New Orleans, USA. July 7th, 2010. A Bounce fan sits on a pool table near the dance floor at Sissy Nobby’s birthday party. (Jennifer Osborne/COLORS)

(Jennifer Osborne/COLORS)

Mistakes often lead to mysterious results and can leave us finding new things we were at first not looking for. This is the beauty of experimentation. Shooting this job in New Orleans was kind of like one big experiment for me because I was forced into using on-camera flash, which is something I usually frown upon because it seems amateurish at times. But in the end, I feel it was more conducive to the story because it added to the ‘bar-star’ feel of my imagery – despite the fact that I took a few really bad images amongst the stuff that was publishable!

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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