AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER, JENN LEBLANC
I’d like to welcome Jenn LeBlanc to the blog! Hey Jenn, welcome! Thank you for joining us!!!
Let’s start with a little bit about her:
Canon. Curls. Colorado. CJs. Chuck Norris. Born and raised in a household of other people’s children in this beautiful state —very nearly with a camera in hand— she never left. She started her own family, got used to the curls, went to college, built a CJ, started a business, and totally beat the daylights out of Chuck Norris, all with a camera in hand. Spending her days in parenting chat rooms she got highly adept with one-handed typing and she can still type just about as fast with one hand as she can with two. It’s a great talent to have when engrossed in a scene and in need of a hit of caffeine. Once she finished her first novel she quickly realized: She was born a photographer. From the realization that someone ELSE would be shooting the cover of HER book her control-freak took over. What started as an easy cover shoot ballooned into this completely new kind of media, designed specifically for digital book readers. She lives and thrives off chaos and the constant flow of the creative process. She wears shorts and flip-flops year-round —much to the chagrin of her friends and family— and she is currently working on the illustrations for her second novel. Her first serial novel THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE is doing its own Chuck Norris impersonation with the time travel charts on Amazon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook sharing eye candy (NSFW) and being a total rock star.
As you can see from her bio, Jenn is a multi-faceted individual with some serious talent! I first came across her stock photography through our mutual friend Candace (thank you Candace!) and I was blown away. As a graphic artist and voracious romance reader, I fell in love with her images and appreciate the talent she brings to this genre in particular.
I was able to just barely contain my fangirling long enough to conduct the following interview:
Syd:There are so many things I want to ask you, but we’ll start with some easy stuff first! You say you were very nearly born with a camera in hand – do you know how that happened? Did someone give it to you or did you pick it up on your own? Do you know what kind of camera it was?
Jenn: I was given a camera for Christmas when I was really young. It was a 110, which doesn’t exist anymore. Then when I was 11 I went to New York with my Dad and I took his Canon AE-1 and never gave it back. I still have it. I still shoot with it. That camera is an extension of myself, I’m so familiar with it.
Syd: As a young child/adult, what did you love about photography? Has that changed over time?
Jenn: I’m not sure how to explain my love of photography, it isn’t merely what I do, but it is who I am. I was born seeing things differently from most, and actually didn’t realize that until later. It’s the intricate play of sunlight in shadow, the way the light effects the film. It’s light and dark, and spatial relationships within the frame. It’s capturing that single moment that touches your heart. Nothing about that has changed.
Syd: Do you have a favorite childhood photograph? If so tell us about it and why it’s a favorite.
Jenn: The first image that drew me was the Alfred Eisenstadt taken in Times Square on V-J day. It’s the sailor bending the nurse over his arm and kissing her senseless. It is magical. I think it about sums up my professional life in photography pretty well, photojournalism, art and romance. DONE. The image is copyright protected, so I’ll include a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-J_Day_in_Times_Square
Syd: Since Illustrated Romance is not all you do, tell us a bit about any other projects you’re working on.
Jenn: I’m also an author. I suppose I’ve always been a storyteller, though for most of my life it was either in my head as daydreams, or visual in images. My first book The Rake And The Recluse is an illustrated, serialized, romance novel. The first of its kind. It’s actually the reason I shoot covers.
Jenn: My mother passed away in 2005 from cancer. I was a student at the time, and photographed her final 10 months. Those images not only mean the world to me, but to my daughters. I saw an article for NILMDTS and contacted them. I don’t shoot often, it is emotionally exhausting, and I simply can’t do very many sessions even though I wish I could do more. I just don’t have that kind of strength. However, I do what I can. And hope the families I’ve photographed find some semblance of peace in the images I make.
Syd: Illustrated Romance is an amazing site with tons of beautiful stock photography of all kinds. How did it come to be?
Jenn: Authors saw the images in my book and wanted that same passion for their covers. The rest…well is on its way to history. It all started with a couple authors… and it grew from there.
A couple of examples of Jenn’s work turned into amazing covers!
Syd: What is the most enjoyable or satisfying part of shooting stock photography specifically for romance novels?
Jenn: It is FUN. Just like the stories themselves that guarantee the HEA, I get to shoot the clinch. That moment when the man and woman come together, when they finally give in to that moment. It is pure joy. The studio environment is fun and happy, really just a good time. For a career that started out with the most difficult story of my life, followed by countless painful assignments, and difficult stories, this job is a true joy.
Syd: What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened while on a shoot? How did you handle it?
Jenn: Oh goodness. I’m not sure. Oh wait, yes I am. I’m jumpy. And not like a little bit, like seriously jumpy. You scare me and we aren’t going to be friends any more. I hate it. For reals, yo. So I had an assignment to shoot a haunted house for the newspaper. It was cool, we went through for a tour before they opened, and there wasn’t anyone in the place, which happens to be a giant field, it’s a massive outdoor thing. Anywhoo… I was shooting down this giant metal runoff tube, about 6′ in diameter, the light at the other end was ghostly, and the reporter was silhouetted there with the woman who was giving us the tour, it was really cool. Suddenly, the fence next to the tube shifted and a zombie with a chainsaw walked out. I lost it, I grabbed one camera in each hand and bolted down this corrugated tube. About halfway down I realized what a dork I was, and stated laughing so hard I lost my footing and and wiped out, rolling over one of my cameras. The chainsaw zombie was so apologetic, could not stop apologizing, and I could not stop laughing. The reporter with me has it all on audio. So yeah. That was pretty horrid, and I had this giant ugly black bruise on my hip from the camera lens. Luckily, the camera was ok.
Syd: Seems like from many of your photographs that things can get quite steamy, what do you do to keep everyone at ease and laughing?
Jenn: Oh jeeze, the laughter never ends. We really just have fun, chat, talk, joke around. I know the images look like we’re all in the midst of a big orgy, but we’re all really just having a good time. My one rule is that everyone has to be having fun. I also make sure that everyone who comes into my studio has the right personality. I don’t let anyone in who doesn’t have a good attitude and sense of humor, it just wouldn’t work.
Syd: Jenn, that doesn’t look like fun at all!
Syd: Conversely, how do you get the steamy shots?
Jenn: I work with some really good people. I also know when that moment happens. That’s the talent part of it. If you see the moment, you missed it. You have to know precisely when to hit the shutter, when that passion will crescendo, and where to be to get the highest possible amount of tension and pull into the feeling.
Some steamy examples!
Syd:I’ve heard you say it before, that aside from their beauty on the outside, the models you choose are very down to earth, genuinely nice and kind people. How have you been lucky enough to find these models? Where do they come from?! Have you considered match making? I know a few single women who’d love to find a nice looking guy who’s nice on the inside too!
Jenn: Hahaha!! Yeah, my guys and ladies are all fantastic people. It’s part of the whole making sure everyone has a good personality n the studio. To be honest, they come from all over the place. I do work with an agency here in Denver, but I also have a lot of indie models. So many of my guys aren’t actually models, they are engineers, pro football players, personal trainers, firemen, and so many other things. I know sometimes I feel like a pimp, I mean it’s my job to make you fall in love with my guys. That’s my job. But… only in pictures.
Syd: What or who inspires your photography?
Jenn: I’m inspired by many things, one of my biggest inspirations is muscle shift. It’s one of the reasons I love romance photography. I absolutely love to watch the way muscles shift under skin. The pure, raw, movement of physique. I could watch it all day. I love watching dancers, martial artists, gym rats, it’s just beautiful the way the body moves. I’m also inspired by hands, they tell stories. You can learn a whole world of information from someone’s hands.
Syd: If you could give advice to yourself when you were a newbie photographer, what woud it be?
Jenn: Just keep shooting.
Syd: Do you have a favorite camera and if so, what is it and why?
Jenn: Oh wow. Well, whatever camera is handy is usually my favorite. They are all tools, and every one of them sees differently. I tend to see a scene dependent on whatever gear I have with me. My baby though, is a Mamiya RZ67. It’s a medium format camera, very large, has a loud tubthumper of a shutter, and is much more difficult to use than any mainstream camera.
Syd: Tell us three facts about yourself that no one would guess.
Jenn: 1. I have four daughters, the eldest will be 20 this year. (I like to tell people she’s adopted… she isn’t) 2. Usually people are shocked to learn I started as photojournalist. I actually won a first place award for my coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill, and if you know me, you are REQUIRED to use Dawn dish soap. 3. I built, from the frame up, a 1981 Jeep CJ-7. She’s called Frogger. She’s a beast, and my baby, and nobody else is allowed to drive her.
Syd: Any last thoughts?
Jenn: I love what I do. Photography is my passion, and I can’t live without it. I think that shows in my work. If I’m unable to shoot, I get frustrated and angry, only a couple people have seen me this way, the reporter I worked with in the Gulf, and Derek, coincidentally, that also happened in the Gulf, but under very different circumstances. Nothing comes between my and my camera. Like I said, it isn’t merely what I do, it is quite literally who I am. I was born to shoot.
Find Jenn Leblanc
Premade Book Covers (using Jenn’s stock of course!)
For purchase details, please contact me!
Winning something is always more fun than not, so Jenn’s giving away an eBook copy of her complete serial novel (all six parts), The Rake The Recluse Redux and I’m giving away winner’s choice of either a $75 Gift Card towards graphic design services provided by yours truly or a Premade eBook Cover!!! If you’re interested please enter below!!!
EDIT: Thank you to everyone who entered! The winners have been contacted via email. If you do not reply back within 48hrs, I’ll have to select a new winner!