Today marks the day when I have traveled two equal distances, one with my mother, one without.
I feel the weight of this moment, as I contemplate what the next 15.91 years will hold. I can look back on my past, at both journeys and appreciate the joy and the struggle. The triumph and the disaster. I used to see myself as one or the other — ‘The-Girl-With-A-Single-Mother’ and ‘The-Motherless-Daughter’, but I finally feel as if I am defined by something else entirely. That those two parts belong to me, but not I to them.
There is a third path, one that perhaps I wasn’t ready to contemplate until now. The possibility of finally being me, a whole person, not the girl who lost so much.
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.
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!!!
Apparently, March 8 was International Women’s Day. To be honest, I never knew such a thing existed. I was a little confused at first. On FB and Twitter, I kept coming across post after post where women were congratulating other women, on umm…being women? Huh?
What idiot came up with this idea to pick one day a year to celebrate someone’s gender? What day is Men’s Day? Well a quick search revealed the origin of Women’s Day (and there isn’t a Men’s Day!), dating back to the early 1900′s. But it didn’t begin as a way to honor other women for having a vagina instead of a penis, but as need to stand up for women’s rights and equality in the workforce.
To use International Women’s Day as a springboard to bring awareness to issues such as those that Malala Yousafazai risked her life to bring to light, or to support wonderful charities like Girl Effect, now that is something I can stand behind.
I was born a woman, not as a president, or a secretary. No one should earn stat pay because of my anatomy. My existence is not cause for a religious holiday or even considered a remarkable event. Nor is the title of Mother representative of everything that I am. I expect to live in this world with the same rights as any other human being. To be loved and respected every day, not because of my gender but because of who I am. I won’t stand for anything less. I certainly won’t be asking anyone to give me those things one day a year.
I’ve sat staring at the blinking cursor for many nights, trying to find the right way to begin this post. I wanted to write it weeks, even months ago. This issue has been on my mind a lot in the last few years. Ever since Itty started Kindergarten and we experienced bullying first hand. So I’ve had time to think about this. To contemplate the reasons, causes and solutions. And I thought when I was finally ready to write this post that I would have answers to all those things. A clear course of action that would help others based on what has helped us. No wonder I procrastinated!
Because I don’t have a clear course of action. I remember naively thinking that speaking to the mother of the child who bullied my child throughout Kindergarten would being a dialogue that would eventually resolve the issue. Her grasping-at-straws attempt to say something, “Well my daughter told me Itty didn’t like her drawing and that’s why she acted out.” fell quite short of what I expected would happen. Especially considering her daughter was “acting out” every day towards Itty and others.
Well we evolved. From the tears that fell every drive home, we started to talk about kids Itty wanted to be friends with and kids that simply weren’t the type of kids she wanted to spend the majority of her time with. Eventually by the end of the school year, she had learned to say no to this one particular girl. It wasn’t easy. This “friend” was insistent — constantly hounding Itty to play, claiming that she would be nice now, or using emotional blackmail “I’ll never speak to you again unless you sit with me.” It went against everything that was inherently natural to Itty — to heed someone’s request of her. They just wanted to play, right? What could be so bad about that? But time after time, Itty learned that playing with this “friend” meant being bullied into doing things exactly her way or being bullied out of the friendship if Itty disagreed. The Kindergarten teacher was even shocked by the behaviour – surprised by the maturity of the blackmail. She had seen this kind of behaviour in older kids, not in Kindergardeners she told me.
Summer came and went and we kept our fingers crossed that Grade 1 would be different. Maybe this “friend” would be in another class. Didn’t quite work out that way. So the cycle continued. The “friend” made promises she was different and Itty believed her. At first she was different, then the emotional blackmail and bullying started up all over again. Itty and I were both fed up and I decided to contact the mother again.
Her initial response to me,
Wow, my heart hurts…….. As a parent, my first reaction is to get defensive and come to [daughter's] defense and claim her innocence. My second reation was… “Really, again???”
Fine. Fair enough. He response felt honest but what I can’t buy is the incredulity. The kindergarten teacher had numerous discussions with this mother. The grade 1 teacher as well. And this was the second time I was bringing it up with her. She claimed to be “an adamant advocate against bullying and an HR professional” yet she couldn’t see what was happening?
And what sealed the deal for me was her final comments near the end of our discussion.
All I can promise is that we are working on the behaviour…… But from the bottom of my heart I have to be honest and tell you, if I ask [daughter] about school and who her BEST friends are… Itty is ALWAYS the first one she talks about I guess the old adage is true… we always hurt the ones we love
Excuse me? Old adage? Maybe the wayward thoughts of some drunken poet or the justification of an abusive husband…But what 7 year old girls should live by? I don’t fucking think so, thank you very much.
And we evolved again. Only I put my foot down more sternly. I explained to her that I appreciate her always including others in her play and that yes she should consider everyone her friend, but that taking abuse from someone was unacceptable. She would have to stand up to this one particular girl and accept the fact that not everyone is a good friend. Some people just don’t know how to be friends and even though you still treat those people with respect, you do not under any circumstances. TAKE. THEIR. SHIT.
I blocked out the name of the child to protect her identity.
The mother never did speak to me again. Never once questioned whether things had gotten better. That was last February. Thankfully, Grade 2 has been peaceful as this particular child is in another class. Unfortunately her bullying hasn’t stopped as I just heard from another mother that her daughter is struggling with the class dynamics dictated by this one particular child. It makes me incredibly sad because I know exactly what this mother and daughter is going through. The only comfort I can give them is that there is a lengthy list of children that have been in one way or another bullied or rubbed the wrong way. As terrible as that is, it means that you are not alone and have support.
After all of this, I found that the only solution is what my family and I can do. As kind as someone can be on the outside it doesn’t mean they will face their flaws and change — as this mother failed to do with her child. She truly seems like a nice person, but for whatever reason she’s not getting this. And I suspect this may be the case for many parents. I’m not naive to think this won’t ever happen again. My goal is to raise my daughters with the skills and tools they’ll need to face whatever challenges they face. Bully or not.
Until then, we will support causes like PinkShirt Day, and I Am Someone. One day, when my little terror is in school I would love to volunteer with the Kids Help Phone or in a school anti-bullying program. Children like Amanda Todd will not be forgotten no matter what color shirt I happen to be wearing.
Over the weekend I had some of Itty’s friends come over for an informal little Halloween Nail Party. To help move things along I made a little printable so that the girls could choose which design they’d like for their nails.
I grabbed these images from a google search and didn’t note the references. There’s no money being made and I don’t claim any credit for the images. If you happen to know who any of the images belong to, please let me know, I’ll add a credit!
Please feel free to print and use for your own nails tonight!
What you need:
Nail polish remover
A pencil (use the tip to make the pupils)
Q-tips with the cotton ball removed (to make the eyeballs)
Nail art brush or nail art polish like this (plus a good top coat!):
And the results:
My very first attempt.
I loved having Frank on my nails! So cute!
My second attempt on Itty was Dracula (aka Vlad a la Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost).
From the nail party – almost all of the designs! I think I’m getting pretty good at this now!
From left to right: Mummy, Web, Witch, Spider and Cat!
From left to right: Pumpkin, Mummy, Frank, Ghost, Candy Corn!
And because I couldn’t resist, Itty — posing as Rapunzel the pumpkin head.
So what did you all do for Halloween? Anyone else obsessed with the nail art like I am?