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Artist of the Month - Jan. 2022 - Jessica Marshall

artist of the month Jan 31, 2022

Photo Mentor Academy announces the first  Photo Mentor Artist of the Month Award


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With a mix of excitement, happiness, and pride, Photo Mentor Academy announces the first EVER monthly winner of the Photo Mentor Artist of the Month Award for January 2022! 

In addition to the accolades and admiration we ask you to join us in showering on Jessica Marshall, a member of the PMA community; Jessica also received a $100 Amazon Gift Card, personalized with her award-winning photograph from Lee Love. 

Lee is always finding a way to surprise and delight the Photo Mentor Academy and PhotoMentorTV worlds. His decision to start this monthly celebration of photographer-learners is an awesome way to encourage you to further discover your artistic expression through your photography. 

Creativity for the Win

Jessica Marshall’s win this month comes with a dream. A dream she transforms in an interesting way to capture creativity and imagination and translate it into a visual concept and story via her photography. It’s for her creativity, one of the most valuable traits for successful photographers, that we celebrate Jessica’s project. 

For a further explanation of why Jessica’s photo wins her PMA’s first monthly award, along with more about the mechanics and ingenuity of the shot, check out this video and announcement.

Dreams are often powerful and live in the same brain as conjures ideas and imagination. The problem with Jessica’s vivid dream is the sadness she immediately feels in empathy for the queen she sees, sad, utterly heartbroken, over the loss of her baby. Or her inability to have a child. But things feel broken. A nearly invisible sadness invades and swallows the air with a thickness. Jess awakes with the strong and heavy impact of all these feelings. 

How do you recreate such a feeling of loss or a broken heart? How do you show a house that has fallen? How do you portray all of this within the feel of a kingdom? How do you translate the heaviness in your heart to a photograph, resolving you of the story? Even immortalizing it?

Kudos to you, Jessica, for the creativity and inventiveness to capture the story and the feeling.

I also love how Jess’s win shows how creativity comes from many places and sources, some completely unexpected. 

Thinking like an artist means finding ways to tell a story inside the frame. But, it’s also about bringing ideas, wherever you find them, to life, just as Jess does here! 

The Pull to Photography

Around 2017, Jessica began offering her talents in photography as a side business. But the draw started much sooner. From how she explains it, Jess’s love for photography started quite unexpectedly.

It wasn’t like she wanted a camera or anything. She didn’t have any hopes and dreams of photography as a career–or any thoughts of photography at all–as she snapped away at her first photos.

She was simply on a middle school field trip taking in the sights of DC and shooting her first pictures on a camera her grandmother surprised her with for the three-day excursion with classmates. Jess describes this first camera as a little “windup film camera.” 

The funny way Jess tells the story is endearing because, as she explains, the reality of the magic of taking photos didn’t strike her until the film was developed. (Sometimes it’s easy to forget film used to have to go off to a lab to get developed, and the only instant results came with the Polaroid! Additionally, both film and developing your pictures cost money.) 

When I got them developed and was looking through them, some kind of inspiration struck me, and I thought, wow, these are awesome; I can look through them and remember exactly what happened when I took each photo.” Jess enthuses. 

The spirit of photography as an archive of memories for people to enjoy remains the driving force behind Jess’s photography business today. She focuses on portraiture for families and student milestones such as senior pictures. Her desire to get to know her customers in order to portray who they are in the story she provides them via family photos elevates Jess’s ability to make people feel at ease.

Jessica Marshall and family, Quentin and Bensen

Creating Memories for Families

She’s been known to chase kids around the yard or play phone games with them to create the right comfort level, so subjects are open, allowing her to capture a truly natural look, moment, or expression. I also love how Jess values customer input, inviting them to propose locations or bring props so she can better catch the essence of who they are.    

Jess honestly works from the premise of making people happy. She loves the idea she is delivering something very special, a memory that clients can cherish forever. And I love that that’s what drives Jessica.  

In fact, her love of family and creating her own family’s moments and memories are what reignited that eighth-grade girl’s initial inspiration. And that renewed spark, especially since having her son, Bensen, continues to grow as he does, into a sizzling flame. 

Jess says, “I thought, I like taking pictures of my kid. It brings me happiness. So I figured if I take pictures of other people’s kids, it might make them happy, too.” 

Jess now aspires to reach her dream of becoming a full-time professional photographer and sharing the same joy she feels when she snaps memories with hubby, Quentin, Bensen, and families. Her business location is near Chillicothe, Ohio. 

Jess explains, “I kind of ignored my passion for photography, trying to make my dad happy and things like that…”  

I love when Jess says the most significant thing she’s learned through her photography is patience. Particularly in an impatient world, this attribute allows her time to get the feel of where the business is heading, and that, she discloses, is changing over time. 

Finding Her Fit in Photography 

For example, the concept of a set studio space doesn’t feel as relevant with personalization over sameness and with social setting changes. Staged photography has in many ways gone out of style, especially in Jess’s genre. 

With Lee’s mentoring influence, Jess is also experimenting more and says after thinking things through, her realization of different ways to look at her photography began emerging. 

So now, she hopes to continue to build her photographer skills and abilities to push herself further outside the box. And as she continues to develop her story-portraying and other unique capabilities to distinguish her visual voice, demand for Jess’s original quality photography is sure to grow. 

People already love working with her, which shines through on Jessica Marshall’s Photography Facebook Page. And in business, the relationships you build and the clients who love you matter the most. Jess works to make client appointments and sittings feel like a wonderful family experience. Again, these are the things that make you stand out from the rest.

And interestingly enough, when asked what she’s gotten most out of being a member of Lee’s Photo Mentor TV Private Group, Jess’s response was this, “To think differently.” (Psst. I’m not going to disclose that Lee Love was ecstatic to near tears when I told him this!) 

Further, Jess mentions being a quiet observer in the group for a long time, thinking through a lot of Lee’s ranting lessons and stories, before jumping in to participate, take more action, and gain more traction. But boy, are we glad she did!! 

Congratulations and adulation, once more, to Jessica Marshall, and we can’t wait to see more of your work and business progress. But I did have one more question for Jess, and I kind of love her answer, too.

Jess’s Words of Wisdom for Photographers

Sharing her best advice from experiences in starting and growing her photography business, Jess suggests this for photographers:

“Get out in your community, and off of your computer. The biggest thing I can tell you that helped my photography business was getting offline and out into the community.”  ~Jessica Marshall Photography 

Go to vendor events and farmers markets, she suggests, even if it sounds strange because going out over digital posting on Facebook did wonders for Jess’s photography, she says. And you know, I’m up for anything that does wonders for business!  

Another critical thing Jess stresses for photographers is to keep progressing and staying on top of the latest trends and things. She notes that clients want new and exciting takes over doing things as they were traditionally shot, for one thing. Jess reminds photographers of the speed of change in cameras and technologies and advises them to keep up-to-date to offer the most advanced ideas and photography surprises to serve clients. 

Talking with Jess was a pleasure, and embracing her take on photography to create happiness for others is undoubtedly a concept worthy of attention. 

by Sue-Ann Bubacz