Interview By: Rebecca Perkins
One of the perks of being in the Coast Guard is its size. With about 40,000 members strong, the Coast Guard is roughly the size of the New York City Police Department. And to think of how much it accomplishes at home and abroad, it is truly amazing. When we move to new duty station every couple of years, there are usually a few familiar faces we reconnect with. And if not, we know how to vigorously network through mutual friends, and Facebook pages to meet new people. And sometimes, if you're really lucky, you're even reunited with dear friends. And so is the case with today's featured hobbyist, Jessica Orlowicz and myself.
I met Jessica when our families were first stationed here in Cape May. And over the course of several moves we remained connected through social media, where I had the pleasure of watching her blossom from a "mommy blogger", capturing the lives of her four, yes you heard that correct, FOUR daughters, to a full-fledged professional photographer. Not to sound like a major creeper, but it was easy to become obsessed with her Instagram feed, and the beautiful moments she captures with her camera. And now, once again here we are, stationed together. And guess what... I was lucky enough to have her photograph my family. Let me just be clear about one thing, every single photo she took was stunning... and honestly, I'm not just saying that because it was my family! So it was a no brainer to feature her here on The Hobbyist Life. She is a woman you can truly admire with how she gracefully balances her family's life, while capturing the best moments of other families lives on film.
Jessica, her husband Brandon, and their four beautiful daughters, twins Gwen and Bella, Anna and Margo currently live in Cape May. She is the proprietor of Peach and Port photography, and has been featured in several publications and sites such as, Mozi, Looks Like Film, and Journey to Artist.
What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living? I started as a blogger, embarrassingly enough, a "mommy blogger". When advertising and product review opportunities started rolling in, I knew I needed to up my photo game. A year or two later I realized that I was telling stories with images more than words. A few years after that I got bored only photographing my own family, so I decided to go into business.
In your photos, you capture your subjects so naturally... How is it that you go about that? Are you trying to capture a specific feeling? I think people look their best when they're relaxed and happy. I want our session experience to feel like we're just friends, hanging out. We talk a lot, move around, play, plenty of cuddles - them not me.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures? I love it. I get high from catching an awesome moment, seeing my photos in print, hearing Mom say she cried when she saw her gallery. It just makes me completely happy. And when it becomes tedious once in awhile, I take a little break.
When you are out shooting, how much of it is instinctual versus planned? Do you think your mood can effect how your subjects are captured? I don't always know what my clients look like, or I'm shooting somewhere I've never been, or the light might be different than I expected that day. I have some safe poses and prompts, but most of it happens on the fly. My mood doesn't impact it too much, because once I'm out there, I'm excited to shoot. I do feed off of families though. If they act like they don't want to be there, it feels more like work.
What do you think are some clichés in photography you steer away from yourself?
- This is a matter of taste, but...
- Selective color. Where one object is in color and the rest is black and white.
- Photoshopping in fake skies, sun flares, animals. At some point it's not longer photography, it's just Photoshop.
- Huge watermarks. I don't watermark at all. If someone wants to steal your image, they will. Huge, elaborate watermarks just distract from the shot.
What are some favorite things about being a photographer? What are some challenges you’ve encountered?
Favorites: meeting new people, especially when we click and it's a lot of fun. There's always something new to learn, so it's not boring. I can find ways to challenge myself without anyone else knowing, which makes my introvert heart happy.
Challenges: The business/money side. I'm not business minded, so I have to put a lot of effort into this side of things. Taxes, insurance, website, how much to charge, how to accept payment, contracts. It's the least fun part.
What do you consider your most challenging aspect as being a mother and professional photographer? Or does it help you in the field, especially when dealing with family and children photography? I think it helps immensely, because I can relate to the kids and to the busy Moms. I try to keep it simple for the parents, because that's what I would want. It's also great having subjects at home to photograph when I want to experiment. The challenging part comes when work collides with family activities. My husband's job is hectic and four kids means a lot going on. Juggling is no joke.
You lend your eye to an organization called "Spectrum Inspired", can you tell us a bit about the organization and how you became connected with them. Spectrum Inspired is a non-profit organization made up of photographers all over the country, who offer custom lifestyle sessions to families touched by autism. My daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was four. I felt overwhelmed by it all and wasn't sure how to be a part of this community in a way that didn't cause me to burst into tears all the time. I'm thrilled to be working with them and have the opportunity to bless these families with something beautiful.
How has photography influenced you as a person? It's given me a lot more confidence, made me more of a people person, and definitely changed my short and long term goals.
What are some tips/advice you would give to yourself if you started photography all over again? Don't shoot for free. Also, don't compare yourself to other people. It's OK to admire them and love their work, but don't let it freak you out to the point that you stop growing.
Do you have a favorite that photograph that you have ever taken? Or does it change? I have a few that will always be special to me, but it changes constantly, which is why I have such a hard time designing flyers and business cards.
What is the one thing that you have learned through this journey so far? Has anything ever given you that "A-Ha!" moment, which might have given you a whole new understanding of you work? A photographer that I look up to told me, "Always get the shot YOU want in a session and shoot what you love. The right client will find you, because they'll love it too." I started out worrying so much about what other people want or think. When I let go of that insecurity, my job and outlook changed completely and it all became a lot more fun.
- Favorite place to visit? Maine!
- Favorite food? Sushi.
- Dog person or cat person? Dog, but I'll cuddle anything with fur.
- What is something you are afraid to try? I don't fly. I've flown all my life until recently, now I'm terrified.
- Do you think after this interview you’d be up to trying it? Nope.
- What are you most proud of? My children. They're incredible.
- What’s your favorite quote? "Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility; for it thinks all things lawful for itself, and all things possible." - Thomas Kempis. I love it so much that it's tattooed across my back.
- If you could have dinner with three people dead or alive, who would they be and why?George Bush (don't judge me, I can't explain it)
Annie Leibovitz (she's the most talented photographer I've ever seen)
Cate Blanchett (I just think she's a goddess. So smart and talented).
- What is your guilty pleasure? Besides good bourbon... celebrity Instagram accounts. I refuse to follow them, but at night I look through everyone from the Kardashians to Kate Hudson.
- What is one thing you can’t live without? My iPhone. I'm connected all the time and feel no shame.