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Conversations with Jenn Mishra

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenn Mishra.

Hi Jenn, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My husband always says that photography, for me, is a hobby that got out of hand. But photography was more a form of art therapy rather than a hobby. I trained as a classical musician and music educator and my husband is an orchestral conductor. My husband is on faculty at a St. Louis-area university, but there were few local jobs in my specialized field. One choice for two-career couples in higher education is to live apart. We did this for over ten years before I finally found a local job in a small music department, but the fit wasn’t great. I wasn’t very happy.

One summer, I started a 365 project – one photo a day for a year. I had no intension of completing the project. A year was a long time. But I could try and take a photo a day until school started back up for the fall semester. I pulled out my point-and-shoot camera one evening and took a shot of our house. It was a terrible photo! I had no idea how to take photos at night. But I was ok with that. I had plenty of time to learn.

I took photos every day for the rest of the summer – and I kept taking photos. Everyday, I’d take at least one photo of something fun, something interesting, something beautiful. And I kept taking them every day for nearly two years. Even when I wasn’t happy in my job and things weren’t going well, I’d find something beautiful in the world. It was very therapeutic to get out of my head and out of my day-to-day life to see the world through a different lens.

My photography skills quickly improved a lot during my daily photo journeys. My training as a musician meant that I knew how to learn a technical skill with an artistic outcome. I set myself daily photographic studies just as I had practiced scales and etudes as a young musician.

Eventually, I quit my university job to pursue photography. This temporary life choice has become more permanent as my photographic career expands. My photography has been featured in a number of solo gallery shows and hangs in hotels and office buildings around the country. I supplement my photography income as a freelance writer for photo education websites – teaching photographers how to make beautiful images.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Photography was a way of coping with a challenging work environment. It was a form of art therapy that encouraged me to see beauty in a world that wasn’t very beautiful during that time in my life. My studio is called Wits End Photography because I started photography when I felt at my wit’s end.

Learning the techniques of photography from scratch is a challenge. I started with a point-and-shoot camera set on automatic! I had no idea what an f-stop. But the biggest challenge is learning who you are as an artist. Accepting myself and my style.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I specialize in travel and landscape photography. I’ve always been a keen traveler. My husband is from London, so we have a natural home base for exploring Europe. My photography is an extension of this love of travel. Even when I’m at home in St. Louis, I try to set off with a sense of discovery. I look for interesting places to photograph in my own backyard. I love seeing a familiar world with new eyes.

I’m most proud of images that bring a sense of beauty to what would usually be seen as mundane. I love it when people see my photos and recognize the place but are amazed at how beautiful it can be. They’re seeing the world as they’ve never seen it before.

The type of photography I do depends on where I’m traveling. I enjoy hiking and nature. I look for the small scenes that could easily be missed. But if I’m traveling in a city, I like to focus on architecture or street photography. I look for interesting people with a story on their faces or a human vignette – a slice of life.

My show “Faces of India” has been in a number of St. Louis-area galleries and is currently in a museum gallery in Colorado. My show “Shaping Spaces” features architecture with a bit of a twist. I work with interior design firms to provide locally relevant and artistic images for their clients.

I’ve included some images that show different facets of my photography. Under Clark Bridge shows the concrete infrastructure of the Clark Bridge at Alton, Illinois. In the right light, even mundane concrete can be magical. Foothills Parkway Sunrise shows a landscape vignette. We were in the Smoky Mountains exploring beautiful nature. We’d captured the quintessential foggy mountain layers. But as I looked into the valley, this smaller, private scene captured my interest. It was a different look into the Smoky Mountains. Rookery Spiral is an example of my love of architecture, especially spiral staircases. I travel around the world seeking out spiral staircases! But the spiral at the famous Chicago Rookery building seemed incomplete. So, I added a mirror image to complete the shape reminiscent of the infinity symbol. Finally, Selling Sweets in Varanasi is an example of my street work. This life vignette of a woman in Varanasi, India selling sweets from her shop shows a quiet slice of life.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
My husband is my biggest supporter. As an artist himself, he understands the highs and lows that come with creating art. He gives me the room to travel and explore. Sometimes he travels with me – and sometimes he doesn’t. Art sometimes needs intense concentration to create.

A number of photographers have shaped my style and my vision. No more so than the late St. Louis photographer Jack Curran. He was an amazing black and white art photographer. He encouraged me to explore the extremes in my style. Though I work more in color, many of his post-processing techniques live on in my photography.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Head shot by Jorge Restrepo. All other images are by Jenn Mishra

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