Studio IX: Hey, Jennifer!

Jennifer Byrne:  Hey!.

Studio IX: So tell us what is you do?

Jennifer Byrne: I'm a photographer.

Studio IX: What kind exactly?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I shoot all kinds of images. I help businesses around Charlottesville. I help local families, private clients, commercial clients, all kinds of folks.

Studio IX: Cool.

Studio IX: How did you get into that field of work?

Jennifer Byrne: I started photography in high school. I went to Western in the 90s, so I actually took wet process darkroom classes.

Studio IX: Western?

Jennifer Byrne: Western Albemarle High School.

Studio IX: Oh, okay.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I'm native as they come, born and raised in Charlottesville.

Jennifer Byrne: I think that my last year of high school, they probably only continued wet process another four years, but that's where I started.

Studio IX: Were you doing the school paper, and yearbook, and that kind of stuff?

Jennifer Byrne: No. I was just very obsessed with photography. I spent as much time as I could there. Then I went to school at Mary Washington, and that's what I majored in, photography. At that time, everything was still wet process. Today, everything is digital, for the most part. Not that I don't still have all that analog equipment.

Studio IX: So you do what you love.

Jennifer Byrne: I do what I love.

Studio IX: Yeah?

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I really love it. That's why it doesn't feel like work.

Studio IX: What do you love about it?

Jennifer Byrne: I think what I love about it is that I have a huge amount of sensitivity, and it's hard to use that as a skill in life, because it can be a difficult thing when you're that sensitive a person, but it translates really well to visual art. It's kind of my superpower.  

Studio IX: Yeah. I certainly relate, as an artist.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah.

Studio IX: I think that relates, but it's just asking what you're passionate about within it, and in general. When you say "sensitivity," is that a connection with people? Is it a connection with subject matter? Is it a way to engage with the world?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I think as an artist, we look for inspiration from something. It's not easy to be an artist or a creative, even, in this world, because it's hard to find a use for it.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: I think if you can find a way to funnel it into something, it can be really, really effective. Just the way that I see light, and the way I see people, and the way I relate to people, I can combine all of that using photography. I teach a lot. I have a bunch of students, and they're sort of all over the place, and hopefully I'll build an online portal or some way to connect with more of them. In the future, but right now I meet with them in person.

 It's not just about teaching them Photoshop or Lightroom, or any sort of equipment that they have. I mean, all of that is there, but it's developmental education. A lot of times my students will start in one place, and then within a year, they're showing, they're selling work, they have all this self-confidence. It's amazing what art can do for you.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Studio IX: Do you have a good story you can share?

Jennifer Byrne: Oh gosh. Well, what's funny is that I'm actually a very shy person, I have three children, my youngest is seven, my oldest, 13, and a 10-year-old. And then also trying to incorporate myself and my work in there somehow. I live in a pretty rural area, I was getting up really early to care for the children for over ten years after staying at home with my son for two years, and then I started managing the studio for another photographer in Ivy, so I had this really long commute.

I started realizing I was seeing a lot of stuff that other people weren't seeing, like the sunrise in the morning. That actually wasn't the kind of photography I was doing, but it became a way to connect with people. It was what people were responding to. I started a Facebook page where I was posting the sunrise and sunset that I was seeing and it slowly grew to forty five thousand fans,  which is a really big group of people to talk with so It's funny that I'm actually a very shy person, and I have this large audience I try to manage.

Studio IX: Well, that sounds to be the way for a lot of artists, because I think a lot of us are introverts, and we have a very solitary side of ourselves, and that anyone in radio or visual arts, writers, - because we're all people that kind of sit behind something and are able to convey what we see in the world through that medium.

Jennifer Byrne: Right. Well, I always have thought if I could write, or do anything else, I wouldn't be a photographer. I mean, it's not something that you really choose. It just is, you know?

Studio IX: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah.

Studio IX: Is there an aspect of what you do that might surprise people, that they don't think about?

Jennifer Byrne: I wish I had a way to explain to emerging photographers that when you come out of college, you have all these hopes to break out in this well defined niche. What you have to realize is that that's really a self-focused narrative, and if you can expand it and not say, "Well, I'm never going to shoot weddings. I'll never shoot families. I'll never shoot landscape, because I have this very creative style." You're cutting yourself off, and so it is actually possible to incorporate all those things, and still have your own style, and also work with the community.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: You know?

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: But I do get a kick out of thinking about when I first left school, and how driven I was to just print, and I didn't care if anybody else liked it. It was for me. I'm glad that I was able to sort of turn that around and see how I can communicate it differently.

Studio IX: Do you have a sense of where you'll be in five, 10 years? Does it feel like the industry itself is changing a lot, as far as photography?

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I mean, I think when I worked for the other studio in Ivy, the gentleman I was working with was a photojournalist, so he traveled a lot. He was also a analog photographer, and he was really the edge of the conversion to digital. Watching him go through that process and sort of being the person that helped him transition from analog. I saw a lot of people panicking, thinking, "Everybody's got an iPhone. Everybody has a DSLR. We're not investing in photographers anymore, because we can literally buy the camera for cheaper." But I think things have turned, and folks are starting to realize that it's not the tools that make the carpenter.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: I see a lot of potential there, and I hope that in 10 years, I'll be able to really use what I've created, which is visual storytelling, and have –

(Interviewer sneezes)

Studio IX: Excuse me.

Jennifer Byrne: Look at you. You're still getting over being sick?

Studio IX: No. That's just dust and light. A photographer's joy.


Studio IX: Is there a particular subject that you're interested in shooting that you haven't explored as deeply as you'd like to?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I think my enthusiasm for great pictures is hard to rein in. I have no problem getting up at 3:00 AM to get up on Skyline Drive by myself. I'm actually not a big hiker or very tough person, but I will literally do anything for a great photograph. I think that's kind of infectious, because now my students do it too, and I think that's part of what they love, is that it becomes sort of a lifestyle. If you're looking for pictures all the time, your life is more like an adventure.

Studio IX: What do you like about working here at Studio IX?

Jennifer Byrne: I love Studio IX. A couple of years ago, I could get away with working on the front end of my business, two or three mornings a week, then slowly it became more and more encompassing. The more product sales that I do, and the more things that I get involved with, the more time I need, I feel like Studio IX is perfect for me, because it's so quiet, and it's so beautifully made, and everyone here seems to sort of understand that attitude of taking seriously what you're doing, but also doing it together, which is nice.

Studio IX: Thanks, Jen.

Jennifer Byrne: Thank you.