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She is one of the few people that have always managed to make me feel comfortable in front of a camera, and I know that many others feel the same. The way I see Jennifer, a camera is simply her tool for connection, which is her truest gift. Her ability to bring out one’s unique qualities as a human and capture that authenticity in photo-form.
She owns Jennifer Young Studio, and is known for her unique and striking lifestyle, portrait and travel photography. Hear about her journey to studio photographer, and how she preserves her creativity and energy as she grows her business below.
Before photography, music was my life. However, after studying music in college, getting my Masters in Performance, teaching and performing, I came to the realization that continuing to pursue music as a career in the way I had been wasn’t what I wanted. Although I was passionate about music, being a professional musician was a very different ball game. It wasn’t a good fit for me.
Choosing to veer away from what I had spent half of my life pursuing was challenging and not in the slightest way ideal. I didn’t have a backup plan, but a move from southern California to the central coast gave me a little breathing room and time to explore other options. I did all sorts of odd jobs while trying to figure out what was next — I worked at a pediatrician’s office doing medical records, I ran an Etsy shop, I was a janitor for a church, I worked retail at a fair trade store. I was grateful for work, but I wasn’t happy and knew that a lot of my happiness came from creating within my passions.
During my time at the pediatrician’s office, I started a lifestyle blog called I ART U. I learned how to use a camera and started shooting content for the blog. I always wanted to be a photographer, even before pursuing music, but growing up in the culture I did, I didn’t think it was possible to have a career and make a living as a photographer. Through the blog, I connected with so many different kinds of creative entrepreneurs who helped to expand my view on what was possible in terms of having a creative career. My business grew organically from sharing my photos on the blog, and I really have my online community to thank for that because the connections propelled me and my work. They were a vital part of what led me on the path to where I’m at now.
There are three key pieces of advice that I’d give to my younger self:
(1) Get to know yourself really well and hone in on your unique gifts and strengths — they are the key things that will draw people to you and the work you are doing.
(2) Know what you want and need to do your best work. Ask for what you want and need.
(3) Don’t be afraid to let go of or say no to what does not make you happy anymore. Letting go will help create space for what you desire to come into your life, and the pursuit of your desire will help you move toward your potential.
I’ve learned I function best without a set daily routine. I love change and fluidity from day to day—it’s my favorite thing about being a freelancer and the freedom I have is something I do not take for granted! Generally speaking, I try to take care of myself holistically before stepping into my work. For me, this means making time for meditation, movement, cooking a nourishing first meal, doing something that inspires me—basically anything that helps me turn inward and drop into my body.
The one thing that I do on a daily basis is meditate as soon as I wake up. It can be for one minute or for one hour, but it’s during this time that I connect with my higher self and am guided to know what my body and mind needs on that specific day.
In my twenties, I was all about the hustle. I loved the hustle, I thrived within the hustle. It worked for me back then, but then I started to burn out. Now that I’m a little older, I’ve swung the opposite way. I’m all about slowing down, resting, and working smarter not harder (aka working less). I take more of a yin or feminine approach when it comes to work. I add rest into my day with movement/exercise and doing things I enjoy. I love yoga, hiking, wandering around the city, meeting up with a friend, going to a movie or a show, relaxing in a park, or exploring a new place. Rest to me also means being intentional with my use of technology — not using my phone at night and sleeping without it in the bedroom (so I don’t pick it up in the middle of the night or right when I wake) has been a really good way to integrate this kind of rest into my days.
I’ve realized in the past couple of years of slowing down that I thrive when I’m able to work in different environments. I love New York City — I’m happiest when I’m here, and I have more energy when I’m immersed in the city, but my creativity really surges with movement, and when I have the freedom to move from place to place. This could mean working in a different space every day or traveling to another city or country entirely. Any kind of change really helps me become more conscious, and consciousness is vital to my creative process. My immediate surroundings affect my creativity and work, too. Give me a clean, minimal, white, light-filled space anywhere in the world and I’m good to go!
The biggest risk I’ve taken was moving from my comfortable life in a small, coastal town in central California to pursue living and working in New York City. I had nothing set in stone for work or even a place to live when moving here, but my love for this city made taking the risk inevitable. The move has helped me expand and refine my life and work. Living in New York City has by far been my greatest teacher and it has changed me in ways that I love!
I’m familiar with it all. The best and most simple thing I do when I feel overwhelm is to stop what I’m doing if I can, slow down, and truly listen to what my physical body is telling me. I believe it all starts with getting quiet and listening. Feelings of anxiety and overwhelm are our body’s way of telling us something is off and that something needs to shift.
My go-to for immediate relief of anxiety is breathwork, or conscious breathing. If you’re new to breathwork, Mind Body Green has an easy breathing exercise you can start with. I practice some form of breathwork every morning when I meditate to begin my day and it’s been life-changing.
My more long-term strategy is to ask myself questions, and then work on shifting the things that I do have control over. Perhaps these questions can help readers, too:
• What actions can I take right now to alleviate my anxious feelings?
• What am I putting off that needs to be dealt with?
• What stories or thoughts do I need to let go of that are untrue and causing overwhelm or anxiety?
• What can I shed to allow more time and freedom to nurture myself?
If there is one thing I can encourage others to do, it’s to take care of yourself and do what you need to do to deeply nurture your soul. Doing so will help you be able to live your potential and serve others better. Two books I recommend if you’re dealing anxiety, overwhelm, perfectionism, or burnout: The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer and Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
Work-life balance to me means feeling good in all aspects of my life — relationships, health, finances, work, etc. I know when something is off, I need to make a shift or put more energy toward whatever is not flowing. Finding balance is a forever process that I really enjoy and that I love helping others with, too!
I believe the biggest changes within my business that have allowed me to have a better work-life balance started with expanding my beliefs about my worth and value as a photographer and artist. The internal mindset and perspective shifts have given me the confidence to ask for what I need to do my best work and to only take on jobs that excite me. Simultaneously, I’m able to raise my rates to what I need to support me (allowing for more time and financial freedom). I used to take on everything out of fear and having a scarcity mentality, but I’ve learned to say no to work that doesn’t align financially for what I need or with my vision for my creative career.
Places: Sri Lanka is on my mind.
I really enjoyed hearing Jennifer’s perspectives, and I hope you heard something that helps you in some way too. I resonated deeply with what she about “dropping into our bodies” before starting in on the hustle. What about you?