On Our Radar | Jolene Dombrowski

Welcome to the seventh installment of our new column “On Our Radar”

Is there a photographer whose work you find yourself going back to again and again?  Maybe you have never heard of this photographer?  Perhaps they are “flying under the radar”?  It happens but I want to find those photographers. I want to celebrate their work.  2017 is the year of discovery at Senior Style Guide and I am counting on our readers to lead the way!

Each month we will be featuring an artist who is inspiring others, who may not necessarily be someone you have heard of.  From time to time I will be enlisting the help of the SSG community to nominate an artist.  I want to hear their story, share their triumphs and hear what they are doing to make this dream of theirs a reality.  We can learn from others whether it be through inspiration, education or everything in between.

This community will only get stronger if we are there to uplift and give as many people as possible a voice.

Our “On Our Radar” artist this month is Jolene Dombrowski!

Nominated By:  Vickie Black

When I first discovered Jolene’s work, I knew I was going to love the imagery, but I also loved the emotion it evoked.  Her work has a storytelling quality to it.  I always stop scrolling when I see her images in my feed!  It seemed to be a perfect fit for this to be our next “On Our Radar” feature!

Tell us a little about yourself…What makes you tick and all the things that make you YOU!

Well, let’s see.  I am 43, a rural midwestern girl with the accent to prove it (or so I’m told)!  My husband and I have three children ages 18, 8 and 3.  I run my photography business from home and my husband is a stay at home dad.  Yeah, it is crazy town over here!
I love the outdoors, music, traveling and anything involving adventure or new age spirituality.  I’m also that person that could give up life as I know it and move to the mountains to live off the land.  If I ever abruptly stop posting to Instagram, there is a good chance that’s what happened!

How long have you been in the photography industry?

My Dad bought me a Mamiya 645 medium format film camera in 1996 (thanks, Dad) and I started my business in 1999, 2 months after my first daughter was born.   All of my first senior sessions were shot on 3 rolls of 15 exposure film.  Kodak Portra 400NC to be exact!  It makes me laugh that now I try to emulate film with my digital camera!  I guess that’s what you call full circle!

How did you end up making this your career?

I decided when I was 19 years old I was going to have my own photography business by the time I was 25 – which I did!   Back then it was a much more difficult field to get into.  There was barely the internet and Youtube was yet to be invented.  My first job as a photographer was for Olan Mills.  After that I worked for a few small, locally owned studios and learned (mostly from mistakes) as I went.

Your work has an amazing story telling element!  Tell us about it and where you draw your inspiration from.

If it is personal work I am quite often inspired by music and simply things I love and think are cool!  Sometimes a simple line in a song can inspire an entire shoot for me.  I have a shoot idea brewing in my brain right now based on the life of a 79 year old women I met while shooting in Texas.  Inspiration can come from anywhere!

For my client sessions THEY are my inspiration!  I always sit down with them before their session and we talk about what they love, what their style is and how they envision their senior pictures.  I sometimes suggest a “storyline” to them based on their personality and likes.  Some client’s love that idea and we totally go for it.  Sometimes it’s a much looser storyline and that’s okay too!

Your go to meal is?

My husband does most of the cooking and his go to meal to cook is grilled venison and veggies from the garden.  When I have time, I make a pretty mean chicken soup or “paleo” clam chowder!

List one emotion you want people to feel when they see your images?

I don’t really have a particular emotion in mind for the viewer when I am shooting.  When people look at my work I hope it makes them ask a question to themselves or want to know more about what’s happening in the image. Art is so subjective.  I think it is up to the viewer to feel what they feel.  If they feel anything, I’m happy!

What was your aha moment in this industry with your business? 

I feel like as photographers we enter different stages in our work.  It’s totally necessary to perfect your photography technically but I believe sometimes we get stuck there.  I had gotten pretty good at taking a “pretty” picture and yet I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my work.  I had been shooting for years and was by most standards running a successful photography business.  But boy was I in a rut!
I have had tons of ah-ha moments over the years but one of the biggest was the realization that a technically perfect image didn’t mean a “hill of beans” to me if it didn’t make me FEEL something.  I learned to let go of perfection, embrace imperfect light,  and found that the in between moments were usually what gave me my favorite image of the session.  Once I starting shooting looser and more organically I started enjoying it again and I believe my work improved.  So much of this was an internal shift.  I started approaching my sessions from a totally different space and it made all the difference in the world.
Continuing your education in this field is huge and I feel that goes for a newbie or a seasoned pro.  I don’t plan to ever get to a point as a photographer where I’ll say, “Whelp!  I’m done learning!  I now know everything there is to know about photography!”  Evolving as an artist is one of the best parts of this career.

In 5 words describe you…

Free Spirit
Introvert (although it doesn’t always seem like it I am a total introvert at heart)

What are your top 3 goals for 2017? Are you achieving them-if not, why?

1. Host a Workshop – Done!  I will be hosting a hands on posing workshop and shootout in Oregon with the super talented Holli True this October!   Then, in January of 2018,  my very own workshop “Spark” at the Joshua Tree House in Joshua Tree, CA.
2. Raise my sales average by $500 The verdict is still out on this one but it’s looking good so far!
3. Shoot more personal work – So far, I have not shot as much personal work as I wanted to in 2017.  Next year I plan to shoot at least a couple shoots for myself per month even if that means I need to cut back on client work.  I feel it is super important to shoot for you!  It’s one of the best ways to grow as an artist and build your portfolio with images that are YOU, therefore attracting your ideal clients!

Tell our readers something they don’t know about you?  What will you be doing in 2018?

Well, not too many people probably know that I totally abstain from alcohol and have for almost 5 years.  Doing so has changed my life so much for the better!  One of my goals for 2018 is to get more involved in the sobriety movement.  Hopefully by helping others who feel the lifestyle would benefit them too.
In addition to that, I hope to mentor more photographers in 2018.  It’s very rewarding sharing what I’ve learned over the years.   Watching a fellow photographer gain confidence, take risks and bloom right before your eyes is amazing.  I am also working on a project for brand new photographers!  A resource I wish I would have had when I first started out.
I would also like to take a bit less client work than what I’m shooting now to spend more time with my family.  That baby of mine is going to be in Kindergarten very soon!   If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I don’t do moderation very well and I can sometimes teeter on the brink of “work-alcoholism”.  One thing I know for sure is that at the end of my life – I won’t look back and wonder if I worked enough.  Finding balance is on my list every single year.

Ok who else is in love?  Want to see more?

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