My earliest memory of photography is when my grandfather would lend me his 110 camera while I was at his house. I began photography classes in high school and college as a hobby, but it wasn’t until my professor sat me down for an end of year review that I realized this was a career option.
This was at a local community college, but there was an excelled ‘advertising photography’ program just over two hours away that I could transfer to. So from there, I focused my next year on whatever it took to get into that program and I made it happen. That was over 17 years ago and it’s been a long road with a lot of mistakes and personal discovery. I’d even put down the camera and swore I was never shooting again. I allowed myself to dig deep on my ‘why’, re-directed and began saying ’thanks, but no’ to the jobs that weren’t fueling my soul.
I love to photograph families with styled and intimate beauty. My approach leans toward quality over quantity. Do you realllllly need 15 digitals of the near same pose? No. I invite my families to really narrow down their family story to about 20 from our session. Every time we sit back and look at the final collection, it’s like an exhale of “Oh, here we are and this season is beautiful.” I find that it’s held closer to their heart, which is my hope.
Vulnerability. Total buzz word, thanks to Brené Brown and I love it. My encouragement for us mothers is to do the inner work, discover who we are now, and allow ourselves to truly be seen through the photography. This includes where we go on an emotional level, as well as physical. I encourage tastefully showing skin because it takes away the possible distractions and brings us closer to the essence of our humanity. I love when clients are willing to go there with me.
One of the reasons I consciously stepped away from the advertising world was because I wanted my work to have a deeper meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I love good advertising. But I’d realized that inviting families to be photographed during this season of life was also creating stories for their children. I look back at photos of my mother holding me as a child and it hits home differently now, as it’s me who is the mother. I consider photography a long term gift to our children.
I was encouraged by a mentor to specify my own story of family. We are artists at heart and bring the vision and style to our sessions. Test test test to find your fingerprint. You’ll start to notice a pattern and what makes your heart tick - drop the rest and move in that.
Jess Koehler is a mom of two and a lifestyle family photographer based in Los Angeles. She helps parents document the heart and soul of childhood and has been found hiding behind the freezer door, eating spoonfuls of ice cream.