Looking Deeper with Lensbaby
Artist Interview with Jen Strongin
Jen Strongin is a professional photographer based in the United States who creates images that make you want to look deeper. We had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her process!
Jen Stongin with Lensbaby Obscura
Q: When did you start taking photographs? Why did you continue?
A: I started taking photos when I was in elementary school! It became an integral part of how I experience the world, so I never really stopped.
Q: Which is your favorite Lensbaby gear?
A: Ooh, tough one! It changes. Right now, my most favorite is the Obscura 16mm and the Edge 50 is right behind it. I love the soft, painterly images I get with the Obscura. I am in love with the zone and sieve plate settings. The Edge 50 has been on my camera lot lately too. I like the versatility of being able to shoot dreamy or crisp images and the macro pull out option is wonderful too. Ask me this question again a month from now and it might change:)
Q: What tips do you have for beginners just learning how to use the Obscura?
A:Practice, practice, practice! Just keep experimenting and shooting. I find sticking with one lens for a while and shooting everything I can with it helps me to understand more how to use it.
Q: What professional photographers have influenced your work, and how do you incorporate their techniques into your photographs?
A: I love Caroline Jensen. She directed my attention beyond photography to paintings and back to photography again. I think a lot about tone, color and the way I want to paint my images as I envision them in my mind. It is a reason why I enjoy Lensbaby lenses so much, they help to me to achieve a more painterly effect to my images. My friend and amazing photographer, Marcus Donner, is another big influence on me. He always emphasizes moving your feet, changing your perspective on your subject. Especially when photographing nature, where you position yourself and your camera can dramatically change the type of image you make. So I am always experimenting with different perspectives on the same subject.
Q: What is the most difficult part of being a photographer?
A: Self promotion. Creating is the easy part, promoting your own work is hard!
Q: Do you have formal training as a photographer or are you self-taught? What was that journey like?
A: I am mostly self taught. I have taken some wonderful classes, but I don't have a formal photo education. My parents were hobbyist photographers, so I grew up with a dark room in my basement and the mystery and magic of developing film. It wasn't until after I had my son in 2007 though, that I really began to take photographs more seriously myself. Macro photography was my gateway! When I started looking at the natural world on that macro level, I was blown away. Photography for me is like meditation and education rolled up together. It keeps my brain stimulated-I am always learning something new and it keeps me grounded, especially during these very unsettling times. It gets me outside on a regular basis and that is very important to my sanity! Photography keeps me curious about the world around me and I love that too.
Q: What details do you believe make the best photographs? How do you go about focusing on them in your work?
A: Color, tone, composition, story. I can take a straight up photo of an octopus, but what I really want is to take an image that makes you look deeper, notice something about that animal that maybe you didn't notice before. I want my image to make you curious and ask questions.
Jen Strongin with Lensbaby Sol 45
Q: What inspires you most?
A: The sea and forests of the PNW. I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful corner of the planet. Whether it is a comb jelly, creating a rainbow light show while it swims or a violet cort mushroom, glowing purple in a bed of brilliant green mosses- I get inspired by all these colors, forms and textures every time I go exploring.
Q: Tell us your favorite quote!
A: "...all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”-John Steinbeck
Jen Strongin with Lensbaby Velvet 28
Q: What is your favorite subject to photograph?
A: Marine Life and Mushrooms
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer?
A: Creating work that inspires others.
Jen Strongin is a professional Naturalist, Educator and Photographer living in Seattle, WA on the edge of the Salish Sea. She is happiest walking slowly through the forest or the intertidal zone, camera in hand, observing the wonderous details of nature, large and small. Her work invokes a sense of curiosity and wonder, inspiring the viewer to slow down and take the time to observe the magical details of the natural world. Her photographs have been featured by the Seattle Aquarium, MAST Center Aquarium and Salish Magazine.