Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenny Desrosiers.
Jenny, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I’m a first gen Haitian-American photographer, meaning that both of my parents are from the Caribbean nation of Haiti, and I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. One of my earliest memories and I remember this VERY vividly, was getting in trouble for drawing on the walls (and my parents’ closet) of my first childhood home with crayons that the next-door neighbors had gifted me. I’m pretty sure that’s where my overall love for art started.
Up until I started kindergarten at age 5, I didn’t speak any English as both my parents spoke only Haitian Kreyol and French in the house. Most of my English, I picked up from watching early morning Nickelodeon and 4KidsTV (90s babies stand up!) shows. As I would watch shows like CatDog, TMNT, WinxClub, and Aaahh!! Real Monsters, I would draw my favorite characters on the blank inner front and back covers of my picture books.
My very early childhood, we moved around a lot as my parents were still getting settled in the United States, so I was transient, but my love for art along with the cartoon drawings that were inspired by that love was always a constant during my formative years.
After a few years of bouncing around within the inner city neighborhoods of Boston and neighboring city of Somerville, MA, we settled down in Stoneham, a quiet suburb a few minutes north of Boston, At this point, I was a very weird and artsy kid and combine that with being one of few children of color in the school system, I didn’t have many friends coming up and kept to myself throughout elementary, middle and high school. I was able to still flourish by drawing a ton in school, even in classes where I was supposed to be paying attention much to my teachers’ dismay and the few friends I did have always supported my art.
When I was 11, I got a little Canon Powershot point-and-shoot camera for Christmas, and that’s where my journey as a photographer began. I would take a TON of selfies, photos with my siblings, photos of my family, friends and edit them really badly online on Picnik as all middle schoolers did back in the day. Photography really became a way for me to express myself. I was still drawing a ton, but photography allowed me to show viewers the world how I saw it and even at age 11 that was something I really liked.
I took an amateur photography class in high school and got to shoot on a DSLR for the first time which was really cool for a teenager, especially because coming up as the child of immigrants, we didn’t have much, so it was super dope to be able to use equipment that I couldn’t afford.
After graduating high school, I went on to attend the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where I majored in Journalism & Professional Writing and minored in Fine Arts with a focus in Photography. Outside of writing papers and conducting interviews for my journalism courses, I was also able to get hands-on experience with film photography for the first time through my art courses. My sophomore year of college, I was able to use the money I made that summer from working at a dog-kennel with help from my parents to buy my first DSLR, which was the Nikon D3200.
I discovered my passion and niche within photography, music photography. After I was able to shoot my very first concert, Pierce the Veil’s 2015 World Tour, which I covered for my university’s student newspaper, The Connector. As a teenager, going to live shows was another one of my passions, and I used to always wonder how the photographers who got to shoot the bands from the photo pit did it, so being able to actually DO it myself was a major gamechanger for me as an artist.
During my time at UMass Lowell, I was shooting festivals and concerts for the Connector on a regular basis, and I’ve taken photos at Vans Warped Tour, Boston Calling, Afro-Punk fest, Day N Nite Fest and other various concerts since then. As graduation approached, I knew I had to make a decision: stay in Massachusetts and work a job that didn’t bring me joy or move over 3,000 miles away from my family and friends to California so I could pursue entertainment journalism and music photography.
I’ve been out on the west coast for nearly two years now, shooting music and working on other various photography endeavors so you know what choice I ended up making.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I consider myself to be a visual creative as I do a lot with art like drawing, video, makeup, styling but my main endeavor is photography.
My weapon of choice at the moment is my Nikon D610 but I also shoot with 35mm film, and I’ve been playing around with disposables a lot lately as well. While my passion is music photography, I love shooting portraits, behind the scenes, and I hope to get into more editorial work in the future.
I photograph my friends a lot; most of the models you see on my social media accounts are my friends, but there are also musicians mixed in there too, both local and more mainstream. I usually let my models style themselves, but I have been wanting to get into styling myself and doing more editorial makeup, so look out for that in the future!
Like I was talking about earlier in the interview, I discovered photography when I was 11, and before that, it was mostly just traditional drawing. Those who know me in person know that when I speak, I stutter. I have a speech impediment where I repeat parts of words or get blocked on certain sounds and syllables, so verbal communication never came easy to me, I’ve had this stutter my whole life, and kids can be really cruel so growing up I was bullied severely by my peers and called all sorts of names.
I believe that there are many different types of intelligence. While I can’t speak fluently or express myself during academic debates or when called on in class, I’ve always done really well in art class, and writing has always come easy to me, which is why I majored in journalism. I’ve always been able to express myself on a more artistic plane whether it be visual or written so when I discovered photography, the fact that I have this speech impediment wasn’t really even an issue anymore because with photos I can just show people what I’m trying to say.
One of my biggest goals is to inspire not just young black creatives but also other creative children of immigrants with my work. Our parents came here with little to nothing in their pockets, many of them not speaking a word of English to give us a better life. And although we’re told to settle for more traditional and “safe” careers like nurses, doctors, and lawyers, I honestly feel like it’s up to us to dream even bigger and crazier than they did by coming to the United States. Each generation breeds a new wave of influential photographers, musicians, fashion designers, etc. and as first or even second gen. Americans, we’re here to stay, and we need to be seen and heard.
The sterotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
If you’re struggling as an artist, get some side hustles! Realistically unless you’re big and poppin’ it’s really hard to start off as an artist and still be financially stable, so having various forms of income is a huge help.
Along with photography, I run social media accounts for small local businesses, and if I still need extra income, I do food delivery on the side. On your days off, make time for your art. Even if you’re tired or want to take a day off, if you REALLY want it, you’ll know that there are no days off.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
My work can be found on my social media accounts! If you guys want to support me for sure book a shoot with me! The money I make from my photoshoot goes towards my living expenses and new photo gear so I can keep creating. I want to eventually put out a book with some of my personal photo projects in it, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Outside of sharing my photos on social media, people can support me by sharing my name and work via word of mouth. I plan to participate in some art shows in SoCal before the end of the year, so that’s another way to get to know me, my work and show support.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/jen_desrosiers
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jendesrosiersphotography/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jen_Desrosiers