I look for moments that are un-mistakenly human, those universal emotions we can all relate with. I am interested in that which is easily felt but so very difficult to portray: the aliveness of the human spirit. I observe life unfolding and use the camera to collect those rare glimpses of human grace that can be seen with the naked eye. When I am able to swiftly document them with a camera, a photograph is born.

The emotional component in my work is influenced by my personal history. I was raised by my grandmother around chickens, parrots, and a wood-burning stove. Growing up in this enchanted environment carved a deeply connective, soft spot in my heart. I have been drawn to the photography medium from the time my grandma gifted me my first camera at age ten. A magic box that could gather moments! That little Janine wanted nothing else in life. More film please! My first subject was my dog Hunter, an obvious choice. He was the spark of my life back then. His white face and black ears were etched in all 24 exposures of my first roll of film.

I started studying photography in California six years later. Darkroom work felt like alchemy and the photography hook pulled stronger at me. My mentor was Andy DeLucia, a kind man whose camera had seen the hardships of the Vietnam War. His accounts of documenting the conflict were unforgettable, but it was Andy’s quiet images of the Hopi people of North America that squeezed my heart. And it was Andy who introduced me to the photographs of a visual storyteller whose work would forever influence mine: W.Eugene Smith.

Here I am with my lively 85-year-old grandma.

The bodies of work of many photographers who came before me are undeniable inspirations for the photographs I create today. I am drawn to the American Tradition of Documentary Photography (W. Eugene Smith, Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson, and Richard Avedon), Classic African Portraiture (Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé, and Samuel Fosso), what I deem Magical Realism in Photography (Diane Arbus, Graciela Iturbide, and Tiago Santana), and the “decisive moment” tradition of Street Photography spearheaded by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“Reality is always extraordinary.” – Mary Ellen Mark

That bright-eyed ten-year-old is always within me, looking for stories wherever she goes. My heart is set on creating photographs that tell stories from a compelling, intimate point of view, whether the setting is a farm in rural Brazil or a specialized shoe manufacturer in downtown LA. Clients who work with me can expect the same candid demeanor whether I am in the studio or enjoying the smells from my grandma’s kitchen.

Looking forward to your story,

Janine