Photographer Interview: Jenny Baptiste

Photographer Jenny Baptiste
After coming upon Jenny's recent shots of Erykah Badu while reading a Black Nerds Network blog post, I contacted Jenny in hopes for an interview. All the while thinking that her last name sounded familiar...

Fortunately, Jenny responded right away and sent me her bio which is when I found out she was the wife of celebrity/fashion photographer Marc Baptiste. But don't judge her work based on her relationship - Jenny's got an eye all her own and is on her own personal trajectory toward becoming a photographer. I look forward to seeing more of her work as she continues to grow.

Since her bio was such an interesting read, I've included excerpts in italics below in between Jenny's answers to my questions.

D&B: Where are you from?
JB: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Los Angeles, CA.

Copyright Jenny Baptiste
Copyright Jenny Baptiste
D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started - any "formal" training?
JB: I have been immersed in images and photography for a long time, but have no formal training. I started off in the art department at Virgin Records and was fortunate enough to see a ton of contact sheets for CD artwork.

At that time it was still a small, independent, creative, young, and vibrant company. She worked her way up the ranks and eventually ended in the art department, which was her dream job. She worked on production and coordinated CD package design with artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Neneh Cherry, Smashing Pumpkins, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, and Iggy Pop. While working on a project, she met Marc, who lived in New York and was fast becoming the iconic photographer we know today.

From there I moved to New York and worked at an ad agency.

She was then recruited by a Photo Rep agency, where she worked on the production of photo shoots for some of the top photographers in the Fashion Industry. (Mario Testino, Kelly Klein, Marc Hom, Enrique Badulescu and Tiziano Magni) In the meantime she and Marc had twin girls. As his business was growing, as well as their young family, they decided to collaborate and put their skills and knowledge together. She has since been overseeing Marc Baptiste Photography, Inc. for the past 7 years wearing many hats: production, casting, editing, budgets, billing, and archiving.

Seeing photography from so many angles helped me refine my photography which is street documentary with a little something extra. I started shooting 3 years ago at a block party using my daughter’s camera. Those images ended up getting published in Clam Magazine in a photo essay titled “They Don’t Know How We Live.”

D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
JB: I use a Leica and I sometimes play around with a Pentax 67.

D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
JB: I am around photography all day so I’ve become a sponge for things I like. My influences range anywhere from movies to a range of photography books.

Copyright Jenny Baptiste
D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer.
JB: I’m still on the journey and feel blessed that people have been receptive to my work. I am a work in progress.

D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
JB: For me, the most enjoyable part of photography is telling stories about real people.

She collaborated in 2008 with two photographers; Akintola Hanif, and Jean Marcelin for a group photo exhibition “This is Where I Live.” Clam Magazine has since published 3 photo essays including a series titled “Division.” This series was all shot from her car, capturing a candid, honest look at the style and tradition of the Hasidic Jewish community.

I feel like I have achieved something when people trust me enough to document them in their environment. Of course I would like to get paid.

D&B: What's your dream photography project?
JB: To shoot photo essays around the world for The New York Times.

PHOTOS: Copyright Jenny Baptiste - see more photos on Jenny's blog.

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