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Jen Rozenbaum Rapid Interview | Mischievous, Bankable, Admirable & NSFW In All The Right Ways

By Kishore Sawh on August 2nd 2018

This post is NSFW – those prudishly inclined take heed

This interview was originally posted in April 2018

The day I meet Jen Rozenbaum it’s by accident. I’m in Manhattan and working; back-to-back meetings, hours of sycophantic spadework on deck, and trying to be lost among thousands of photographers in this one massive hall. And when she arrives –and interrupts my conversation– she delivers a greeting as warmly and confidently as if I’d specifically requested it.

I hadn’t. But through the subtle yet sheer force of her charisma, whatever I was speaking about before seemed superfluous, and forgotten.

That’s quite a feat considering the company I was in, and that if Jen were a snack (perhaps she is, in the modern urban lexicon) she’d be labeled ‘fun size’ to my 6’1″. She’s dressed in dark blues; jeans as tight as the skin on an apple, and heels that momentarily betray her real height. And she wears it all with a familiarity that suggests it’s a variant of a uniform.

Then she is spotted.

In fact, she is recognized repeatedly through the course of our chat, and she obliges virtually each person that comes over or waves, with efficiency. It’s as if through experience she has figured out it would take longer to disappoint and explain than to say ‘hi!’ and smile. I would later adopt the tactic.

And ooh that smile. In a room full of sycophants it stands out. It’s relentlessly charming. And it’s real, with the eyes and everything – and it doesn’t take long to see it’s used frequently to the chagrin of those who might try to put a barrier between Jen and an objective. And that’s my first indication that Jen’s creative ability belies that she is a business woman, likely resultant from a long crescendo of ambition and grit. Many more would follow. Jen is a multi-hyphenate.

But of course she would have to be. To become a super successful boudoir photographer Jen has had to buck the antecedent notion that the landscape of those who photograph scantily clad women with an emphasis on ‘sexy’ is populated exclusively by men. And she did it all before the recent vocals of female empowerment were spawned by the electing and rhetoric of a hectoring sexist.

How did she do it? It would seem to be the collision of a myriad of factors: Skill, talent, ambition, her proclivity for being feisty and cheeky (love that), and being #shamelesslyfeminine in a man’s world.

Her bold femininity and the monsoon of goodwill that she exudes, together with her effort to help the ‘every-woman’ be unapologetic and proud in their sexuality and strength is powerful. Perhaps never more than in the past year, where due to illness Jen has been put on a journey she didn’t intend to make, and through it lives what she preaches.

It would be remiss not to consider too, that being married and a mother has had an interesting effect on her vocation as a boudoir photographer. Together they don’t diminish her take on sexuality and self-empowerment, but add gravitas and depth to it. Less pornographic, more body positive – all things she’s vocal about.

Speaking of, it could be career endangering for Jen to suggest she’s anything but grateful for her work -for making a living from photographing– as she’s committed to that and bankable, but she’s also a bit beyond only that. With her TEDx talk and her robust community, you get the feeling that at some point she’d truly be elated when one day people will go from telling her, “I really like your work,” to “I really like what you had to say.”

It may not be far off, because her behavior maps to her mentality. It’s impressive, infectious even. We should all be so fortunate.

And that’s the thing; whatever you’ve heard of Jen, what you’ve thought of her work or genre, after speaking to her in person you walk away thinking to yourself, “Yeah. Whatever she’s on, I’ll have some of that.”

I did.

 

Without further a do, Jen Rozenbaum:

How old were you when you had your first paying photography job, and how much time between that and the second?

My first paying job was November 22, 2008. I was 21 which now makes me 30, right? Ok, ok… truth is I was 33 when I started even learning photography. I took my first paid job just a few months later.

What’s your spirit animal?

A bad ass woman. Does that count as an animal? (No Jen. Well, fine dammit…)

Do you think there’s a maximum or minimum age where you can begin being a photographer?

Absolutely not. I LOVE when my kids take my cell phone, take photos and I get to see the world from their view. Everyone has a story and a perspective.

What’s your favorite quote?

I have so many.

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” –Henry Ford & “Comparison is the thief of joy” -Theodore Roosevelt are two I use a lot in my teachings and raising my children.

In my life I like the motto:

Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

What’s been your best photography purchase under $100 and What’s been your favorite photography purchase, period?

I would say my best purchase under $100 was the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It was the book I used to teach myself photography. It’s clear and easy to follow, and I recommend it to every new photographer. My favorite purchase ever was my Nikon D3S. I bought it a few years into my career. It was close to $7k and I was able to pay for it clear and free with the money I made. It was an accomplishment not only in skill (that I could use a camera like that), but an accomplishment in success in my business. It was an important milestone for me at the time.

What’s in your gear bag?

What’s the most pervasive myth in photography?

That technical images trump emotional images. Emotion and story telling always wins if you ask me.

What do you think the next big trend in photography will be?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know and I don’t care. Typically I find when trends start I shy away from them. I do this because everyone’s work starts looking similar. I try hard to stay true to my style and photograph women in the way I see them regardless of trends.

What’s your best quick photography or post processing tip?

Light and pose correctly and you’ll have very little post processing to do. (I hate editing!) I know it sounds simple, but it’s not. Especially in boudoir where there is so much skin showing, it’s VITAL to light properly in order to avoid hours of editing.

Do you think DSLRs are on the way out?

I hope not because I am just about to buy another one!

Who took the best photo of you (selfies allowed)?

This is a tough question for me to answer. I have a whole bunch of images that my friends took of me that I love. This last summer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and in August I had a double mastectomy. Even though I love the images that have been taken of me in the past, I don’t feel they represent who I am anymore both physically and mentally. The image I am sending you is from my most recent shoot. I think it portrays who I am right now. Strong, vulnerable, imperfect and still feminine.

Photo: Carmit Rozenzvig

Was there a time when you almost gave up photography and why/how did you get through it?

Countless times. This is a tough industry. We have to run a business and be creative. It’s time consuming, emotional, and at times lonely. These are the times to remember why you love photography. Do something for fun, something creative. Push yourself. Meditate a lot, and sometimes I even give away sessions during these times. As much as we all love making money, sometimes the pressure to do so stifles us. When you can give your gift of your talent it’s a beautiful thing and it recharges me.

What would someone who doesn’t like your work say about it?

Typically I get the haters that think what I do is about porn or portraying women as sex objects. That’s why it’s so important to me to be message-forward in my work. I talk a lot about women’s empowerment and self confidence and I hope that is what people see and understand about me, even before they see my work

Do you have a photography good-luck charm (could be a gear piece/person/whatever)?

Little known fact about me… I am super superstitious so I always have a good luck charm on me at all times. Evil eyes, red strings, hamsa’s – you name it. If I think it works it will be on me!

What’s the best move you’ve made in your career?

Raising my prices dramatically when my volume got too high. It was scary but it was a huge change in my business and my mentality about my business. It also allowed me to cut back my volume so I can give my clients better experiences.

If you could go back to your first year in photography what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t live with regrets. I believe everything I did, every mistake I made has led to me where I am now.

Have you identified your ideal client, and if so, how to you market to them?

My ideal client isn’t a person necessarily, it’s a mindset. I want a woman who is a little bit of a rebel. She might have a fairly average life, raising a few kids, cooking dinners, et cetera, but deep down she is a fiery, kick ass woman who comes to me because it’s a safe place for her to be who she is, shamelessly.  And truthfully – my ideal clients have always been similar to me. First they started as brides, then new moms. Now I get a lot of 40+ women that are just ready to celebrate themselves.

What’s your single favorite lens?

The 58mm. I work in such a small space that it’s what I shoot with 90% of the time. In addition it allows me to be close to my clients which helps when I am trying to adjust hair or poses and it creates in intimacy, which is nice.

What’s your craziest photography story?

Because I shoot boudoir, I have many, lol. But in order to protect my clients, I will tell you the story of my first paid job ever. It was a SMALL wedding – maybe 8 people where there. It was a second marriage and the groom had a few teenage kids. Well, I guess they weren’t so into the marriage. I couldn’t get them to cooperate at ALL. They wouldn’t pose, smile, listen – NOTHING! PLUS they were heckling me and the couple during the ceremony. Can you imagine this being your first ever experience at a paid job? I can’t even believe I took another job after that. It makes me laugh to this day though, because I totally delivered them an image with selective color (I colored their ties), cause I thought it was cool. I guess karma is a bitch.

If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring and established photographers today, what would it be?

Be vulnerable and authentic.

[RELATED: CHRIS KNIGHT RAPID INTERVIEW | DRAMATIC PORTRAITS & THE BUSINESS OF PHOTOGRAPHY]

What’s your favorite joke?

It’s a dirty one – but it always gets a laugh (especially in our industry)

A groom waits at the altar with a huge smile on his face. His best man asks, “Why do you look so excited?” The groom replies, “I just had the best blow job I have ever had in my entire life, and I am marrying the wonderful woman who gave it to me.”

The bride waits at the other end of the aisle with a huge smile on her face. Her maid of honor asks, “Why do you look so excited?” The bride replies, “I just gave the last blow job of my entire life.

Jen, it’s been a pleasure.

 

You can find more about Jen, her work, and workshops on Jenerations.com, jenrozenbaum.com, her encouraging and fun Facebook group, and her Instagram.

[REWIND: The Sony Story No One Tells, Not Even Sony | It’s Not In Our Nature To Snuff Out The Fire]


About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jonathan Brady

    Jen’s work and her activity in the community are incredible!

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