An Interview with a Photographer, Jeanne Mitchum of Holy City Photography

I first met Jeanne at a party several years ago, but lost touch. I recently re-discovered and re-met her through mutual friends. When I first met her, I recall being fascinated that she was a photographer and taking classes at SCAD. I was immediately jealous of her skills. Since our recent connection (thanks Facebook & mutual friends!), I finally had the inkling to e-interview her. Below is our exchange. Do yourself a visual favor and check out her website (Holy City Photography) too!


Is there a nickname you go by?
I don’t really have a nickname that I go by….people have been known to call me different things over the years though….Jeannekins and Jeannis are all I can remember.

What do you currently do for a living? If you could tweak it a little, what would you do?

I currently work as a photographer. I shoot weddings, portraits, and events….and I love it! I love that I get to be creative with my photos (textures and color effects) and my clients seem to love it as well. I also teach photography and design at Trident Technical College. If I could tweak it a little, I would be a full-time effects makeup artist for films. I’ve done some makeup work for some films/theater and I would love to do more of it full-time.


What is your creative background [education/self-taught]?
I graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in art. I loved every minute of it. My concentration was in photography and sculpture. I am also a bit self taught in the area of digital photography because all we did in college was shoot with manual film cameras and print everything in the darkroom. Learning photography this way was a lot of fun. It’s a facet of photography that I would dare say is necessary to learn so that a person knows how easy things are today. I think it also makes you a better photographer knowing how to capture/expose an image properly without having the crutch of being able to look at it immediately. I also attended Savannah College of Art and Design to do some graduate work in graphic design. I love that city!


Does where you live inspire you? If so, how?
Yes, I live on a magnificent 52 acre farm and it’s beautiful. Everyday I step outside and see God’s creation all around me and I find myself inspired to create. I am inspired by wide open landscapes, I think because of the potential that is there for growth and what could be, yet they are usually empty or maybe they still hold some sort of old decrepit building…I find my self intrigued by what used to be there. I am also inspired by trees and their shapes and forms. This is going to sound silly but I think trees are highly disregarded, we see them so often that they go unnoticed. If you stop to look at the trees around you and really look at them, you will notice that they have beautiful forms. I especially love trees without leaves. I suppose that just made me sound like a bit of a “tree hugger.” I have been photographing landscapes more since I moved there 2 years ago. That being said, since moving there, my surroundings definitely have inspired me in ways that have yielded some great results.


When did you notice that you had an inkling of creative leanings?
I always liked art as a kid, it was definitely my favorite class. I really enjoyed all the supplies that you had to have and what they looked like when you dumped them all out on a table to use and create. I was always making stuff and creating art as a kid so I think it’s just always been there. I guess it really hit me more in college, I was a psychology major and had a realization that my true passion was art and that’s what I should be doing, I switched majors and I never looked back. I never knew just how much fun art was until college. It really was a blast. I was able to participate in art shows and great events like iron pours. There was so much creative freedom. I miss college sometimes. I just wished someone would have told me to take a few business classes along the way.


How do you stay inspired/creative?
I watch a lot of movies…..a lot. There’s a lot that goes into films and I am constantly inspired by some of the visuals. Good lighting really sparks my creativity for some reason. I am just intrigued by it. I also study what other artists are doing. I tell my students to learn from other artists, not that they are to copy what other artists are doing but learn what goes into a specific look or what it takes to get certain angles or different kinds of light; you can never stop learning. I am always inspired by other artists and photographers. I think having several other hobbies also helps you to not burn out. I play bass and I do fx makeup, those two things help give me an outlet. There are times when I sit and edit photos for hours and I just have to walk away and do something else for a while. I think walking away from your work and doing other things can help you recharge and then you can go back to your work with a fresh mind.

Do you have a creative ritual?
If so, what is it? I don’t really have a ritual except I usually pray before any of my photo shoots. I brainstorm a lot, I try to have as many ideas as possible before a shoot. I may not use them all but at least there in my head. The only other thing that I do is usually in my editing process, I edit in both Lightroom and Photoshop….that is probably not staggeringly unique but it’s what I do. I do use lots of different color effects and texture layers and those 2 programs help a lot with that.

What are 5 books that have inspired you/continue to inspire you?

The Bible is always inspiring. I am also reading The Case for A Creator by Lee Strobel. He is a really inspiring author. I find him fascinating because he used to be an atheist but he used his career as an investigative reporter to seek answers to typical questions that people have about Jesus and Christianity. I just really like that he tenaciously sought after answers to his questions-and he got them-not just by interviewing all the people on one side but by asking people on both sides. It would be nice if more people would apply their critical thinking skills and seek their answers in a similar way. I unfortunately do not read enough, I wish I had more time for it. I find that I do most of my reading online through blogs like this one-and doing that really tends to grow me in positive ways…


What are 4 films that cause you to be creative?
In general, movies actually make me want to make movies. I am very interested in the idea of becoming a full-time makeup effects artist for movies (haven’t I mentioned that already?). Rob Zombies newest Halloween movie had a lot of really interesting shots with great lighting that really inspired me. Rob’s version of Halloween definitely isn’t for everyone, as it has lots of interesting content, but the visuals in some of the scenes were phenominal! Any zombie movie is also a fun diversion, they don’t necessarily make me want to create but I do love them. The movie 28 Days Later did have some very interesting “artsy” scenes that definitely spurred me on creatively. I am really inspired by music, I listen to all kinds of music and every bit of it makes me think of great ideas-in fact I came up with the idea to set up a picnic for one of my recent engagement shoots while listening to Eisley-and it turned out to be a big hit.

Three colors that represent you and why:
Black-it’s just one of my favorite colors. It gets a bad rap but really when you think about it it’s really every color (when thinking in terms of pigments mixed together to make black-not so much light, because I know that white is actually all colors and black is traditionally accepted as the absence of color), so how can you hate on a color that includes every color. It’s kinda cool if you think about it, at the risk of sounding cheesy, the color black doesn’t discriminate and it welcomes all colors. That’s how I try to live, I don’t see race or ethnicity or even social status as what defines a person…I see people. One of my favorite scriptures is Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, you are all one in Christ.” I think that really says a lot and I wish more people looked at the world that way. All that from a color…..
My other two favorites would be green and purple. I just love every shade of green. It makes me think of things that I like, like apples, grass, trees and The Wizard of OZ. I really have no explanation for purple I just like it.

What other artists [current/past] inspire you?

There are a lot of artists that inspire me, mostly local and current artists. I find myself constantly (when I have time) looking at other artists on the internet-especially other photographers. I think you never stop learning and learning from other people is a good thing. Recently I came across Alexa Meade, after graduating with a degree in political science she decided she wanted to be an artist. She paints on live people and makes them look like paintings and then photographs them. I just thought that was brilliant and it inspired me to think outside of my little box I sometimes live in. Some photographers that inspire me are Jeremy Cowart and Parker J Pfister. Those guys are brilliant and have really changed the way I approach my own photography.


Do you have any art/design tips for aspiring artists/creatives?
Keep learning, you never stop learning. Things are always changing. Read a lot and take some business/marketing courses. It would also be helpful to meet lots of people and learn to relate and communicate since effective communication goes a long way. It’s cheesy and cliche but don’t give up on your dreams, it’s all about the timing…. I used to find myself discouraged a lot by other artists, especially artists that would seemingly spring up out of no where and blaze past everyone else. Then I realized that being discouraged only hurts me and that I should let their success motivate me to do the same…perhaps I should even talk with those people and see what they have done differently, which is what I try to do. So in short: learn from everyone.

What creative project[s] is/are next on your creative calendar?
I am working on building my effects makeup portfolio. You can find me here http://www.bellasegreto.com/jeanne.asp. I have also been working a lot on landscapes which is interesting because as I previously stated-I never really cared much for landscape photography until I moved to a farm and started teaching and had to lecture on landscapes and take some myself; after having to do that-I was sold. I have some other photographic ventures that are in my head that I hope to work on some day but that might have to wait for the next interview…

We look forward to your other/future photographic ventures Jeanne!

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