Jennifer Robison has made her living as a photographer for nearly two decades and is now passing on all that knowledge through her role as an instructor at Bossier Parish Community College.
But this new role grew out of a potentially devastating point in her life.
Jennifer’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 18 years ago. At that point, her focus became having no regrets or avoiding risks.
“I had an overwhelming feeling to accomplish things in life I had either been afraid to do or thought would be beyond my ability. I believe that whatever happens in life, try to look at experiences through a positive light.”
A life long lover of the arts, Jennifer’s creativity was fostered by her mother who bought her art supplies for every project Jennifer dreamed up. In fact, it was her mother giving her an old Minolta camera for a Beginning Photography Film class that hooked Jennifer into a new medium.
Professionally, Jennifer says the line between her commissioned work and her personal art is blurred. She says that she tries to straddle the line between art and commercial photography, explaining great art photography has a commercial element and an art element.
“I absolutely love everything about photography — the control over light and dark, over color, over perspective. This medium is thought of as a documentation of reality, but that idea is so far from the truth. Photography is a documentation of the photographer’s reality,” she said. “As a photographer, I get to show the viewer what I see and share my point of view on a subject.”
Jennifer graduated with her BFA in photography from Louisiana Tech University in 2006 at the age of 34, a wife with two small children. She has always kept close that feeling of walking across the stage to collect a piece of paper that declared she finished something she started. And, it’s a feeling she’ll get to experience again soon as she is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Art in photography at Louisiana Tech.
This feeling is also something she tries to underscore to her students at BPCC.
Jennifer came to the college’s Communications Department after the former photography instructor retired. She had previously worked for Bossier Parish Schools at Benton Elementary and felt teaching at BPCC would be a perfect fit for her personality.
Her philosophy of no regrets led her to fill out the paperwork and then transition from being her own boss to working with a group of people as an adjunct professor.
She says the support of her associate dean, Rona Leber, was key in helping her make the transition from self-employed photographer to photography instructor.
“Support is a huge part of BPCC and everyone from the chancellor to my office mate and everyone in-between has made sure to let me know they appreciate me as faculty. Everyone is more successful when they know someone cares about what they do and that is something I have found in BPCC,” she gushed.
But, her favorite moments are when she sees a student maximize an opportunity. For example, one of her students recently applied for an internship and got hired for a full-time position on the spot.
“The employer commented that my student provided the best images in the history of the company,” Jennifer noted. “The biggest compliment for me is to know I am providing value to my profession especially in a time when photography is thought of as ‘easy.’”
In fact, she encourages everyone to take a photography class because it can teach the community how to navigate images and become educated consumers of image information.
“Once a person sees how photography works, they can’t unsee it. Virtually, everyone has a camera but not everyone is a photographer. A wise person once told me anyone can take a picture but it takes a professional to make an image,” she explained.
Moreover, it can lead to a new career path for the student to make a living, like she has, in Bossier.
“What business doesn’t need effective, impactful images? This need gets filled by my students finishing the commercial photography track. The trend now is personal, relatable, high-quality imagery,” Jennifer said. “The commercial space for photography in Bossier is wide open.”