Proust Questionnaire: Jen McKen
The Proust Questionnaire is a mini-interview. Its name and modern popularity (see Vanity Fair) is owed to the responses given by the French writer Marcel Proust.
My fifth Proustian Participant is not only an amazing photographer, but a genuinely good person and real breath of fresh air.
I first became aware of Jen when I was tipped off to her blog post "I Won't Photograph Ugly People". Definitely, read it. It's probably not what you think.
I went from: hearing of Jen, to: admiring her philosophy and photos, to: chatting with her on the phone once for about 90 minutes. Since then, we stay in touch here and there on Facebook. (Which is to say, when I ask her advice on something photographic, she always entertains my lame-o questions.)
In short, Jen is awesome.
What simple advice would you give yourself at age 19?
Dear 19 year old self: Spend more time with your family…especially your sister because life is so short and you are about to find that out the hard way. Also, surround yourself with good quality friends, you’re going to need them.
(Possibly related) what article of clothing was your worst choice, in retrospect?
MC Hammer pants…..good lawd!
Do you have a motto?
It can ALWAYS be worse. I try to always see the best in everything. Even when I’m having a bad day or I’m in a bad situation, I always remind myself, it could ALWAYS be worse.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Besides being a Mom, I would have to say going against what everyone advised and starting my own business. I quit my (steady and reliable) “day job” during a recession to work for myself. I had no one to blame if things went wrong, no boss to go to, no co-workers to pick up the slack…it was all me. I’ve been successfully running my business for 10 plus years and because of that, I get to spend more time with my family.
What word do you consistently misspell?
"Calendar"….I always spell it “calender” with an e. Drives me nuts.
What word or phrase do you overuse?
“Just one more” Ask any of my portrait clients. I’m always like “ok, just one more” and then I keep clicking. I can’t help it.
What word is the most overused with others?
What food did you love as a kid that you now hate?
Coming from a poor family, we ate A LOT of hotdogs. I use to love ketchup on my hotdog which would soak into the bread. Today, if i eat bread with ketchup on it, I gag.
What food did you hate as a kid that you now love?
Avocado! Num Num Num.
What is your greatest fear?
This is a good one, because if I’m being honest, I have several. Most of them are probably like anyone else. I have the fear of failure and not being in good health to see my children grow up.
Your guilty pleasure TV/movie?
Bachelor/Bachelorette. OMG, I can’t believe I just admitted that.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Would you hate me if I told you I hate both of them? As a matter of fact, I have never even watched one of these movies in their entirety….ever.
Who should be the next James Bond?
Henry Cavill….he’s pretty easy on the eyes.
What book do you feel you really should have read by now?
Ohh, this is a hard one. I go thru reading spurts where I’ll read a ton of books at once and then months where I don’t pick one up. I’m a huge personal finance nerd so I love books about finance, investing, getting out of debt, so I’ve read a whole lot of them..but I would say I should have read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.
First song (or album) that you remember buying.
Alanis Morissette. This question actually made me laugh out loud. I can’t remember what grade it was..but I’m thinking maybe 3/4th grade. I got my very first cd boom box and I had been wanting one for SO LONG. “Santa” brought me an Alanis CD and it was the only one I had for quite a while until I saved up enough money to order more from Colombia House. As a matter of fact, I think I still owe them money!! hahaha! Just kidding, but seriously I think I sent out for CD’s underage and never paid for them.
Your guilty-pleasure/alone in the car sing-along song?
I love all the 90’s hair bands….but New Kids on the Block comes on and I’m all over that shit! haha!
Free trip to anywhere on earth for 3 weeks... where would you go?
I’ve been fortunate to travel to a lot of places but one place I still wish to go is Greece. I want to go there so bad. I’m fascinated with the culture, the colors, the architecture and the history. I just think it would be an amazing place to visit.
If you could photograph any one person (alive or dead) who would it be?
My sister. She died when I was 20, she was 17. She’s really the whole reason I got into photography to begin with. After died, we sat with a shoebox full of photos trying to find images to show at her funeral. It was then that I realized we didn’t have remotely enough photos of her other than shots in fancy easter dresses in front of cheesy back drops. I would give anything to photograph her again…..to have one shot of her laughing. I wouldn’t care what she was wearing, how her hair looked or if her makeup was just right…I just want a photo of her laughing.
If you could be photographed by anyone, but nobody else got to see it, who would be your photographer?
Hmmm, honestly, I think most people are expecting me to name some famous award winning photographer but the truth is I think the “rock star” status is over rated. Although I do admire lots of photographers for their craft, I really don’t idolize anyone. I would want (husband) Greg to photograph me…so maybe I can see thru his eyes what he loves about me. Cheesy I know!
Photographers all know the gear doesn't matter, but what is your most coveted equipment right now?
Although now I’m primarily a prime shooter, the 24-70 2.8 will always have my heart. That’s where it all started. I saved up and saved up to purchase that lens when I first started. It was my work horse and a large part of the reason i was able to start my business all those years ago. I’ve shot A LOT of sessions with that lens.
Most overlooked skill for a portrait photographer?
The ability to entertain your clients during a shoot. Not only do we have to know our equipment inside and out, know about composition, lighting, how to pose people, how to set up a shot…but also keep things interesting. It’s like you are a photographer/performer/
What's the easiest way for people to look better in a photo?
LIGHTING. Proper lighting can hide or accentuate flaws or features you want to show off.
What one thing should all men know?
Please put the seat back down
What about women?
You are your own worst critic and that everyone and I mean EVERYONE can name something they don’t like about themselves…..don’t be so hard on yourself.
Should people try to find “soulmates"?
Yes, I like shoes that match.
And finally... What is the ultimate best Halloween candy?
NOT candy corn…gross. Anything chocolate!