Beyond ethereal subtleties, deep shades of blue, floppy hats and a classic cup of French press coffee, you will find the heart of fine art film photographer, Jennifer Blair. Currently based in Alabama, Jennifer is wife to worship leader Jonathan Blair and mother to precious daughter, Eleanora. With a growing business and family, Jennifer has gracefully learned how to cultivate a life where she authentically pursues her passions as an artist while remaining rooted in her values.
Inspired in her childhood by the draw of the ocean when the waves crashed over her feet, there was a comfort found in how small she was compared to the vastness of the sea. Enchanted with the way the sea could be calm one moment and raging the next perpetuated a vision that stark contrasts could blend together so organically. “It’s amazing how you can be two seemingly different things at once - like being a business owner and a mom; it’s intriguing how two sweeping differences can exist together.” The blue and green hues that shimmer beyond white capped waves have captured Jennifer’s heart and inspired her as an artist to embrace the same genuine emotion in her work that the beautiful imagery of the sea creates.
Growing up, Jennifer was never a foreigner to fine arts. Surrounded by creatives - including her Dad and Granddad - piano lessons, art lessons and photography were just a few of the things that sparked her artistic aspirations. Pursuing the beauty of harmony and melody in college, Jennifer graduated with a music degree and met her husband. After finishing school and becoming a newlywed, her creative passions took a backseat for a while as she tried to figure out her place in the world. Seeking any job she could find and trying to make something of herself, she accepted a position as a secretary- but it didn’t take long to discover that sitting behind a desk was stifling the zeal to do something more with her talents.
“I was in a tiny room, at a small desk, with no windows, and I hated it. That is when I started to blog; I needed to have a creative outlet.” Over time, it was clear that being behind a desk each day answering calls was not a good fit, and faith began to take over. “One day I came home from my lunch break and knew, clear as day, that God was telling me to quit my job. I called my husband, who told me to follow God's leading, then turned in my notice when I got back from lunch. ”
It wasn’t until after several months of being jobless that a new calling broke the silence. “In my desperation, and shame of being without a job for what felt like forever, my heart was finally ready to listen. It was then that photography was laid on my heart. I was honestly shocked. It was something I always loved, but never wanted for anything more than a hobby. But I jumped, not knowing anything about photography except what I learned in high school and art lessons. I spent the last of my savings on a sort of ok, semi-professional camera and devoted myself to the art.” Opportunities began to pour in by the grace of God and that was when things got challenging. Everything happened so quickly, the luxury of having it all figured out was not an option. Every day became a learning experience, and that was when the help of past experiences with film photography bridged the gap. When there were doubts or setbacks managing something so new, strong will and determination paid off. “I knew that if I put my mind to something, I could do it- of course, some things within parameters. But when my heart is set on something, I’m going to give everything I got, and if I fail, I know I gave it my all.”
As business continued to blossom, Jennifer began to really think about who she was and honed in on developing her brand. Naturally drawn to genuine beauty, Jennifer knew she wanted her style to have a luminous, kind, and elegant essence. Working with graphic designer Kathryn Duckett of Crème brands was one of the highlights of her early career: “I was one of Kathryn’s first wedding industry clients and she was phenomenal from the get go. She taught me if you know who you are, then your work will come from an authentic place. Creating a brand is so much deeper than the colors you use on your blog or what your website looks like. Business is not just about art or a relationship- it’s a mixture of both. The way you market yourself on Instagram, what you share about yourself, it all needs to be a good representation of who I am and what my business is about. Kathryn helped me to see that my life and business should line up.” While learning to preserve a professional environment and boundaries with what she could commit to, Jennifer took delight in developing deep connections with her clients. “I really strive to listen to and understand who my clients are, rather than focusing solely on surface details. My clients and I come up with descriptive words for the day, we discuss the desired imagery. When doing engagements or weddings I want to know what couples admire in each other. I want to know what makes them tick and how they think. This way I create something more authentic instead of photographing pretty things; this makes my job as an artist so much more rewarding.”
With an authentic brand well underway, a new season bloomed with the birth of daughter, Eleanora. Not sure how motherhood and business ownership would mesh, Jennifer was intentional about not becoming overwhelmed. “I tried to keep my expectations low; I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to be both a good business owner and mom at the same time. I tried to give myself some grace.” To help manage new changes, the Blairs hired a nanny and worked together to create a gracious ebb and flow. “Jonathan and I support each other; we know what each others busy seasons are and we work around each others schedules. Often times when I had to work, Jonathan would stay home with Eleanora; or one of us will take on more household tasks if the other is busy.” There began to be a clarity that to be both a mom and an artist was okay and there was no longer pressure to be one or the other. “I tried not to look at other people and what they were doing- even other people in the same industry as me. I have to do what is best for my business and my family.”
Keeping their sights on eternity, Jonathan helps to encourage the family when the little things go wrong, even if it’s the tedious tasks of being a parent that wear them down. “Jonathan is so great at reminding me there is a bigger picture, so I try not to focus on what happens tomorrow, next week or next month- today matters.” Having this perspective has brought greater value and appreciation in both motherhood and as an artist. “Eleanora created more balance in my life. Being a mom and an artist has brought new meaning and gratitude to each day. Before I was a workaholic, but now I can step away from things I may not have before. Knowing where my boundaries are has given me more purpose and solidarity.” Learning how to separate business from motherhood took some getting used to, but through grace, things fell into place by being purposeful. “I know if I try to be a mom and work at the same time, I will make mistakes. When I’m with Eleanora I make an effort to put the phone away and not respond to emails. And then when I go to work, I can focus- I’m excited to shoot photos and create something beautiful. Being a mom is a rest from that; it’s still work, but a different kind of work.” Motherhood has brought even more beauty to each day. In the moments of painting with Eleanora and the peaceful walks outside breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the simplicity of nature, there is pure joy in knowing that being a mom has come from the ability to facilitate growth of a new life. Fascinated by what the future holds for Eleanora, being a mom anticipates the excitement of the unknown. “I often think of what she will do when she is older. Maybe she will like art or maybe she won’t. She is her own unique person. She will see life differently than me or my husband. It’s neat to think how I will grow because of her.”
Together, Jonathan and Jennifer are learning to be fluent creatives with a focus. They never forgo breakfast as a family and continue to have a deep connection with their shared appreciation for music- often times writing songs with one another. There are moments of quiet in the morning when Jennifer will try to steal a few minutes of time getting in the Word, sipping on a cup of her favorite French press coffee. And then there are times when there is no room for solitude and the mornings fly by. Hurdles have presented themselves along the way but common goals have kept the Blairs grounded. “We support each other; my passion is his passion. We are definitely not perfect, but are aware of each others strengths and weaknesses. We know what's best for us and we put each other first.” Jennifer has learned there is an authentic beauty in knowing who she is and letting that shine into all aspects of her life. By taking a few moments and pausing to look at the big picture, faith remains a pivotal part in keeping things together. “Christ is a huge part of keeping me grounded. I try not to stress over the little things and I may not always have things figured out, but that’s okay. And admitting that sometimes I need help is okay, too.”
“I’ve learned to have core values that I hold dear, and I build my life upon that. These are the things that will hold me steady and are an anchor when hard times come up. Knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing keeps me pursuing what I want to do.” Jennifer has found a way to embrace life in the same way she does the sea. Choosing to see the vastness- the bigger picture- as a hope to hold onto, yet realizing she has a purpose deeply rooted in where she is today. Anchored in steadfast faith, Jennifer navigates through the calm and the chaos of being an artist, mother, and wife with uncompromising authenticity. “Faith, family, work, friends- they're all intertwined and cannot be separated in my heart.”
Story by Nicole Renee Jordan. See more featuring Jennifer Blair and her family with photographs by Sawyer Baird in The Pioneer Issue, now on news stands.