I met Jessica back in 2011 when she was working for Apple. She'd just gotten started with her photography side business, and I was looking to upgrade my headshots for some upcoming theater auditions. I reached out to inquire about the cost of a photo shoot. Since she was still building her portfolio, she agreed to shoot headshots in exchange for a pan of brownies. (This, along with her responses to the last meal, current playlist, and limiting belief questions, makes it clear that we're kindred spirits.)
Talk about first impressions. As if exchanging her services for baked goods wasn't proof enough, Jess invited me to prep at her apartment with a makeup artist, chose the perfect location for our shoot (a snowy-yet-sunny Cherry Creek State Park), and connected with me over a Five Guys lunch afterward. She is a true, open-hearted, free-spirited francophile, whose beauty not only radiates from her energy, but also from her work.
She quit her full-time job in 2013 after an eye-opening trip to France, and never looked back. She's been a professional intimate wedding and elopement photographer ever since, traveling the country with her gorgeous golden, Marlowe, and her dreams aren't about to slow down.
Name: Jessica Christie
Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana
Current city: Denver, Colorado
Daydream: Freedom and a life of chasing what makes me happy
Reality: Intimate wedding and elopement photographer; jessicachristie.com
Go-to coffee order:
Famous person you'd have coffee with:
Is it weird that I don’t have an answer to this? I tend to gain more inspiration from real people. I would rather grab coffee with other photographers, creatives, entrepreneurs or friends. These are the people who drive and inspire me. I always walk away feeling so good after getting into a deep conversation about things I care about mutually with another human, or from being able to instill some kind of help from my experiences into their life, or vice versa.
The world is ending. Your last meal is:
It’s a toss-up between lasagna with garlic bread, and enchiladas with chips and queso. So I guess the answer is carbs and cheese. And if it's finished off with a warm chocolate brownie, it would be the perfect last meal!
Currently on your playlist:
Give me all the sad, depressing music—Novo Amor, Gregory Alan Isakov, Ben Howard, Bon Iver, The Paper Kites, Haux, Meadowlark, Damien Rice.
Favorite fictional character:
See famous coffee date response. I feel the same way about this, too.
Who you look up to:
Currently, I look up to Abbi Hearne. She and her husband chased and captured dreams that I am still daydreaming about. Not only is she an excellent photographer, but she is photographing the types of weddings and elopements I dream of, all while traveling in her van with her husband and dog, living a very active lifestyle. Now she is someone I would love to get coffee with!
Favorite brands/artists/Instagram accounts to follow (spur-of-the-moment and random, go!):
@wishyouwerenorthwest, @nativecampervans, @meg.delagrange, @kylie.fly, @rmdrk, @anisahamat_, @abbihearne, @campingwithdogs, @briannamadia, @stanflan, @figandyarrow, @planthaus, @indybrandclothing, and of course my pup, @marlowemountainpup
How you spend your free time:
This is where the beauty lies... taking photos! I absolutely love capturing my own life as well and the world around me. I think photography has become my way of processing and experiencing what is happening. Without it, the moment isn’t the same for me. I get jarring feelings in the pit of my stomach if I see something that pulls me and can’t photograph it.
I think that’s what happens when you pursue your passion as a career; it all blends together which, in my opinion, makes life much richer. My dream job is also my passion and my hobby. Outside of photography specifically, but so closely related because of my strong desire to take photos, I spend a lot of time hiking with Marlowe and traveling.
My dream job, at this point, would be photographing solely adventure elopements and teaching other photographers and entrepreneurs how to go out and grab ahold of their dreams. I think I would also love to be a photographer for brands like REI or Patagonia, because that just seems like an adventure in and of itself.
What you wanted to be when you grew up:
Have you ever considered yourself a daydreamer?
I’ve always believed myself to be a dreamer in general. I’m always thinking of new ideas, ways of living, hobbies, things to do, how I want life to be, etc. It’s a blessing and a curse because sometimes all the dreaming makes you feel less than satisfied with where you’re actually at. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it’s those daydreams that have pushed me where I am today. They are constantly challenging me to be better, try harder and fight for what I want in life.
Worst bullying or insult, in child- or adulthood:
The biggest insult I’ve ever received is, “I cannot accept you." They are the words that I wish I could unhear more than anything else. They are what has made me feel like I’m not worth it, and I think those words are what often makes me minimize my own successes and capabilities. Outside of the personal effects this has had on me, in business, I sometimes have a hard time seeing myself as an industry expert or professional photographer, even though I’ve been doing it for nearly eight years. It created an insecurity in me and made me feel as though people wouldn’t want to follow or like my work, let alone hire or learn from me.
I struggle with seeking approval, which in turn makes me not do the things I truly want or confidently share what I feel passionate about out of fear of rejection. It has been an uphill battle both in my work and of course personally, but it has also given me the motivation to move mountains, regardless. To prove to the one(s) that don’t accept me (or what I do) that I don’t need their approval to succeed. And that is one giant mountain! I know in my heart of hearts this is what I’m supposed to be doing, which can sometimes beautifully ring louder than any insult.
I challenged my own self-doubt and fear because I knew if I wanted to push myself and my business, it was something I had to do. And I love proving myself wrong.
When did you first realize you had a dream of becoming a photographer?
I had been toying with photography since my sophomore year in college, taking photos of my friends and family for fun, and I always had an artistic side and loved painting, drawing, etc. But my senior year, a friend, who was an acting major, asked me to do her headshots. I said I would love to, and she asked how much she should pay me. I never considered photography as a career until that moment. Then I started Googling how to become a photographer. It wasn’t until a couple years later though that I really started daydreaming about not only being a photographer, but being an entrepreneur, chasing my passions and having freedom in my life to truly be happy and do the things I love.
Most painful limiting belief:
I’m not worth it. I don’t matter. (See worst insult answer.)
Moment you realized you couldn’t bear ignoring the dream any longer:
In 2013, I was pretty damn miserable! I had gotten out of a hard relationship, hated my job, felt like I was going nowhere, and was so tired of just rolling with the punches. I had dreamed of living in France since I was little, even studied the language and culture through college. January that year, I bought a oneway ticket to France to start making my dreams a reality. That airline ticket purchase opened a giant door, and before I knew it, waves of dreams became realities. I knew I couldn’t settle for an average life anymore. I knew I needed more.
What made you decide to pursue it?
I finally took the plunge in July of 2013 when I realized I was working only 10 days that month at my day job. It seemed pointless to continue giving my time to someone else when I could be giving my time to my passion and purpose. So I quit and have been a full-time photographer ever since.
What obstacles arose on your path?
What obstacles haven’t? I feel like I’ve faced nearly every road block you can imagine. I think the biggest obstacle for me have been my own self-doubt, a health issue, and a rough business year financially. Those three things sent me into a tailspin of questioning why I'm doing this. They made me reevaluate how I work, who I work with, what kind of work I’m producing, and what kind of goals I’m setting for myself, my life and my business.
Who’s helped you along the way?
First, I have to say my very first clients, Sarah & Kyle Marshall. They took a huge chance on a pretty terrible, newbie photographer, and if it wasn’t for their support and trust in me, I would never be where I am today. It’s been nearly seven years, and they still refer clients to me! I am so very thankful for them.
Secondly, my dad. He has been an entrepreneur most of my life and has always been there for me, whether I need business advice, a cheerleader, or a shoulder to cry on. He has been my biggest support while getting my business to where it is today and has always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. I truly don’t know where I would be without his support; I definitely don’t think I would have made it this far without it.
Lastly, there have been so many other photographers who have given me time and advice. In an industry where it can often be cutthroat and where sharing trade secrets is taboo, it’s these photographers who saw my work and believed in it that really encouraged me and helped me grow.
What do you love about it?
I love the people! I am so so lucky to have met over 100 amazing couples in my career, many of whom I would consider friends now. I couldn’t do what I do without their support and trust. It’s those people allowing me to foster those deeper connections with them that allow me to create the type of photographs I do.
What kind of camera do you use?
I currently own two Canon 5D Mark ii’s. I am looking to upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark iv though within the next year.
What's been your favorite destination to shoot, so far?
Oh man! Picking one destination is nearly impossible, since each means something to me. Belize was my first destination elopement, so that alone made it exciting, and it was also for a childhood friend, which made it extra special. Marseille, France and Banff were for two of my very best friends, so I was not only the photographer but also a guest! Outside of weddings and elopements, traveling to and photographing Big Sur and the Oregon Coast also hold really special memories for me.
New Zealand, Iceland and Australia. I also really want to get down to hike Machu Picchu in Peru. There are rumors they are closing it soon, and it’s on my list!
Advice for others with a similar dream:
First and foremost, always—always—follow your heart; it truly knows what you need and want for your life. If it’s giving you a push or a direction, follow it. Secondly, you won’t know until you go. Taking a risk to pursue something you're passionate about is never easy. You will spend your life waiting for the right moment to jump, so just jump. You will figure it out as you go through all your successes and mistakes. The end result will always be worth it.
What daydream is on deck?
My current daydream for my business is to move from wedding photography to adventure elopement photography. I also have been having some major van life dreams, so I think that may be coming soon.