This portrait set was 5 years in the making...

When I first discovered that I had a passion for Photography, I was lucky enough to be in contact with a professional photographer; someone to guide me and share a lot of knowledge on DSLRs and the business of Photography: Jenna Brie Henderson from in Shelbyville, TN. 

As the years have rolled on, I have been blessed to find joy and success in Photography.  All the while, I have always remembered Jenna and how important her influence was in the beginning. I really enjoy how I first met Jenna. It felt like destiny and bit of foreshadowing for what my life and future were going to become. I didn’t know I was going to become a photographer, but meeting Jenna was meant to be…

I attended the University of Tennessee from 2002 to 2007 and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Architecture.

Architecture was an intense curriculum: 171 credit hours over the five years, if I am remembering correctly. One time, one of our professors admitted that the workload was intentionally impossible. As in, you were not expected to complete everything assigned to you. Even if you did complete everything assigned to you, there could always be additional drawings you could create or models you could build in order to explain your design. The task was intentionally impossible because architecture education was more of a test of your endurance and to your dedication to the profession/career.

Like any rigorous college curriculum, it helped to have a close group of friends. In the first semester of Freshman year, I befriended Ben. I’ll leave his last name out for his privacy. Most of us were true freshmen, 18 years old, but Ben was older than us.  He had already studied at UT for two years and decided to switch his major to Architecture.  He never looked or felt out of place.  He was like a big brother in our group of friends. 

Fast forward to our 4th Year.  It was the Spring Semester of 2006 and as always, we were preparing for our Design Studio.  Each semester there were core Architecture courses, and free electives of your choice, but a mandatory Design Studio, which was the backbone of the Architecture curriculum.  By 4th year, we had the ability to select our preferred design Studio based on the professor and/or the project for the semester.

This particular semester, Ben and I chose the same Design Studio. The project was an assisted living facility for downtown Knoxville, TN.  What was interesting and different about this project is that it would be a joint studio. We teamed up with the Interior Design majors to create and complete the design in a more comprehensive way. 

Here is where fate stepped in for Ben…

One of the interior design students in our Studio that semester was Whitney. Ben met Whitney, they went out on one date…and that’s the girl he eventually married. I never tire of Ben and Whitney’s story. From their first date and first few moments together they “just knew.” Ben and Whitney were inseparable from that point on. True love.

We all eventually graduated in May of 2007. In July, Ben proposed to Whitney.  They set their wedding date for October 11th, 2008 in Knoxville, TN.  I had moved back to Stamford, CT in August of 2008, but Ben had asked me to be one of his groomsmen. I was happy to make the flight back down to Tennessee for the wedding.

What does every couple need for their wedding day?  A good wedding photographer. Enter Jenna Brie Henderson…

Ben and Whitney’s wedding day was beautiful.  After the ceremony we naturally took a lot of bridal party portraits. I remember Jenna having us walk, jump, and pose in many different ways.  It was a blast. The wedding day rolled on and everyone made his or her way from the ceremony at All Saints Catholic Church, to where the reception was being held – The Sunsphere.  Ben and Whitney however, had more photographs that they wanted to take before heading to the reception.

Here’s where fate stepped in for me…

For more wedding portraits, Ben and Whitney decided to the place where they first met, the Art and Architecture Building at the UT campus.  Commonly referred to as the A+A building, it is a fantastic design and it was a good choice by Ben and Whitney.  There were many unique opportunities for images.  Ben asked me if I would stay with him and Whitney while they photographed their bride and groom portraits inside the A+A building.  Without hesitating, I agreed. I started to wonder why he asked me to go with them.  They just asked me; no other groomsman, bridesmaid or family member.  Cocktail hour was going on at the Sunsphere and I knew many of the wedding guests because they were old classmates.  It seemed like that's where I should have gone next. But as it turned out, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

It was destiny.  Foreshadowing.  Because let us not forget who else was present in that moment.  Who the fourth person was heading into the vacant A+A building that hour? Their wedding photographer, Jenna Brie Henderson. Inside that building, I watched Jenna do what I would eventually be doing two years in the future.  I watched her guide and pose Ben and Whitney to a beautiful set of portraits.  Whether I knew it or not, I was learning from Jenna.  She was my teacher in that hour.  I was watching an important lesson and I didn’t even know it. Less than six months later, in spring of 2009, I was looking to become a professional digital photographer, and found myself on the phone with Jenna Brie Henderson. 

It was so funny; I had (and still have) a reverence for great photographers.  It's a great art and craft and I admire those that are proficient and well skilled.  When I would first have phone calls with Jenna, I would be starstruck.

"I can't believe I'm talking to Jenna Brie Henderson!” I would exclaim.

"You can just call me, Jenna," She would reply.

I was still working at the Marriott hotel and on my lunch breaks I would rush to the mezzanine floor.  I would quickly eat while keeping one ear pressed to the phone.  Jenna professed her wisdom and I would vigorously write down notes and the answers to her questions. I started to photograph for practice, and I would email images to her.  She was great and despite having a busy client load, she would always return my phone calls and emails and offer critiques and advice about my photographs and business. What I appreciated most: she would never sugarcoat things.  She would say what she really thought and what I should really do.  She took Photography, and her business very seriously. 

In 2010, I started to photograph weddings and it felt like it was time for me to fly and leave the nest of Jenna’s guidance.  We started to speak and email less, but I never forgot her or how fate had me learn from her on Ben and Whitney’s wedding day.

In 2013, I was ready to move across the country from Stamford, Connecticut to Los Angeles and I had a very clear route planned. I would take the southern route which would include a few stops in Tennessee. It felt far-fetched, but I thought, “what a fantastic opportunity to see Jenna.” I figured she would be busy with a wedding, but thankfully she was available. We decided to meet up in Murfreesboro, TN. We had a nice breakfast and talked about photography and my plans for Los Angeles. It was wonderful to have this story come full circle. That circle was complete once we photographed each other’s portraits at a nearby recreational rail yard.

Jenna, as always was no-nonsense, she would ask me what I saw, what was I thinking, how did I plan on framing this portrait of her or that one. I was nervous, but she is a good teacher. She saw light that I didn’t see. She had me look at things differently. She taught me a few new tricks, and we had a great time.

I’m always thankful for Jenna and this really wonderful day: 

Note: The image on the far right on my Info | Contact page was one of the phenomenal portraits created by Jenna on this afternoon.