We had the good fortune of connecting with Janelle Montenegro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janelle, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’m not so sure that I chose an creative career as it chose me. I’ve had my fair share of odd jobs and it always seemed that I was never great at any of them. It was in college when I picked up a camera that I discovered I was really good at something. It still took some time having those side jobs to get me by but I still focused on photographing in my spare time because I finally found something my heart was into. Even when there were times I completely messed up on a photography job or didn’t do the best I could, which can feel like a punch in the stomach sometimes, I still kept going because I knew that at the end of the day I would still photograph regardless. Even if my business fails, or I’m going through something in my life, or even after I retire, or if I never sell a print again, I will still be photographing. I do this because I feel compelled to, and I’m not really great at anything else.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My photography includes both commercial and a style of street photography. I started out by getting an internship as a photojournalist for a local paper and I continued photographing with them for a few years after graduating. In that meantime, I began exploring more forms of photography other than photojournalism, such as street, landscapes, star trails, and street portraits. I began falling in love with traveling around the southwest and photographing the landscapes and night skies. And all the while this was enlightening, I felt like my landscape photography was being lost in a sea of other photographers and it wasn’t generating the type of income I needed for this to become a career. I ended up landing a job, earning pennies, for a real estate photography company about 6 years ago. After about a year working with them, I went solo. The journey to now has been tough and sometimes still is. Photography is a competitive business. There are always new photographers on the scene to compete with. I’ve also face failures, unsolicited criticism, and just downright people being mean on social media. I’ve put art out there and some people have trashed it and it has brought me to tears at times. But those moments are where we find what we are truly made of. To my surprise, after those hard times, I still kept photographing. I learned from the mistakes and moved on. And I got better and better with every job or gig or opportunity to photograph. Now, I have so much more confidence in my ability to please my clients and provide quality photographs, and it wasn’t until then, did the ball really get rolling and business started coming to me. If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely take tour of Tucson’s south side taco spots such as Los Tacos Apson and Taqueria Pico de Gallo. They either make their own tortillas or buy them local and they offer up meats that you wont find in many places such as cabeza or lengua. Also a must visit is Anita Street. Their homemade tortillas are hands-down amazing. For places to drink and visit, The Boxyard on 4th Ave or the MSA Annex which are both family and dog friendly outdoor establishments made of shipping containers. The Boxyard, along with a bar, has mini food restaurants, and they are two story so you can enjoy a drink, a bacon wrapped burrito and the sunset over 4th ave and downtown Tucson at one time. MSA Annex has an outside bar, several food restaurants, and local boutiques to shop at. Otherwise the rest of the time I would spend hitting the outdoors. Brown Mountain is one of my favorite hikes in Tucson. It’s moderate with some amazing views of the Tucson Mountains and Saguaro National Park West. Also the 7 falls hike in Sabino Canyon is a Tucson favorite during the season when water is flowing and the pools are full. Same for Hutch’s Pool, which speaks for itself. And depending on the time of year, I also recommend doing night hikes.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My fiancee Eric Smith has been my biggest supporter. When we first began dating I did not have the business that I do now. I have come so far with a lot of his help. Not only has he been there emotionally through the ups and downs of starting a photography business but he truly put in time and effort to boost my career. He has helped market my business and bring business to me. He has always had great input on my art photography and encourages me all the time to continue pursuing the artistic side of me. In addition, there is a book by an Arizona Photographer called Photographic Memories by Dale O’Dell, that really opened my eyes up and put into perspective the world of the photography business. It explains his journey of becoming a professional photographer with a very comedic sense of raw truth.
Instagram: @JMontenegroPhotography / @JanelleMPhotography
Janelle Montenegro Jesse Andre (portrait)