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Meet Jelissa Holder of J. Holder Photography in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jelissa Holder.

Jelissa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I picked up my first camera in 2011 Nikon D3000 lens kit. I was shooting for fun not taking it too serious. I was a freshman in college majoring in Criminal Justice and needed to fulfill a requirement so I enrolled in a black and white photo class. I continued to pursue photography practicing on different people, going to local games, and events. I started shooting for a local magazine the Gazette newspaper in Long Beach covering Prep sports and college sports in the city, and local community events. Looking back, my portfolio was not super strong but I believed in the potential and what I could do. I didn’t have the fanciest equipment I worked with what I have. I was told it’s not about what type of camera you have but what you do with it and what the eye can see.

I moved to Tucson, AZ to complete my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and became a photo intern for The Arizona Athletics Department. College is a big networking tool. Over the course of two years, I learned a lot by trial and error. I photographed all sports learning the in and outs of what it takes to be a sports photographer. Many people see the finished product when it’s on the poster or showing on the screen. Yet they don’t realize the hours and sacrifices and time that goes into it. Through this time, I was able to build a portfolio that would propel me to another level and gain skills that I didn’t know I was capable of reaching. From this experience, I was able to move back home to Long Beach and continue shooting full-time. Looking back, I didn’t think I would be in the space I am today and have the opportunity to travel and be a photographer. Growing up, I rarely saw women front and center in sports media or media overall. I always attempt to help the next woman up and creating an open space to acknowledge there is room for everyone in this industry.

My parents are both from Panama. Coming here, they were not afforded the same opportunities that are available to me now. In any space I’m in, I try to maximize every opportunity that is in front of me because I know I’m blessed to be in the space I’m in and others would love to just be in the room I’m in while I have a seat at the table. Whether the opportunity is given or worked for I never take it for granted because it can be taken away at any moment.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’ve had a lot of people tell me no over the years. But you only need one yes or people to believe in you to turn the tide and I’ve been grateful enough to be surrounded by a great support system that believes in me and keeps me grounded. I’ve had moments where I had to decide if this is the path that what I wanted to take. The way social media has progressed and changed the way we see and receive content. It challenged me to step back and take a look in the mirror and see how I could separate myself in the space I wanted to be in and still be my authentic self. Another struggle was understanding the value of my work and not underselling my self. Once I was able to understand my value and the investment that I put in, it changes the perspective on how I saw my work.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with J. Holder Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I’m a photographer many would put me in a category of a sports photographer because of social media but I am more than that. I have always been into sports since I was a kid so knowing the sport was always a plus. But I wanted to be something for kids and parents that many people didn’t have. I wanted parents to walk away with memories that would outlast that physical moment.

Although I’ve always had a love for sports, portrait photography has always been my focus. With portrait photography, you get so much emotion and can learn a lot about an individual. I try and take that same approach with sports and anything I photograph. It’s more than just action shots; images with emotions makes us feel things differently and can tell a story in itself.

Although I’ve been shooting since 2015, I decided to turn it into a business in November 2018. Through this journey, I’m most proud of the growth in times of being stagnant. Creating something when I feel I have no drive or am mentally stuck. I always tell myself to create without limits. Create in a way when there’s no boundaries or no ones watching what can you do.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am currently working on mini doc-series that will I will release periodically throughout 2020. It will highlight individuals in their communities, artists, and everyday people who have a story to tell. I take on a few personal projects a year. Personal projects allow me too give back and create something for me while also giving back to others. I’m looking forward to collaborating with other brands and creatives and stepping outside the norm. Also, diving into different aspects of photography besides sports such as weddings, music, studio, aerial, extreme sports, and professional sports. Long term, I look forward to a having a gallery viewing and owning a studio.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Arthur Puu, Jineen Williams (DAH Visual Media)

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