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Meet Mary Jane Cole

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Jane Cole.

Hi Mary Jane, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. My mom was a painter and had me drawing when I was still in a crib. I fell in love with Photography pretty early on, probably around junior high and started taking macro shots of flowers and bugs and whatever I found interesting around my house. When I got into high school, I was into the car scene and started taking my mom’s camera to car meets and pretty soon everyone knew me as “the photographer” and started asking me to take their senior photos or photos with their car, and I started to become interested in studio lighting and how to flatter someone with angles and was really pushing the limits of my camera gear and my own creativity. All these years later, I’ve experimented with just about every genre of photography, but I always find my way back to Portraits. I love the psychological aspect of learning to read emotion and capture genuine moments– or draw them out of people. The more I learn people, the more comfortable I become behind a camera so it’s an ongoing challenge that carries into every aspect of my life.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I don’t know that anyone has a “smooth road”, especially trying to make a living as an artist. But it’s been easy in the sense that I’ve always had a really unshakable belief that this is where I’m meant to be and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. The money comes and goes and that always brings its own stresses, but overall I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to do what I love for a living and have access to the tools that make my art possible.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I always hesitate for a second whenever someone asks what I do for work. I’m a photographer through and through, but it doesn’t encompass all of the work I do. I’ve worked in Leadership, Graphic Design, Photo Software Development, Music Production…and have recently ventured into Video, Tattooing and Clothing Design. I try to stay open to trying new things and rarely say no to a new opportunity when it presents itself. I’ve been told more times than I can count that I need to pick one thing and stick to it or I won’t be taken seriously by clients or I won’t gain traction in a field, but I find pride in the fact that I’ve always stayed true to my own Passions and Interest more than chasing a dollar. To me, the experience I gain with each separate skillset always finds a way to spill over into my client’s work in ways that are indispensable, and I think my ideal audience appreciates and sees that I haven’t put myself or my work into a box. It’s always changing and growing with me and is diverse in the same ways I am as a person.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
If I could suggest a book to anyone wanting to get into Photography, it would probably be “Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs” by Henry Carroll. It’s written in a format that’s modern and easy to read, but it covers a lot of the basics of color theory and composition while including the less technical aspects of capturing emotion and telling a story through your photographs.

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