This week, we talked to the talented photographer and writer, Jessica Myscofski.
BYMG: How did you get started?
JM: I grew up in Colorado, where hiking and mountain drives were favorite weekend activities.
As a teen I traveled in Eastern Europe with family, and have continued to enjoy seeing new places around the US and internationally. Throughout the experiences I’ve had in various places, photography was something I’d always found fascinating but thought that only “real professionals” could do it for a living.
And professional always meant, not me.
But as I did it more often around my home and on trips, I wondered,
“Why not? Why not take a chance on what I love?”
There was this persistent desire to look deeper into things and to create from what I found. So I started learning more and more about photography, and looking for ways to earn a living through it.
That’s when I discovered the world of print-on-demand. It was the perfect way to put my work into the world, without up-front costs or inventory, without really any of the usual risks associated with starting a business.
Again, “why not?”
That was in 2013. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some awe-inspiring places, while continuing to develop my knowledge and techniques. The more I practice my art, the more possibilities open up and the more I am entranced by the magic that makes up our world.
BYMG: Who or what influences your work?
JM: Mostly I take my inspiration from what is going on in the scene at the moment, and what that says to me. I do enjoy the work of the great nature photographers such as Ansel Adams, as well as publications like National Geographic or Landscape Photography; and I drink in everything I can find on the wide world of the Internet.
However, I am a bit leery of copying work from anyone else.
I know from my own experience, that the finished product on the magazine cover is the end result of a vast amount of hard work that is built on years of learning through trial and error. I want my work to stand on its own merit and show the dedication in my heart.
Art is a funny thing. It starts as an intensely personal idea, which is then propelled into a much bigger world where it might mean a thousand different things to a thousand separate people, none of which I can see or predict from my (slightly biased) viewpoint. In the same way, my interpretation of someone’s art may not even be close to what they intended to say.
BYMG: What’s the big message you want readers to take away from your work?
JM: To pay attention to the world surrounding them, to their own internal world, and to the places where the two mix.
It is too easy in our world today to “zone out” and forget that a larger view exists beyond the little screen we’re currently absorbed in. Beyond the busyness, beyond the job you do or don’t have, beyond what you think you want or believe you’ll never accomplish.
If we can open our eyes to all the small—and large—miracles that surround us without our noticing, it makes room for more marvels to occur.
Most importantly, your love matters. What you care about matters, far more than you know. Don’t let anything keep you from doing “that” thing, the one you try to talk yourself out of but it refuses to die. This world needs those embers that fight for life within each person’s soul.
In my opinion, curiosity is an underrated superpower. Go ahead and take the risk of looking a little silly, try something different, ask questions. See what unexpected horizons open when you venture beyond your comfort zone.
That’s where every hero’s journey starts.
BYMG: Do you have a particular time of day that feels the best for you to create? A specific space? Or do you just get to it when and where the mood strikes?
JM: Photography tends to dictate its own time of creation, when the light is best or whether the wind decides to howl on this day or the next. It is also adaptable. Depending on what the weather is doing, I prepare for conditions as best as I can and go. If conditions are not cooperating, or if other obligations get in the way, it can be just as rewarding to hunt for undiscovered subjects indoors, during snippets of free time, at locations I wouldn’t have visited otherwise, or altering my technique as needed.
As I’ve gained experience, I’ve also come to appreciate situations that might seem less than ideal. Challenges make me reassess what I’m trying to say in this scene and how best to do it. Sometimes you need an unexpected speed bump to force you to slow down and look around you.
Since my preferred photo subjects are normally outdoors, I can’t control the environment in which I create. Instead I learn to adapt. Sometimes I wait for the mood to strike. Quite often it’s necessary to drag myself out when I don’t feel like it, and let myself be surprised.
BYMG: What is your process like? Do you typically finish a piece in one day, or take breaks and come back to it?
JM: If possible, I like to take my time in a place—hunt for different angles, look for patterns, see how the light changes.
When I spent time in Germany recently, I had a system of sorts. I’d leave the apartment in the morning, walk to a nearby estate, and spend as much time there as I could, time constraints and weather allowing. By afternoon, batteries drained and memory card full, I’d come back exhausted and happy. Immediately I’d transfer from card to computer and snuggle into the sofa with a blanket to warm up and sort through photos. I’d edit the best images as I found them and upload to my site and social media, and that would keep me happily occupied until dinnertime.
Then there were days I took so many photos that I still haven’t circled back to sort through them all.
Sometimes editing needed to be done over again, or files renamed when they ended up in the wrong place. Sometimes a shot didn’t capture what I’d hoped for and I was never able to recreate the same parameters again. Often on the second time around, I’d find better angles or more details that I’d passed right over the first time. And some of what I’d hoped for, if I found it at all, happened in the last few days before I left.
Since I’ve been home I’ve realized that there were still so many things that I could have captured but didn’t notice at the time.
Travel, art and life are unpredictable. In my experience, they happen as they happen, and they do so better without my help. I simply try to prepare as best as I know how and pay attention as things unfold.
BYMG: Favorite creation so far this year?
JM: What, just one?
A favorite shot of mine is one that I called “Edge.” It’s a black and white conversion of a scene at Schleissheim Palace, near Munich. I went there with my aunt on New Year’s Day. Because of the holiday everything was closed and we were looking for something to do. On that day, it was very gray and looked like the weather would be terrible. But when we got there, it was simply foggy, and all the woods and gardens in the palace grounds were shrouded in mist.
It was an experience I will never forget, wandering along paths through this thick, chilly fog with huge, gnarled trees appearing and disappearing.
“Edge” was taken along a straight path near a canal. A line of trees heads off into the distance along one side, and fog obscures everything on the other. In the middle of the frame is the path, disappearing into the mist.
It captured perfectly the mystery that I felt there.
BYMG: Where can our readers connect with you?
My photos are available for sale through my website, as wall art or home products like throw pillows.
My philosophical musings and published articles live on my blog.
I also have a page on Facebook, where I’ll keep a running tab of adventures as they unfold.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.
Jessica Myscofski is a photographer and writer from northern Colorado. She has traveled in Europe and the Caribbean, always taking photos. She writes about inner healing, mythology and philosophy. Jessica finds inspiration through nature and metaphor. When she’s not traipsing around somewhere with a camera in tow, or buried in her computer keyboard, she’s probably reading, listening to music and spending time with her family.