A passion for empowering couples and facilitating confidence, Janelle Rivera of J.J. Au’Clair fine art film photography is all about documenting people’s sense of love and adventure. Paired with her passion for making a difference in the world, she is constantly swept up in the emotion of capturing her couples in their best moments. Read on to learn more about Janelle and her company…
Bustld: What do you think makes you different as a photographer?
Janelle: I think something that’s really special about the way I take photos and the way my company presents itself is the focus on empowering people. My goal is to document the authentic moments for my couples while facilitating a safe space for them to be completely themselves. That could be quirky, fun, hungry for life, super romantic or intimate. I want them to feel safe to completely be themselves.
I actually have a personal mantra that I’ve been applying to my business for 2020, “To step out of fear and into wild acceptance and into love for both yourself and your partner.” I feel like that is the way I approach working with my clients and documenting their lives. Which is not only really exciting for them but it’s also really authentic. It’s different than the way a lot of photographers approach it because I feel so many other people are focused on getting featured or having this work in their portfolio that isn’t quite so focused on the client.
Bustld: How would you describe your style?
Janelle: As a film photographer with a fine art background, I really like to take an editorial edge for a romantic look to the photos. I think that’s unique in the context of most fine art film photographers. I’m all about documenting people’s sense of adventure and love. Taking the classic and timeless look of film and mixing it with this soft, vintage and polished finish. It’s very natural and candid but also very editorial and clean. My photos come across like a work of art even though they are documentary.
Bustld: Who is your ideal couple?
Janelle: My ideal client is a couple who is wildly in love, easy going and excited to live life to the fullest. They are dreamers, romantic and adventurous. The shop at Patagonia, Madewell, Free People and other planet conscious companies, like Everlane. They are interested in travel, art and are maybe even a little bit quirky. I have a lot of SCAD students and, weirdly enough, software engineers and designers – either interior or textile designers.
Bustld: Why do you think your clients hire you?
Janelle: I think a lot can be said for feeling seen and accepted. My couples don’t have to pretend around me. My goal is to be able to connect with them on a personal level. Usually by the time we are done with the engagement session or a boudoir session, if that’s what they want to do, they tend to feel amazing and, excuse the cursing, bad ass in front of the camera.
A lot of my couples also care about the environment and their global impact. Something unique about my company is we actually donate 15 percent at the end of the year to three different organization. They appreciate that their wedding directly helps spread love. In 2020 we are supporting Oceana, an environmental group for the ocean, an animal conservation program for turtles, and an orphanage and community center in Peru. It means a lot to my couples to know that their wedding is also helping to make their world a better place. In the end, it’s supposed to be fun and empowering both for yourself and for those around you. I want to make sure everything stays positive through and through.
Bustld: Wow, how cool is that. How long have you been supporting these non-profits?
Janelle: I started at the end of 2018 when I officially legally launched my business. Last year, we solely supported the orphanage. We were able to help fund the building of the building and the community center. In March, I went down and documented the construction to help them spread the word further.
Bustld: What is the best part of being a wedding photographer?
Janelle: Off the bat, I’m an introvert and I work from home so it’s really nice to be able to meet people. I feel like so much of our existence is living behind these screens and trying to be your brand, be yourself and connect with people. Getting to be a photographer, I actually get to meet with and connect with my clients in person. Beyond that I actually get to offer them something and show them the beauty I see within them while empowering them in their relationships. It’s just really awesome. I don’t know how else to put it, it’s just great. It almost gives back to me in way, not that it’s supposed to be selfish by making me feel good.
And it lets me travel, which is not a downside. I love to travel.
Bustld: What's your favorite moment on wedding day?
Janelle: This one is hard because I think it’s really different for every couple. A lot of times, I love just getting to step out with them kind after the ceremony and have those intimate moments. I’m really emotional, and I cry every wedding. I feel like really any moment that is super intimate, honest and full of laughter I really enjoy.
For example, the last wedding I did was in Savannah. This really sweet lesbian couple had gone through a lot to be together. They played that song “Same Love” by Macklemore and everyone was singing together. It was really beautiful and that, for me, was my favorite moment. Which was totally different than the wedding before where my favorite moment was the daddy-daughter first look because their connection was so strong. I like just being a part of other people’s lives in that way.
Bustld: Tell us your backstory.
Janelle: I knew since I was a little kid that I wanted to be a photographer. I think I was like 10 when I told my mom I was going to be a National Geographic photographer. I’ve now discovered there is a level of patience sitting in the woods endlessly that wasn’t so much me. But that’s how I got started.
I started second shooting for my high school photography teacher, so I’ve been shooting weddings since 2008. Then in 2012 I stepped into doing weddings on my own and shooting film. It had never been a full-time pursuit until mid-summer 2018. It’s been a long process to get to the point I’m at now.
I was drawn to weddings even in high school. Originally, I was like this is a cool way to make money and take pictures. Through the process, I started enjoying getting to really know people and almost have that fly on the wall perspective of their lives. It grew from there. You go through so many phases; first it was an editorial approach all about being magazine worthy. Then I realized I was kind of stepping away from how people felt. When I started actually doing it by myself in 2018, I told myself I wanted to be different. I started honing in and being more about my client. I’m really passionate about it. It’s the first time I’ve followed my mantra and stepped out of my fear and stepped in to actually pursuing something.
Connect with Janelle by clicking HERE.