We had the good fortune of connecting with Jen Sosa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jen, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind my success is my community. Someone once told me “you are the average of the top 5 people you spend time with.” I have a core group of friends who are honest, hardworking, and are fun to be around. A college professor told me, it’s a good sign when you have fun at work. It means you will work a little harder because it doesn’t feel like a chore. Joy is a powerful connective force. It bonds you to people, makes the work experience enjoyable and you are willing to do more when you operate from that place of gratitude for life. It’s like my father would always tell me, people want to work with people they like. It’s important to note that being in integrity is important and you’re not faking your way up a ladder. I’m talking about building real relationships with people who share your values, people who can lift you up, and potentially collaborate with you if possible. These relationships are absolutely invaluable.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In 2008 I was laid off from my first and last graphic design job in NYC. It was the first summer in years that I wasn’t working or in school so I decided to pick up my camera and explore the city with a group of friends. I would share my photos with my community on flickr and facebook. Little by little people would hire me for things. At the same time, I started grad school for graphic design so photography as a job wasn’t exactly on my radar. A couple friends hired me to shoot their engagement session. Wedding and engagement photography back then was WAY different than it is now. It felt staged, overly controlled and to me it lacked life. I thought to myself, if I was a bride right now I wouldn’t want to hire anyone because they wouldn’t get me. I don’t want to look like a perfect bride. I want to look like the best version of myself with my favorite person. Turns out couples wanted the exact same thing. Back then I was told several times to never admit I was a wedding photographer because they’re considered the rejects. I didn’t care because I had a vision for what it could be. It’s wild to see how far weddings have come nowadays. I love that weddings have more character now and couples are willing to take more risks to have a day that looks and feels more like them. Till this day I get inquiries from fashion-forward brides who want to have a good party where they just so happen to be getting married. I do have a friend to thank for pushing me to take the leap. She told me I was wasting my time in grad school when there were people who wanted to hire me for this gift I had to offer. I don’t think I would have done it without her. The journey was challenging but there would be moments that would remind me why I was shooting weddings in the first place. Moments like a grandmother putting her hands on my shoulders, thanking me for being the family historian. Couples who were afraid they would never find someone who got their vision and I ended up becoming like a family member. Its a reminder of how intimate and special it is to be chosen on a day filled with so much intention.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This actually happened right before covid so I’ll share where I brought my New Yorker friends. We divided southern California into sections. Santa monica/ venice beach/ Hollywood (2 days), Malibu (2 days), Palm Springs/ Joshua tree/ Laguna beach 2 days, Long beach final night. Very first morning we went to Sidecar donuts. Two all-time favorites are the huckleberry and the Salt & Butter. You won’t be disappointed. We stopped by The Santa Monica Proper on the way to the boardwalk to catch our double-decker bus tour. Got off at Rodeo drive to do some shopping and ate at Croft Alley. The Cauliflower grilled cheese was everything! We hopped back on to get a tour of Hollywood and mid-city which was fascinating. The next day we visited Venice beach where we had brunch at Great White, walked the boardwalk then drove to The Ghetty Center where we stayed for a couple of hours. We roamed around West Hollywood and walked into The RealReal, Glosier and Alfreds for a snack before our dinner reservation at Gracias Madre. The following day we went back to Santa Monica where we had brunch at Little Ruby and went on the amusement park rides which made us all feel like kids again. `We ended up at Moonshadows for dinner. It’s best to go here at sunset for its view. While in Malibu we hiked around El Matador beach and went to Malibu safari for the giraffe tour which was a lot of fun. Since this was their first trip out west I had to take them to Palm Springs. We grabbed some in ‘n out burgers on the way. We made sure to hit up the tram and experience the snow and drive through Joshua tree desert which was absolutely magical. On the way back home to Long beach we passed by Laguna Beach. My friends were in awe of how you can have a completely different experience with just a 1 to 2-hour drive. Hopefully, when we’re able to travel again they’ll come back for more.
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?
I would love to give a shout out to Awilda Sosa of Angel Eyes Optical in New York City. She tends to see 10 steps ahead of me and encourages me to make big changes. She convinced me to drop out of grad school for graphic design and pursue photography full time. I would not have had the guts to do so without her.