I’m Jessie Kirk and I’m a Portland-area wedding and portrait photographer. I’m overwhelmed with inspiration, I chase natural light and I get to work with amazing, funny, beautiful people.
So how did I get here? Well it all started with a murder trial.
Just follow me here.
At my high school everyone had to go on a job shadow to learn about career possibilities. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I joined a group shadow with a lawyer. The day came and our group of a dozen or so students sat in on a real murder trial at the Oregon City Courthouse. As we sat listening to a witness regale us with a terrible story of a bar fight gone wrong, I took frantic notes. I didn’t know why I was doing it, but I felt compelled to write the story down so I wouldn’t forget it. When I looked around, my classmates were talking to each other or looking bored. No one else even had a piece of paper out.
It took me a little while to realize it, but I was a journalist. I wanted to capture every moment and tell everyone’s story.
I went to journalism school and took on an internship as a reporter for a small-town weekly newspaper. My first editor sent me out to cover things like city council meetings, school plays and a beauty pageant for high school boys. Each time he asked me to take a camera and he praised me for the images I brought back. He’s the first one who told me I had “the eye” and I was thrilled. One day he asked me if I would be willing to photograph another reporter’s assignment. It turned out to be a burn-to-learn, where firefighters set fire to an abandoned structure to practice putting out the flames. The reporter and I crouched in the creaky, doomed house as fire lapped up around us and it got hotter and hotter. I snapped away, more excited than scared at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When it was time to get out, we got down on our hands and knees to crawl to safety until a fireman screamed, “GET DOWN!” and we realized we were going to have to army crawl the rest of the way to avoid smoke inhalation. I naively tried to keep shooting as I scooted to safety. I was thrilled when my pictures made the front page that week.
After graduation, I got a full-time job at a small newspaper where I made up the entire staff. I did it all — wrote the articles, designed the pages and took all the photos. Each month I told people’s stories in words and pictures and I loved it.
At the same time, people around me started to notice my work and I became the go-to photographer for my friends and family: I shot weddings, band photos, pictures for Christmas cards and yearbook portraits for younger friends graduating from high school. I discovered a real passion for the way you can take control in portraiture through posing and lighting.
Several years, some photography classes, three cameras and a baby later, a stranger offered to pay me to take her pictures, and I was flattered enough to go for it. I have thrown myself into wedding and portrait photography ever since, and found myself inspired in new and exciting ways.
Just like writing articles, I have found that every click of my shutter is my way of freezing time and capturing a moment too important to be forgotten.
The journalist in me has found a new way of to tell a story — and I’d love to tell yours.