Saturday, December 5, 2009

Getting to Know Jen Kiaba of Jen Kiaba Photography

Jen Kiaba, of Jen Kiaba Photography, is a photographer from New York that I've become acquainted with online through a group that we both were involved with as well as through her blog and Facebook posts. Her fine art, of which I became aware before her commercial work, is alluring in its romanticism and drama. She frequently stands in as the subject in her photos and her photogenic beauty makes one wonder why she hasn't done more in front of the camera! What is clear, however, is that Jen has a style unlike any other I've seen and that whether it is in front of or behinda camera, she's chosen the right medium. Enjoy Made by SwirlyGirl's interview with Jen Kiaba!

MBSG: Please share with us your name, the name of your
business, where you are
located, and how long you have been
in business.

JK: My name is Jen Barry. If you were to Google me, you would
never find me in the
wash of women with the same name. So I
go by my first and middle name: Jen
Kiaba. My business is
eponymously called "Jen Kiaba Photography." I have been

working as a photographer since 2006, but I only recently
became serious about
being a business woman this past year.

MBSG: What was your path to where you are now? Do you work
at another job at the
same time, and if so, what?

JK: My path to this point was a little winding. Previous to 2006
I was
pursuing a career as an actress and a makeup artist. In
2005 I went to
have my headshots done by a photographer
named David Morris
Cunningham. We became instantaneous
friends and through him I
developed an intense interest in
photography. I went back to school
and began taking photography
classes. One evening I was in rehearsal
for "A Streetcar Named
Desire" and was taking some photos for a school
The director offered me a job as the theater's house
and all of a sudden the world kind of opened up with new
for me.
These days I make all of my money on photography, whether
it is work
I do for myself or freelance work or assisting other,
more established

MBSG: Do you have a space that is dedicated to your business?      

JK: Yes and no. I have an office and craft space dedicated to any
processing I do or for the work in my Etsy shop. However
my studio is
kind of mobile. I can convert my craft space into a
studio for a
photoshoot. While the weather is good I prefer to
shoot outside. The
area in which I live is amazing as a backdrop!
But I also have access
to a great studio at the theater where I
work plus I have studio space
available in Woodstock, which is
one of my favorite places in the
MBSG: What is a typical day for you?

JK: Well, right now I am also studying for a graduate degree,
so my days vary. But
a typical day goes as follows:
Wake up around 6ish to brew coffee. With a cup of coffee in hand,
make my way upstairs to tempt my boyfriend into waking up.
If I have class that day then I make it through class and then rush

home and log into Etsy. I answer any convos and emails I may have.
update my Facebook Fan pages with any news (ie new products,
treasuries, contests or cool stuff I come across) which feeds directly
into Twitter. I usually have Tweet Deck up on another monitor
I find that Tweeting has a pretty nice impact on traffic in
my shop.
After that initial round of updates, I blog. My blog has
been a great
place to share photography tips, works of other artists
and to just
connect with a really awesome audience of readers. I also
have a
newsletter that I have been *trying* to keep on top of.
From there I study a bit about how to make improvements in my shop.
like reading the Storque articles [on Etsy] and doing little things
everyday to
improve my SEO. About once or twice a week I try to
explore new ideas in a photoshoot.
Sometimes I come up with fun stuff,
other times I don't. Sometimes I
will leave shoots for weeks at a time
and then revisit the photos and
discover a diamond in the rough and
begin to work on it.
By now it is probably anywhere from 5-7pm.
When my boyfriend comes home from work we spend some time together
talking and cooking dinner together.
If the next day is a shipping day,
then around 9pm I will begin to
package any orders. All of a sudden
10pm rolls around. I might crawl into bed and read for
a bit, or I may
pass out. =)

MBSG: What is your favorite part of the process of creating your

JK: I love every step of the way. Having a shop on Etsy is such a joy,
even when
sales are slow. Coming up with new products and new
images is a such a joy for
me. When people express appreciation or
desire for one of my products, it just
makes me so happy. And I love
connecting with other artists. I have begun to
collect the art from women
that I have been interviewing for a blog. This is all
such a process of
discovery and I really love it all!

Where can potential customers find you?

JK: My main website connects to all of the places you can find me: There you will find a link to my blog
(, my twitter (, my
commercial portfolio (click
on "Images") or my Etsy shop

MBSG: What inspires you and why?

JK: I am inspired by the idea of a personal mythology. All of the
things that
influence us to become who we are (experiences,
dreams, literature, film, music)
fits into the creation of that
personal mythology. My personal work seems very
to a lot of people, because much of it is metaphor for certain
or experiences in my life. When people can relate that to their own
lives, or even just derive pleasure in viewing my work, that is a very
gratifying thing for me. And it, of course, plays back into that flow
influence and mythology.

MBSG: If you weren't doing what you have chosen to do with your
creativity, what
would you like to be doing?

JK: I would probably still be performing. I still do on occasion, but not
to the
same degree I was before. Previous to discovering photography
I was doing a lot
of performance art, which was very gratifying in the
same way that photography
is for me. But photography can be a much
more private performance, in a sense,
and doesn't require an immediate
audience. That is appealing for me! =)

In regards to your business, what is the most valuable piece of
given you and by whom?

JK: My friend David has always been a great source of wisdom.
We have coffee and
work together about once a week in Woodstock
to keep our heads on straight. The
most important thing that I have
learned is to develop your own voice in terms
of your work. Don't try to
imitate because someone else's work is good or
successful. You have
to be true to what it is you are trying to convey with your
work and hone
and develop that to it's highest potential.

How would you like to see your company grow and develop?

JK: I am going to be rolling out some new products after the Christmas
season that
will incorporate my photography. But other than that I am
hoping that I can
begin to make this business take off and become my
main source of income within
the next year!

Click on the links and become a fan of Jen Kiaba Photography or 
Jen Kiaba Photography on Etsy! Be sure to become a blog follower, too!

Don't forget to check out Made by SwirlyGirl on Etsy and RedBubble!


  1. Great interview! I've said this before but I really enjoy reading Jen's blog because it's so full of information as well as being very authentic. I see your business just taking off like a rocket.

  2. Agreed!! Thanks for visiting and leaving comments!

  3. This is a fantastic interview, Jen is a real inspiration. I had no idea she was also an actress and grad student. Loved learning more about her. Nice one Laurie!!

  4. Thank you, Jacqui! I didn't know those things, either! I agree with you--she is an inspiration!


Thanks for your comments!