Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Marie Jenkins.

Karen Marie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an artist, writer, and Personal Brand Photographer and my passion empowering and supporting women, in particular, female entrepreneurs in capturing unique ‘stand out’ images that visually communicates their story, and projects their brand message colorfully and boldly without apology. My mission is to visually empower women behind the lens of my camera.

My love for Personal Brand Photography is inspired and driven by many things: a creative vision, and imagination, a love for art and fashion, my former career as an English professor, and administrator, and life’s experiences and journeys as a woman who has struggled with confidence. Today, I am fully standing in the power of who I am as a beautiful, talented and gifted woman, but it took years of work to come to arrive at this point in my life. My journey and my start as a Personal Brand photographer have often been the journey of my female entrepreneur clients. I am invested in their story.

My story: I have ALWAYS been a dreamer, but I haven’t always been confident or self-assured through much of my childhood and adult life. I was often called names as a kid by kids who looked like me such as “black dog, dog face, pie face.” In my youth and as an adult, I often went through life disguising and struggling with low self-esteem and lack of confidence. I minimized myself, often downplaying my strengths, talents and even values trying to make others feel better and comfortable with themselves, and too often I tried fitting into groups and people who quite frankly didn’t deserve to be in my space. Other times, I didn’t feel good enough, skilled or talented enough to be in certain professional or social spaces.

As a result, for years my life took many detours away from my core because I didn’t realize or celebrate the power or gifts within me until ultimately the grace of God won out giving me opportunities to shine despite my own self-sabotage. My strong family values of education and entrepreneurship along with persistence, a fair amount of good decisions and choices that I completed three degrees not in the traditional time period, but in stops and starts or as my father called me “a profession student. At the suggestion of my then college professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati who saw more in me, that I became an English professor and director over an academic support program at a Midwest university at the mature age of 41 and went onto have a productive and fulfilling 18-year career until I took an early retirement in 2016.

A few years prior to my retirement, I began dabbling into photography, doing fashion shoots for preteens before I was approached in 2014 on Linkedin by Sherry Sims, founder of Black Career Women in Cincinnati about capturing her image as a confident and self-assured female leader. This image has been seen and used over and over as a stock image online.

I stayed in my job a couple more years and began capturing images of female entrepreneurs before it began taking over my workdays. I worked endlessly on editing images, researching how to capture powerful and authentic images of women. Seven months prior to my retirement in 2015, an eventful year for me, I become restless in my career, along with finally being transparent about my own issues with confidence and low self-esteem. People were surprised because I covered it up so well, nonetheless, I sought out a counselor and invested in Sonia Jackson Myles’s Dream program. It was after an emotional coaching session with Sonya that I experienced a major shift in mindset that would change the trajectory of my life as I knew it. I began to be real and face the real root of my issues of confidence and low self-esteem, which was in itself empowering.

Facing my own issues, in October of 2015, I also had an epiphany that led me to go back to my beginning of creativity: my childhood, to embrace my artistic identity. I reclaimed my full name, Karen Marie Jenkins to mark a new beginning of reinventing my life into my photography passion for Personal Brand Photography. I re-named my company Karen Marie Images & Branding to reflect the new direction I was moving toward. In 2016, at the age of 59, I made a dramatic life-changing decision to reinvent myself by not only resigning from my 18+ career, but to also relocate to Atlanta to pursue my passion project as a Personal Brand Photographer creating feminine, empowering and confident images, primarily of female entrepreneurs in a modern, and contemporary way.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Yes, it has not been easy, but despite all of life’s twist and turns, I am where I am supposed to be today: working my passion project as a Personal brand Photographer creating powerful images primarily for women that colorfully tells their story with power, authenticity, and truth from a place of confidence and what I call fem-power and style. Their stories, both the ups and downs are my stories. Like me, how they got where they are, a series of life’s starts, and restarts is where and what I am purposed to do in this part of my life. Like my clients, I have pushed through life’s challenges to stand in a more confident way.

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a Personal Brand Photography who considers myself a visual storyteller. I use relationship building and my camera to capture the essence of my client, and their story while projecting their message. I am not a typical photographer. I leverage my educator and administrative skills as part of my processes for getting my client’s authentic story prior to the shoot. This process allows them to truly be themselves and gives them more clarity about who and what they want to project as many of my female clients are those who are transitioning from corporate American into their own business or some type of life-changing event.

For my ‘Signature’ Personal Branding shoots, I typically take 1 to 2 weeks to really get to know my client using a variety of processes and they in turn, get to know me and become more comfortable. Spending our time together, my clients show up unapologetically as the bold and powerful women that they are meant to be. This is what separates me from others, spending that time to building special relationships.

What I am most proud of is two branding shoots I did of my client Dr. Chantrise Holliman of Atlanta. During my consultations, I use creative insight while I consult with my clients. During this consultation, the information she provided along with talking to her face to face, I envisioned Chantrise wearing a tutu, and red heels. She loved the idea and it became a shoot that received a lot of views and used in media and promotional ads. It was a powerful image of her. Fast forward two years later in 2019, a lot has changed. Dr. Holliman suffered a massive heart attack and lost both of her legs from complications of lupus. I saw from social media, that she had one leg amputated but this didn’t stop her from being transparent on social media about her journey.

A short time, later, I saw she had a second leg. I was heartbroken. Over time, I wanted to reshoot her, but was afraid to ask until she reached out to me on Instagram and said: “Karen, I almost ready for another shoot.” I was ecstatic because I wanted to capture this part of her journey and was grateful that she allowed me to do so I believe this is because of the relationship we had built together. Long story short, we did our first consultation and again, my inner vision kicked in, and I saw her in a tutu again but this time holding the same red heels this time in her hands dangling from her wheelchair. She loved the idea as she still wanted to look sexy, beautiful and empowered. After we got off our video consultation, I immediately had another inner vision, this time seeing her dropping the red heels as in ‘drop the mic’ action looking down and then away as in moving forward. I think we accomplished that. Her image went viral on Linkedin.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My plans are to keep meeting phenomenal women and capturing their visual stories. Doing more collaborations with other female entrepreneurs, seeking opportunities to tell my story of how I reinvented myself and conquered my own issues with low self- esteem with hopes that it can help others. Ultimately I hope to write a book about my story

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
ALL photos belong to Karen Marie Images & Branding