Jenn Cohen, founder of Facsimile, shares her journey as an artist and finding balance as a creative entrepreneur.
I don’t exactly recall my very first moments holding a camera, but I remember the feeling. I could focus on specific settings, objects, and people and was in complete control. It was a visual meditation and allowed me to be present with what I saw through the viewfinder and forget everything else around me. I fell in love with photography from that point onwards and started to see the world as an artist.
That was a long time ago, and my life has changed drastically since then. But one thing has remained the same – seeing with wonder and making is just how I exist. Now, I run my own business, Facsimile, where I spend my days colorizing people’s black and white memories and restoring damaged photos back to their authentic and glorious form.
Honestly, Facsimile is not what I originally planned or aspired to do, but more a path provided to me by the Universe. I had to go through so much and find myself before being able to make that life-changing decision.
People go to LA to “find themselves”
I received formal art training in my undergrad at LMU and a Master of Fine Arts from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. During those years, I was mesmerized by anatomical and physiological structures and genuinely enjoyed delving into light and shadow, color theory, perspective, and framing. In the most unexpected ways, I use these insights and skills daily in photo restorations and colorizations.
I interned for the renowned photographer Chris Cuffaro while I was doing a lot of fine art photography. This internship opened a door for me to the entertainment industry and taught me a lot about editing photos and workflow. Although I enjoyed the work and even thought about being a fashion photographer or doing portraiture, I did not feel at home in that industry.
Digital technology was evolving so fast and pretty much anybody could own a nice camera. This, of course, accelerated the competitive edge in the entertainment industry more than ever. I didn’t end up going the route of becoming a professional photographer. What I wanted to do was live as an artist and stay away from what I considered an unhealthy lifestyle as much as possible. And LA couldn’t give me that.
So I Wandered Up to Washington State
After thinking it through, I decided to move from LA to Washington State. To be honest, I didn’t have anything lined up; however, it was prime time for me to take risks.
While I was trying to build a new life for myself in Washington, I got in touch with one of the local photo labs in the area and secured a job. I was digitizing a lot of film and photographs and doing some very minor editing to start. Rekindling a relationship with my old skills…
I had never been formally trained in photo restoration, but my formal training in art came alive again as I applied it to the digital realm. The good news was that I’d already known how to use the tools that were required for this practice. My past anatomy, physiology, and traditional figure drawing training helped me improve my new skill.
That was the moment when I realized restoring photos was calling me – to be of service in a tangible way to people felt good. If you’re wondering how I understood that as an artist, I see fulfillment through open-minded forward momentum and living in full alignment with one’s own values.
And restoring photos meets my needs: It balances the technical aspects of photography with the emotional and social way that really satisfies my personality. The photos I’ve inherited, taken, or have been photographed mean so much to me. It’s an honor to be able to help other people cherish their memories.
Growing as an artist and a business owner
Raise your hand if the pandemic changed your life! During the first months of lockdown, I got pretty sick (I think it was Covid-19) and had a moment of epiphany. I was missing living a deeply meaningful life with purpose and satisfaction.
You know how people say life is too short to do everything. I disagree. My sickness opened my eyes. The key to living a happy life is doing something fulfilling. That’s why, when I got better, I founded my company, Facsimile. It was born out of sentiment and appreciation for visual storytelling and history, only with a true honest desire to be of service by helping people preserve and restore their family history and heirlooms.
I can’t deny the fact that it’s tricky to balance the business managerial side of my work and the creative side since Facsimile is a one-person company. Whenever I’m overwhelmed, gratitude really helps me stay focused. I appreciate what I have and what I can do for my community. I also have to take breaks to care for myself and enjoy some other activities that I love, such as going on walks, dancing things out, sitting outside, and consciously breathing.
Taking photos has always helped me block out the noise. Therefore, when I need to switch off, I take a picture of myself. Not with a camera, though – it’s a mental image. I become the subject that I focus on and try to understand the story I’m telling. Then I take a deep breath and press the shutter.
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