SHEPHERDSTOWN – Since she graduated from Washington High School earlier this year, 18-year-old Jocelyn Robinson has been indulging more and more in her passion for photography.
During high school, because of funding limitations, the school’s yearbook and newspaper photography departments didn’t offer her the opportunities she wanted, Robinson said.
A piano player and drummer, she stayed busy with the Patriot band instead.
With her diploma in hand, Robinson enrolled at Shepherd University, where she is balancing academics with work as a portrait photographer as well as assignments from the Spirit of Jefferson.
After seeing Robinson’s photographs of the Wonderment Puppet Theater in Martinsburg as well as holiday events including parades, tree lightings and Santa visits, we wanted to know more about her life and the approach she takes to her work. Here, we hear her answers to six questions:
How long have you been interested in photography?
“Something piqued my interest in photography just as I turned 15 and I received my first SLR camera the following Christmas. I suppose that something was the love of art and music. I was in band until my senior year in high school and while I loved it, it was a bit too structured and regimented for my taste. I still do play the piano, but I turned to photography because I could do what I want, when I wanted, and there was no standard to live up to other than my own. I love music and I always will but photography has a special place in my heart.”
Why do you enjoy photography so much?
“I suppose it’s because photographs serve as a sort of time capsule that we cherish as we grow older. They’re in-the-moment, visual records of events and people that exist and perish as time goes by. There’s permanence within a photograph. Whether it be photojournalism, portraiture or even landscape photography, what was happening and present when that picture was snapped will never exist again. It is now history flashing across a computer screen or lying in the palm of your hand.
“On top of recording history, the art of photography is often the way one shares life and experiences with another. Pictures, with social media as their vessel, are a way for the human race to document their existence and to stay connected to one another. There are millions upon millions of photographs circling Facebook and Twitter right now. This is all because it is human nature to chronicle the things one finds valuable. That’s why people take so many pictures of their kids – or in my case, the dog. They’re important to us and we’re proud of them, so, of course, we want to share them with the world; to share with aunts, and uncles and cousins. The result of sharing photographs is, again, connectedness and participation in the world around us.
“That’s what so many people want out of life: to be present, to be included, to be able to say, ‘I was there’ when something historical happens. Maybe I should speak for myself, but that is exactly why I take photographs.”
Has your family been behind you as you pursued your interest in photography?
“My family has always been 100 percent supportive in everything I do. My mother is a single parent and work follows her wherever she goes, however, she has always found time to attend my band recitals, t-ball games and other important events in my life.
“As I picked up the camera and began shooting with clients, I became known as the family photographer. Every birthday party, Christmas, Easter and holiday within the last three years have found their way onto my hard drive. It’s a personal record for what goes on in our lives and I take pride in knowing that many of my photographs are printed in the homes of loved ones. Years and years from now our children and grandchildren can look back on the pictures I have taken to get a sense of close of a family we really were.
“My best friend Jarrod Wolfe is always there to accompany me on a photo shoot. We have been friends since high school and it’s nice having a second pair of eyes when it comes to posing people while getting them to lighten up and have fun during photo shoots. I consider him a brother and a part of my family that is so often the basis of inspiration within my work.”
How is your work for the Spirit different from your previous assignments?
“As I’ve started taking pictures for the Spirit of Jefferson, I’ve realized that photojournalism and freelance portraiture are two completely different types of photography. With portraiture, it’s all about artistry, technique and taking a photograph with sentimental value. While there are significant amounts of artistry that follow photojournalism, it is more about capturing the story behind a single photograph. These pictures are published so readers get a visual understanding and documentation of what went on at a particular event.
“It’s not so much about the people in the photograph but the action around the people in the photograph; a snapshot from the eye of a participant within the crowd. All the same, I find that I am less stressed when I am out shooting a journalism assignment. There isn’t a focal client and I’m not on stage performing. I don’t have to constantly think of poses and coerce people to smile because in journalism, people do that on their own. I can blend in with the crowd around me and get great candid shots and participants don’t even know I’m there.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love working one on one with a client and I’ve had some great ones at that. I love hearing and seeing their first reaction after I deliver photographs after a shoot. I get to know them on a personal level during the shoot and I develop connections to future clients. These personal portraits I keep for record of the people that I have met and crossed paths with and I will never forget them.
“Journalism assignments that I would like to tackle down the road include shedding light on those who are less fortunate; particularly, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. I know we don’t have many of those in the area, but it’s not just a local issue, it’s a national issue. There are so many people who go without in this area and I think by documenting such issues, locals can become more aware of just how bad it is for those who go without heat in the winter.”
Please tell us about your experience so far at Shepherd.
“I’ve always heard horror stories about college and how it’s extremely difficult to do well but the truth is, if you’re responsible and do what you’re supposed to, you’ll do fine. Instead of partying or playing video games all day, every day, students should spend their time catching up on assignments and avoiding procrastination at all costs.
“Procrastination causes stress and I simply do not have time to be worrying about school work. All in all, I love Shepherd University. It’s a liberal and relaxed town so it’s great for a liberal and relaxed student. Parking is a huge problem but the professors are friendly and the town has the best ‘mom and pop’ shops.
“I am a psychology major and a photography minor. I chose psychology because I’ve always found people’s behavior to be fascinating and I want to help people. A photography minor was a given but I chose it as a minor instead of a major because if the economy tanks, my business will go down with it. Within the next eight years (after graduate school) I will have a degree in something people will always need: a psychologist. On top of that, I will be able to have a side career in photojournalism. The best thing about this semester is knowing that I am going somewhere. I am working toward being somebody that will one day be able to help others.
You’re from Charles Town originally?
“I was born in Leesburg, Va., but I’ve lived in Charles Town my whole life. I moved to Bunker Hill about a year ago and I feel so far away from the hustle and bustle of my home town. My mother always swore she would never leave main street in Charles Town, and yet, here we are. We live in a great townhouse, the problem is we can’t move the town house to Charles Town. One day I would love to move back … I will probably end up in D.C. for graduate school which I’m really looking forward to.
“I’m my mother’s only child and I suppose that is why I am an old soul. She’s always treated me like an adult and as a result, I grew up rather fast. My family tells me I’m an old woman because my most exciting extracurricular activities involve going out to eat with my friend Jarrod at least twice times a week and watching ‘Frasier’ before I go to bed.
“It may not be exciting to your average teenager or adult, but I enjoy just sitting and talking to people who I may come across in Glory Days or in the local coffee shop. I would rather spend my time figuring out how to build something meaningful in my life and to get ahead of the game. I want to have what so many young people lack these days: ambition.
“Success isn’t just going to fall in your lap, you have to work for it. You have to be willing to give up sleep, you have to be willing to give up time with family and friends – otherwise, you will be constantly stuck in a treadmill that goes nowhere.”