WV ARTIST ON DISPLAY: VISUALLY DOCUMENTING LIFE W/ JENNY HARNISH

Crime Paid jenny harnish

Meet Jenny Harnish, a multimedia journalist in Lewisburg, WV. She works as a photographer/videographer for the Register-Herald. While in graduate school in Washington DC, Jenny developed the idea for a website – PrisonStories.org – that would bring together the best short documentaries about people who have spent time in the criminal justice system. Learn more about Jenny with our Q&A:

1. How do you describe your palette?

I started out doing photography in a dark room at a Community College. From there I got a degree in photojournalism and worked for newspapers. After that I took it to the next step and learned video. I’ve combined my love of beautiful visuals with movement and sound.  Ultimately I want to tell visual stories that move the viewer and help make the world a better place.

March 29, 2007 Daniel Nazworth of Union County High School struggles at the weightlifting competition at Gainesville High School.

March 29, 2007 Daniel Nazworth of Union County High School struggles at the weightlifting competition at Gainesville High School.

2. What’s your greatest accomplishment?

I think completing my personal projects when nobody is giving you a deadline or telling you to do it. Finding a vision and being self-motived and actually completing something you started is always harder than it looks. Nobody was making me make prisonstories.org so the fact that I had an idea and then followed through and completed it makes me proud. Also I’m proud of the idea itself. So right now I think I’m most proud of Prisonstories.org and I hope it can be a great resource for people who are involved in the criminal justice system.

3. What obstacles do you need to overcome to find your creative space/muse?

I think the biggest obstacle is self-doubt. Or doubt that the project/creation will have a meaning and a purpose. The other big one is motivation and inspiration. Inspiration is not something that stays with me all the time. It comes in waves and often it’s not there at all. It’s those times that you have to get up and do it anyway. I’m not always inspired to get up and take pictures but often when I do the pictures come and inspire me. The other big obstacle is patience. I’m not a naturally patient person and making videos is long and tedious process.

September 7, 2007 Jeff Johnson sells about three weeks work of brooms at the Fall Harvest Festival in Jackson, Mi, every year. Visitors to the festival watch as he demonstrates making the brooms out of wood and straw.

September 7, 2007 Jeff Johnson sells about three weeks work of brooms at the Fall Harvest Festival in Jackson, Mi, every year. Visitors to the festival watch as he demonstrates making the brooms out of wood and straw.

4. How do you find your inspiration?

The world around me and the people I meet. I am a story-teller so I get inspiration for the stories from the stories themselves. Also watching other artist’s works. I try to be selective in what I watch and watch things that inspire me. Watching documentaries that are really well made inspires me to make better stuff myself. I’m a little competitive that way. Also the best inspiration comes from fellow artists and friends who are creative types.

wild-bean-lewisburg wv

5. What advice do you have for other artists?

Follow your heart. I really believe we are each given a unique voice and we need to listen and find it. You have something to say to the world and as an artist it is your responsibility to figure out what that is and say it the best way possible. I also believe that you need to have a life-long dedication to mastering your craft. And don’t give up if you fail the first time. Also I think motivation is very important to anything. Photography is a relatively new medium. It used to be that only a few people had access to cameras. Now everyone is a photographer and it’s very competitive so you really have to do it for the right reasons in order to make a living doing it.   

Want to reach out to Jenny? She always welcomes a good story ideas! Contact her at jharnish@register-herald.com

– HashtagWV #84, December 2016.

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