“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” -Aaron Siskind
We have all met a person who seems to light up the room when they walk in. They have effervescence, a presence that instantly makes you comfortable with them. Frisco resident Janice Connolly is one of those women. This U.S. Air Force veteran is a busy mom (to Hannah, 10, Catherine, 8 and almost 5-year-old Joshua) and a gifted photographer whose insight is illuminating. She creatively photographs everyday women and helps them, through her art, discover their own beautiful light. In sharing her creativity and talent, she reminds women that they are all relevant and individually unique and beautiful, no matter what their size or calling in life is.
Ms. Connolly shares, “I served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years. After an honorary medical discharge in 2003, I relocated to Texas to marry my best friend, David. Shortly after graduate school, I resigned from my corporate career life and have been focusing on raising my family and creatively applying my MBA and managerial skills, while home schooling our children. We have lived in Frisco for 11 years. We just love our town and community.” Ms. Connolly has been photographing women exclusively at her home studio since 2013. She says, “I have always wanted to serve women in some capacity. I am very involved with the women at our church and with other home school moms. My photography is a great extension of my passion to reach everyday women who make a difference. I have always been behind the scenes of photography doing editing because of my extensive background in graphic design. However, it was my husband, who is a professional artist and art and photography teacher, who encouraged me to start shooting. He noticed I had an ‘eye’ for photography.”
Ms. Connolly shares, “It is a funny thing … I was reminded by a former chaplain mentor from 17 years ago that I have always dreamed about encouraging and uplifting women. It is so amazing to look back at the younger version of myself and see the dream realized. We know, as women, we wear many hats, often all at once. We are wives, mothers, aunts, professionals, teachers, nurturers and sometimes even the sole providers. We do a lot at any given time, and sometimes we just get lost in our many seasons of life. As a disabled veteran woman with medical ups and downs, I have learned some harsh lessons. I remember being that woman for a season or two who was in chronic pain, the new mom, the busy executive, helpless. I lost passion for anything and was in a mentally exhaustive state. It happens, and we all experience it, but we do not die from the storm. We get up, brush ourselves off and keep going. I started photographing women as a way to remind them that no matter what obstacles life throws at them, the real truth is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I wanted them to see themselves in the light, love and grace that I know God has for them.”
It has been said that photography is the beauty of life captured. Ms. Connolly calls what she does “Joy Capturing.” She uses her photography as a way to remind and encourage women with the truth that they are unique and beautiful. “A few years after my personal health storm, I went through a gratitude stage where I just really was thankful for everything I had been entrusted with. God put it on my heart to join my husband on a mission trip to Africa, where he annually does service work. I had never joined him before, but for some reason I felt I needed to go this time,” she shares. Luckily, Ms. Connolly put her camera in her bag. “I became transformed by the older women and young female orphans who were in many of the cities where we worked and visited. They were absolutely beautiful! They had bright, beautiful clothing and expressions of hope and happiness on their faces, despite the hardships they had obviously experienced,” Ms. Connolly explains. She wondered how these individuals could experience so much joy amidst so much poverty. She started taking photos as an attempt to somehow capture their joyous spirit to share with others. That is when her thinking started to transform and a wonderful idea was born.
She could not stop thinking about what she had experienced in Africa. “On the plane ride home, I spoke with my husband about what we could do to help these women and children. I knew I needed to use my photography as a kind of ministry,” Ms. Connolly says. In September of 2013, a year later, Ms. Connolly had her first exhibition at the South Dallas Cultural Center. The show was called “I Am Here,” and it was the first time Ms. Connolly had clarity about what she wanted to do as a photographer. She considered it a turning point. She wanted to give back to the everyday women she saw in her community. She wanted to positively affect their self-image and the way they saw and perceived themselves.
Today, Ms. Connolly photographs all kinds of women, including mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, businesswomen, sisters, different generations and any woman who just wants a classic, beautiful and timeless portrait of herself. The process does not play out like an ordinary photo shoot. Ms. Connolly explains, “I prepare for weeks in advance. I personally consult with each woman three times to get to know her. We dream together on how she wants her joy captured. We choose colors, fabrics and a theme specific to her shoot. Once we come up with a concept, we begin building on her wardrobe. Once we have a dream look accomplished, I develop a mood board for my team of hair and makeup artists. My team members are wonderful and have been handpicked for their serving spirits, as they really understand the concept of what we are trying to achieve.” It is important to note that Ms. Connolly and her team are not trying to change women, they just want to give them an extra boost to reset. The photos serve as a reminder that everyone is unique and possesses a tremendous amount of beauty.
The unique experience is designed specifically for each individual woman, to empower them and celebrate their beauty. The photos capture the loving nature of a mother, the strength of businesswomen, the generosity of the humanitarian and inner light. No matter who the woman is, or what they think defines them, each woman has something marvelous to share. Ms. Connolly concludes, “I am living my passion and I love being able to serve. I get to be creative! I want to photograph every woman who has looked at a picture of herself and not felt beautiful. My goal is to have her look through my camera lens and see the most beautiful side of herself she has ever seen. The world needs to know us by our love.”
We could all use a boost and reminder that regardless of what our day-to-day lives look like, we are all important. Our roles as women, no matter how diverse, are beautiful contributions to the world around us. To learn more about Ms. Connolly and her inspiring work in the community, visit janiceconnolly.com.