Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week, I had a chance to sit down with Jenni Knezovich of Fotos by Jenni. Jenni was born and raised in Sweetwater County and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Jenni is deeply rooted in the community, especially with being involved in so many people’s happiest moments. Photographing weddings, senior photos, birth announcements, and so much more has given her a special opportunity to get to know the residents of Rock Springs and Green River. The community loves Jenni, and it’s no wonder why.
This community series is brought to you by:
Jenni, can you tell me a bit about how you started Fotos by Jenni?
I was working full-time as the executive assistant to the Director at Southwest Counseling. It was pretty high stress. So when the opportunity presented itself, I just decided it was time to start shooting full time. I dove in head-first and knew I was going to have to hustle hard. It seemed to have worked out ok.
I loved my job at SCS, but nothing beats getting to be a part of people’s best moments. Holding their newborn babies, seeing them walk down an aisle to marry their best friend, getting to hang out with their kids, it’s all good moments.
How did you get into photography?
I was a GRHS art student, a Rudy Gunter kid. The plan was to go to art school. I lived for my art, and had received a scholarship to Cleveland Institute of Art. But Cleveland seemed so far away, and I was scared to have to move, find a job, a place to live, so I decided I needed a few years at WWCC first.
I walked into the Art department wearing my GRHS letter jacket and was very clearly told I wouldn’t be receiving an art scholarship. My art wasn’t even taken out of my art case and looked at. My letter jacket was all they needed to see. I was hurt, and worried.
I really thought I needed a full ride scholarship, so I took the handful of crappy photos I had taken during yearbook class my senior year down to Dr. Brinkerhoff’s photography department. There was only one photography grant to be given. Dr. Brinkerhoff told me there had been 200 kids that had showed up in hopes of receiving his grant. He also told me my work was crap, but that he could see a drive and ambition in me that couldn’t be taught to others. So I received the last photography grant ever awarded by WWCC.
Dr. Brinkerhoff left that summer and I had to change my major within the first year, but I was hooked. I continue my education every day, but now I do it through national and state organizations like PPA (Professional Photographers Association) and WPPA (Wyoming Professional Photographers Association).
Being denied an art scholarship stung at the time, but it put me on this path.
What do you love about taking photos?
Changing people’s minds about having their portraits taken. Watching people’s faces as they see their portraits for the first time. Watching them relive moments through that imagery. Seeing how excited they are about having their portraits as the art they display proudly in their homes.
I have the most positive job in the world. I get to tell people exactly how amazing they are. I’ve not met an unphotogenic person yet. There is nothing better than letting someone see how I see them, how beautiful they are.
What are your favorite kinds of photos to take?
I love high school sports and senior portraits. Kids are amazing. They are so funny. So honest. But old enough that I don’t have to talk about poop or make monkey noises to get their attention.
I get to hang out and talk about who they like, what music they’re into, where they are thinking about going to school. We chat. It’s just cool to hang out with these kids, I think it keeps me young.
How did you end up in Rock Springs?
I was born in Rock Springs, raised in Green River. My family is here, I was raised here, graduated from GRHS in 1995. I moved to Rock Springs in 1998. I view this community as one, and love both townships. Raised a wolf, raising a tiger… in photoshop it’s the same clawed paw.
What is something unique about you?
I can say my alphabet backwards. I’ve had 4 broken arms, two were at the same time. I got my first speeding ticket when I was 30. I’ve never eaten hot wings.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
I can’t imagine living in a bigger city where people don’t get to know each other. I rarely feel alone or isolated here. People are always telling me stories about people in my family, they will ask me who I am, just because they see my grandma or my dad in my smile.
This community pulls together whenever times get tough. As a photographer, I like being able to drive an hour and be in a completely different place. We have mountains, sand, water, metropolitan areas, all within driving distance.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Positivity breeds positivity. Don’t speak negative things into the universe.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
Best part of having a 4-wheel drive is I can go pretty much anywhere. Music up, Madi in the passenger seat, camera in my lap, you can find us anywhere with a great sunset. I love our wild horses and play with them often.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car?
I would say ride a horse because I love horses, but there’s something about me that makes horses want to run. The last time I rode a bike I broke my arm, so that’s a hard pass for me. Walking is ok, but I usually have on stupid shoes, so let’s stick to the car.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
My regular playlist includes Heart, Martina McBride and Adele. It’s whats in my range. I don’t really listen to much of what I sing at karaoke. I can’t sing what I tend to listen to. No one wants to hear me ripping out Eminem or Highly Suspect.
How would your friends describe you?
The most beautiful, sweet, mellow person they know. Just kidding. I’m pretty sarcastic, overly passionate, bossy, and driven. My friends all know I’m not a hugger, and I don’t like to be touched.
You can tell who my friends are cause they are usually the ones touching me while I’m yelling at them to stop touching me.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Earning the Annual Sales of Excellence and the Annual Mentor Award with Scentsy was pretty awesome. Being awarded my Master of Photography degree through Professional Photographers of America is up there too. Creating the Rock The 307 Runway show was completely epic.
But my proudest accomplishment will always, without a doubt be my incredible kid. He’s the coolest person I know, completely hilarious, but super respectful and responsible. On a daily basis, I am thankful that I was chosen to be his mom, and I never stop thinking… I did that! And trust me, there have been a lot of times as a single mom that I’ve thought “I just can’t do this”. But I did, and I must not be doing too bad of a job, cause he’s pretty awesome.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Anna Kendrick. She’s hysterical. Just the right amount of pretty laced with snarky sarcasm.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
I can’t imagine living anywhere else.