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Jenn Emerling Photos & Videos on Instagram

@jemerling See full size profile   An eye for photographs. A heart for the open road. Personal project: @seeamericafirst Wedding work: @jemerlingweddings New website! Check it out 👇🏻

2 weeks ago

Color study from Green River’s High School Junior Prom. Some personal news: I only shoot Prom now. #frontierfellowship

3 weeks ago

Some news: I’ve launched a new website! My portfolio is the culmination of a decade’s worth of road trips and travels, but more importantly, it’s a window into what makes my soul come alive. Photography is how I make sense of the world and process my emotions. When I was 18, I was figuring out my place in the world while also coming out of a really dark time in my life. My favorite form of therapy was getting in my car and letting the golden light lead me down country roads. There was an unexpected, unconventional type of healing that began to take place on those drives—a seeking of self that awakened—and I’ve held onto that magic ever since. I clear my head on the road. I think of new ideas. I daydream. I get inspired. Sometimes I cry, worry, and feel lonely. I process those emotions, and I keep driving. I pull over and meet a fellow traveler who I feel destined to meet at that particular place and that particular time for a meaningful reason. We talk, connect briefly, I (usually) take their photo, and I keep driving. Serendipity is my co-pilot. That, essentially, is why I feel most like myself in this self portrait—taken last summer while chasing the last light on a road in the southwest—and why this new website feels like a notable marker. More than ever before, I understand my identity as an artist, so it was important to create a platform for my work that represents who I am right now. My little corner of the Internet includes a playful, color-drenched logo and a bounty of unique illustrations, beautifully executed by the endlessly talented and all around wonderful person @gretchenwatsondesign. Gretchen worked with me for over a year and made me feel seen and understood every step of the re-branding process. I have a bottomless well of gratitude for her and everything she contributed. This website would also not exist without my invaluable web developer, Kebin, who has put up with countless emails and changes, fulfilling every overly detailed request I threw at him with the utmost professionalism. Everything was chosen with intention and great care about how photography is presented and digested in this digital age. Check it out 💗 (link in bio)

1 month ago

I’ve been photographing a new personal project over the past year about UFO themed tourist attractions and festivals throughout the American West—home to a rich tapestry of kitsch and new age folklore. Today happens to be National Alien Abduction Day: a holiday created in 2008 on the same day as Toronto’s Alien Abduction Festival. The one-day festival was a fundraiser to help small businesses that were destroyed by a fire in a historic part of Queen Street. Since then, March 20 has been embraced on social media as a celebration of alien abductions. According to the original festival creators: “We assume it’s the special day chosen by our alien overlords themselves. Every year on March 20 they swoop down and select lucky humans from around the globe for a personal tour of their spaceships, along with the unique opportunity to take part in various exciting testing procedures.” This portrait of Julia Martinez—whose look was inspired by an abducted cow—taken at the McMenamin's UFO Festival is from my project: Welcome, Earthlings (work in progress). #nationalalienabductionday #nationalextraterrestrialabductionday

2 months ago

Happy #internationalwomensday to the National Park Rangers who often work behind the scenes—every day—to care for and maintain the spectacular beauty of the Grand Canyon, for us to enjoy and pass on to future generations. Here are a few of the rad female rangers I met last summer — shot on assignment for @hemispheresmag. #grandcanyon100

2 months ago

Late last summer, @hemispheresmag commissioned new work from me to photograph people along the South Rim for a feature story celebrating 100 years since the Grand Canyon became a National Park. So many wonderful humans let me take their portrait during my time there, reminding me over and over again that parks have a special way of bringing people together.  Many thanks to Jessie Adler for this dream assignment that provided me an excuse to spend time in one of my favorite parks, and for giving me the creative direction to make this an extension of my ongoing project @seeamericafirst. If you happen to be flying United this month, be sure to check it out!

2 months ago

I went for a drive tonight to clear my head and take some photos of the snow before it melts completely off the red rocks. I stood in solitude for a while, quietly observing the rhythms of the highway from San Rafael Swell viewing area when—out of nowhere—a hot pink Chevy Spark came flying up around the bend and a highly energetic + impassioned fellow traveler ran up next to me, shouting: “NATURE IS MY MARDI GRAS!” Ran Horn is from Van Horn, Texas, and he is currently on a road trip to see the national parks, but confessed he’s been far too distracted by the beauty in Southern Utah along the way, pulling over to take photos every chance he gets to marvel at winter in the spectacular high desert. I asked if his name is really Ran Horn, and he told me to look him up, casually mentioning something about being the Van Gogh of West Texas. “I’m going to take all of this inspiration back home with me for my art,” he said. And then, just as quickly as we met, he zoomed off to chase the golden light tripping down the highway. I wonder if he’s an Aries. #frontierfellowship @ruralandproud

5 months ago

2018 has been an incredible year filled with new experiences I could have never dreamt of—like spending 28 hours aboard a naval aircraft carrier, only to return to land by being CATAPULTED off the warship via a C-2 greyhound that goes from 0 to 128mph within 3 seconds! This once in a lifetime experience was one of the many highlights of working for @aitaf this past year—a nonprofit that brings the arts to men and women in the armed forces. It’s been such a gift to see active duty military and veterans immerse themselves in a performance that can provide a deeper understanding of the human condition, and for me—a civilian—to gain a deeper understanding of what daily life is like for those who commit themselves to the highest level of service. Endless thanks to the sailors, pilots and officers who shared a window into their lives at sea with us, and special thanks to Erica, Lindsay, Joanne, and Adam for letting me be a part of such a meaningful mission of making the arts more accessible and giving back to the military. #AITAF

6 months ago

For the past 65 years, our family had come to accept the fact that the identity of my mom’s birth mother would forever remain a mystery. We had very little info to go off of when we began our search a few years ago, and the lifelong shame my (adoptive) grandmother carried from not being able to conceive her own children made it a touchy subject in our household. While I was driving through rural Iowa earlier this summer, retracing my father’s lineage, I called my brother and asked him to look up an address using our mom’s account. My brother returned my call with the address, and a surprising discovery: our mom’s DNA was matched with strong certainty to a woman we believed to be her biological aunt. One thing led to another, contact was made, and we were welcomed into my mother’s biological family with open arms. Over the past few months a huge family secret was fully unpacked, bizarre coincidences and striking similarities were revealed, and I’ve gained more cousins than I know what to do with. We learned that my biological grandmother—Freda, pictured above—passed away 20 years ago (what a sad irony that she’s the only one of 7 siblings to die, and what luck that the only sister who knew about her secret baby is still alive). Yesterday, I met my mother’s uncle, 5 (!!) aunts, a few cousins, and it was incredibly surreal to see a room full of women who look like my mom. The arched eyebrows, the curly hair, that unmistakable smile, the chin dimple—physical features we had long wondered if my mom shared with anyone else. Our newfound extended family has been exceedingly generous with details about Freda‘s life, sharing countless memories and photos. My mom is giddy beyond measure—she gained the big family she’s always wanted, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. I am still unpacking it all myself, processing the cost of shame unfairly put upon young pregnant women, the power of identity and knowing where you come from, and the meaning of family. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get this opportunity—what a great gift it is to finally know the woman that brought my mother into this world.

6 months ago

Fireflies line a country road near Lacona, Iowa. . I spent a few weeks this summer driving to every corner of Iowa in the hopes I would be able to retrace my ancestral memory. I went back to every single address I could find after a year of paging through piles of photo albums and documents, believing that if I could see the places of significance to my grandparents in Des Moines—the homes they grew up in, the beauty shoppe my great grandmother started, the high school they attended, the diner they had their first date, the church they got married in, and the house they brought my father home to after he was born—that if I could just see these places with my own eyes, the stirring in my soul that bubbles up every time I smell that sticky summer midwest air would finally be at peace. To my total surprise, every address was a dead end. There were no physical locations to revisit at all, only temporal experiences and new awakenings of long lost ancestral memories I never expected to find. These fireflies hypnotized me for hours one night in June, shortly after meeting a distant cousin. I watched them pulse along the grasses and tried to imagine what my life would have been like if I had grown up here. In that moment it occurred to me that, maybe, the need to be in a specific place to understand my ancestral memory is less important—perhaps the connection can reveal itself through something more abstract, more magical, and maybe that stirring in my soul is not supposed to quiet at all.

6 months ago

John on his centennial farm, Iowa. June 2018.

8 months ago

Butte, America is the city that copper built. These are a few of my favorite copper-themed souvenirs and details I found while working on a story about the tourism draw to the Berkeley Pit for @topicstories.

9 months ago

I, too, have wondered what the tourist draw is to the Berkeley Pit, a toxic body of water steadily rising since the end of Butte’s mining heyday. Turns out, there’s a diverse number of reasons someone might want to see “The Pit”—besides the clearly marked selfie spot. Stephanie Evans, a geology major at Indiana University, came to learn about it as part of a class outing; members of the band Bellows were told to check out “the big stinking hole in the ground” while on their cross-country tour across America; Gary Hix brought his wife, Marilyn, to show her where he used to work as an underground exploration geologist in 1972. For many others, viewing The Pit is a cyclical experience. Like for Anya Sinon and her family, who make a trip to view it every year, curious to see how it’s changed after growing up in nearby Anaconda. It amazed me how many tourists stayed for a long time, just staring out at the toxic water. Gabby Smith summed up it best: “Now that I’m here, I’m glad I can’t get closer to it, but I also wish I could get closer to it.” You can read more about the tourist experience in Justin Nobel’s words on @topicstories this month (and I hope you do, because he paints a pretty wonderful picture of my favorite person I met at the Pit—Barb!) Link in bio.

9 months ago

I traveled to Butte, Montana recently to photograph the town’s most infamous tourist attraction (and Superfund site)—The Berkeley Pit—for @topicstories. After spending 4 consecutive days meeting and photographing tourists on the viewing platform, there were moments when I had to remind myself that the hypnotizing colors are actually a toxic body of water. The viewing scopes and selfie spots almost make it feel like you’re looking out at a natural wonder, and, for some people in Butte, the Pit *is* a point of pride as well as a defining part of the town’s identity. But the consequences of mining are a serious concern, as the toxic water continues to rise closer to the critical water level. I highly recommend immersing yourself in the wonderful storytelling by Justin Nobel in this great piece over on, as part of their August issue focused on the environment. Many thanks to @carolineleighsmith for this superfun assignment.

1 year ago

A lot of people have asked me how my trip to Antarctica was, and, to be honest, it’s not the kind of life experience I'm able to quickly sum up. So, I wrote a personal travelogue about some of the most meaningful parts of my trip, which was published this week on @fieldmag. Many thanks to @graham for providing a beautiful platform for this piece which, as you’ll read, holds a great deal of emotional weight for me. Link in profile.

1 year ago

Antarctica Dream No. 5 | Solitude.

1 year ago

Antarctica Dream No. 4 | Zipping past icebergs larger than life.

1 year ago

Antarctica Dream No. 3 | Crossing the circle 66°33’S