MEET. Jelisa Peterson

© Jelisa Peterson

Meet Austin-based photographer, humanitarian and APA member, Jelisa Peterson

Photography and Human Communication: For more than two decades, Jelisa has focused on uniting her viewers with her photographic subjects by creating images that resonate the perfect example of love and inspiration. 

Do you have a favorite podcast?
Recently, the podcast I have most enjoyed is Serial by Adnan Syed.

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?

What 3 words describe your photography style?
Documentary, environmental portraiture, black and white

What do you listen to when you’re shooting? 
Children’s laughter

What inspires you? 
People who triumph over poverty and scarcity

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
The ability to travel, meet new people and experience different ways of living

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I read widely (fiction and nonfiction) and watch a lot of films.

Who were your biggest influences?
Sebastião Salgado, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Sally Mann

What are the current challenges that you face as a photographer?
My photography is physically and financially demanding, with travel to remote places. It is not getting easier with age.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far? 
On a professional level, validation of my work as something of value in the photography community has been both a challenge and an incredible highlight as many pieces have been shown in a wide variety of venues. Next year will mark 30 years of this adventure, and I am finally getting broader exposure for this work that means so much to me. On a personal level, I love returning to the sites of my shoots and handing out personal photos to the individuals and families of the people I have photographed.  

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I was a university student majoring in Anthropology and Women’s Studies.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
If I hadn’t chosen photography I might have pursued a career in family law or related public service.

What do you do when you get stuck?
I take a break. Clarity usually emerges over time, especially when doing film photography.

What is your best advice for your peers?
I get a lot of messages from aspiring photographers looking for advice about how to proceed to build a career. I advise them to remain determined and to use their photography to share their vision and passion with the world.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
1. Use sunscreen.
2. Don’t expect to be able to carry more than half your weight in your backpack and camera pack.
3. Don’t bathe in Lake Victoria

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
To produce meaningful images of lasting value.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I hope to publish the best of my work in book form that will inspire and contribute to the positive portrayal of the African communities I have been privileged to work with.

Check out more work from Jelisa Peterson.