#125 A photographer with backbone

The face on Jen McKen’s site is open and happy. She looks like the kind of woman who would make a great friend, the kind you’d talk with for hours in a café, your laugh wrinkles deepening every time you got together.

She does not look like a radical activist. She looks like the woman she describes, boisterous and funny and so full of enthusiasm you have to smile just looking at her photograph.

But this photographer has backbone. Don’t bother asking her to turn her lens on you and your friends if you’re a bully. She knows photography. She could make you look fantastic, but she won’t. In fact, she does make people look fantastic. Take a look at Cassidy or some of the other high school seniors she has photographed.

But if you trash somebody on Facebook, don’t call Jen to book a session. She’s not coming. She means it. On August 16th she made it official by posting this on her Facebook page:

“If I’m wrong, please speak up. I came across a page on facebook that was created (by someone under a ficticious name) thats purpose is to bully,  ridicule and say mean and hurtful things about their class mates. While visiting the page, I found several teenage girls that have scheduled sessions with me for their senior pictures. I am emailing them tomorrow to cancel their shoots. I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page.”

Then she blogged about it and wrote, “If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look pretty on the outside!”

The news went viral. Photographers, media, Facebook users, bloggers, and Tweeters tripped over each other to comment. Naturally there were a few grumps who took her to task for her stance, but most people praised her gumption.

She may think of herself as just an ordinary person, but most ordinary people sit back and swallow their discomfort instead of speaking out. And speaking out is what it takes to end any bad situation.

Jen McKen, you give me hope.


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Debby F. - August 24, 2011

I know Jen, personally. She is every bit as wonderful as you’ve imagined she is. She’s one of the BEST people I’ve ever known, and always has something hilarious to say. However, she is also dead serious about her convictions. I’m immensely proud of her and her ethics – and proud to call her my friend. Go, Jen!

    admin - August 24, 2011

    People like Jen make us all stand a bit taller. How proud you must be to call her friend.

Jessica Ruddock - August 24, 2011

I have know Jen for what seems like forever. And she is one of the best people I know! Not to mention being as pretty on the inside as out she makes you feel the same about yourself. She is and has been a great example for young girls. I even told my two daughters about this. It was great to say that I knew someone who is willing to stand for others in this way. I am proud to call her my friend.

    admin - August 24, 2011

    What an incredible example she is for your daughters. They’ll find it easier to stick up for others because of her.

Shannon Dougherty - December 30, 2011

About a month ago, I had some problems with an 8th grader that rode my school bus who just would not stop bullying me. Mind you, I am a senior in high school, and I’ve dealt with bullying from second grade to sophomore year. My mom made a Facebook status after a particularly rough encounter in the morning–she made her status later that evening–after listening to some audio evidence I came up with. She was quite upset with my brother for not having said a word to her to stand up for me. She COMMENTED on my mom’s status, saying she had looked through the pictures of my mom and me together, saying she’d be glad to take pictures of me, although also wishing she were closer in order TO take the pictures. Seeing the comment almost brought tears to my eyes; I’m not one of the tiniest girls, nor am I the best looking, but reading that comment really made me happy. What else made me happy was that she had moved houses a couple of days before we got out on holiday break, so she is riding a different school bus now.

    admin - December 30, 2011

    Jen is the kind of person who will change the people around her, and they will reach out to people around them. May you find a lot of people like Jen, Shannon, people who see into your good heart.

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