Traveling may be challenging, but try traveling the world while supporting three boys, ages 15, 14 and 9, getting a higher education and building a photography portfolio.
Jefferine Jean-Jacques, did exactly that.
Jean-Jacques, senior, is a Bridgeport resident who is graduating with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree. She is a mother of three who has always been interested in photography.
“I’ve always loved photography, ever since I was little,” says Jean-Jacques.
She says she often would find herself flipping through the pages of National Geographic and saying to herself, “Wow, I want to travel.”
This passion for travel would never leave her.
One day she decided to just go. When she received her income tax return in 2012, she decided to travel to Ghana with a friend of hers who owns property in the country and runs an organization that helps children.
“I went and I just completely fell in love with the people and the experience,” says Jean-Jacques. “I said, ‘I can do this. You know what, instead of spending my money on shoes or going out to eat all the time let me just try to save my money and focus my energy on travel.’ ”
Jean-Jacques traveled to Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Cambodia, Haiti, Cuba, Martinique, Namibia, Turkey, Venice, Morocco and Vietnam over the next four years. She would typically travel alone, which Jean-Jacques says, as a woman, she found to be both rough and liberating. This was because there was a possibility of danger in traveling alone, but her trips, ultimately, taught her how to be more independent.
However, on the last three trips she went on she brought at least one of her children with her.
“I went to Southeast Asia with one, I went to Martinique with another and then I went to Cuba,” says Jean-Jacques. “When I took my kids, I wanted them to have that perspective, like be happy for what you have, give back when you can.”
Traveling for Jean-Jacques, and her children, has given them a different perspective on life and appreciation for what they have in life in the United States. They now offer to do charitable activities whenever they can, like giving food to the homeless or buying food from a food truck for them, says Jean-Jacques.
When taking photos, Jean-Jacques chooses to shoot in the raw and with natural lighting, having found the flash creates an unnatural look. She prefers un-staged photos as well for their natural look when taking photos of people who live in the country and villages she visits.
“[The locals] are confused, they don’t understand why I would want to a picture of them for the most part,” says Jean-Jacques, “I haven’t had any issues [taking photos].”
Her favorite photo set was taken during her trip to Ethiopia, when a local woman invited her into her hut and began the ceremony of making coffee on an open fire with hand ground coffee beans.
Jean-Jacques said she often felt when she set down in a new country that it was a whole new world, or that she felt she traveled back in time. Jean-Jacques credits her ability to travel these past four years to her supportive family and travel deals she received through airlines.
She plans on traveling more in the future after she graduates and once her boys go to college. Until then, she will continue to take photography and focus on photojournalism.
“It’s a lot of work and if you’re not passionate or excited about what you’re working on it’s work,” she said. “Photojournalism is where my heart is, and I think I’ll be happy doing that until I can travel somewhere.”
By Joe Bulwidas