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Former UM Journalism Student Ignites Career in NYC’s Photography Scene

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

*Editor’s Note: All photographs are taken by and courtesy of Jenny Anderson.

Stephanie J. Block portrayed the legendary Cher in the Cher Musical. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

Immersed in the visual and theatrical arts from a young age, Jenny Anderson has always had a passion for creative expression. Growing up in Brooklyn, Miss., Anderson thought she wanted to pursue medicine. However, she would soon jump on a different path at the University of Mississippi where she received her degree in journalism from the School of Journalism and New Media.

Prior to attending Ole Miss, Anderson attended Jones Community College on a full-ride scholarship where she took her general education and pre-requisites required for medical school and also participated in musicals in the theatre department. However, once she made the transition to Ole Miss, she joined the Student Media staff for 2 years. Remerging herself in the art world gave her an epiphany: a career in medicine was off the table.

In 2007, Anderson completed her three-year stint at Ole Miss and set her eyes on a new opportunistic goal—New York City.

The Concrete Jungle had always been a dream of Anderson’s, she said. Now with a journalism degree in hand, she was willing to begin a new journey with hopes of becoming a professional photographer.

Jenny Anderson graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in Journalism in 2008. Photo courtesy Jenny Anderson.

Although she loves the South, and specifically Mississippi, Anderson began to apply for journalism jobs in multiple metropolitan cities throughout the country – NYC, Chicago, Nashville and Los Angeles.

With much anticipation, Anderson finally received a paying job offer in NYC at Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises where she took photos of tourists sailing around the island of Manhattan.

Anderson said she obviously did not attend Ole Miss to become a souvenir photographer, but it was an opportunity to get herself to NYC.

Headstrong in NYC

Anderson bought a one-way ticket for $94, sold her vehicle, and packed two suitcases. With $750 in hand, she was off to begin fulfilling her dream of being a photographer in the New York City scene.

As she landed in NYC headstrong and with a dream in mind, Anderson began her job as souvenir photographer for the cruise line.

Luckily, one of Anderson’s friends from Ole Miss allowed her to move into her apartment on the Upper West Side for two weeks while Anderson began to search for a permanent living space. 

Among establishing herself at a new job and landing an apartment within two weeks, Anderson applied for a photography internship with Broadway.com—a major leader in theatre coverage for the NYC area.

Although the editor-in-chief was out on vacation, Anderson continuously called the company to show how interested she was in the position.

“I was very, very persistent,” Anderson said. “Which really worked out in my benefit because [the editor] finally called back.”

The editor at the time offered Anderson the photography internship.

During the course of her internship and her job at the cruise line, Anderson was assigned to cover an event that featured the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

Anderson approached her job at the cruise line with a request that she needed the day off, but unfortunately her request was denied. Anderson recalls that very moment when she made her decision. She was standing in Union Square outside in the rain. She dialed her boss’s number and quit the cruise line job.

“I got off the phone and started crying,” Anderson said. “I had just quit a job.”

To compensate for quitting, Anderson worked two restaurant jobs along with her internship.

After six months as an intern, the photography editor left the company to continue pursuing his career as an actor. The position of photo editor fell into Anderson’s lap as a full-time position, she said; however, she kept her restaurant jobs that she would work over the weekends. For a year, she balanced working three jobs.

Katharine McPhee currently stars in the Broadway musical “The Waitress.” Photo by Jenny Anderson.

Anderson endured 50 hour work weeks as the photo editor for Broadway.com over a course of six years. Although she spent most of her day in the office, Anderson spent additional time after the working day covering and shooting shows in theaters that line the streets of New York City. Although Anderson fully enjoyed her time at the company, she felt stifled with being unable to move up the job ladder due to the lack of available positions. The job did offer Anderson the opportunity the meet publicists, actors and actresses and everything in between, which gave her a foot in the door of the photography scene to launch her own freelance career.

“I was so lucky to be there for as long I was because of the people who I met,” Anderson said.

Taking a Chance, Risking it All

Nervous about taking a new path in her own career, Anderson made a trip home to Mississippi to take a breath and contemplate her decisions for a month.

“I remember thinking, ‘what did I just do?'” she said.

Returning back to the Big Apple, Anderson said the theatre community welcomed her back with open arms. She was offered multiple jobs due to the many connections she had made at Broadway.com, thus she was able to launch her freelance business.

One of the many jobs Anderson was offered was an opportunity to work as a photographer for Getty Images, which would continue to lead Anderson to additional opportunities and connections. As she continued to expand her portfolio, resume and networking group, two of her friends started the website BroadwayStyleGuide.com, an online editorial magazine. Two months into the launch of the website, the launchers brought on Anderson as a photographer.

For three years Anderson helped produce and photograph editorial content for the website. Once she left the business, she continued to shoot editorial photos for actors and actresses from her home studio.

A Career Highlight

For the last four years, Anderson has photographed all the stars and the glitz and glam of the Tony Awards for Getty Images.

As a member of the official Getty team for the awards, Anderson is tasked with photographing the Tony cocktail parties and luncheons that lead up to the award night. While in attendance, Anderson said she walks freely up and down the red carpet capturing star-studded entrances into the venue.

Usually, Anderson photographs the winner’s circle after each actor receives his or her award; however, for the 2019 Tony Awards, Anderson was given the opportunity to shoot backstage.

“I don’t think I was prepared emotionally of what that would feel like,” Anderson said. “It was pretty incredible.”

Moving Forward

Although Anderson continues to photograph people such as Stephanie J. Block, Allison Janney and even Tom Cruise, she has now begun to add an additional achievements to her resume and portfolio.

Allison Janney on the Vanity Fair red carpet with her Emmy Award. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

For the last year, Anderson said she has been feeling somewhat stagnant in her career, even though she loves her theatre community and family. Wanting to branch out, Anderson contemplated an opportunity that presented itself from ABC Television. The network hosted an event that rolled out all the new and returning TV shows. Anderson spent the day behind the scenes photographing all the TV shows in what she called “a true journalistic way.”

Since then, the network has reached out to Anderson to continue photographing behind the scenes of television shows.

“I’m kind of moving towards TV,” Anderson said. “It’s exciting.”

In addition to her work with ABC, for the last year has also been working with the New York Times photographing off-Broadway shows. She said she hopes to continue shooting editorial work for the NYT.

Anderson’s advice to anyone seeking careers in journalism or photography is, “don’t say no.”

“I never stopped working,” she said. “Never stop pushing yourself and learning.”

For more information on Jenny Anderson and her photography business, visit her official website.

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