A Cliff Notes Version of Jen

A Foundation

Hello! I’m Jen, founder and lead photographer and videographer at Emerald Rue. In this article, I share a Cliff Notes version of me, Jen!

I grew up in a small farming community in northwestern Minnesota. It’s where my love for wide open spaces, everything green and lakes began. I was fortunate enough to have a lovely, carefree, middle class upbringing. My mother worked as a nurse and my father sold farm equipment. I’m a middle child, sandwiched between brothers. We’d play school, ran a restaurant at lunch time (for each other) and did plenty of swimming at the lake.

A Cliff Notes version of Jen.

Speaking of family, my extended family is huge. Really, really huge.  I have 27 aunts & uncles and my cousin count is 37.  Growing up, many of my cousins lived in my community or nearby. We held family gatherings for every occasion (and still do!). I love it. In fact, in college, friends would share they had 4 cousins total (two of whom they’d never met!) and I was flabbergasted. Isn’t it normal to have 37 cousins?

A Time to Learn

College brought me to Bemidji State University, where I majored in elementary education. I’d always wanted to be a teacher. If you’ve never been to Bemidji, it’s beautiful – think campus on a lake, trees, grass, and a small town feel. It gets very cold in the winter, however. Underground tunnels connect the entire campus and people park on the frozen lake, and not for ice fishing.

During my senior year, I took a photography class in which we worked mainly with analog film cameras and darkroom processes. The class my favorite I took while at Bemidji State. My creative side was ignited.

The Beginning

After graduation, I moved to the Minneapolis with hopes of landing a teaching job, but I longed for something more. I attended Art Institutes International, MN and studied photography. From there, my gigantic family came in handy. I photographed the events, the kids, the weddings and knew I had found my purpose.

As time went on, I built a reputation as wedding photographer and ran my business for eight years while substitute teaching on the side. When a long-term subbing gig led to a full time teaching job, I took it and ran. For two years, I taught 4th & 5th grade while shooting 10-15 weddings a year. It led right where you think it would, friends. Major burnout.  I needed a break.  Overworked, unhappy and with a bruised well-being, I got out of it all.

Improving Mindset

So how did I get here, to the start of Emerald Rue? Patience to let the negative leave me and time to let the inspiration manifest. I took an entire year off from shooting and refocused on getting my mind healthy. I secured an entry level marketing job that never left me with homework. With new energy and drive, I dove back into weddings, only to find my referral based clientele had moved on.

After hustling for new clients, my wedding count had been cut in half and I was stuck. Weddings had started to feel monotonous and repetitive. Through my wedding career, I had been blessed with excellent couples, but my passion for weddings had faded.

Photo Credit: Alyssa Hollis

A New Beginning

In the meantime, I was searching for inspiration and found Joy Prouty with Wildflowers Photography. Joy is one of the most honest, compassionate and talented people I’ve met.  Her work has a quality and honest feel. She specializes in family photography and films that are raw, intimate and real. I have yet to watch one of her films and not burst into tears.

I went out on a limb and emailed her October of 2017. She was hosting a workshop at her Nashville home about a month later and there was a spot for me. The universe was definitely nudging me toward that workshop. I took a chance,

A Cliff Notes version of Jen Martodam.

Photo Credit: Alyssa Hollis

made an investment in my future and arranged to attend. There were only eleven women in attendance. What proceeded was life-changing. The group talked about the hard things, dug into the nitty-gritty, and connected in a way only fellow creatives can relate to.

At the gathering, we drank wine, danced by a bonfire, screamed at the top of our lungs and laughed we cried. Through bouts of photographing and sharing, my soul began to heal.

When I returned to Minneapolis, I made some decisions in regards to my personal life and how I was living it. These decisions were hard and painful, but I know in the end they were right. After some adjustments, I’ve been working on creating a successful lifestyle family film brand. While I’m scared of the unknown, nothing will stop me this time.

Leave a comment and let me know about you! I really would like to know!

Excited for a family film session of your own? Let’s chat!