The wonderful thing about Instagram is it’s a platform that allows photographers to express themselves in many different ways. Vancouver-based photographer (she describes herself as a “moment capturer”) @missyjena is proving that you don’t need a stream of golden sunsets and eye-popping landscapes with vibrant colours to attract a large following on Instagram. Born in Fiji, raised in Canada and graduated with distinction from the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Human and Social Development, Missy Jena (known as Missy Jena online, Jena to her friends and family and Miss Jena in the classroom) is building a collection of calming photographs of her home city, Vancouver.
After 14 years working for the Vancouver School Board, in September 2015 she resigned to launch calmversation, an innovative learning model to reach more classrooms based on the success of a pilot project.
Here’s a peek into her world of calm.
What was the lightbulb moment that led you to calmversation?
I was problem solving with two five year olds.
Much of my day to day activity involves teaching children how to solve problems peacefully and empathetically. On this particular day, I invited two little ones to have a dialogue after they had a falling out.
Child A was visibly more upset than Child B. I said “Come on over… we’ll have a conversation and sort it out.” I used a word that was a bit over their heads.
His reply was: “but, Miss Jena, I don’t wanna have a comversation. I am very angry at Child B. He hurt my feelings.”
As I watched the tears stream down his face I was fascinated by his mispronunciation of the word conversation.
Through his sobs he repeated, “I don’t wanna have a comversation with him.”
Fair enough I thought, after today I never want to have another “con” versation either!
This moment was the precursor for bringing to the surface the concept that defines my style of communication and photography.
The word remained on my mind and in my heart long after their problem was solved. He said “comversation” I heard calmversation. At lunch time, I saw a solo cloud in the sky that looked like a thought bubble. There it was with brilliant rays of light beaming through-like a visual “ah ha- calmversation!”
I took a photo it and that evening posted the image with the floating thought… “Let’s have a calmversation… you and I”
How do you take calming photographs?
I prefer to capture neutral tone images best found on rainy, foggy and snowy days.
Is there a process you go through?
Over the years, I have become much better at taking photos with purpose. Prior to having an iPhone, I’d walk and think sans camera/cell phone. Now only when a thought “calms together” in my mind do I capture the view before me.
What does a typical #calmversation photo look like?
It’s open, visually soothing, creates room to breathe and invites you in…
Why is it your aim to convey a sense of calm and clarity?
Social media is one long run on sentence, my hope is to be the comma.
How much time do you spend on Instagram?
It’s mostly a hobby which sometimes can lead to interesting opportunities…
On average, I spend an hour a day on Instagram. There are days I miss posting and interacting due to other commitments. If I am out on a photo adventure with friends, it is easy to capture moments to share. If I am out on a thinking walk along the beach, I will capture a few images.
Instagram is a vibrant spectrum of styles and personalities. I personally prefer the light, bright and subtle section of that spectrum 😉
How has Instagram helped you in your work and life?
Instagram is the platform which helped me develop as a photographer, connected me to amazing people across the globe and ultimately launched me into a whole new world of possibilities.
When you were growing up did you ever think you’d become a photographer?
I have always been fascinated with photographs. Even before I could walk or talk I was studying people and stories contained within the family photo albums.
I was five years old the first time I took a photo of my mom and dad sitting on the stairs of our home. It was an incredible honour to use my dad’s camera and a huge responsibility to make sure it didn’t hit the pavement.
What equipment do you use?
iPhone mostly, sometimes a go pro, sony a5000 and I recently acquired a Canon camera which I have yet to take out of the box. I use a few iPhone editing apps like Snapseed.
What were the photos that have received the most “likes” and comments?
My most liked media on Instagram ironically are videos I posted during the weekend Instagram launched the video feature.
What are your top three tips for new Instagrammers?
1-Be true to yourself
2-Interact with other people (ie. likes, comments, explore hashtags)
Reflections on Vancouver
What’s your favourite season in Vancouver?
WINTER! And why? Winter is my absolute favorite time of year in general and especially for photography – the more winter the better!
What are the best things about Vancouver?
The people, the layers of diversity and it’s a coastal location.
What are your favourite places to photograph?
The beach or snowy mountain tops.
Where do you like to go to escape, think and reflect?
Kits beach on a rainy day or any place with water.
ChiCha on Broadway
giovane café + eatery + market a Fairmont Pacific Rim
Thomas Haas Patisserie
Favourite place to shop
South Granville Street
If you had to move somewhere else in Canada where would you pick?
Alberta because they have pretty incredible winters.
Missy Jena is a Vancouver-based educator and instagrammer.