Creative producer Jenny Barnes on JENREN, her curated photo & illustration blog for the creative industry

Jenny Barnes.

In addition to working as a creative producer for a Minneapolis ad agency, Jenny Barnes is the founder of JENREN, a blog where she collects images that inspire her. The project started as a personal passion but has blossomed into an industry resource and been featured on A Photo Editor and the Tree House Reps blog.

“Research is my favorite part of working as an art producer,” Jenny told Rob Haggart of APE in an interview he posted last fall. “There are so many talented artists, and when the right job comes up, I want to be able to find them. Over the years, I focused on bookmarks, printed promos, picture archives, and then a database that held pictures. The database was too big and kept crashing, so I had to delete the images. [JENREN] is the best system I can pull together at this time to keep track of the artists. The categories and the quick view into the artist portfolio work pretty well. Now, I just need to keep adding artists’ work to the site.”

Among the artists whose work she’s posted are quite a few Stockland Martel photographers, including Nadav Kander, Liz Von Hoene, Jan Steinhilber, Erik Madigan Heck, Jorg Badura, Melanie Acevedo, and Michael Wirth—some of them more than once. Curious about her selection process, I sent Jenny some questions about the world of JENREN. As you’ll see, it’s pretty simple: She chooses what she loves. With the market being flooded with imagery, jobs being scarce, and fees being reduced, it’s easy to lose faith that good work is finding its target. JENREN’s site is a reminder that decision-makers in the creative industry are indeed paying attention to strong work.

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Liz Von Hoene’s work, as seen at JENREN.

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What motivated you to create JENREN?
I’m so used to being behind-the-scenes that putting my project “out there,” and even talking about it, feels really foreign. I have always loved looking at pictures. I created JENREN to have a place to go back to when looking for something specific, to remember an artist, and to just get lost looking through imagery.

When I was a little girl, I would watch my mother work on her projects. She studied interior design. She spent many hours drafting and would handcut these elaborate designs for her color theory classes. I didn’t have a clue what she was doing, but it left an impression on me. I grew up in houses that she helped design, rooms so clean they felt like hotel rooms. In some ways it was a difficult place to grow up, but I’m grateful because her aesthetic has shaped me.

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What kind of work do you post?
I pull in work for JENREN that touches me. I lean heavily on my instinct developed over thousands of hours spent viewing work. I’ve always been a visual organizer, making collages and mood boards, squirreling away images that I love. I’ve been consuming imagery full-time for more than 10 years. During the day, I produce work for an advertising agency and review commercial portfolios. In my free time, I’ve spent years chasing down artists in all areas. I never really think about the motivation behind creating JENREN. It’s just something that’s totally intuitive and fundamental to me.

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A screenshot of the homepage of JENREN, taken on April 25, which featured Ofer Wolberger’s work.

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How did you find the first people whose work you posted?
I just started working through artists’ websites, grabbing images, and then started to build the archive. Over time, I found a blog format that could put the work in a form that felt very useful. It was so amazing to see the galleries take shape. It was intoxicating for me.

For three months, I spent all my free time gathering artists’ work and posting to a private site. I thought it would be easier to get permission if the site was full of work. When I hit 500 posts, it seemed like I could open it up to the public and reach out to the artists for permission. It was a very busy week fielding all the emails, and then the site took hold. Since then, I’ve just kept at it. It’s one of the highlights of my day when I get to sit down and pull images.

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What kind of work gets the JENREN seal of approval?
There’s nothing specific about it. I don’t look at bios, CVs, or client lists. I just know when I’ve reached a collection of work that inspires me. It’s subjective, and I’ve grown to trust my perspective. I try not to edit or filter my POV. I can tell in a few images if the body of work is a good fit for the site. I go through the work and pull images, edit/order, resize, and then post. It’s so much fun to work through that process. I get so much out of it.

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What has the response has been among your fellow creatives?
I get a lot of positive feedback from the artists I want to put on the site. I think there must be a kindred spirit. It seems as though the work on the site hits them much in the same way their work hits me. It’s a meeting place through images.

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What do you personally want to gain from this project?
Now that JENREN is up and running, I’m not really sure what I’ll do with it next. I’m not even sure that there is a “next.” That said, I gain something from this project every day. It’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life right now. I can only hope that those who visit the site are as inspired as I am when working on it.

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Thanks, Jenny!

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One Comment

  1. Posted 08/27/2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey there,
    thanks a lot for the inspiring interview with the very kind Jenny Barnes. Kind regards from Germany,
    Sascha | Jack the Flipper


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