To capture life's big moments on film, be there for the small gestures, Jacqueline Parnell says.
Little things-one hand reaching for another, a spontaneous peck on the cheek-tell the emotion of an event most poetically, says Parnell, a photographer and videographer specializing in weddings and other events.
In one of her videos, Parnell's camera catches the groom's tearful expression at the start of his wedding and the bride's quiet but emotional response as she walks down the aisle.
"I'm a really emotional person," Parnell says. "When you catch a real moment like that, it makes me feel intimate with those people. I think it's cool to be able to show people what they look like in a moment like that."
Parnell, 31, started taking photographs two years ago. She was enrolled in acting classes in Buffalo and needed a camera for video auditions. Just for fun, she started shooting at home and at parties and found she had a knack for candids. Soon she had enough for a portfolio.
"I hadn't even picked up a camera before two years ago," says Parnell, who launched Jacqueline Daley Photography in July 2010 and shot her first wedding, a casual affair at Letchworth State Park, a few months later.
She taught herself how to use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and went on to shoot 14 weddings in 2011, gaining clients by word of mouth. She added videography services, Parnell Pictures, in July 2011. She uses a journalistic approach, taking candid shots and unexpected perspectives in both her photographs and videos. She has booked 14 weddings so far in 2012 and has a goal of 20.
Two years after she started taking photographs for fun, Parnell is pleased that her hobby has turned into a vocation. She spent her 20s searching for the right fit.
"I always had a knack for art, but I didn't want to draw and paint for a living," she says.
Her love of art took her to several local colleges after she graduated from Caledonia-Mumford High School in 1999, including a year and a half at SUNY College at Geneseo. But traditional academia wasn't a good fit. Raised in a family with a strong work ethic, Parnell started working full time at 19. She held a range of jobs in her 20s, including more than four years of factory overnights and five years behind the bar at a restaurant. She bought a house in West Irondequoit and started exploring her creativity through hobbies.
The turning point came when Parnell was taking violin lessons from a musician in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She remembers the day she told her teacher she could tell her creativity was opening up. Something was shifting.
"I started letting myself be taken where I was taken," she says.
Parnell had been raised to seek work that provided a steady paycheck and health insurance. But as demand for her camera skills grew, she gathered the courage to quit her bartending job and step out on her own. It was a big move; just how big became apparent after she told her boss.
"I thought I was going to feel liberated, but when I walked out the door I literally got a migraine and almost threw up," she says.
Parnell knew she was doing the right thing the first time she put together a wedding video. Videography, more than photography, is where her heart is.
"I had never felt so excited about anything I'd ever done before," she recalls. "I went home and started editing and sat there for 14 hours straight."
Understanding the personalities of her subjects and seeing them interact is central to making a video that clients enjoy. To create the look of cinema, Parnell shoots down on the ground and from other unique angles, panning some shots, zooming in on others. As she shoots, she can already hear the music that will fit the scene.
Her goal is to further strengthen her technical skills to match the emotion she feels she brings to her work. She says the films of her competitors leave her cold.
"When I watch them, I don't feel any feeling. That's why I want to be where they are technically in a few years, but with that feeling behind it," she says.
Parnell recently joined Studio 180. She shares space with three wedding photographers and a flower designer in a St. Paul Street loft. As a group, members enjoy more exposure than they would flying solo, and they share referrals. The space is big enough for meetings and photo and video shoots.
Parnell, who worked for a while as a production assistant, would like to work in filmmaking someday. For now, her goal is to move audiences through her wedding videos.
"If I can get people to watch so-and-so's video and they don't even know them and they cry-that's a pretty big achievement," she says.
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