After Hours Disc 8: To Love & Live... with Jessica Ballerstein

After Hours Disc 8: To Love & Live... with Jessica Ballerstein

After Hours 2.22.22
Discussion 8: To Love & Live... with a Side of Legume
with Jessica Ballerstein

Last afternoon we sat down and ran around Bird Park with our very own, Jessica Ballerstein - the master behind the lens of the Thread Spun magic you see over the interweb and in the flesh. We bring you our first 2022 After Hours Discussion, getting to know our favorite photographer just a little more.  Jessica carries herself (2 doggos attached) with a well-deserved swagger from experience through life's curveballs and self-reflections.  Her maiden name Darius does not fall short of showing insight to her ambition, perseverance and knowledge; meaning "wiseman" in Persian.  She may be small but she is mighty, and can climb a wall with such grace that even a swan could shed a tear.  And make a playlist with so much hype, your attitude is guaranteed to do a 360 all around to be only on the up and up from there.  Hanging out with her felt like slowing down and taking in the simpler details in the day; even while capturing her snapping photos of 3 scrambling children, doggos running, pink cowgirl boots and tufts of grass flying through the air.  Jessica reminds us that in the toughest moments of life, there is joy, patience and love.  And if we find a lack of meaning in the things we are doing, it is absolutely necessary to make time to revisit your beginning - to rediscover your "why".

 
Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live

 Photos by Kim-lien Le

• Where are you from? 

Long answer: Born in Haiti, Immigrated to NYC when I was 3 where I lived until 20. Spent 10 long years in Boston where I experienced something called a “snowmageddon”

Short answer: East Coast

• What brought you to San Diego, CA?

Snow.

• Snowmageddon... sounds like quite the event, can you describe it for us?
Imagine Hell... but cold. It’s like the sky won’t stop dumping snow and there is nowhere to put it. It was the most overwhelming experience. You gotta shovel yourself out, then shovel your car out, to then risk your life driving to work all to have your spot stolen by the time you finish your shift. So that means you’re either praying to God another sucker left their spot open or you gotta dig an obscure spot out to park your car. All while snow is still piling on and you gotta do it all over again tomorrow. 

• Did you learn photography at university or are you self-taught?

Self taught thanks to Youtube University. 

 

• What are your top 3 favorite things about the West Coast so far?

Sun, Food and Cannabis

 

 

• You say that "love" is your subject of choice - can you describe your journey leading you to focusing on elopements, weddings, maternities, etc?  Did you start out shooting another subject or working on various projects beforehand?

Man, that’s a solid question! So for me photography is about telling a story. That was my motivating drive behind taking photos. At every momentous event of my life I love to capture photos. I was that friend that always had her camera out. Not just for the act of taking photos, I want something to look back on, something that would spark the rawness of the moment. Whether it’s the emotion, the season, the trend etc. It tells a story.

When I got my first professional camera and moved to California my "why" was overcome by "how". How does this camera work, how do I become a professional photographer? How do I do this? How do I do that? Everything around me was so foreign and I lost touch with my "why". I was then taking photos at any event, even those I dreaded. Photography became hard and taxing. I was conforming and photography didn’t feel fun and meaningful. After a trip to Sequoia I realized that and started with the basics... I asked myself “What do I love?” ... The answer was “love”. What else do I love? ... “celebrating”. I decided I want to be the photographer that celebrates with people that are in love! In love with their partner, in love with their passion, in love with the little human growing inside of them or in love with themselves. I thought my presence means there is a celebration and I wanted to be the one that captures the fire. 

 

Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live

Get dressed up casual in the  Lennon Top + Finn Skirt

• Haiti! That's quite a ways away.  Do you have any memories of being there?  Have you been back since?
OMG loads of memories! Thankfully my moms family is from the south of Haiti, a town called O Cayes. It's one of the most scenic/adventurous rides from the city. You get to see many sides of Haiti; from the rolling hills to legit the worst kinds of poverty. It’s a humbling ride. One of my favorite people in the whole world lives in O Cayes and it is my grandfather. He is the toughest senior citizen I’ve ever seen. He’s always been a farmer so he's still strong and rugged. He was the old man you didn’t mess with despite him being like 4’11. No kidding. I’m the shortest in the family and I stood over him. It was the funniest thing whenever I interacted with him. We both loved each other's company. He’s usually a serious and angry man but when we’re together he’s witty and funny. His laugh is my favorite laugh in the world. Indescribable. Another one of my favorite memories is the freedom to do things like sit in the back of pick up trucks to drive the beach. You need to pee? Pull over and pop a squat. The beach water was the bluest you can ever imagine and you can eat the lobster straight out the ocean. Haiti also has a distinct scent for me and it's one of my favorites; the scent of burning wood. In order to cook in the countryside you have to use charcoal so there was a constant incense of wood and I loved it. I miss it. I miss Haiti and it’s mangoes but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back since the death of my grandmother. O Cayes hasn’t been the same since 2016. 
 
• Did NYC provide artistic inspiration for you growing up?  Or did it have a different mental impact on you?
Everyone was an artist in NYC. Freedom of expression was always at 100%. You can literally pick and choose what kind of creative you wanted to be, due to the inspirations around you. What I also loved about NYC is that everyone stood their ground with their artistic expression. It always screamed “this is me, take it or leave it”.
 
Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live
Our Etta in the Meadow Balloon Bodysuit by Tiny Cottons

• Do you feel like your nationality has had any affect on who you are today?  Has it contributed to your art?
ABSOLUTELY. I’m proud of my culture and our resiliency. We are also proud people. Similar to New Yorkers we don’t compromise. I don’t compromise who I am or my form of expression. My ancestors have cultivated the person I am today.

 

• Can you explain what has happened / is happening in Haiti that contributes to its nation-state?

Man, where do I start…Haiti has always had its protests and micro-revolutions but I would say it's gotten more violent throughout the past 5 years. Actually, let me start with just last year. Gangs started running the protest. I remember being at my parents house in NYC watching the Haitian news talking about locals siding with gang members to have the President killed since he refuses to leave office. They wanted him to leave the same reason they wanted every other president to leave, corruption. Whether corruption was actually happening or not the people didn’t trust their government - rightfully so. There was an increase in gas prices amongst other political shit that was going on. Kidnappings started to increase and so did the rioting. On July 7th the president of Haiti was assassinated. Since then, the nation became a country run by gang members with heavy ammunition. People with any form of notoriety are at risk of getting kidnapped and extorted. It’s been insane and heartbreaking. 

 

Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live

Lay down some greens with the Ashby Throw by Slowdown Studio

Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live

Add the perfect type of shine to the Jungmaven Hemp Button Front Jumper with the Aether Ring by Dea Dia
• What is something that you would like to see change in the world?

The idea behind overworking. Millions of people around the world spend their WHOLE lives working. I mean from the moment you can walk you need to work to survive.You’re born, you work, you die. How f****ed is that? Generations upon generations of the idea of hustling and overworking. I would love to see the world LIVE a little.

 

Keep it together with our favorite handmade Leather Backpack by Neva Opet 

• Favorite Haitian dish? 

Legume. Hands down. It's basically a thick vegetable stew you eat with either; white rice and bean sauce or rice and beans.  

 

• What are your most important values in life?
Treating others the way you’d want to be treated has been my motto. 
Or 
"To move the world we must move ourselves". - Socrates 
Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live
Thread Spun After Hours Blog Jessica Ballerstein San Diego Photographer Female Black Haiti NYC Boston Califorina Love Marriage Maternity Self-taught Strength Inspiration Life Live
Stand out in the Via Lariat Necklace by High Low Jewelry
• Do you have any words you find inspiring for when you're not feeling as confident or strong as usual? 
Lmao honestly when I don’t feel like my best self I listen to some hoods***. There’s a certain confidence rappers have and I tap into to kinda remind me of who the eff I am... One off the top of my head...
 
“I'm that bitch 
Been that bitch, still that bitch 
Will forever be that bitch”
- Meg thee stallion 

 

• What are 5 songs you have on repeat right now? 

Solar Pilgrim by Twain

Stoned at the Nail Salon by Lorde

Eat it by Meg thee Stallion 

Malibu by Cruza

ROLLIN N CONTROLLIN FREESTYLE by Dusty Locane 

Follow Jess on Instagram HERE
Contact Jess for a shoot HERE

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