When Jennifer Roberts was just a child, she was always taking photos on her mother’s camera. She loved looking at them. Whenever she would go on a trip, she would take that camera and capture everything she saw. At the time, photography was just a hobby, but as years passed she realized she could turn what she loved into a career.
Roberts is now an internationally sought-after photographer, with an esteemed resume that has earned her the reputation as one of Canada’s best. She has shot for the world-renowned Wall Street Journal, and The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s largest newspapers, as well as magazines like Canadian Business and Moneysense. She is an award-winning photographer, and her shots for Getty last year featuring Academy Award winning actress Michelle Williams received won a 2017 Applied Arts Annual for Best Portrait, and was nominated for a Communication Arts Award.
“I would say my style is very natural looking but also has a nice polished edge. I like using light in a natural looking way and always try to make sure any artificial light doesn’t look too source-y. Depending on who I’m photographing I’ll decide how much direction to give. I find that when shooting actors and actresses, they don’t need much direction. They’ll know their best angles and be able to provide a lot of interesting poses. If there is a specific angle for the story or tone then I’m happy to provide a little direction. If someone isn’t familiar with being in front of the camera then I’m happy to give some direction so they’ll feel more comfortable,” Roberts described.
Recently, Roberts has shot features for Canada’s largest and leading news magazine Maclean’s, founded in 1905. The magazine has published the work of Canada’s top photographers and photojournalists, including Roberts.
“It was a career goal of mine to be a contributor to the magazine. Working on Maclean’s stories are always really interesting. The topics are very timely and relevant. The art department leaves the photographer with lots of room to be creative and they like the photographer to provide lots of options. It’s also great to know that the end product will be seen around the country,” she said.
Shooting for Maclean’s, Roberts has done very high-profile projects, often being commissioned to shoot subjects with sensitive subject matter. One of these pieces was shooting a critical piece about Dr. Darryl Gebien, titled “How fentanyl turned an ER doctor into an addict.” Dr. Gebien was a former drug addict, also being charged with illegally prescribing fentanyl. Roberts did a portrait shoot with him in his home and she had to be extremely gentle with him as he was really worried about being photographed. In the end, Roberts had captured a beautiful series of photos of Dr. Gerbien that really spoke to his personal struggles.
She also photographed internationally renowned artist Ed Burtynsky, for a profile on his career as an artist. When shooting the Ed Burtynsky, she was on a super tight timeline and small window of opportunity with Burtynsky, but she was able to photograph beautiful studio portraits that really captured the mood and tone of the story.
Another feature included shooting Kristine Johnston and her husband Jimmie Johnston for a piece on Alzheimer’s and Assisted Suicide in Canada. Roberts says she had to be very delicate and gentle in such a sensitive situation. Jimmie Johnston was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was seeking the right for assisted suicide.
Later, she a story following NDP Leadership Candidate, MPP Jagmeet Singh. This was no easy documentary piece, as she had to photograph him while he went about his day in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. She also shot a portrait of Giller Prize and Governor General Literacy Award Nominee Gary Barwin, and worked as a freelance photo editor at Maclean’s Magazine 4.
“As a photo editor and producer, I’ve hired Jennifer countless times over the past five years for photography assignments in Maclean’s, Canadian Business, MoneySense and Tourism Toronto. She continually delivers the best quality of work and exceeds my expectations with every assignment, whether shooting portraits, food or reportage. I have found her to be versatile in her photographic ability, resourceful in difficult situations that may present itself on a shoot, highly creative in her approach, and always reliable. I can say with confidence that she is a well-respected and established photographer in the industry and among her peers,” said Kayla Chobotuik, a Canadian Business Editor.
What was, however, the most influential of Robert’s work for Maclean’s was her feature for the social movement Black Lives Matter. The shoot from demonstration won international Applied Arts Award for Best Documentary photo and was a nominee for an international Communication Arts Award. It demonstrates great documentary ability as Roberts was originally commissioned to shoot a Pride Parade, but when the protest broke out, she was able to capture award winning photos of the event.
“When I won the Applied Arts Award for the Black Lives Matter photo I was really excited that more attention would be given to the issue. By winning that award and being nominated for a Communication Arts award I knew even more people would have the opportunity to see an image from their demonstration. I was also really proud that the photo was being recognized as award worthy,” said Roberts.
With such innate talent, there is little doubt as to why Roberts receives the accolades she does. She is definitely one to watch for.