Jean Blann Hutchins would never describe herself as an artist. As a child, Hutchins did, however, aspire to saving the world. She planned to start her ambitious campaign by running an orphanage for children and animals. As she got older, she became more realistic, studying psychology and earning a Master degree as a social worker. Ironically, while Hutchins found the lack of creativity within a government run mental health agency frustrating and far too limiting, she had considered herself “very uncreative,” until she discovered a passion for photography a few years ago.
“My mom always amazed me with being able to create beautifully with every type of art and craft. I hate arts and crafts,” Hutchins confessed in a recent interview. “Taking photos, talking to other people about how to showcase them best and playing with them in Photoshop has taught me that I am creative, which I never believed before.”
A blonde, native southern Californian, Hutchins says that she’s too introverted to be labeled a true “California Girl,” but admits her temperament perfectly matches the temperate weather, and she’d never want to live anywhere temperatures dipped below 64 degrees. Much like the weather, Hutchins was always calm and easygoing. “Most of my life I was pretty unemotional and sort of glided through without examining feelings. I think I always considered it a sort of strength to not feel or show feeling too much.”
Although Hutchins thinks that her stoicism has made her more empathetic and diplomatic, she recently felt a need to work toward changing the way she deals with her emotions. Whether it was the aperture setting of her camera’s shutter or her exposure to the on-line artistic community, or both, Hutchins has been successful reconnecting to herself through her photography. Self-examination and feeling more deeply can be uncomfortable and “not always fun,” she says. The pure act of taking photographs and playing with them, however, is nothing but fun. “It’s the act of getting lost in the playing that’s so cool because, as an adult, we just don’t make excuses to do that enough.”
She makes no excuses for her new-found artistic passion, though and feels that there will always be so much more to learn she will never tire of it. “Besides the peace and excitement I feel in taking photos and playing with them in editing, the best part of my new ‘artistic experience’ has been the people I’ve met. I’ve been amazed, humbled and grateful for very special people I’ve met from all over the world who have been so encouraging and have turned into great friends! Friendship hasn’t always come easily to a shy Hutchins, but it lasts. Her best friend, Hai-Ping Hwang-Twigg, says, “I have known Jean since we were in 1st grade where we were in the same class and I said hi to her at the drinking fountain in the classroom and she did not speak at all and turned around and walked away.” Hutchins, who acknowledges a poor memory, does not recall this event at all and says, “I don’t remember such a thing, but figure if it happened, she probably just scared the crap out of me.” They both agree they are total opposites, Jean being the “quiet, thoughtful thinker,” according to Hwang-Twigg and Hai Ping being a “total drama queen, saying anything to anyone and not giving it a second thought,” according to Hutchins. Opposites or not, they both agree that the common language of their friendship has always been the ability to laugh at themselves and one another.
Hutchins has become less shy over the years, especially since her children were born. “I learned that you have to jump in and take charge sometimes when nothing’s getting done, whether you want to or not.” Her daughter, Amanda, is now 16 and her son Kyle is 12. They not only make sure she gets things done, they, too, laugh together on a regular basis.
“Two things that are very important to me in dealing with the world and that I wish I saw other people enjoy more are humor and acceptance. If we can’t laugh at life’s oddities, what a dull existence!”
Life with children and a camera are anything but dull. She and her daughter still giggle regularly about a little side-trip Hutchins took during last summer’s family vacation. Hutchins was just as excited about her new DSLR camera as she was about being on vacation. “We were walking near the Spokane River, and I fell on my butt and slid a little on an embankment and my daughter found it hilarious and always says it was the best memory of the trip.” Every time she brings it up, Hutchins laughs and reminds Amanda, “but I saved the camera,” which was fortunate since it gave Hutchins her new profile picture (courtesy of Amanda Hutchins), not to mention 1100 new photos to play with from this year’s family vacation in New York City.
With so many photographs to choose from, Hutchins had a hard time selecting just three of her favorites, especially since she dislikes the number three, because, she says, “I’m a square, not a triangle; hoping to evolve into a cube some day. Wouldn’t that be nice – to be three-dimensional?” Her current favorites are:
We’re All Blue: “I like how this turned out with color and depth. I tend to be drawn to flowers and do a lot of macro shots, then get tired of seeing only flowers, and try to shoot other things and end up back at flowers.”
Dragonfly Silhouette: “I love silhouettes and loved my recent afternoon chasing dragonflies in a park all by myself – just got lost in the experience.” In Japan, dragonflies are symbols of courage, strength, and happiness, and for some Native American tribes, they represent swiftness and activity. It isn’t easy to capture a photograph of a dragonfly, but perhaps Hutchins’s success can be attributed to some new-found self-awareness: “I feel like I quietly tend to move in my own direction. I really don’t want to move with the crowd. Not that I’m a rebel and want to move against them, [I] just want to wander around in whatever way feels right to me at the moment.”
Close-up and Personal: “This one I like because of how it turned out through Photoshop with contrasting and sharpening and whatever else I did to it. (I really should keep track of these things somehow.)”
Because Hutchins still attributes the term, “aspiring artist” to herself, she was reluctant to give advice to others. She did, however offer this belief, “I believe in good. I have faith in the power of beauty and nature and the energy will, and passion that people put into the world.”
The power of creating should never be underestimated. Photography has “saved” Jean Hutchins in some ways. Maybe she’ll have time for the world when the memory card is full.