In the crazy and extraordinary world of journalism, aspiring creatives often find themselves wandering onto job paths they never imagined. Photographer Jenny Anderson learned early on that it was sink or swim in New York City when she jumped ship at a boating company to shoot on Broadway.
Anderson, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate, began studying pre-med at a junior college. In her first two years, she became involved in school plays and other clubs that led her to follow a more creative path and realize she didn’t want to study medicine.
She quickly changed plans and transferred to the University of Mississippi her junior year to study photojournalism. While writing is core work for a journalism major, Anderson loved photography and began working for The Daily Mississippian, the school newspaper.
“I was basically working wherever they wanted me,” she said, “mainly taking pictures around campus and at football games.”
Anderson and a fellow Daily Mississippian student worker began covering theater department performances.
“I wanted to go backstage and show the less glamorous side of performing,” she said. “Everyone wanted their pictures taken, so I asked the director if it would be okay if I went backstage.”
That idea ignited her desire to become a Broadway photographer.
After graduation, she applied to over 100 jobs in cities big and small.
“The only company that actually offered me a job ran a tour boat that went around New York,” she said. “I would take the tourists’ pictures as they got on the boat and then try to get them to buy them. They told me if I could be there in two weeks, then the job was mine.”
Anderson took a leap that changed her life. She sold everything and bought a one-way ticket to New York City. Not one to settle, she persistently chased her Broadway dream and landed an internship with Broadway.com. This was her first step in doing what she truly wanted to do with her talent.
“The day came when I finally got the chance to cover my first Broadway show, which was ‘Wicked Day’,” she said. “The problem was I was still working for the tour boat company, and I had to work that day. They wouldn’t let me off, so I quit over the phone. It was terrifying. I had just quit my full-time paying job.”
The decision was a great move for Anderson. The chance to work with Broadway.com led to a six-year stint with the company and higher pay. On a whim, she picked up and left to become a freelance photographer. She told everyone she was working on her own and used her Broadway connections to meet actors, directors and publicists.
“Jenny was always a bright student, very willing to work and put in the effort,” said Mark Dolan, a UM School of Journalism and New media professor. “Jenny was always good at making connections. She also tries to help anyone who is looking for journalism opportunities. If there is ever someone in New York, she is always more than willing to meet with them.”
Anderson is still taking pictures in New York City.
“I have now been a freelancer longer than I worked with Broadway.com,” she said. “It’s been about eight years now, so, in total, I’ve been working in my profession for around 15.”
Working as a freelancer, Anderson’s days are never the same. They range from doing studio shoots to opening nights on Broadway, and even shooting for the Tony Awards.
“The Tony Awards still feel like a pinch-me moment when I am there,” she said. “Shooting the event for the first time was kind of when I realized I was good with a camera.”
Anderson has photographed a long list of celebrities, including Andrew Garfield, Demi Lovato, and others. Being a Broadway photographer allowed her to shoot incredible photos of notable Broadway actors like Sutton Foster.
In 2020, with the outbreak of COVID-19, Broadway stages went dark, and Anderson put her camera down.
“After about 35 days in lockdown, I finally picked up my camera again,” she said. “I was so disheartened by all that was happening that I didn’t even want to touch my camera.”
Anderson was one of the lucky ones who found steady work during lockdown. She came up with the idea to do Zoom photoshoots, starting with her friends and eventually Broadway actors.
After a long period of uncertainty, New York City loosened shelter-in-place restrictions, and Broadway doors opened again. Opening night ticket sales skyrocketed, and everyone was back to business.
Today, Anderson is behind a camera again and making the most of the new normal. Ask her for advice, and she’ll tell you persistence is key.
Today, she is working on projects that still involve Broadway, but she is also currently shooting for New York Fashion Week, Getty Images, and other projects she is keeping secret.
Anderson has made the most of a dream she had as a junior in college, proving you can wander onto a path that leads you to where you truly belong.