Jenna Ohnemus Peffley ’08, Photography and Imaging, picked up a camera at a young age and never put it down. She enrolled at Ringling College of Art and Design at age 23 after a short interior design career. A post-graduation move to Los Angeles landed Peffley work assisting several fashion photographers and doing re-touching work.
Peffley’s last full-time position working for someone other than herself was three years ago when she served as photo director for Clique Media Group, overseeing digital creative and photo shoots. Today Peffley runs her own business, shooting interiors, fashion, and travel for Architectural Digest, Pottery Barn, Harper’s Bazaar, and many more clients, but she confirms that “the interior stuff is my heart.” Peffley credits her success to a strong network built over a 10-year period, Ringling’s lessons about digital and large-format work, and the technical and collaboration skills she has learned.
“Nothing is given to you. You have to work for it. When I arrived here, I took any job I could possibly take. That got me networking in the industry,” she said. “I connected with so many people that before I decided to go solo, I was organizing a party for several founders of women-owned companies. Within 24 hours I was booked with shoots and I haven’t stopped since.”
Peffley also attributes her achievements to the Photography and Imaging department, which she represented as its inaugural Alumni Honor Wall award recipient in 2018. “I had both Tom [Carabasi, Department Chair] and Sally [Pettibon],” she said. “They taught me to see art differently, to see different techniques, understand history, and form a visual style. Tom’s knowledge of the fine art photography world blew my mind open. He introduced me to Rineke Dijkstra. Sally’s documentary class broadened my horizons, and introduced me to photographers like Sally Mann and Mary Ellen Mark. Her eye really helped refine my own eye,” she said.
The admiration is mutual.
“Jenna was passionately curious about photography at the highest levels and very quickly started producing thoughtful, technically accomplished images,” said Carabasi. “I’m not surprised that her visual skills, keen aesthetic sense, and joyful spirit have been recognized by many others and enabled her to accomplish so much.”
Pettibon concurred. “Jenna has an infectious enthusiasm and curiosity about life that makes her a joy to have around. She is a hard worker and takes all her experiences, even the unpleasant ones, and learns from them, making her the successful and creative force she has become.”
When asked about favorite career highlights, Peffley notes that a day-long shoot with actor/ director Peter Fonda early in her career and shooting the 55 most influential women going into 2020 as “anything-is-possible” moments. She emphasizes the power of networking and treating others with kindness and respect.
“I believe in human connections and I believe in being nice,” she said. “I won’t take on clients I don’t feel aligned with. I met with Conde Nast a few months ago. They had been following ME! I walked out that day with a shoot booked. Netflix came to me through someone I used to work with. You never know which friendships will turn out to be great network connections.”
Peffley’s advice to aspiring artists is “don’t be too big for your britches. Assist, assist, assist. That’s how you meet people. You have to work for as many people as you can. Give yourself three to four years to work and assist. Move to a big city. If you really want to do it, you have to pay your dues. People don’t take you seriously otherwise. And remember, Ringling College is there to refine your style and pull the artist out of you.”
By Nicole Caron