Q&A with Photographer Jessica Deeks

March 8, 2017


Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls © Jessica Deeks
Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls © Jessica Deeks

Ottawa photographer Jessica Deeks shares her new personal series of portraits for International Women's Day


When photographer Jessica Deeks stumbled across the Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls, she knew it would be the perfect fit for her next personal project. The camp is a local initiative run by self-identified women that provides music programming to self-identified girls—from jam sessions to gig planning to rock 'n' roll nights.


Deeks timed the release of the portraits, below, to International Women's Day (the full collection, along with candids and video, is on her site). We asked her more insight about the project. 


What made you decide to take this on as a personal project?

I immediately pictured this black-and-white photo series of the campers, and I’d been itching to shoot some personal work that I was excited about. This seemed like the perfect blend of subject matter with a style I wanted to shoot. I approached the camp about the project idea and I received a very enthusiastic green light! It ended up being 18 girls, who formed 4 bands. It was a lot to shoot on one day between their camp activities and rehearsals but we made it work and had a blast.


Why was it important for you to tie this project to International Women’s Day?

I shot this in November and afterwards I was busy with client work till year-end. When January rolled around I knew I needed to set a release date for myself. I started Googling things that it might tie into (International Day of The Girl, the Junos, etc.) but the date of International Women’s Day was perfect and [spoke to] what [the project] stands for. Both the series and the day celebrate women and girls being themselves, trying new things and belonging to a community. 


© Jessica Deeks


What stood out to you about the girls as you were shooting their portraits?

I loved their "here I am, this is me" attitude. Shooting portraits for editorial and commercial clients, I get a lot of people who put up bit of a wall that I have to break down to relax them and get something real. These girls were the complete opposite. I thought there might be some teenage self-consciousness, but I was delighted to find that they had such a strong sense of self and comfort in their own skin. 


What kind of style were you going for with these images? 

I wanted to keep it pretty raw and gritty. I was shooting in a sort of garage area of Capital Rehearsal Studios where the camp was taking place. I scouted it beforehand and knew I wanted to include a bit of that room in some images, plus a painted canvas background for a certain studio quality. Black and white was always how I saw the series. 

© Jessica Deeks


What equipment did you use? 

For the portraits, I used a Nikon D800 with a 24-70mm lens tethered via a Tether Tools cable into my retina-display MacBook Pro. I ran CaptureOne and had the images automatically convert to black and white as they came in. Lighting was Profoto packs with a Profoto Deep Umbrella as the main, and a Photek Softlighter firing through a Lastolite scrim for fill. The candid images from the camp were shot with my D800 and the 35mm and 50mm Sigma Art lenses, with a Nikon 70-200mm for the performance night. All the gear was transported in Think Tank rollers. 


What’s the plan for the images going forward?

When I approached the camp with this project idea, I told them they could use the images for any of their needs, since they would be letting me come in and do this thing in my own way. I’m excited to see how they might be used by the camp, especially after they get their website updated. I believe they’re still looking for someone to do that, if anyone out there is looking for a web project! 


What message do you hope they convey?

Photography is always so subjective that one person may see a different message from the next. I try not to impose too much of that in the images for that reason. For me, I simply thought it was a rad camp that I totally would’ve tried when I was their age. I love seeing girls (and young people in general) be unafraid to try whatever they want to try. 


© Jessica Deeks



© Jessica Deeks


To see more portraits, candids and a behind-the-scenes video, visit Jessica's site.

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