Jessica Allen was raised exploring the fields and forests of Pennsylvania. Whether fishing with her dad at her Grandpa's farm pond, hunting for morels with her Pap or camping and canoeing in Rickett's Glen State Park, she was learning to quietly observe the world around her. Both parents encouraged her interest in the natural world.
Bird names - ticked off in childish scrawl - can be found in the back of her father's copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. Orphaned Canada geese (Eeny, Meeny, Miny, and Moe), a rescued box turtle (who enjoyed eating Brussels sprouts), corn-on-the-cob-eating black bears, tail-thwapping beavers and the nest of a Great Horned Owl all hold a special place in her childhood memories.
Her father gave her her first 35mm, the Olympus Infinity Jr. when she was fifteen. It wasn't until twenty-two years later when her mother bought her a Fuji FinePix J10, Allen's interest in nature photography began to awaken. With her own young child in tow, they began to explore the fields and forests around their home, visiting nature preserves and state parks just as she had done with her own parents while growing up.
When she was thirty-seven-years-old, Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was during her treatment (2009-2010), her relationship with the natural world became crucial. Everything - from a slight breeze to a violent thunderstorm - appeared magnified. She began to notice seemingly meaningless or minute interactions between plants and insects, animals and habitats. Her world was altered.
I look closely at everything. When I make a picture I wish to record the moment, not simply make an image that pleases the eye but rather to recall the scent of the earth below me or the bird song heard above me.
I seek to discover how the subject of my photo connects to its surroundings; my pictures isolate the thing while quietly extolling its relationship to the universe.
Now in remission, Allen is transformed. Her family celebrates her recovery each and every day...and her mother continues to enthusiastically support her love of nature as well as her healthy Nikon habit.
Allen's words and images have most recently been featured on the Brandywine River Museum of Art Blog and in the spring 2017 issue of RURAL. Ms. Allen resides in South-Central Pennsylvania with her artist-husband Michael Allen, and their twelve-year-old son, Benjamin.
Ms. Allen is also a Pennsylvania-certified educator and has worked with children in grades K-12. She holds degrees in Communication & The Arts, Secondary English Education and has earned a M.Ed. in Teaching & Curriculum.
Allen has completed the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) Growing Compassionate Leaders course, earning 20 hours of additional professional development training and her Roots & Shoots projects have been awarded two JGI grants, resulting in the creation of a native plant wildlife habitat as well as a pollinator garden.
As a home educator and qualified portfolio evaluator, Allen shares her love of nature study and child-led learning with families throughout south-central Pennsylvania through nature clubs, workshops and consultations.