By Jon Hembree
When you have a talented sibling, you can either be jealous or proud. But when your little sister is as talented as mine, you’ve really got no choice but to be proud. My little sister is an incredible photographer.
A Tough City
Julia fell in love with photography around middle school after being introduced to it by our older sister. By ninth grade, she was snapping senior pictures for friends, and by junior year, she saved up for her own camera.
Julia followed her love of photography to college. She knew photographers could make a living anywhere, but at school, she kept hearing that if she was serious, she needed to try Los Angeles or New York City. So, with an internship in L.A. under her belt and graduation looming closer, she leaned more and more toward New York. She knew it was a hub for all things photography—fashion, marketing, music, etc. So, as a recent college grad not tied down to much, she took the plunge: she moved to New York to pursue photography.
A few years later, but still only 24, Julia is making it work—but it hasn’t come easy. She’s juggled as many as four jobs and now divides her time between teaching photography classes, working for a health and wellness media company, and freelancing. Somehow she manages a social life too.
But I really appreciate the way she lives out her faith in a tough city—especially in a field where faith can be a rarity.
Julia said that when she moved to NYC, she was worried about not being accepted because of her faith. She admits to almost keeping it hidden at first: let people realize she was normal and then bring up that she’s a Christian. Sure, she’s been met with some ignorance from time to time, “You’re a Christian? Those still exist?” but overall, she’s found NYC to be a city that is generally accepting of people. The grueling pace of the city has, however, challenged and stretched her faith at times.
A Little Kindness
So how does she blend her faith with her art? Julia strikes a healthy balance. As far as her art itself, it’s not overtly religious, generally. There’s a time and a place for that, she recognizes, even bringing up the place of icons in church history—images created to lead a person to reflection and meditation. But Julia feels that as an artist who is a Christian, her photos don’t need to be “clearly Christian” any more than an office worker needs to have obviously Christian paperwork. Instead, she knows her faith is the lens through which she sees the world.
In a field where reputation is everything, Julia puts that aside to focus on how she treats people. In the photography world, who you’re connected to, who you’ve worked with, the people you’ve shot pictures of—all of it matters. Because of that, arrogance runs deep; but she’s found that a little kindness goes a long way.
Julia is determined to show love and kindness to the people that she works with, but especially those she’s trying to photograph. She says most people don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera. Often they only see their flaws. As the photographer, she has to combat that and be able to handle people as they come face-to-face with their own insecurities. To be able to speak to people’s insecurities, it’s vital that she knows where value comes from. Julia knows who she is in God’s eyes, and because she knows her value, she can speak to that in the people she encounters.
Julia makes beautiful art, but it’s her walk with Jesus that makes a big brother so proud.
Find Julia’s work on her site (juliahembreephoto.com) or on Instagram (@juliahembreephoto).
Jon Hembree is a husband, dad to four boys, preacher, and Diet Dr. Pepper addict living in the middle of Kansas.