Jenna Echakowitz

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Image by Zeno Petersen

Who is Jenna Echakowitz?

I am known by (and as) many things – freelance photographer, writer, bookworm, car fanatic, pop culture enthusiast, animal rights activist – but simply put, I am a creative. I am a person who is constantly inspired by the world (and the people) around me. Sometimes I am completely besotted with everything in existence, and other times I loath the very world in which I live – I am a person of extremes (also, one who tends to be overly dramatic). I also have a chip on my shoulder about standing only 5″1′ tall.

What is your best childhood memory?

Learning how to work a camera for the first time – it was grade four, I was young and inexperienced, and it involved a disposable film camera from a Wimpy kiddie’s meal. It was cheap, plastic, rattled a bit when you moved, and bright red. Most of the shots from it were unfocused and shaky at best, but I enjoyed the action of taking an image so much that I was hooked from that point on. So, ten years later, I would like to formally thank Wimpy for helping me choose my current career path.

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Image by Matthew Kanniah

If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?

There are a lot of answers to this question – some of them hilarious in an awkward teenage-stage kind of way, and others in a very depressing, regretful way. As a sort of brief over-view of life’s multiple regrets, I’ll pin it down to my past interactions with various people in my life that I have either lost or have drifted away from me (whether by my actions or theirs). I think I would have appreciated the time I had with them a lot more, and not have pushed so many people away from me just because of my own insecurities. I’ve learned the hard way that every person you meet has something to teach you, whether you want the lesson or not. Sometimes they teach you about pain and loss, and how to deal with coming face-to-face with death in the most intimate way possible. Others teach you better lessons – how to learn to laugh again, how to appreciate the good that people are capable of, how to French-braid your hair.
Some of them also teach you just how much vodka NOT to consume on an empty stomach, but that’s a story for another time.

What do you feel most proud of?

I feel most proud of the time and dedication I put towards my work with abused and abandoned animals – especially considering that the shelter I work at is a forty-five minute drive from Johannesburg on a good day. I feel most proud, however, when a dog that I have worked extensively with – and have seen broken in both body and spirit – transforms into a vibrant, loving animal; one that is full of life and ready to start a new chapter with a new family. That pride doubles when someone comes along and adopts this creature that has essentially super-glued themselves to my heart.

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Image by Matthew Kanniah

If you could only keep three possessions, what would they be and why?

My camera (for obvious reasons), a journal (I’m assuming that a pen comes as a package deal with this and therefore only constitutes one item), and a kindle (loaded with every published work of Terry Pratchett in existence). My camera because it’s physically something I cannot live without (my need to document the world around me is very strong indeed). The notebook would act as a secondary medium of documentation – and give me a place to vent and to keep track of my various writing endevours. One of my favourite sayings is that you can never have too many notebooks. Since I am an avid reader with a sizable library of my own, the kindle would be the perfect way to condense all of my novels into one convenient little package – and I’d keep Pratchett around because I would need something to laugh about in an otherwise depressing reality without paperback books.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

“It was all worth it.”

What is Jenna Leah Photography?

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It’s my small freelance business, which I started about seven or eight months ago. My main areas of focus at the moment are commercial and portrait photography, but my heart lies with fine art work. It’s something I look to dedicate more time to in future, because this is an avenue in which I express opinions on socio-political issues concerning things like race, gender and social commentary. My ultimate aim is to create an environment of awareness and social critique – and also a bit of introspection – within my work. Because in the end, if it’s not controversial then it’s not worth doing.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee, brew method or coffee origin?

Cappuccino’s basically form a staple part of my diet. A close second would be a caffe latte or a double espresso – it’s pretty tough to choose a favourite out of those three.

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Image by Matthew Kanniah

In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

Depending on the day of the week, that’s likely to be Vovo Telo (Norwood), Post (Braamfontein) or Origin (Maboneng). All three have a great vibe and, most importantly, great coffee.

What does a perfect day look like?

Starting the day off early, adventuring (on foot) through some previously-unexplored part of the city – preferably through an abandoned building – with a group of close friends. And after a few hours of that, breakfast at any sort of food market tops it off. I live my life in the hours before 12pm, so that basically constitutes a perfect day for me.

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