By BONNIE BAILEY
On June 4 of 2016, Jill Lewis officially took up residence on the Jonesborough town square when she opened Just Jill Photography –– her studio and home away from home.
“I’ve always wanted a studio space and I’ve always wanted to be in Jonesborough, so this was the perfect place for me,” Lewis said.
Lewis, who has been a working photographer for about ten years, said the studio space, which was exactly what she had dreamed of, fell into her lap one day when her parents were visiting her in Johnson City.
“We had already eaten lunch, so we didn’t want to go out to eat. We didn’t want to see a movie because we wanted to be able to converse,” Lewis said. “We decided to take them to downtown Jonesborough.”
While wandering the shops, Lewis struck up a conversation with a shop owner who asked her if she was looking for studio space. Lewis, who had two young children at the time, said she would love a studio space, but wanted to wait to look for one until her kids were older.
“The shop owner and I went on to talk about working on props and stuff together,” she said. “She called me a few days later and said she had a proposition for me.”
The shop owner wanted to sublease a space in the building, and she thought it would be perfect for Lewis. After Lewis and her husband viewed the studio space, they came to the same conclusion.
Once we saw it, it was a no-brainer, Lewis said.
“I wasn’t even looking,” Lewis said. “I really feel like this space was meant to be. It totally fell into our laps and I’m really glad it did. I’m really glad we randomly decided to come to Jonesborough on a Saturday afternoon and popped into the store.”
The studio, located at 123 East Main Street, has rich hardwood floors and windows shaded by ivy, and it is decorated with a whimsical touch. A divider made of old barn doors, tin from a barn roof, and storage shelves separates her space from the next. Since Lewis specializes in photographing children and families, toys are among her photo props.
“I’m not going to just grab my camera and stick it in your child’s face,” Lewis said. “I love to get down on the floor and play with the kids and pull out that emotion and pull out those genuine smiles and that laughter.”
Lewis prefers shots that show her clients’ personalities over just-sit-and-smile shots.
“I love being able to capture a child the way they are in that second,” Lewis said. “I’m a mom, so I know how quick everything goes. It just flies by. If I can kind of get a little glimpse of who that child is in a photograph, that’s something that can stick with that family forever.”
Lewis especially enjoys photographs that evoke emotion from parents.
“It’s really neat to see through the eyes of a parent and see what connects with them,” Lewis said. “That’s important. That’s what they have to pass down through generations.”
When families come in, Lewis tries to photograph them in action, interacting with one another and playing instead of just as a posed group.
“Come in and be yourself. Be your family. Your photo sessions cannot be any crazier and chaotic than my family photo sessions,” Lewis laughed.
Building relationships with clients is important, she said.
“There are some people who I did engagement pictures for who are now having babies,” she said, and those clients are now bringing their children to Lewis for photographs.
“I love following them through these different stages of their lives,” she said. “It’s an honor, really, and it’s neat to watch them grow up.”
There are a few pieces of advice that Lewis offers to her clients. The first is to print their photographs.
“I let people have their digital files from their pictures, but I always say, ‘Please let me help you get them in print and on your walls and in albums.’”
One day, Lewis said, those digital files will be gone.
Her second piece of advice: “Just do it.”
Don’t put off taking photos because you want to lose weight or because it doesn’t seem important, she said.
“You’ll want those photos later. I treasure my family photos.”
And most of all, Lewis said, have fun.
Just Jill Photography’s hours are by appointment only. To set up a session, you can contact Lewis at 423-202-4840, at justjillphotography.com, or through Facebook.