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Meet Jaime Leigh Bourbonnie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jaime Leigh Bourbonnie.

Jaime, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Photography became a passion as I traveled through Europe the summer of 1996. I always say I ‘found’ my vision when I was traveling with my little red point-and-shoot 35mm film camera. In May of 2000, I graduated with a degree in Photojournalism. Shortly after that, I started my own photography business, Jaime Leigh Photography. Portraits of children, students and families were my main focus to start. Then I chose to include weddings and corporate events, which led me traveling to many fantastic places nationally and internationally.

Portraits of people have always been my heart’s desire because I delight in seeing their personality through the lens. I love being able to document emotion and character in other people. However, I’ve also had an excitement for photographing every day and bygone subjects we see around us that may easily go unnoticed. Such as old trucks, mailboxes, signs, abandoned buildings, trains, barns, tractors and RVs. These random subjects and the occurrence in which I find them, always bring me joy. I call them ‘treasures’ and every treasure I encounter is worth documenting.

Throughout these years of photographing, I collected antique window frames and kept them in my garage. They had a purpose, but I wasn’t sure how exactly. In 2015, I had an idea to put my photographs in the windows. Initially, the project started with different images in each window pane with matting. I would clean the glass on the window and keep the wood frame ‘as is’ and they were very rustic. I started selling the window art at street markets in Denver. They were barely selling. I felt I needed to create something different, but wasn’t sure how.

In 2016, I met a person who was a mentor for me. He helped me grow as an artist by teaching me how to properly refurbish the window frames and turn them into fine art. The window art now looks more realistic, as I only mount one photo in the entire window without matting. This makes it look like you are actually looking through your window at a scene. The original wavy glass stays intact unless it is shattered, in which case I replace the glass. The old windows have new life and purpose, called art. To this day, my portrait business and fine art window business is my vocation.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As I look back to my college days (23 years ago), my photojournalism teachers were very influential in my eagerness to learn subject matter, composition, available light and space. The assignments were not easy and the darkroom was a process! During critiques in class, the teacher would say, ‘Go back, do the work’. Sometimes he said this multiple times, which was frustrating in a sense, but also made my mind, heart and eye stronger to see the subject and portray the photo essay in its truest essence. To this day, I hear him saying, ‘Go back, do the work’ and I’m grateful for this lesson because it reminds me not to be lazy and to focus on what I really want to show in the viewfinder.

Learning how to photograph people and get in their space is a challenge. It is not something you learn from a textbook. It takes practice and perseverance. Being in someone’s personal space requires them to trust you and feel comfortable with a camera in their face. This is a challenge I am willing to overcome every time I make portraits. Getting to know a person or people in a particular setting and time takes patience. I consider it a gift to be in the space of others as it is a beautiful experience when I see their spirit through the lens.

Photographing subjects other than people can also be an undertaking. These subjects don’t physically talk, but they still speak to me. As my journey began with the window photo art, I was making photos that I felt people would like and want to purchase. I quickly realized after my first season selling the window art in Vail, Colorado, that not everyone likes old trucks, mailboxes, bikes and barns! Being an artist and wanting to show what I like, does not mean that is what will sell. I knew I could still incorporate the unusual side of my vision, but I had to learn how to make landscape photography a part of my collection.

Over the last four years, I’ve made progress in finding scenery that people enjoy looking at. This is a process because for me, landscape photography requires timing of the season, timing of the day and the light of a scene. It also requires energy in researching, being prepared for the weather, traveling, hiking, re-learning how to ski and getting up at the crack of dawn for first light or showing up late for last light. All these variables have made me grow as a photographer and artist. The journey through photography never ends and it is always telling me, ‘Go back, do the work’.

The windows themselves are the most laborious part of this job. Finding the windows at salvage yards is fun and exciting, but getting them prepped and refurbished is a lot of physical labor and time. Creating and restoring the windows to make them salable and adding my photos to them is a process and I will spare you the details! However, the time, work, energy and love of the final product is all worth it in the end. If you are an artist of any kind, you know it is a labor of love and when you can make a business out of what you love, then at the end of the day, your exhaustion is a fulfilling and gratifying experience.

Sidebar: Over the years of being a photographer and artist, I’ve learned there will always be people who give unsolicited advice and have an opinion. Also, the people who say, “Oh I could take that picture and restore old windows”. The reality is, yes anyone can buy a camera or use a smartphone, but not everyone can make a picture or has the integrity of the craft. So I stay honest to what I do, commit to creating art and ignore the opinions that don’t matter.

So to answer the question, “Has it been a smooth road”? I don’t believe any road is smooth. If we didn’t have struggles and we weren’t crushed at times, then we wouldn’t be stronger. We wouldn’t know what it’s like to rise again, to be brave, to ask for help and seek our purpose. I’m grateful for the long and winding road as life’s mysteries are still being revealed.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Jaime Leigh is a photographer, artist and owner of Jaime Leigh Photography (portraits) and Through Your Window (fine art).

Jaime Leigh Photography is based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado and has evolved over the last 20 years. Jaime Leigh specializes in portraits including senior pictures, children, families, weddings, headshots and events. She also teaches individual photography lessons on-location. Photography has changed so much over the years; I’m grateful to have started with film and then make the transition to digital. As a portrait photographer, now in a digital world, I am proud of creating, building and maintaining a business that is always growing. The best part of being a portrait photographer is meeting wonderful and interesting people that share their time with me.

Through Your Window is also based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado and has evolved over the last five years. The work starts by finding and collecting antique window frames, which allows me to spend some time in salvage yards and I love that part! Throughout different seasons during the year, I travel mostly by car to make photos of scenes that people enjoy seeing out their window. Traveling inspires me and recharges my vision. The studio I work in is my garage and that is where the magic happens.

Over time, I refurbish and restore the window frames and then mount one watercolor fine art print in the back of the window, creating a view Through Your Window. From June to October in Vail, Colorado, I set up shop at the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show every Sunday and sell the windows to locals and visitors from all over the country. The windows are also available online at throughyourwindow.com. I’m grateful for the skills I continue to gain and the tenacity to do this work, the creativity involved, and the growth of this business. It’s true joy when customers resonate with the photograph and appreciate the craftsmanship in the window.

What were you like growing up?
As a child, I remember being adventurous, curious and laughed a lot. In school, I found that I enjoyed the more artistic classes and loved to write. I have always been right-brained, creative, observant and somewhat random in my thinking and behavior. You could say I marched to the beat of my own drum! Most often, I was an introspective child and somewhat introverted.

Growing up, my sister and I spent our summers in Canada where my dad, grandparents and family lived. We traveled a lot at a young age to Canada and many fun trips with my dad. My mom was also in the travel industry for work, so we experienced different cultures and meeting all kinds of people, which is a great memory. Those trips gave me the travel bug later in life; wanting to see, explore and discover.

Being a determined spirit, I always gave it my best when I wanted to do something. At 17 I ran my first marathon in Washington D.C. and at 18 I bungee jumped in Switzerland. The marathons continued only through my 20’s and currently, I partake in the reverse-bungee (slingshot) at amusement parks!

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