Studio Living

October 2002

Photographer Jennifer Girard has worked from home for the past 27 years. In 1975, this Lakeview resident was a recent divorcee who had to raise twin daughters without any alimony or child support.

"For 10 years prior, I was a model, without a college degree or any kind of training to be a good secretary so I decided I

When Girard started out, not many local photographers were interested in taking headshots of actors, so she seized the opportunity, inviting clients to her home studio to be photographed.

Since then, she has become very successful and now does all kinds of photography, including corporate headshots, advertising shoots, CD covers and family portraits. Girard works many social events around town, plus at least 70 weddings a year.

She donates her services for causes like the Chicago Academy for the Performing Arts and the City of Chicago Job Shadow Program. "In the latter, I talk with handicapped college students about careers in photography," Girard says.

Her home base is an updated and restored, 80-year-old, three-story house. The entire first floor is a studio; Girard lives on the second and third floors with three dogs and two cats that are always around greeting guests and clients. She also has developed a beautiful garden with flowers and fountains to serve as backgrounds.

"I love working at home because when I have visitors or clients, we are in pleasant surroundings in the studio or garden. My pets are always with me and when I'm not photographing in the studio, I can pick tomatoes, take a bath or process my work all in one location," Girard says with a chuckle.

Sometimes, the mixing of work life and home life has hilarious consequences. "Many years ago, I had some actors from Second City come to the studio for theater publicity photos," Girard recalls.

"They came in a large group and one of the individuals was not yet in his costume and I was getting anxious. I wentup to him and asked why he wasn't dressed yet. He replied, 'Lady, I am here to read your gas meter.'"

According to Girard, "This is not your typical place of business. It is fun, it is cozy, and there are no elevators or doormen with whom to contend. There are constant interruptions, but I never answer the door or the telephone while I am shooting. Fortunately, I have an assistant who does that," she says.

"People love to come here and they respect my professional ability," says Girard.

"There are no disadvantages working at home and because I have done it so long, I don't know any other way."

Though she likes to have a flexible schedule, Girard keeps her life balanced by trying not to book more than two photo sessions per day.

Twice a week, she goes downtown for 45 minutes of Bikram yoga. Every morning at home she does floor ballet and other times she walks and plays with her animals, reads and works in her garden. She recently started taking piano lessons at home.

For those considering working at home, Girard advise, "There are those people who want to be involved in a structured environment and then there are people like me. If you are like me and want to do your own thing out of the structured box, I would say do it."

"However, you have to remember you are your own boss, you have to be disciplined and abide by the rules to get the job done. This total responsibility is on you and no one else."

Having their mother work at home all these years evidently influenced the twins, Tiffany and Jai, 37. Tiffany is a belly dancer and yoga teacher and Jai is a photographer. Both work out their homes.