Before Janice Sullivan was photographing flowers and shouting with excitement at insects on plants, she was a student at the University of La Verne who majored in art with an emphasis in photography.
Sullivan worked for 15 years as an administrative assistant in the communications department and retired this summer to focus on her photography business, Sullivan J Photography.
Her passion for photography was cultivated by her grandfather and aunt who always had a camera in their hands. The hikes her family went on throughout her childhood influenced her love of nature and landscape photography.
However, it took a black and white photography course with Professor of Photography Gary Colby to help her realize that she wanted to be a macro photographer and work on abstract art.
Sullivan refers to herself as a “Gary Colby baby,” and says taking his class opened her eyes to an entirely new side of photography that she did not realize existed.
However, Colby has a different perspective on Sullivan’s achievements.
“Janice stands head and shoulders above most folks here,” Colby said.
“She would have found her way on her own, and so the contribution that she made was the standard for enthusiasm, for perfectionism, that we’ve come to expect from our students. She set the standard,” he said.
Colby describes Sullivan as one of the most energetic, productive, creative, collegial and thoroughly engaged students the art program had ever seen.
“He totally inspired me to try new things, and then I got into macro photography which is what I love and am known for,” Sullivan said.
Colby purchased a piece from Sullivan’s global warming themed senior project to place in the Carlson Gallery located on the ground floor of Miller Hall. Colby says he follows Sullivan’s website and the two keep in touch.
“Our institution can take pride but never credit for her,” Colby said.
After college, Sullivan started her career by selling images to interior designers and art collectors. Her close-up flower photos are among the most requested and purchased.
When the recession hit she decided to start teaching and making tutorials on photography software. Companies picked up on this, and Sullivan received a call from The Arcanum asking her to be a Master, the highest ranking position on their website.
The Arcanum is a website that helps aspiring photographers become proficient in their passion. This website, started by Trey Ratcliff, uses an apprentice method of teaching that has the Master mentor their apprentices.
Ratcliff reached out to Sullivan, who had been an apprentice.
Sullivan also began to work for the University but kept her position as a Master. Ashley Sullivan, her daughter and director of operations of her mom’s online business, continued to sell Sullivan’s artwork on the website.
Janice Sullivan had fallen into a demanding routine.
“I had about three years of killing myself where I basically had no life,” Janice Sullivan said.
She says that she was not giving either job enough dedication and chose to focus on photography.
Sullivan provides tutorials on how to use different software like Adobe Lightroom Basics. The photographer says that receiving positive feedback from people who have seen her work motivates her and helps her business tremendously.
Her daughter majored in international business and foreign language and graduated from the University of La Verne in 2012. Ashley Sullivan’s responsibilities include maintaining and submitting her mom’s portfolio to clients, connecting with collectors and releasing newsletters.
“I always want what’s best for her, and working with her can be very easy because I have that open communication to say, ‘Mom, slow down,’” Ashley Sullivan said.
Janice Sullivan has artwork in hotels across the country, Canada, children’s hospitals, a national museum in Germany and has been showcased in magazines like Outdoor Photography, Popular Photography and online articles.
“In photography, you have to be well rounded,” Sullivan said. “You won’t make money if you just do one thing.”
Sullivan enjoys history and researches the places she visits, whether they are historical or abandoned.
“I love the desert, so my favorite place that I have shot in has been Arizona, but I want to go to Utah to shoot all the canyons,” Sullivan said.
She can be inspired by even the smallest of wins in her career and day.
“It’s funny because I can get so excited about taking a picture of a flower and a bug looking up at me,” Sullivan said.
“That’s why I say to take your time if you want to experience a different level of viewing things because it’s like a moment of pure excitement. And that’s how I know that I’m doing what I love,” Sullivan said.
She says that if she knows that the shot is amazing, she’ll zone out, yell and shout just from being so happy.
She keeps a “cheat sheet” by her bedside where she writes down a variety of items like ideas that strike late at night, a look back on a good day, or a photographer who has inspired her.
She uses the cheat sheet on days when she has writer’s block.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m sad or if I’m hungry or if we can’t pay the bills, in that moment it is so amazing to me and that’s why I do what I do,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s work can be viewed and purchased at sullivanjphotography.com.
Gabriella Chikhani can be reached at email@example.com.