The Senior Portait Experience | Class of 2020 Magazine!

(or, Welcome, Class of 2019 senior who is getting ready to graduate and missed out on wonderful senior pictures.... BUT still wants to book an amazing, once in a lifetime portrait session before heading to your next adventures!!)

Holy Moly I can’t believe it’s time for Class of 2020 already!! You guys are AWESOME as you’re already booking sessions! Now is the time to be setting up your session, believe it or not, as summer is often too late to get session times, especially if you are traveling or want a FALL session.

SO… here it is… my NEW UPDATED magazine for you guys!

We'll discuss ALL of this in person at your consultation (and I'll have a gorgeous printed copy for you to peruse over a coffee) but until then I hope this provides some inspiration for things you want to try in your senior portrait session, including in depth examples of different kinds of locations and photo stories from several kinds of session opportunities we can have in and around Denver. From urban, to natural to mountain and beyond.

You'll also find ideas for styling, tips for hair, makeup and wardrobe, a bit more on how the process works.

Plus LOTS of pictures to get you excited to tell YOUR story.

{ feel free to view the magazine in full screen mode -- note that clicking full screen will open a new browser window }

Hopefully if you're reading this, we've already set up your consultation, but if you've found this post on your own and would like to know more, please click below to drop me an email (be sure to include a phone number, your school and yearbook deadline (if you know it), parent’s name(s) and email(s), and please check your spam folder if you don't hear from me within a day or two as sometimes email servers send me to promotions folders!)

Or call me at (970) 708.2065 and let me know a good time to reach you!

Let's grab a coffee and you can tell me how YOU imagine your senior pictures.

I'm so excited to start our creative collaboration to celebrate your senior year with artful portraits!!


Meet Sequoiah | Empowered Urban Portraits in Denver

This woman is extraordinary. For real.

Sequoiah was a classmate of my son’s at Denver School of the Arts since the 6th grade (currently she’s a freshman at Stanford University), so we got to watch her grow over the years, developing her voice over the years to become a fierce advocate for women and minorities.

Throughout my time knowing her, I’ve always come away from conversations feeling inspired and energized. In each of her junior and senior years, she wrote incredibly moving and enlightening plays, both brought to life as full length productions as part of DSA’s Black History Show program. Not only did she research and write the scripts, she also directed each with brilliance, nuance and indomitable strength.

When I say she’s impressive, I’m only scratching the surface of the bazillions of ways in which she inspires me.

I’ve wanted to photograph her for years, so this was a special honor -- a true senior portrait experience. A sun and laughter filled photo session before she headed off to Stanford.

Absolutely radiant in the warm summer sunshine…

At Sequoiah’s consultation, she talked about her ancestry and familial roots, and out of that conversation, the ideas for styling her session were born. She decided that each look would celebrate a different side of her biracial roots.

We were so lucky to have her dear friend Yasmine to help style each of her looks on location, from accessories to wardrobe to hair and makeup. And of course I love that we were able to capture photos of their gorgeous friendship as well.

Ultimately this session (as I strive to make all of my sessions!) was about empowerment. Celebrating her spirit of extraordinary integrity, hard work and joy. Radiance. Sisterhood. It was a celebration for all of us, and I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have finally had the chance to work with both of these incredible women.

Sequoiah, we are thrilled for the next chapter you’re out there writing! You are an inspiration, a change-maker and we love you!!!

Moving through Still | Silver Rebellion

Watching her move it’s impossible not to notice that Valerie carries within her bones a living story of dance.

Valerie Madonia dances fine art photo shoot with photographer Jennifer Koskinen

Whether she’s sipping tea, laughing in a moment of warm friendship, or rolling around in a pile of tulle on the floor, I’m always aware of the soul of her story — a story grounded in a lifetime of creating art. A story she wears effortlessly, cradled within her bones and expressed with a peaceful confidence.

Her movements are accompanied by an inner strength that has clearly been earned over time.

You see, this incredible woman has celebrated fifty seven orbits around the sun, during which she has collected dance, artistry, motherhood and the kind of wisdom that is only born of experience. She has gathered it up and absorbed it on a cellular level.

Her body is home to a lifetime of dance artistry. It lives and breathes through her...

our Denver studio space for this session - where the magic happens!

our Denver studio space for this session - where the magic happens!

. . . as if every dance she’s ever performed has woven itself into the very structure of her bones.

. . . as if the collective musical scores she has known intimately over her career are searching for ways to speak through her movements. 

It’s a quality that a younger dancer has yet to earn: to radiate that kind of story with ease. 

Valerie was plucked out of school as a young girl to train as a ballerina. She went on to dance professionally all over the globe with the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov and the American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet and more (see her bio below).

But time, as we know, dances forward as well.

And so, it’s expected that, after “a certain age,” even the best dancers must quietly leave the stage.

It’s expected that they’ll find something related to dance to occupy their time. Perhaps open a studio and find students to train. To pass the baton to the next generation without question.

Expectations are a funny thing though. 

Perhaps you, too, sometimes feel an urge to break them? To show the world - or just yourself - that there’s more to a story than “expectations” might allow?

Valerie Madonia dances in nest of tulle for fine art photo shoot with photographer Jennifer Koskinen

It took some time for Valerie to fully embrace the fact that I wanted to photograph her BECAUSE of the extraordinary beauty I see in the history that she has earned in her 57 years on earth.

That I wanted to celebrate her FOR her age. As part of a story I have been wanting to tell: 

You see, I want to reshape the narratives we have come to accept on aging through photography.

To empower women so that we may fiercely own our stories at any age. Earned smile-lines and all.

To burst through societal expectations and celebrate this metamorphosis into something even more beautiful. Something gifted only to the very lucky.

And as it turned out, this idea indeed resonated with how Valerie wants to live.

To start writing a new chapter. To keep moving and to keep sharing that celebration of life with others. 

To keep moving. To keep making ART.

Some backstory behind these images.

A year ago we arranged our first session, photographing inside the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver. It was a powerful place to start, framing Valerie as she danced with these life-sized abstract paintings.

BELOW: A sample of our first dance photography session at the museum — you can view the full STORY HERE.

Photographing Valerie inside the museum was deeply seductive. The first breakthrough came when I watched her leap into works of abstract art, dancing with the paintings in a way that created new art inspired by Clyfford Still’s giant canvases. I was captivated by her expressive language. Together we were making photographs, mixing disciplines and creating beautiful art out of art. It felt amazing.

ABOVE: We went back for a second session a few months later which led to a new collection of beautiful images. 

Photographing inside the museum was incredible, but as much as I loved the images, I felt an inexplicable desire to move our project to another location: What could we learn, beyond the gallery? What might we discover without the paintings to spark the initial conversation?

It was a bigger leap than either of us realized, to explore what kind of statements might emerge if we looked inward and placed the focus for our third collaboration on the pure expression of the knowledge and history which lives within her body. The story which might resonate beyond. I watched some behind the scenes iPhone video my son had taken while she moved and it hit me that we didn’t need the paintings. Val’s expressive movement had a narrative voice of its own.

So we shifted our focus on the expressive and mysterious nature of an experienced dancer’s movement. The collective memory which pulses through her.

This time, our session became more about writing a story that was uniquely OURS. But a story which might also be universally understood by anyone who has a body and aspires to keep moving once his or her treasured youth has evolved into something new. A new chapter which carries a new kind of grounded beauty and grace.

Heading to the studio that morning I had a pretty serious case of nerves. Turns out we were both nervous.

Valerie later noted it was like we were both preparing for a performance. And my camera was our audience.

I’ve often told myself that when I stop getting nervous before sessions it’s time to find something new to do in order to keep pushing my own creative edges. My son’s dad once calmed his nerves before a show by saying, “it’s ok to be nervous, it just means you care!” And wow — did this session give me the “I care” butterflies!

We started out photographing Valerie dancing in different flowing dresses. An antique blue velvet gown she’d worn to a gala. A simple nude leotard and some silk fabrics. A bit of shadow-play... exploring… searching (photos above).

But it was when we pulled out the pile of tulle that something magical happened.

In her movement. In my heart.

In the light that was being captured by my camera.

Leading up to this session, I’d been thinking a great deal about the role of narrative in photographs. Especially inspired after viewing large Richard Avedon photographs as part of the Dior exhibit in Denver, I thought about the opportunity to communicate something about Valerie’s story in what she was wearing. The real question was how to do this in a way that didn’t come across as cliche or too literal.

I hadn’t come up with anything yet, but as soon as she wrapped this home made tulle “skirt” around her nude body and started moving, it became clear that the volume and flexibility of this particular pile of fabric — with its own history in the world of dance — opened a doorway into the very story I was hoping we might tell. One that became abstract and full of art as she explored its edges.

I watched the tulle come alive as she pushed and pulled. It seemed to take on the ghostly spirit of every costume and tutu Valerie had ever worn. Collectively, the tulle with her improvisational movement told an entirely new story.

It told many stories in fact. At one point Valerie mentioned that she’d just felt the role she danced in Swan Lake inform a particularly bird-like expression.


Part of the impetus to book time in a studio was to have a safe space to experiment with artistic video recording on my Canon dSLR.

Val had been wanting to add this to our narrative tool-kit, but I’d had no experience with video — despite the fact that I’ve been dreaming about adding artful videography to my skillset as a visual story teller for years. This seemed like the perfect time to learn (and was, no doubt, another contributing factor to my nerves that day).

I watched several tutorials the night before and then dove right in as soon as we arrived on set, failing many times before getting results which, to my pleasant surprise, nearly perfectly matched my vision.

Holy moly there’s a lot to learn but I’m thrilled to have taken the first leap, and quite proud of our first results.

Exploring movement of tulle and expression of body was a great place for me to dig deep as an artist and learn a new medium.

Experimenting with manual focus to create a sense of mystery and discovery for the viewer; learning to shoot at a high frame rate to be able to convert the video to slow motion; learning to edit these “moving pictures” in Photoshop to match the still photographs and create a cohesive story — it was all enormously gratifying.

I’d love for you to check out our first short video story below:

Valerie and I have approached each of these “art for art’s sake” sessions, importantly I think, without expectation or attachment to outcome.

Our goal has been discovery... pure creation. And as a result, each session has unfolded in an entirely organic fashion and taught us new things about our collaboration. And ourselves.

Two artists improvising. Exploring. Learning.

For me, this creative journey is deeply expansive. It taps into a different part of my brain to have no agenda beyond being receptive to the moment. Similar to a feeling I get with learning a director’s style with live theatre photography (I come to instinctively anticipate where to be to capture depth in staging), when we do these sessions I feel myself fall into a dance with Valerie as I travel the space with my camera in anticipation of her movement.

Watching, breathing, feeling the rhythm of the improvised dance. I direct her only minimally, and almost always in direct response to something she has done. “Ooh can you do that again facing the window so I see light on your face” or “I’m feeling bird expressions here, can we expand on that?” Or in our museum shoot, “Oh my God you just leapt and became part of the painting in the frame! We need to play with that!”

Improvisation. Capturing on instinct.

It’s a dance of a different kind: the dance of the photographer.

Wherever this goes, both of us feel ourselves opening to something new through this work. It feels vulnerable and intimate. While at the same time profoundly liberating and expansive.

Moody, mysterious, layered and expressive.

Like a dancer moving into her second act.

Valerie strikes triumphant pose in flowing tulle during photo session with Denver dance photographer Jennifer Koskinen

Most satisfying with this work are the moments you don’t plan. Moments of pure serendipitous magic. Do you see her eye in the tulle below? It’s a photograph which captures the spirit of my very favorite expression brought to life:

Work hard, and you’ll get lucky.

Valerie Madonia dances for fine art photo shoot photographer Jennifer Koskinen

ABOUT VALERIE MADONIA (DANCER): Valerie Madonia began her dance training with Maris Battaglia at the American Academy of Ballet in Buffalo, NY and left home at the age of 14 to continue at the National Ballet School of Canada, graduating in 1979. She was a recipient of the prestigious Peter Dwyer Award for Dance Excellence. She danced professionally with the National Ballet of Canada 1979-1981 (under the direction of Alexander Grant), at American Ballet Theatre 1981-1986 (under Mikhail Baryshnikov) and at the Joffrey Ballet 1987- 1997 (under Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino).
Ms. Madonia began as a member of the corps de ballet eventually establishing herself as a leading ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet. She had the honor of dancing as a company member with Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet, Armitage Gone! Dance, Complexions Dance, Configuration Ballet and as a guest artist with Alaska Dance Theatre, Russian Ballet Theatre, Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet, and at Le Gala des Etoiles numerous times in Montreal and Greece. She performed the role of the Princess in Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 2001 and with the New York Philharmonic in 2005, conducted by Alan Gilbert and accompanied by Pinkus Zuckerman. Madonia appeared in six PBS Dance in America Specials and is featured in four dance books, most prominently in, Classical Ballet Technique, by G.W. Warren. She performed the role of Madge in Colorado Ballet’s 2015 production of La Sylphide and as the Queen in it’s 2017 Swan Lake.
Her choreographic credits include the full length Ballets: Cinderella for Louisiana Delta Ballet, The Nutcracker, Polar Express and Appalachian Spring for Telluride Dance Academy and Ames Conservatory, Shapeshift for Boulder Ballet in addition to new works for the NYC Dance Now Festival, Sunday Salons and Les Patineurs for Colorado Ballet’s Pre-professional Division, Solo works for professional dancers in Colorado Ballet, YAGP competitions, Ballet West and Dayton Ballet. In 2016 she staged staged Gerald Arpino’s Light Rain Pas de Deux for Colorado Ballet.

ABOUT JENNIFER (PHOTOGRAPHER): After a ten year career as an architect, Jennifer is currently an Award Winning, Denver based photographer, specializing in actor headshots and high school senior portraits. She is also an accomplished theatre and dance production photographer, having worked with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center Theatre Company and Denver School of the Arts. She specializes in creating a positive experience and helping clients find their value through photography, fostering a sense of connection in her work, and bringing out personality in her clients while celebrating THEIR work. Her published theatrical photography work has run all around the world, and has appeared in American Theatre Magazine, The New York Times,, Broadway World and the Denver Post, to name a few.

ABOUT THE TULLE: A very special thanks to Catherine Kelly for donating the amazing tulle skirt which she handmade for her senior portraits and donated to me after her session. If you’re curious to see the skirt in its original form, check out her story.

Travel by Train | Appreciating Adventures on Amtrak

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows how much I love trains.

I love talking about trains. Spending time in train stations. Gawking over model trains. Traveling on trains (duh). And of course, taking pictures from trains. I AM a photographer after all.

VIDEO: iPhone pictures from our first cross country trip in 2014, aboard the California Zephyr, from Denver to Chicago

And sure, flying is ok if you’re in a hurry, but to me it’s like watching a movie rather than having an experience for yourself.

The train invites you to be part of the journey.

To see what’s between here and your destination with your own eyes. To feel the atmosphere shift between rural and urban places.

To feel the history in the rails which unfailingly guide your travel, and watch the unfolding of our landscape from town to farm to city and beyond.

On the train, you become, almost viscerally, a part of that connection between places which seem so different, but all tended by humans for different purposes. Sustenance. Dwelling. Appreciation.

Even at 80mph you bear witness to the curving metamorphosis that unfurls as you cross into a new state. With a bit of attention, the subtle shifts that occur between rural, agricultural and urban parts of our country reveal themselves. Historic towns almost appear to wear a filter of sepia, and then somehow roll into sparkling new metropolises only a short passing of time later. Changes in vegetation seem to yield their own changes in atmospheric conditions, the height of the clouds, the thickness of fog.

VIDEO: Snowy train travel, November 2018 between Denver and Chicago

Rather than dropping in on a place as you quite literally do when you travel by airplane, on the rails the country unwraps itself before you mile by mile, in a story of connections and unique characteristics which define place and make our lands so special.

TRAVEL BY TRAIN invites me to enjoy the journey as an integral part of travel. The window seat also invites me to see, create and share art from the adventure…

ABOVE: long exposure photographs (via iPhone) of passing rails and landscape from the train

Enjoy the journey!

VIDEO: Cross country adventure taking my son to college aboard the Zephyr (Denver, CO to Chicago, IL), the Capitol Limited (Chicago, IL to Washington, D.C.) and the Silver Meteor (Washington, D.C. to Savannah, GA)

Redthreaded | Worth Gown in the Clocktower, Denver

Sometimes work really does just feel like play. As in, giddy, crazy fun, can’t-believe-I-get-to-do-this, PLAYTIME. Which is probably why it took so long for me to blog this session. This was too much fun to be considered work, wasn't it? Well regardless of where this falls on the work/play spectrum, I’m really proud of this session and it’s high time to share it here!


It all started when Boulder-based seamstress and costume designer Cindy Settje, founder of the incredibly successful corset shop, Redthreaded, painstakingly recreated this fashion masterpiece by hand. Originally designed in the 1890s by the House of Worth, it is known as the Ironwork gown, and is legendary in design and historical costuming circles.


I’ve known Cindy for a few years now, and it is my observation that this incredibly talented woman never stops creating. Ever. Watching her process, from deciding to take on this huge historic undertaking, to actually painstakingly recreating this sensational gown was extraordinary. She hand appliquéd every stitch of the black “ironwork” on the white fabric, every piece needing to ultimately line up perfectly. This was nothing short of a Herculean task. Her level of dedication, craftsmanship and the integrity she puts into every stitch inspires me to no end.


I’ve been wanting to photograph a session in the Daniels & Fisher Clocktower here in Denver for years, and the pairing of this gown in this location could not possibly have been more perfect! Even in challenging backlight, this fabric soaked up light like a dream.


SEE ALSO: my first collaboration with Redthreaded, with our dreamy Styled Corset Session (teaser images shown, right).

To learn more about the creator of this historical recreation Cynthia Settje, please visit Redthreaded.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Jennifer Koskinen is an award winning Denver based portrait & theatre production photographer. Comprehensive personal branding packages and couture fashion shoots are custom styled around each client’s specific needs, and sessions are designed to be enjoyable and empowering.