Local photographer found her calling behind the camera


Jessica Whitley is a photographer based in Macon, Georgia. Photo provided by Jessica Whitley


Jessica Whitley is a photographer based in Macon, Georgia. Photo provided by Jessica Whitley

Jessica Whitley, the driving force behind “Jessica Whitley Photography,” is a staple of Macon’s arts community. However, very few people realize how much she
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realize how much she actuallydoes.

Chances are, if you have attended any sort of artsy event in Macon, you’ve seen Whitley with her bright hair and funky outfits.

Whitley has been photographing theatrical productions for several years now, but that is just one facet of her job. She also shoots weddings, portraits, headshots, newborns, maternity photos, animals and more according to her website. Outside of photography, Whitley is also an artist and a performer, and she is considering trying her hand at theatrical directing, making it obvious that she will not be bound to just a singular path in life.

“Who was it that thought we were just meant to be good at one little thing in this one little rich world?” Whitley said.


Jessica Whitley is a photographer based in Macon, Georgia. Photo provided by Jessica Whitley

Whitley said that she took a photography class in high school, which taught her some historical and logistical information, but it didn’t really click with her at that time. However, she said that she utilized her skills as a coping mechanisms when her life got a little overwhelming.

Whitley’s mother had schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis , which was a lot for a high schooler to deal with.

“In my sad times, or when I was upset about life and didn’t know how to cope with it, I would get out my camera, or I’d throw on ‘Dreamgirls,’ or I’d light some little candles,” she said.

Whitley would then use the mirrors on her closet doors to experiment with her camera, using herself as the model in this makeshift studio.

She said it was a “place to play. To not be judged. A safe space. And that was me and the camera.”


Jessica Whitley is a photographer based in Macon, Georgia. Photo provided by Jessica Whitley

Nowadays, Whitley is a beacon of positivity for everyone around her. She lights up any room she walks into, and she never meets a stranger.

Whitley started bringing her camera along with her as she got involved in theatre, until people started associating her with it and expecting her to bring it with her everywhere.

At this point, Whitley still didn’t think that her photography skills would become a source of income, much less an entire career.

While she was in college at what is now Gordon State College, Whitley photographed theatrical productions since she was already involved with the shows. Then, she started picking up weddings.

“People wanted cheap photographers, especially in the deep south,” Whitley said. “I started thinking, ‘whoa, I never thought I could make money off of this.”

She started with weddings and eased into headshots, though she admits that the photos weren’t incredibly high quality at the time.

Right as her photography was picking up, Whitley was faced with a tough decision.

“I had to walk away from the situation with my mother. I had to live for her,” she said. “I’d come back with my car and visit her in the nursing home.”

Her mother’s health was not the only contributing factor in her developmental years’ that has an effect on her.

Whitley’s upbringing had a lot of ups and downs, because some of the adults in her life didn’t place an emphasis on her education.

“Goals and failures were treated exactly the same,” she said.

Whitley’s father was the one who pushed her to pursue a higher education, which she said she is very thankful for.

Whitley transferred to Columbus State University as a nontraditional theatre student, but when her experience didn’t match her desires and expectations, she reconsidered whether theatre was what she truly wanted to do.

That’s when Whitley met photographer Amy Maddox, and everything changed.


Jessica Whitley is a photographer based in Macon, Georgia. Photo provided by Jessica Whitley

Maddox worked with Whitley regularly, and Whitley quickly learned to just keep saying yes as opportunities arose, regardless of what kind of shoots she was asked to participate in. She decided to move to Macon officially.

One thing led to another, and Whitley eventually built herself a network, which presented new and exciting photographical opportunities to her.

“I’m still like, ‘wow, this kept me alive,'” she said. “Regardless of anything, this gives me a purpose in other people’s lives, and maybe I can tell a story or capture people in a way that makes them feel good.”