Personal-Everyday Chaos

ummm……thank you! | indiana county, pa photographer | personal

By August 19, 2011 165 Comments

I apologize up front for being “all over the place” in this post. #1 I’m just a leeeeetle bit overwhelmed and #2 it’s how my brain works, I can’t help it and I hope that it makes sense. Everything makes sense in my head until I spit it out then I have that “foot in mouth” syndrome!  None the less, just a few random thoughts about the recent “activity” and when I say RANDOM I mean RANDOM! 🙂 Please read my disclaimer that I have posted on my home page. It goes a little something like this:

My itty bitty disclaimer: I’m not a writer, I don’t claim to be, I don’t want to be. I have horrible spelling, awful grammar and down right nasty punctuation…but I do promise, I AM college ed-umacated! 🙂 Tee he he he. But on a serious note, this place is where none of that matters. This is my little piece of the inter-webber and I can say, spell and punctuate any way I want 🙂

I am completely overwhelmed, humbled and a bit taken back that so many of you took the time out of your day to repost, comment, email or just send some blog love my way. I honestly had no idea how powerful it would become but I have received emails from several of you, phone calls from local news stations, emails from reporters, requests to be featured on blogs. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for ALL of this, I was prepared for some harsh comments/criticism/feedback but not THIS kind of response. I have received emails from those of you from all over the world (literally) who mentioned how you were in your adult years and that the bullying still effects you. I’ve received emails from current high school students thanking me and calling me a their “hero”. I honestly don’t know how to process it all. I mean have you SEEN how many comments there were? Yesterday it was a full time job keeping up with everything. Some of your stories about bullying were just heartbreaking.

I’m not claiming to be an expert in bullying and as a matter of fact when asked by the few people that called, NO, I don’t have a first hand experience with bullying. Of course during my middle school/awkward years I’m sure there were some name calling but it was never really that bad that I didn’t want to go to school. And certainly not as bad as some of the individuals that emailed in. So I can’t stand up here and say I had been bullied, because I wasn’t. I liked to think I was friends with everyone. BUT I don’t think one has to have gone thru being bullied to stand up to it. I would like to hope that all of us could speak up if we ourselves witnessed it happening with our own eyes. And I guess that is where I find all the buzz hard to believe and process. All I did was say, no, I’m not going to take your picture because you were mean. Do I think that I’m the best photographer in the world…hahah..big fat N.O.! Do I know they could go out and easily find another photographer…Yes….but the point was, I didn’t want to spend time with them trying to make them look pretty when knew they were being ugly on the inside. Mean is ugly…and in my opinion they were making the CHOICE to be ugly.

Yesterday as everything was going viral, I was on a shoot with one of my clients. Then directly after, I went to one of my friend’s house to hang out with some good friends. I hadn’t seen the news clip yet and as I walked in someone said, “Here comes the saint!”. Keep in mind, they were saying it in a joking manner and I think he is a great guy, I didn’t take it the wrong way. He was just doing a friendly’s how my friends work and that’s why I love them!  But it got me thinking, I hope all of you don’t think I’m a saint–for lack of a better word. I’m human, I’m certainly no Saint. I don’t claim to be perfect. For example, in admits the midst of yesterday’s chaos, I must admit, I am a bad mom…I forgot to feed my child. I came out to the studio early in the day when my phone was blowing up to see what everything was about and was caught up in keeping up with emails, phone calls, etc, that I forgot to feed my child! It wasn’t until she looks at me and goes, “Mom, when are you going to make breakfast?” It was 2:30pm! haha! Whoopsy, I’m glad to report, she still loves me and I fed her breakfast at promptly 7am this morning!!  It just happens that in this particular instance, most of you think I did the “right” thing but trust me, there are probably a million things I’ve done wrong in my life time, I’m not perfect.

I wrote “Most” of you think I did the right thing.So you’ve seen all the awesome things people are saying but not everyone feels the same way, and I can respect that. I’m keeping an open mind and I’m going to assume that they had the best interest of those whom were being bullied. Some people feel very strongly that my opinions have no place in my business. I respect that, I really do, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.

If I’m going to keep it real, even with all the support that I’ve been receiving, I still have my insecurities too. Photographers and organizations, blogs and websites that I LOOK up to were sharing my link.I mean, photographers that I look up to and that are 1000x times better than I’ll EVER be were commenting and sharing my link. This lead to an influx of photographers to my “like” page (I’m going to call you “likers”) and so now, I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, with all these new likers I’m paranoid to post any of my future images because all of these critiques about my work will come pouring in. I mean here I am little bitty small town photographer having my website look my thousands of you and wandering if my work was “subpar” what would people think. We are human, I know I’m certainly not perfect and here I am worrying about what everyone will think and I’m not being bullied. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have that burden and knowing that people are ruthlessly saying mean and hurtful things.

I’m now under a microscope……’s here…and honestly, I don’t know what to do with it. I’m just going to resume as I always did and hope that someone else got the message…for those of you who don’t agree with me, I’m sorry you feel that way. I guess if you have your own business you can run it the way YOU see fit! If this hurts me..well fine, at least I know I failed at something I felt strongly about and I won’t be able to blame it on the economy. It will because of a decision I made…and I’m ok with that! At this point, I’m going to try to get things back to normal around here by editing yesterday’s session so I can share it on the blog just like I always do, going to an awesome ALUMNI football game (GO Bobcats) and by hanging out with one of my best friends over the weekend, she’s driving in from Michigan..yay!

Again guys…thank you!

PS: Mean is UGLY!


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  • Troy Davidson says:

    THANK YOU !!! Stop putting yourself down, you’re in the 1% and that’s special. I’d be proud to have you do a photo op for me with a disposable camera.

  • Thank you for taking a stand! Maybe one day it will stop. It has to stop at home. Bullies give birth to new bullies, and until people stand up to them they will never stop.

  • Tina M says:

    Got the link for your story from Joelle Watt’s site, So glad you stood up for yourself and in turn for the students being bullied. Sometimes doing the right thing is harder than overlooking things and just taking the job. I am glad it got so much publicity, maybe now parents will keep a closer eye on their kids. Great work, and wonderful Photo’s also. Such talented people online!!

  • Dave Porter says:

    Just read about what you did regarding the Facebook Bullies. Very cool!

  • Susan J says:

    This is inspiring and wonderful!! You are inspiring and wonderful!

  • Kirk Johnson says:


    Thanks so much for canceling the shots of those that bully others.
    Hats off to you.

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you for your courage against bullying. Please keep standing up for kindness and love.

  • William Fagiano says:

    Jen…don’t mean to take up much of your time, want to give you a ‘high-five’ and when you find yourself in Chicago, I’ll be happy to show you my town! Billy 312.282.1875

  • Tom says:

    I support you — you have been true to your own values, and even put your business on the line! Integrity and courage like that is stuff of heroes.

  • Bert Wolfe says:

    Thank you, Jen! Your beautiful photographic work is a reflection of your beautiful soul!

    With respect and gratitude, Bert Wolfe

  • Laura says:

    Don’t worry about your photography, Jen. Although I heard about you via the stand you took against the action of those girls (and I know you were acting only out of principal, not trying to start a movement! :p) I have looked through quite a lot of your work on Facebook and I really have to say that you do take beautiful photos. You really capture the ‘feel’ of the moment; I especially like the wedding photos you took!

    You are a very talented photographer who can capture the real emotions of a situation and preserve them, now, that takes skill and talent. What you did on taking a stand only cements you as a beatiful person, who indeed takes beautiful photos. And it was indeed the RIGHT thing to do – detentions don’t get through to girls these age; not allowing them senior photos or banning them from the prom for example really gets them where it hurts. I hope they learn from this incident, and indeed become reformed young women.

    Please don’t be scared of the publicity 🙂
    Laura – UK

  • RGaines says:

    A friend posted this news story to my page yesterday, so I had to find out more about the person who had the wherewithal to follow up her convictions with action. Bullying is so pervasive in teenage culture, that it is accepted as normal. The internet has taken the place of the bathroom wall, I’m afraid. Kudos to you and your stance. I sincerely wish you well with your photography business. Thank you.

  • Astrid says:

    I am grateful for people like you. You did a seemingly small thing that has resonated across our culture and made all of us think. It just takes one brave person to get the ball rolling in the right direction. And you certainly have done that. Just imagine all the good that has come out of this small selfless act. You decided to refuse the business of four “ugly” people and now the univese is going to reward you tenfold. Good job setting a good example for all of us. Thank you!

  • John Drake says:

    My hat’s off to you. As someone who was bullied severely between grades 8-12, 1 year in public school, 4 in a Lutheran school, it made me feel good someone was willing stand up for those like me. The adults would not do anything about it, even when the kids doing it didn’t deny it. I’ve also been bullied in the workplace as well. You did a great thing and I hope others follow suit. You may not want to be a hero, but to me you are.

  • kelly says:

    Seeing behavior like this and not saying or doing anything is the same as giving them a permission slip. I love that you have done this and envy your ability to just politely say ‘no thanks’ instead of doing something vengeful and malicious like photograph the bullies with their comments as the background….

  • Jess says:

    As an adult who was a victim of bullying over 10 years ago, I can say that it still affects me, and I am so proud of you for standing up for a girl who, no doubt, is going to think of you as a role model for the rest of her life. Who knows, you could have just saved a life. Bullying is one of the most sincere forms of ugliness, indeed. Here’s to making the world a prettier place.

  • susan k case says:

    You are warrior…a hero! Your words equal your actions! I loved waking up this morning and reading this type of uplifting news. Such a good soul you are!

  • Julie says:

    Not only do you stand up to bullies, and call it out for the ugly behavior it, but also you put your personal ethics before profit. Many could learn from you!

  • Mihrage says:

    One word… Bravo

  • Rhiannon Clark says:

    I think it was fantastic of you to refuse to photograph bullies. It’s setting a good example for people to stand up against internally ugly people. Stand up to the bullies and give the people who are bullied a voice. Well done!! Support from Nottingham, England. x

  • Troy says:

    Jen, I just read the story about the HS kids and Photos. I applaud you and your stand against bullies. I am involved with kids from HS in my business, and see the way some treat others. I make myself known, and stand up against the bullying, and try to show how it hurts both involved.
    It is nice to see someone stand up for their values..

  • I understand that you need to get back to your family and business, but just wanted to say I really admire you for making the decision that you did. It has been said many times, but it only takes one person to make a difference. At this little moment in history, you are that one person. As a parent I can only hope to raise my kids with the good sense that you were obviously raised with. Maybe, just maybe one of those girls will learn from this and make a difference one day too.

  • Angie R. says:

    Jen, first off, I am late to the dance. However, I want to take a moment to commend you for taking a stand against bullying. We try so hard to raise strong, confident kids, and then sometimes, ugliness gets in the way. I am a mom of a soon-to-be 7th grader and I got a glimpse of how life can be for these kids. I try to encourage her to be a good person and to stick to her principles. Thank you for sticking to yours.

    Your comment that some people don’t think your opinions have a place in your business. Integrity is black and white – it’s about the only thing that has no gray. I support you in that your opinions, your thoughts, your principles, your integrity have everything to do with how you do business. And yes, there is an impact. Most of the time you will see that by staying true to who you are, you will gain the support of more people and gain more customers.

    Running a business is not an easy road but it’s very rewarding. Congratulations to your for making that leap. Spread your wings and fly. I wish you only the best!!!

  • Matt says:

    Awesome. Just awesome.

  • Sue says:

    I admire you and thank you!!!
    To Average Joe… are just another “ugly” person!

  • Joe says:

    Jen you are my hero! I think that bullying is a horrible thing to do. When I was younger, I too was bullied because I was a chubby kid. Now I drive a school bus and when the county I drive for told us that bullying was no longer being tollerated, It was so great to hear! BUT!!! when I tried to have a boy that was not only bullying another boy, but he was being physical with him too, removed from the bus (perminatly), the school did nothing to him, just because I wanted everyone on the bus to know who he was and what he did. Well, you’d think that the world was coming to an end!! The school wanted to keep it quiet and behind closed doors. I say it should be in the open and in front of his or her peers. The punishment should be swift and severe! That way any of their friends will see what happens when they do that!! When it was happening to me, I would have loved to have someone stick up for me and stop it on the spot and not hide it, so that it just would continue…………………BUT then again, what do I know? I’m just a regular guy!…….Thanks Again!!

  • A Teacher says:

    Thank you for taking a stand against bullying. I was tormented in elementary and high school by a group of vicious kids. I was well into adulthood before I was able to let go of the insecurities and fears their behavior caused. My friend’s son switched schools because of relentless bullying. Now that I’m a teacher, I spend a lot of time building community in my classroom and letting people know from day one how I expect people to be treated and the consequences for crossing the line. It’s time more people stopped thinking “kids will be kids” and take a stand.

  • Aubrey says:

    Just saw what you did on tumblr – you are incredible. I hope this BOOSTS your business tenfold, because it takes a lot to take a stand. Thank you for what you’ve done.

  • Elizabeth from Philly says:

    You are fantastic. Don’t let the haters get to you, because #1 it is YOUR business to run as YOU see fit, and #2 I’ll bet that the only people who are against you standing up to the bullies are people that were bullies themselves. The world needs more people who aren’t afraid to call people out when they are wrong.

  • Jasmine says:

    Just saw the news article on Huffington Post and I am so incredibly overjoyed to see someone take a stand! I have a friend who lost a relative not too long ago due to bullying. He was 14 and took his own life. I pray and hope that this will cause SOME young person to take a step back, look at his/her words more carefully and realize the impact that true UGLINESS can have. BEAUTY is what you’re doing, trying to stop the ugly. Kudos, and good luck in all your future endeavors from Florida!

  • Emily says:

    I just read an article this morning in Greenville, SC and am very impressed with your stance on bullying. A lot of people complain about it but very few do much about it but you’ve taken a spectacular stance and I admire you for standing up for those that aren’t as popular, cool or pretty. I hope the parents who received the letters use the information in a way that will improve their daughters behaviors and teach them that it’s unacceptable…in high school and in life. Those that are bullies now may become bullied later in life. What goes around, comes around. But thank you for sticking up for those that were bullied. I hope your business prospers and is very successful!I would use you but there’s a distance barrier!

  • cindi says:

    All I have to say is I wish I lived there. I’d go to you for all my photography and send all my friends there too. Kudos to your integrity and your morals. You’re an inspiration to me.

  • Terri says:

    Thank you for having the courage to take a stand on bad behavior. We need more business owners with your level of integrity. Kudos to you!!

  • Holly says:


  • Holly says:

    You are AMAZING! As a school counselor, I cannot thank you enough for your courage, professionalism, and commitment to doing what is right. I will share your story with my students this fall as an example of a very positive role model.

  • A mom says:

    You go girl! It’s time people stood up for what is right. I applaud you just like I was proud of the gal in New Jersey who wouldn’t sell her bridal gown to someone who wasn’t getting “married” in her mind.

    There are still moral people in this country, and you’re my new hero!

    (From Texas)

  • Kate says:

    I am 6’1, female, a stay at home mom with equally tall children, extremely shy when it comes to meeting new people and I have been bullied many times during my elementary, middle and high school years. I see it now with one of my girls who is 10 and stands 5’8. She is not thin but she is sweeter than can be and it kills me when she is teased. I applaud you and thank you for having the courage to stand up to those families and to speak for those who can’t do it themselves. I speak for my kids because I hated how the teasing made me feel and I don’t ever want it to happen to my kids, or their friends or anyone else. Every little bit helps.

  • Dave says:

    A professional with ethics?

    In our “rich is better than right” society, someone turned down money to do the right thing?!

    I’m amazed. I’m impressed. I have a tiny bit of hope for society.

    In a small gesture, you did a huge thing.

  • Amanda says:

    As a person who despises Mondays as much as Garfield, this made my day! I have an autistic brother who was bullied when we were younger. I used to crawl under a table at daycare & cry because these kids would be so hateful. One day they started pushing on him, so I ran over & pushed back. I may not have been the right move, but I was 11 & didn’t care. They were pushing my brother! For some reason I was the only one who got into any trouble. Pleading with the teacher to understand that I was protecting my brother didn’t help; she only became angrier, insisting that no one was being mean to him. Looking back now I realize that she didn’t want any lawsuits over the fact that my brother was being mistreated. In high school one of the kids who had pushed m brother was the biggest bully on campus. She was hateful. I made sue to stand up for anyone she laid her vicious claws into. My family & I commend you on taking a stance that for some reason has people running scared. Kudos to you! Your work & your world will be blessed for your kindness!

  • jimmy says:

    as a person in my mid 40’s the effects of bullying still linger with me, thank you for your inspiration and doing something instead of talking about it. If ever in PA you are the photographer of choice!

  • Heather J Thomas says:

    Too many people today see things and let them happen rather than taking a stand. Thanks for taking a stand and leading by example. I am sure the kids on that facebook page being bullied on some level feel that someone has their back and maybe they won’t feel powerless to that bullying. And maybe by example, other adults will take similar actions when they see cyber bullying or any other kind of bullying occur.

  • Lainey says:

    I applaud you for choosing not to help someone spread hatred. Posting your choice not to photograph hurtful people in an anonymous way was a great way to take a stand against bully’s while still respecting their privacy. I find peoples comments, that you violated the bully’s rights, odd and a little disturbing. They were going to publicly humiliate others, but yet someone publicly disagreeing with their plan (but still keeping the bully’s privacy intact) is going to far?? You dealt with the issue in private, taught the kids a valuable lesson in character and reminded society what it means to be truly kind and considerate. Kudos to you and best wishes for continued success in your business and in life. I am sure you will go far!

  • Kari says:

    You will always reap the benefits/curses of what you sow. I pray MANY, MANY blessings to you and your business for having the integrity and courage to stand up for what is morally right.

  • Rob Scott says:

    don’t sell yourself short, you made a conscious decision to pass on money based on a morally correct approach. that is done few and far between these days. as the father of a four year old girl i was touched by your actions. perhaps if enough people continue to take the kind of action you did and the movement continues to grow i will have to worry less about my daughter being victimized. while i was bullied i am over it, as they say success is the best revenge. i wish you the best and am sure good things will come your way, while karma can be a b@itch i don’t think you need to worry about that.

  • Tiffany says:

    All I can say is WOW!!!! Oh and I have goosebumps, the good kind of course!!!! You are one amazing woman jen mcken!!!!!

  • Amy says:

    Glad I caught the viral news. I have never visited your website or blog before, but had to see after hearing a clip about this story. A few things I want to say:
    1. Your work is amazing.
    2. I respect those that stand for what they believe in.
    3. Beauty is from the inside out.
    4. With your one action, you are making an impact.
    It took courage, but I am sure so many are glad you had that courage and many will be blessed by that and your talent for years to come. Sharing this on my blog tomorrow! My best to you!

  • Wonder-V says:

    I found your story on Yahoo! today and couldn’t wait to congratulate you! I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about idiots designing and SELLING 24c gold and diamond studded contact lenses and how that has nothing to do with the betterment of the world, in fact, I was appalled. I LOVED seeing a feel good, in your face, doing right for the sake of doing right story and blogged on you, too! I loved the opportunity to display the world redeeming itself and love your stand. As a fairweather photog, I can really respect the risk you took. Good on ya, and Namaste!

  • Just Looking says:

    I think it is good to take a stance on things one truly believes in. I also think there is a time and a place for those stances.

    Essentially you broke a contract with these girls. You agreed to take their photos. When you did that, you did not tell them that their photo session depended on you approving of their behaviors or facebook page.

    If these same girls had canceled with you, because they didn’t like something about your personal life or views, I doubt you would like it.

  • Shaun from Pittsburgh says:

    Saw the story on Yahoo and wanted to take a moment to applaud you for your decision and your heart. Though this may have seemed to be a small, personal decision on your part, the end results of it are thankfully soaring. It takes lone voices like yours, doing seemingly innocuous things, to remind us there are still amazing people in the world. And role models to be had. God bless you and your success.

  • Amanda says:

    I just saw your story on Yahoo. As someone who was bullied in high school (over a decade ago) to the point that I considered suicide, I want to thank you for taking a stand against it. It is not all fun and games. Feelings are real, and hurt can run deep. In today’s society, it seems that most people look the other way. It is good to know that there are still some people in this world who will not tolerate such behavior and will stand against it.

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