We had the good fortune of connecting with Kalen Jesse Acquisto and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kalen Jesse, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I have a deep passion for entrepreneurship, as I see it as a powerful tool for inclusive economic development, community building and empowerment. An inherent part of entrepreneurship is risk and reward. As an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder and entrepreneur myself, risk is at the core of what makes my world spin.
All my best moments, experiences, lessons, and rewards in life have stemmed from taking risks, and nothing great has come from staying comfortable for too long. I have learned to have the utmost trust in my intuition and make most decisions using my gut feeling as my north star. Leaving everything that I knew to move to New Zealand alone to build a community where I knew nobody was one of the most rewarding risks I have taken so far. Building community and finding purpose in an unfamiliar place was a bucket list item. It was a way to prove to myself, internally, that I could do anything if I was BOLD enough and embraced the uncomfortable. New Zealand is where I worked for a startup, learned the power of entrepreneurship and launched Kalen Jesse Photography. This risk wasn’t a seamless process of butterflies and rainbows. I left my loved ones and all I knew in Denver, ended up sleeping on a park bench for a couple nights in NZ until my US bank account transferred, and relied on countless couches across the country until finding a place to call home, a job with a positive challenge and I ultimately built a widely diverse village of friends that I now call family. This never would have happened without embracing risk and trusting my intuition.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When I was just a few years old, my parents would drop me off in my leotard at Grannyma Kit’s house after gymnastics, and she would hand me her 1981 Olympus 35mm to capture the butterflies and bees buzzing through her garden. This is one of my earliest memories of capturing the fleeting moments. Grannyma taught me how to compose a shot, hold my breath and then press the shutter. I have since inherited her old film camera collection. My relationship with photography as a way to document life and connect with the natural world really developed with time as I gained a true love for exploring the outdoors and learned of life’s finite nature, but it wasn’t really until I lived in New Zealand when I committed to the art and launched Kalen Jesse Photography five years ago. Photography was my way of getting to know the new lands, waters and people. My camera became not only my passion, but a tool I relied on to become acute in this unfamiliar orbit, connect with my surroundings and construct my sense of place.
When I found that my existing deep passion for photography was able to fuel and support me, I knew I had something special that I couldn’t ignore. Photography is an obsession. I listen to photography podcasts on strolls, spend most weeknights watching photo videos, dream of photo and light manipulation tricks, read photography books, and edit photos in a flow state. Most importantly, I value guidance from mentors I’ve met all over the world. Running a business takes unwavering grit, passion, vulnerability and a great sense of humility.
The sense of adventure that photography inspires combined with the ever renewed opportunity to meet people ignites me! Photography allows me to connect with many of my personal interests in a new way, including travel, dance, surfing, and the outdoors. I leave photoshoots feeling so genuinely connected to my subjects and nature. I embody an authentic documentary style. I will capture the real-life stuff, the unnoticed interactions and the perfectly imperfect small moments. It’s these snapshots, these fleeting seconds that remind us that there is so much genuine love, connection and beauty out there in our turbulent, action packed world.
Kalen Jesse Photography is twofold:
1. As a passionate entrepreneurial advocate and entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, I work closely with Denver entrepreneurs and small businesses to authentically capture brand’s stories. Together, we craft a strategic plan to create a full content library that appeals directly to their target audience through visual storytelling and branding photos.
2. ‘Capture The Fleeting’ is my tagline, as I have a documentary-style approach when capturing lifestyle imagery, including weddings, families, engagements, portraits and maternity. I take time to get to know each client to tell a full, honest story through photography, one that you can hold onto long after the memory would have faded.
Photography as a way to connect with the world has changed my whole lifestyle, and it has been such a gift to bring this art and passion back to my hometown to document my community, shared experiences and a quickly-changing and thriving city. I am fueled by connection and community. My days are filled with community building, entrepreneurship and small business consulting and support. Documenting and building community, empowering others through entrepreneurship and sharing their story and humanness is my passion. If you’d like me to photograph, capture your brand, document your life moments and milestones and create something beautiful together, or you want to collaborate on a project, please feel free to reach out because I am always up for an adventure! I also sell prints to share my experiences and fleeting moments with others (https://www.kalenjesse.com/
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I was born and raised in the heart of Park Hill, Denver, I am a proud East High Alum, and my connection and passion for this city remains strong. After exploring other parts of the world for 10 years, I returned to Denver and now live along Colfax, near where I grew up! As someone who has watched this city through it all, it is a passion of mine to support the local businesses and document the architecture, people and landscapes, especially along this everchanging longest street in the nation.
When friends visit, I like to show them ‘my Denver’, the parts of this city that feel nostalgic to me. I would start at Pete’s Kitchen for breakfast, walk or bike around City Park, indulge in Nugg’s ice cream, grab a beer at Cerebral, shop at the Colfax boutiques, walk the longest street with open eyes and an open mind, and spend my night bar hopping from dive bar to dive bar ending with a concert at the Bluebird, Fillmore or Ogden.
No matter how we spend our day, you can always find me with my camera, whether it is for a client shoot or I am prepared to capture the fleeting moments surrounding me.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My life is made so full by the unwavering support system, mentorship, and inspiration surrounding me. I’d like to give a shoutout to the unique Denver startup and photography communities who make entrepreneurship less lonely and incredibly collaborative. I am forever grateful for my New Zealand village, many of whom are fellow photographers from NZIPP and instilled the confidence in me to make my passion for photography a proper business. These fellow artists and creators continue to inspire me every single day. I would not be where I am today without my honest, open-minded and full of life role model parents, entrepreneurial brother (also best friend) and my large chosen family who positively challenge me to take risks, live outside of my comfort zone and be the best version of myself. Above all, I am sincerely grateful for my life partner, Adam Estacio. He strikes a magic balance of being my biggest advocate and supporting my unstoppable energy and goals, while also grounding me to my personal values to ensure I become my ideal and most authentic self. Many of my decisions involve great risk, such as dropping everything to move across the world or leaving the security of a 9-5 job to run my own business, and I am filled with gratitude every day to be woven into such a vastly diverse, motivating and supportive web.
@Kalen Jesse Photography | KalenJesse.com My profile photo: Lauren Munson at a Denver photo exchange