From an early age, UM alum Jenny Anderson picked up photography like many Broadway actors pick up their makeup before the show time. In “The In Between: Intimate & Candid Moments of Broadway Stars,” debuting at the Ford Center on Jan. 28, Anderson showcases her work that was not much different from her work at the university.
Anderson is from Mississippi, although she said she lived all over. She transferred to the university her junior year of college from Jones County Community College. Throughout Anderson’s life, her dream job was to become a doctor, however, her career path changed once transferring to UM.
“I grew up being really influenced by photographers like Dorothea Lange. She was more of a documentary photographer,” Anderson said. “That’s how I started documenting the people around me and the places, so that was a more journalistic way of approaching photography.”
In addition to her journalism major, Anderson pursued her passions of theater as a minor. Growing up, theater was a common entertainment form for Anderson and her family. Anderson’s father is an art teacher and her mother is a theater teacher. She loved watching her mother perform and at some points even performed herself.
“I quickly found out that I am not very good and also I have stage fright. So I knew that theater wouldn’t be a part of my life in that way, but I knew it had to be a part of my life,” Anderson said. “I had to figure out how to do that. And I think I was lucky enough to find photography and be super passionate about it and also be good at it enough to bury it with my love of theater.”
Anderson took her passion for theater and covered it during her time working for The Daily Missisippian, under the advice of Ellen Meacham, who was the advisor for The Daily Mississippian, but now is an Instructional Assistant Professor of Journalism. When Anderson was the photo editor, she melded her two passions together, and the arts and culture editor started covering the theater the Ford Center presented.
Behind the scenes, intimate photography became Anderson’s fusion of her two loves.
“Taking photos of the theater is a very very small part of the process, but watching it unfold behind the scenes is my favorite part,” Anderson said. “There is one specific photo of Haley Strode, who is now an actress in LA and is incredible. I took a photo of her backstage in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and when I put it on my computer, I was like, ‘this is it, this is what I want to do forever.’”
As her time at UM was coming to a close, Anderson applied to hundreds of jobs from Los Angeles to New York. One of the jobs that called her back was a souvenir photographer for Circle Line.
“They were like, ‘if you can be here in two weeks, you can have it’ and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do it,”’ Anderson said.
After a $94 one-way plane ticket was purchased, Anderson was on her way to her new life in New York.
She worked at Circle Line for about a month, but knew this was not her career goal. She applied to Broadway.com, and after a month of waiting for a call back, she received the job of photo intern. From there her career flashed before her eyes. With each candid picture, Anderson built up her portfolio.
About six months in at Broadway.com, after the previous photo editor left, Anderson received the photo editor position. She then worked for Broadway.com for six years. While she was working for Broadway.com, she photographed many Broadway stars, such as Bernadette Peters, Lin Manuel Miranda and Amanda Jane Cooper, in addition to covering the Tony Awards for six years. She then took a leap of faith and pursued a career in freelance photography.
“I ran away and I went home to Mississippi for about a month to kind of gather my thoughts because it was very emotional to leave. I left (Broadway.com) because I needed to grow, and I just was kind of plateauing there, and I needed to put on my big girl pants and go out on my own,” Anderson said.
When she got back to New York, she never stopped working. Every connection she made at Broadway.com gave her even more incredible photography opportunities.
Anderson continued to cover the Tony Awards, but got to be on the red carpet, and in 2016 she started working for Getty Images and covered backstage photos. With her freelance career, Anderson’s work covered more than just theater.
She started working for ABC and shot photos for the network’s shows, she also covered the 2020 presidential election night in Delaware.
“It was incredible,” Anderson said. “After the four years we had prior to then, to be there that day and get to document these very historical moments in history.”
After working at Broadway.com andstarting her freelance career, Anderson will go back to her roots on Jan. 28 at the Ford Center to showcase her work after she graduated.
“The In Between: Intimate & Candid Moments of Broadway Stars” highlights 45 photos of Anderson’s backstage experiences while she worked for Broadway.com.
The exhibit was first proposed in 2019, but due to COVID-19 was postponed for spring of 2022. Ellen Meacham suggested an exhibit of Anderson’s work in the Ford Center to her sister, Kate Meacham, who is responsible for the marketing of publicity for the Ford Center. Kate Meacham put the exhibit under limelight.
“We love being able to showcase the work of students on the stage or former alumni,” Kate Meacham said. “We bring in all of these shows that are touring shows and people performances that are not necessarily connected to the Ford Center because we want to give opportunities for all my students to see.”
The opening reception starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public. The exhibit can be viewed for the rest of the semester anytime the Ford Center lobby is open.
Anderson’s career is nowhere near a shutter stop, as she plans to pursue even more Broadway photos and would love to go back to her southern roots.
“It’s really surreal and incredible to be able to come back to Oxford and share this particular work with my Southern family and my actual family and my best friend’s and my school and where I came from,” Anderson said.