Jessica Earnshaw Photographs Alexz Johnson’s Kickstarter-Funded U.S. Tour
by Michelle Park
We are trained from birth by our parents to push our palm forward and say “no” to lollipop-luring strangers. We are also told that there are no monetary profits to free hugs, sincere booms of applause, and hand written letters. However in 2012, singer Alexz Johnson succeeded in raising more than enough money to fund her first nationwide tour via Kickstarter. In exchange of personal thank you emails to one-on-one Skype video calls, the self-represented Canadian talent raised over $67,000 for her tour, purely through the supports of her loving fans. “On the first day of the campaign, Alexz raised $30,000 dollars, which was her goal. She raised it in one day,” remarked Jessica Earnshaw, the photographer in charge of documenting the entire tour.
Jessica Earnshaw, formerly a writer and a junior photo intern for TIME Lightbox, is a documentary photographer who focuses on shooting social health issue as her main subject, recently working on an extended personal project on homebirth. Born and raised by a photographer as her mother, Jessica has expanded on her upbringing and is passionately engaged in documentary photography as well as videography. “With my mom being a wedding photographer, I couldn’t imagine options beyond wedding and portraiture photography,” she explained. “But after working in documentary film and TV in Canada for over six years, I realized that what I really wanted to be doing was photography.”
With Toronto as their first stop, the musician, the photographer, and the rest of the band embarked on a music inspired road trip, lined with eighteen U.S. stops as well a couple stops in Canada. To properly acknowledge her international fans that pledged for the tour, the two creatives came up with the idea of a live photo blog, featuring shots of the concerts, as well as more exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of the crew hanging out on the road.
“The atmosphere was really great,” Jessica recalled. “I had complete freedom to photograph whatever I wanted. Alexz and I have been friends for a long time, so I was able to get a lot more shots that became a lot more intimate. At times, she was almost unaware that I was around her.”
With minimal equipment and a tight schedule, Jessica shot all these often candid photographs with a Canon 5D Marks 3 and a monopod, using mostly good old natural light with no flash. Thanks to the 5D’s clarity under low light conditions, she was able to capture the happy, the awed and the overwhelmed, even in dimly lit cafés and high ceiling concert halls. “Alexz’s fan base ranges from teenagers to people in their thirties. A lot of the kids I met on the road were really moved by her to tears. It was pretty amazing to see how her music took them through difficult times in their life, such as bullying.”
Despite her big voice often compared to that of Adele, “CTV Instant Star actress looks”, and various love calls from major record labels, Alexz Johnson definitely did not have a smooth incline to fame. At eighteen, she was signed to Capitol Records, and Epic Sony to follow at twenty-one. At such a young age, Alexz seemed to have a solid footing on promising major league grounds, but she ultimately ended up getting dropped in both cases. With Epic Sony, her album that was in the final stages for release got misplaced as head of the label changed—with the unexpected turnover, Alexz decided to be her own manager, making the move to New York a year and a half ago. With her established fan base from a couple TV programs, an independent album in Canada called Voodoo, and the Kickstarter campaign to top it off, she has successfully sold out on venues for her first US tour in 2012, and now is working on her album with Grammy winning producer, David Kahne.
You can pledge for “Alexz Pledge Music Campaign” to fund her upcoming album. If your donation is bigger than $10, free goodies will be sent your way!