As a child, Chelsea Hargett Francis often found her mother Jane Tucker snapping photographs of her at unsuspecting moments.
“Early on, my siblings and I stopped wanting our pictures taken, so she took shots when we weren’t looking,” Chelsea says. “I’d be watching TV, and Mom would come in with a camera. ‘The light is just right,’ she’d always say.”
Chelsea comes from a family of talented female artists. Her grandmother B. Tucker was a renowned watercolorist, while her mother Jane has captured treasured images of Bay-area families for 40 years. Chelsea teamed up with her mother after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in photography in 2005. Now, 14 years later, Chelsea has taken the reins of Jane Tucker Photography.
“It was my heart’s desire to give Chelsea the business,” Jane says. “I was afraid to let go of something that gave me so much love. I had to let go, and she wanted to claim it.”
Jane operated solo for years before Chelsea joined her, so the uncomfortable transition of sharing her creative workspace was expected but still challenging.
“All of a sudden, I had someone wanting to take my camera,” Jane continues.
The mother and daughter have made their business relationship work by setting healthy boundaries. They wait to offer criticism until the other asks for advice, and they work to model a sense of harmony for their clients.
“We realized we couldn’t be negative with each other,” Chelsea says. “Sometimes during photo sessions our clients are on edge. If we’re going to get good photographs, it’s important for me to set a calm tone so that my clients can feel relaxed.”
Chelsea is responsible for pushing the business from dark-room-developed negatives and word-of-mouth advertising into the competitive world of digital photography and social media.
“It was hard to make those changes, but I was able to help our business keep up with the ever-growing number of photographers in the area,” Chelsea says. “With digital, anyone can take pictures. It hurt when we saw our clients’ photos posted on other photographers’ social media pages. But one by one, they seem to have all come back to us. It’s gratifying to see that.”
Over the past 10 years, Jane has developed a process of accentuating clients’ photos with pastels. “They are really like hand-tinted photographs,” she says. “With pastel crayons and a Q-tip, I soften the background of the pictures and touch up shadows and highlights to bring out details in the clothes, hair and face. No one else is doing this. It gives the effect of a painted portrait, but at a much lower cost. People love them.”
Also a certified yoga instructor, Jane divides her time between teaching, traveling and spending time with her grandchildren. She and Chelsea both live on the Eastern Shore after moving their studio from the Tucker family home in Spring Hill in 2008, so they are now closer than ever.
“We have a warm love,” Chelsea says. “I appreciate all the knowledge my mother has given me. Watching Mom work throughout my life has taught me so much.”
Like most working mothers, Chelsea walks a tightrope balancing a family and career, but her efforts and skill don’t go unnoticed.
“Chelsea has great people skills and is a talented photographer,” Jane says. “She connects with children and is good with light and composition. She’s got a more balanced personality than I ever had — that’s why I took up yoga.”
Both mother and daughter are drawn to the relationships that develop through preserving the memories of their clients.
“I want to affirm the mothers who hire us,” Chelsea says. “I don’t feel perfect is perfect. My style is loose. I love the natural interaction when a mother hugs her child. I’m drawn to the beauty of imperfection.”
As it has for the past 40 years, Jane Tucker Photography continues to keep innovation a priority.
“We always want to get better and offer new things to our clients,” Chelsea says. “We’re constantly focused on lighting and different techniques. We want to continue differentiating ourselves and pushing the artistic boundaries of photography. My goal is for our clients to walk into their homes and love what they have from us.”