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The Girl Behind the Lens | 10 Things You Might Not Know About Jessi

self portrait of jessi casara with a canon ae-1

Call it self-reflection, but I've been thinking a lot about where I've been and where I'm going, and I've realized that there are a lot of things about me that you might not know. And I know not everyone is interested, which is fine, but one of my top values is true human connection - it's part of why I am a photographer - and I just think that since I'm here documenting some of your most intimate moments, it might be high time I got a little vulnerable myself.

So, here you go, 10 things you may not know about me. Some are fun, some are sweet, some are weird, but all of them make me who I am.

1. The Flora-Bama is why I live on the Gulf Coast

ken lambert and the flora-bama

Not for the reasons you may be thinking, but yes, the Flora-Bama is to blame for bringing my entire family here in 1987 (peep baby Jessi on my daddy's shoulders).

For most of his life, I guess you could call Ken Lambert a traveling musician. He played in bars along the Gulf Coast, including Seville Quarter, and several places around Nashville and Atlanta and beyond. He first met Joe Gilchrist when he was playing in Pensacola in the early 70s. A few years later, Joe decided to open up a new beach bar called the Flora-Bama, and wanted my dad to start the music scene there. So he did.

ken lambert

He met my mom at a little rib joint outside of Atlanta pretty soon after that. They got married (4 months later!) and had me two and a half years after that. We were living in Pulaski, TN at the time, but Daddy decided he was done driving all the way down to the Flora-Bama every other week to play (well that, and baby Jessi was also NOT A FAN of saying goodbye). So right around my third birthday, we all moved down (including baby bro Zack) to South Alabama so that he could continue playing at the Bama full-time, which he did for another 25-ish years.

I have more memories than I can recount here (might be something for another post...) but suffice it to say I'm grateful to have this place as a part of my childhood, as unconventional as it may seem.

group on stage at the flora bama

Check out this interview with my dad by Big Earl to get the full scoop on the history of the Bama and how it all started.

2. I am obsessed with whales.

blue whale

(Image via the Marine Mammal Center)

I know, we're getting into weird now. But seriously, I'm not even entirely sure why I'm so obsessed with them other than the fact they they are so BIG. I love them. Especially blue whales.

But honestly, have you ever seen anything so majestic? It is #1 on my bucket list to see one in the wild. It's still crazy to me that I haven't made this happen yet.

Actually, no, #1 on my bucket list is to TOUCH a whale in the wild. Or ride one. That happens right?

Literal goals:

jessi as a whale rider

(this is why Jessi does not use Photoshop...)

3. I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.

If you asked me anytime before the age of 19 what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always the same: a teacher. But after 16+ years of school, I honestly just decided I didn't want to be in school for a while. I ended up getting my degree in Human Development and Family Studies, because I still loved kids and knew I would do something with them one day. And also, the curriculum was easy 🤫

Spoiler alert:

Fast forward 20 years later and I still can't get teaching out of my mind. I think sharing your knowledge is so powerful. Everyone has something they can teach, including me.

I've spent the last 10+ years building a photography business I am so proud of. I can honestly say that I make people smile. Not just in front of my lens, but before and after their sessions as well. I'll be announcing officially tomorrow on my Instagram and Facebook pages, but if you want a heads up on my first ever all-inclusive online course, click here, and stay tuned tomorrow for the deets. 🤗

4. I think the grates on sidewalks are death traps

jessi and jonathan on the ferris wheel in atlanta

Putting a photo of me and my now hubby because this is definitely a source of contention between us 😆

But seriously - who things it's ok to walk over those things?! I'm talking grates, sewer covers, those metal plates randomly placed on streets and sidewalks...ridiculous. I will not walk on them lest I either fall to my death or fall into a cesspool of flesh-eating bacteria and/or swamp gators that will proceed to eat me alive. Enough said.

5. I used to work for a home design company

Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man...

That's one of my favorite quotes by Sam Walter Foss. In my mind, I see myself living in an old farmhouse off the beaten path with neighbors and family down the road who are also good friends. I've always loved the idea of "home" - whether you're creating, designing, decorating, or restoring, it's all so magical to me.

Working for Bob Chatham Custom Home Design was honestly life-changing. Anyone who knows Bob knows what a gracious and talented man he is, but working for him you also learn so much! I learned what it meant to manage an office, how to communicate well with clients, how to put people above profit, and so much more. PLUS I got to learn how to draft house plans which is just a really cool gig. Catch me with my graph paper sketching out dream home #57 during my "me" time.

p.s. Currently obsessing over this old farmhouse I found on ZIllow:

old farmhouse on zillow in virginia

p.s.s. If you are looking to build and need an amazing home design, give Bob a shout!

6. I am absurdly close to my parents.

You know that saying, “You can’t go home again.”? Wrong. I can always go home. And it always feels like home (even if the house is different). My mom and dad are my best friends. They know me better than anyone (except maybe my husband) and they love me to my core. And I know it.

The older I get, the more I see the value in that knowledge. My sense of worth and unconditional love stems from them. The reason I have no problem pursuing any dream I have is because of their belief in me. My independence, my confidence, and my motivation is due in large part to what they have poured into me over the last 38 years (and of course the way God built me, but that’s a whole different story.)

In the Nature vs Nurture debate, both win, because I am equal parts their DNA and equal parts a product of them raising me.

jessi casara and her parents on her wedding day

7. I used to eat my lunch behind my lunchbox.

I honestly wish I had a photo of this, but alas, I do not. It is engrained deeply into my core memories though.

Picture this: Five year old Jessi at one of those long brown lunch tables, and all you can see are some frizzy blonde curls poking up behind her giant orange mini-igloo cooler box. This is how I spent lunch from K-4 through Second Grade.

I was such a shy kid. And I HATED people seeing me eat. I have no idea why. Like, did I think I was doing it wrong? I really don't know. I just know that at that time in my life it was my greatest fear and I had to shield everyone around me from the humiliation of mastication.

Side note: I will literally chow down on a double quarter pounder with grease running down my chin now, no problem.

8. I hate talking on the phone.

Honestly, this kind of goes in hand with #7, but for some reason I still haven't grown out of it.

I blame my brother for this though. Because when I was in middle school I was trying to order from a Delia's catalog, and back then you could do it over the phone if you had the item numbers, but when I called, Zack got on the other line and kept making TERRIBLE noises so that the lady couldn't hear me and I was mortified.

delias catalog

Never got over it. And never got my platforms ugh.

So yeah, talking on the phone terrifies me. Which is really uncool as a business owner. I mean, I will put my big girl, day-of-the-week panties on and do it anyway, but I literally have to rehearse the phone call before I make it. And I DO NOT answer the phone if I do not know the number, Again, terrible business practice, but I have to figure out who it is and what they might need so that I can come up with every possible response and be prepared.

Phone business is serious business.

9. I once tried to sing for a talent show

This is my best friend Brittany's favorite story about me.

Picture it: Fourteen-year-old Jessi. Frizzy hair and braces. Waiting for her turn in the band room to try out for the talent show. I walk up and give them my song:

"Butterfly" by Mariah Carey.

"Um, ok. Do you have the music?"

"No. I don't need the music. I will be singing this a cappella."


Did Jessi make the talent show?

No, she did not.

Here's how it didn't sound:

10. I have 4 book ideas

So besides photography and my -obvious- singing skills, I have always loved writing. My pursuit of these interests has been stagnant for most of my life, or maybe I should just say private, but suffice it to say I am getting more and more excited about making my writing dreams a reality in the very near future. I'll leave it at that for now, but be on the lookout for Author Jessi Casara hitting bookstands in the next 1-2 years. 😉

And there you have it!

So how many of these things did you already know?

Were they interesting at all?

Does it help you know me better?

Do you want to know me better? 😅

I hope you had as much fun reading as I did coming up with a list of things I wasn't sure you knew yet (you'll notice my love for Hanson and coffee didn't make the list, because #duh).

Want the latest on all the things I'll be up to in the coming weeks and months? Get the latest right here.



Jessi is a documentary photographer and educator based in southern Alabama, serving the Gulf Coast from Mobile, AL to Pensacola, FL, along with the Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta areas. She specializes in couple, wedding, maternity, newborn and family photography, and also enjoys commercial and creative portraiture. Available for travel worldwide. Find out more at


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