Small Town Girl by Jena Ardell in Warren, NJ, USA

Each time I go back to NJ, I realize how fortunate I was to have grown up in such a beautiful, small town. I photograph things and vantage points I used to take for granted–stuff you don’t see in L.A., like open space and greenery. When I go back to NJ, there are visible stars in the night sky (instead of LAPD helicopters chasing delinquents). There is a lot to love about southern California and I am grateful for all of the opportunities that have come my way here, but I’m a small-town girl at heart.

Name:Jena Ardell

Place you live: I don’t stay in one place.

Place your photo was taken: The front yard of my childhood home in Warren, NJ

Can you sum up the place you live? No matter where I’m stationed in life, I travel back home each summer to my childhood home in NJ, which is located in a small town that is being encroached upon by city transplants looking for a slice of suburbia.

Occupation: Retro Photographer (who also specializes in concert photography).

Preoccupation: The 1950s-1970s and palm trees.

A perfect day in Warren N.J.? A perfect day in my hometown is usually the Fourth of July. You wake up, attend a local parade, followed by a backyard BBQs and/or a pool party or two, then the entire town gathers to watch a firework display in a field at a local school.

If someone was visiting, what must they do? Visit during the summer and catch lightning bugs or visit during the winter and go sledding at midnight.

A perfect meal in New Jersey? NJ has A LOT of diners. They’re hit or miss, but if you’re visiting NJ, you should definitely eat in a diner at some point. Eating a sub from Wawa for lunch would be very NJ of you.

What is the best thing about your spot? I grew up there, so I have a lot of great memories of that area. A lot of my childhood toys are still in my parents’ basement and clothes from high school are still in my old bedroom. It’s like a time capsule.

What is the worst? The fact that NJ is not really conducive to pursuing a career in photography, or the arts in general… unless you are willing to commute into the city kind of stinks. That’s why I live elsewhere.

A little known fact about where you live? In NJ, we refer to NYC as “the city” and we refer to the beach as “the shore”. Sample sentence: Are you going into the city this weekend or are you going down the shore instead??

Where is your favorite place in the world? Don’t laugh, but it’s the NJ Shore. Not the crap you see on MTV!! New Jerseyians can’t stand New Yorkers on our beaches.