You may know her as the founder and lead photographer at Epagafoto, or perhaps, you have had the privilege of hiring her to capture your special memories. But lately, Jessica Roark is tapping into a different side of her artistry.
Her newest business venture Jessica Roark Fine Art is a product of her lifelong love of painting and experimentation during the pandemic. Her extraordinary talent is proving, once again, to be a splash in the Kansas City area and beyond.
“It’s so interesting to see what someone receives from it,” Roark said. “A lot of my pieces are ending up in people’s vacation homes. I would’ve never thought about that.”
What started as a way to express her creativity quickly became the blueprint for her next artistic risk– underwater photography. And with the 20-year mark of Epagafoto fast approaching, Roark was ready to introduce her passion for fine art to the world.
“The first shoot I did with a model…game over,” she said. “It was so fun!”
As a former diver, the water gives Roark an energy like nothing else. The peace she feels underwater is an escape from the world above and the unpredictability of the water’s movements removes her control of the outcome, adding an edgy feel to each photograph.
“It’s fun for me, but it’s also fun for the participants because as adults, we just don’t frolic underwater for fun anymore,” she said. “Whatever you do underwater is a pure expression of your energy. It’s not pedicured.”
Roark was not sure how people would respond to her bold, bright statement pieces. Even driving to her very first launch party in Kansas City, her mind was spinning with all of the possibilities. While the move to invest in herself a second time felt more vulnerable, Roark is seeing the fruit of those risks in just the first few months of business.
“That’s the best part of all of this. From 2020 to 2023, I was shooting a lot of the work and holding the cards very close to my chest in fear that it wasn’t going to be well received,” she said. “To hear people talk about what they liked about the pieces or what the piece evoked in them was such a dream.”
Roark has always had a heart for people and their emotions. Years before Epagafoto was born, she graduated with a family counseling degree. But when she set her career sights on photography, Roark found the two skill sets were a natural fit.
“I get to celebrate people’s successes,” she said. “That’s why for the past 20 years, doing what I do has never gotten old.”
Creating something for people to enjoy is an extension of the care she has for them. Even in the name Epagafoto, which is the Greek word Agape (unconditional love) spelled backwards, Roark wants her love for people to be at the forefront of everything she does.
“So I thought I would build this business on the principle of unconditional love, and people now are like ‘Oh because of weddings?’ No, at the time, I didn’t know what I was going to photograph the most,” she said. “I think I wanted to photograph whatever I did from this place of unconditional love.”
The same principle stands today. Her ability to move hearts and provoke minds with her creativity is an honor she holds dear.
“Artwork is medicine for people’s souls,” she said. “I would hope that when people walk by my piece, it does something to them.”
Creating in some way, shape or form is an expression that will never die in Jessica Roark. It is woven into her very being and will only continue to evolve throughout her life.
“I may not choose to be a 70-year-old diving into a pool of water or an ocean with people, but I want to be able to cultivate skills that will allow my creativity to take me to the end,” she said. “It’s such a unique way to express what you see happening in the world creatively.”
“Artwork is medicine for people’s souls. I would hope that when people walk by my piece, it does something to them.”