Freehand Hostel

Jesse Meadows

Meet our front desk gal, Jesse Meadows! This Fort Myers native has a knack for creating adventure… just ask her about the time she lived solely off Craigslist gigs, freelancing for Spanish Nickelodeon and working as a production assistant at an independent porn studio. With a BFA in Photography already under her belt, if Jesse isn’t behind the front desk you’ll probably find her out and about with a camera in-hand capturing events, performances and more around Miami. Jesse is now working towards earning a Ph.D. in Sociology, publishing a series of photo books, and perfecting her Spanish. We recently sat down with Jesse at The Broken Shaker to chat about all things Miami, photography, and the hostel lifestyle.

Freehand Miami: What sparked your passion for photography? What’s your favorite thing to photograph?

Jesse Meadows: I’ve always had this weird fixation with documenting everything. It’s sort of obsessive-compulsive, to be honest. I was in the theatre department in high school, but I sucked at acting, so I always did the lights instead. No one ever took any proper photos of our plays, so I used to bring my camera and shoot the shows from the tech booth. Then I just started taking it everywhere with me, photographing my friends while we got drunk and did stupid things. I guess that carried over when I moved to Miami and started shooting parties downtown. I’m working on compiling a book about that period of my life, focused on female sexuality and Miami party culture. After those two years, I settled down and got a boyfriend and spent a couple more years documenting my experiences as a monogamous woman (that’s book #2). Artistically, I’m really interested in gender, sexuality, and relationships; commercially, I like to shoot events, performances, and portraiture.

FH: Tell us about your favorite spontaneous adventure.

JM: In late 2011, FIU flew me out to present at an academic conference in Phoenix. We had one free day before the conference began, so my friends and I rented a van and drove four hours north to the Grand Canyon. I crawled onto a tiny ledge and looked out and I felt tiny and powerful at the same time. Then we watched the sun set and the canyon turned orange and magenta and then black, and when we looked up, we saw the Milky Way. Best day of my life.

FH: What inspired your Craigslist experiment? What did you find to be most challenging? Most rewarding?

JM: I was working in a restaurant and feeling really angry and uninspired all the time, and I kept going on Craigslist and perusing the Gigs section. Whenever I get really bored, I like to challenge myself, and I wanted to see how long I could survive without a real job. So I quit, and started spending all day every day responding to internet ads. Some months I’d get gigs left and right, the next, nothing. I was pretty poor the entire time, but happier than I’ve probably ever been. It’s a really unpredictable lifestyle, but I think that was both the challenge and the reward. I love the feeling of being able to pick up and go at anytime.

FH: What brought you to Freehand Miami?

JM: I was finishing my last semester of college and freelancing was really burning me out, so I wanted to work somewhere that would offer me steady income, but also enough variety to keep me interested. Hostel life is definitely that. It’s like a revolving door of world culture. I get to meet so many different people every day, listen to backpackers’ crazy stories, practice my spanish, and learn about other countries without ever having to buy any plane tickets.

FH: Where do you go in Miami for great food? Drinks? Live music?

JM: I’m an aspiring vegan in a city of meat-loving Latinos, so I cook at home A LOT. But when I go out to eat, my favorite spot is Lemoni Café in Midtown. As far as bars go, I love The Corner for its good beer and chill vibes (also those late-night “why am I buying this beer at 6AM?!” moments). I always stop by the ladies nights at Blackbird Ordinary and Kill Your Idol. For music, Grand Central has been bringing some really big names to downtown Miami lately, Lagniappe in Midtown is awesome for live jazz, the Luna Star Cafe in North Miami is a great spot for folk and bluegrass, and Bardot in Midtown always has good electronic acts and indie bands. Oh, and can’t forget Churchill‘s, if you’re into punk and metal.

FH: What’s something you feel like everyone who visits Miami should experience?

JM: Chocolate Sundays at Purdy Lounge. If you like hip-hop and High Life, it’s hands down the best party on the beach. Also grab a cortadito at Panther Coffee and check out the street art in Wynwood.

FH: If you could hang out with anyone, living or dead, real or imaginary at The Broken Shaker, who would it be?

JM: A unicorn.