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Humans of

Aro Valley 


To highlight the icons, the intrinsic building blocks of Aro Valley, Wellington, New Zealand.


I was born and raised in the heart of Denver/Park Hill, I am a proud East High Alum, and my connection and passion for Denver and Colfax remains strong. After exploring other parts of the world for 10 years, I moved back to Denver and  now live along Colfax, right where I grew up! I work at the Downtown Denver Partnership, leading The Commons on Champa, so my passion for community building, inclusive economic development, and the great City of Denver is at my core, inside and outside of my 'day-job'.


When I was just a few years old, my parents would drop me off in my leotard at Grannyma Kit's after gymnastics, and she would hand me her 1981 Olympus 35mm to capture the butterflies and bees buzzing through her garden. This is one of my earliest memories of capturing the fleeting moments. Grannyma taught me how to compose a shot, hold my breath and then press the shutter when I was 10 years old, and then I inherited her old film cameras. My relationship with photography as a way to document life and connect with the natural world really developed with time as I gained a true love for exploring the outdoors and learned of life’s finite nature, but it wasn't really until I lived in New Zealand when I committed to the art and launched Kalen Jesse Photography nearly five years ago. Photography was my way of getting to know the new lands, waters and people. My camera forced me to be acute in my unfamiliar surroundings and I met some of my closest friends through the art. I listened to photography podcasts when I walked to work, spent most weeknights watching photo videos, read photography books, and editing photos. Most importantly, I valued guidance from mentors I met on adventures. Photography as a way to connect with the world has changed my whole lifestyle, and it has been such a gift to bring this art and passion back to my hometown to document a quickly-changing and thriving city.


As someone who grew up in the heart of Denver and has watched this city through it all, I couldn't help but document Denver's transformation during COVID-19. We are experiencing something surreal and unprecedented. Amidst the uncertainty and fear, there are beautiful silver linings - people from all backgrounds pulling together to support one another, a mutual understanding of leniency and respect, renewal of family bonds, people questioning the norm in a healthy way, a forced pause and reflection. 

Prior to the Stay at Home order, I drove around Denver (followed the COVID rules of avoidance) to document our present truth. This is my creation. 

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