Jess Davis is a photographer based at Brooklyn. Working for some retailers, she mostly shoots food, products and fashion for websites and magazines. He personal work comprises of digital photo collages and photomontages that make an impressive use of knew objects, patterns, flora, and fauna ensemble in an amusing image. Her method of adjoining different images sum up as a paradox or conflict that also serves as illusion. PhotoArtMag brings to you a collection of her exciting photo-art work and her inputs on art and other stuff in our detailed interview below:
I was born and raised in Central New Jersey, which is in arms reach to both NYC and Philadelphia. I went to school at Rochester Institute of Technology where I studied both Photography and Art History. After graduating, I moved to Brooklyn and had a slew of different photography jobs, landing myself at a major fashion retailer, where I am now, as one of their fashion photographers. Besides photography, I go to a lot of concerts, love hiking, brunch is my favorite meal, and I fall in love with every puppy that I meet.
Growing up, my dad was constantly photographing everything going on, and I was always captivated by it… On the camera you pressed a button, you froze a memory, then you drove to the store and an hour later they handed those memories back… it was magical. Photography became serious to me by the time I was high school and knew that I wanted to be a photographer “when I grew up”. I took a lot of darkroom classes, applied to photo programs at different universities and my parents bought me an SLR for my birthday.
After graduating college, a realization of having to support myself in the creative field became a reality. I got some freelance work, but wasn’t sustaining myself and decided to go for the full-time route. I found myself a full time gig as a fashion photographer, and very little time to do my own work, so it became a balance. I make time for art because it’s important to me. If something is important to you, you’ll make it work. I probably take anywhere from 100-1000 photos a month… depends on the project I am working on.
This is a tough question. From the literal stand point, photography is a way to show others how I see the world and how I want the world to be portrayed. I take photographs and create pictures because it feels right. A camera is an extension of me, I always have one on me, or I am at least looking at a scene and imagining myself looking through a view finder.
The very first medium that I used was film. I was obsessed with holding the images, and filling binders with negatives. Once in college, for the most part, I only shot digital. I longed to hold my prints. My digital files rarely got printed, they went from my CF cards to a hard drive. After college, I reintroduced myself to film photography. I started collecting and using different film cameras from toy cameras to several medium format cameras. I found that my favorite medium of film to shoot was Polaroid. A challenge with shooting “Polaroid” is that Polaroid (although still a company) no longer a true photography company, they no longer make film. Luckily Fuji (although very minimally) and Impossible project are making film that works with older Polaroid cameras.
I definitely do not have a key area. I find inspiration from so many different things in life and I don’t want to limit myself. I experiment, I play. I have a lot of projects going on currently, shooting straight photographs (and double exposures!) with my Polaroid land camera, creating emulsion lifts from impossible project film, 120 documentation of my life in the city, manipulated self portraits, and collages. I try to spread my time between them.
If I were to fit all of my images into one box, I would categorize them into photo-art before fine art. I say this because when I think about fine art I always think about grandiose oil paintings, and modern art canvases exploring color compositions. In school, fine art was a master artist creating a master piece, and I guess I don’t consider myself a master artist… who really is a master of their trade besides a Jedi anyway? With my collages, I will take a photograph of mine, and imagine what it would look like if something out of the ordinary were in place. Then in Photoshop, much like a traditional collage done on paper, I start layering until the canvas looks just right, telling some sort of story.
I have a ton of cameras. Too many. I go through phases of which ones I prefer to shoot with, but my favorites, and the ones that I use most often are Polaroid 250 (with Fuji 3000B or Fuji 100C film), Canon 5D Mark II and a 50mm lens, Hasselblad 500cm with a 80mm lens, Mamiya 6 with a 50mm lens, and the last isn’t a traditional camera, but I use it a lot… Impossible Project instant lab with my iPhone to make Polaroids out of the photos from my phone. Lighting, I try to use natural light as much as possible, but for studio situations I have Calumet Travelite 750 lights.
When it comes to editing/retouching I work with Apple and Adobe products. I honestly think there’s no other way to go. The first step in my workflow is by first finding inspiration in something, anything, but I’m not one to write it down or see it as a project right away. For me, I can’t stop thinking about it and slowly a project will start to build around that. Next I will immediately start planning or sketching it out, figuring out what materials I need, and begin shooting. All of my projects have been ongoing for a few years now, so as I go along I keep on editing, saving, and re-editing as needed. Based off of my work, you can probably tell, that I am all about photo manipulation. If it works and doesn’t hinder the image/project then, why not if the technology is there?!
My biggest achievement has been considering myself as a photographer. For a long time, I didn’t consider myself one. I still felt that I was more just testing the waters. But now, on my own, I am getting client work, shooting events, retouching, paying *extra* rent to have a shared studio space with some friends, and it clicked for me one day, “I’m a photographer.” . I’ve been lucky to work some big names such as Barneys New York, Lord and Taylor, Macys.com etc. But my favorite clients have been the smaller ones, the weddings, my friends’ companies that needed some product shots. Those are the ones that have meant something to me.
I go to a lot of museums, I think it’s important to look at what photographers have done and are doing, but not just photographers also sculptures, painters, graphic designers. I feel like challenges that I face is staying original in a world where it seems like every new/original idea has already been played out or tried. I ask myself “how is this different? is it special?” all the time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rethinking projects and changing the ground rules.
What do you thin and feel about contemporary photography? How different or distinct do you find yourself from other artists?
Basically the same answer as the question before this. Staying original is hard, but making art, any art, with your voice is what will differentiate you (me) from other photographers and other artists. I view contemporary artists and artists from the past the same way. I feel that my work is different from other artists work because it was made using my voice and my eye, which is something that no other artists possess, just as I don’t possess theirs.
My future plans are pretty simple, I would like to out of full time at some point, running my own photo studio in New York, and with a dog named Moose at my side. Besides that, I hope to keep on working on personal projects, staying inspired/motivated, always working. Currently, I find myself inspired by processes, by something having multiple steps. Emulsion lifts, collages and even my Polaroids are varied steps and processes before the final image is done. I keep motivated by not finding the end of the project yet. I strive for what the project will look as a whole, I’m excited and sad for that day to come.
Be truthful to yourself. Make art or don’t make art because it’s what you want to do. Take criticism with a grain of salt, it’s all subjective, what will be “bad” to one group of people, will be good, and worth working further on to others, the one opinion that matters the most in the end will be your own.
Note: All images used with permission. Please do not copy or distribute without the approval of the photographer.