Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Jessica Hines

There is some interesting work to look at in last year's finalists for the Lens Culture Exposure International Awards.  There is so much I want to mention I don't know where to start!  What is interesting about the competition in general is the diversity of the entrants. You couldn't possibly identify a trend or theme amongst them other than they are all distinct which sets them apart.

In particular and for this post I'm focussing on the work of Jessica Hines.  The first image I saw of hers is the opening one in a slideshow of the finalists images. What struck me first at seeing this image was how much it reminded me of the images uploaded to the www.dearphotograph.com site.  Dear Photograph is a hugely successful site developed by a 21 year old Canadian who had the simple idea of taking an old photograph, going back to that place and re-photographing it with the old photograph in the frame. It was an instant hit and has really captured the interest of millions -  the timeless timeline, a simple 'then and now' concept.  And the image 'untitled no. 2' by Jessica Hines is exactly that. A photo within a photo.  I must admit, without having read further and viewing it within the slideshow, it did strike me as a 'me too' image and I nearly dismissed it. I do wonder why they chose that image to include in the slideshow.

However, to dismiss her just like that seemed foolish so I visited her site. And soon I saw why she was the overall winner.  There is an interesting article about her work on Elizabeth Avedon's blog. And on there she is introduced as an 'artist and storyteller'. And this alone I think stands her work apart.  She is not introduced as a photographer and her approach is not that of a photographer.  It seems she has an inquisitive mind, a personal exploration to make and a hugely creative output.

Her photographs are an explosion of creativity, emotion and intrigue.  It is neither photojournalism nor fiction, nor conceptual or reality.  It distorts any possibility of defining it in one specific genre. There is a sense she has made the work for herself and her desire to dispel family myths.  She makes no attempt to remain objective and in fact leaves artefacts of herself in the images.

The specific piece of work that won her the award is the photo essay entitled My Brother's War. Her brother served two years in Vietnam and returned home with post traumatic stress. Ten years later, he took his own life. Rediscovering a box of his belongings, letters and photos she makes it her endeavour to rediscover the life of a deceased family member, retrospectively. The images have a wonderful authenticity too them whilst they come together in a sort of informal photographic scrapbook.

Anyway, what I found particularly inspiring is this real eclectic and non-conforming approach she has taken, whether deliberate or not. It really appeals to me.  You can include conceptual images alongside landscapes and portraits.  It is contextualised further with the hard facts of a journalistic fact finding mission. It is a really refreshing and inspiring piece of work.

Right, checked out the first, few more to go...

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