Interview with photographer Ellen Jantzen

Cary Benbow (CB): Can you please explain the idea behind your portfolio images submitted to this Color issue? How do they relate to your other projects, or how is it significantly different?

Ellen Jantzen (EJ): These images are from my “Coming Into Focus” series. I recently  moved from the Midwest where I concentrated on landscapes to New Mexico (specifically Santa Fe). This new environment brought both delight and fear of the unknown. In “Coming Into Focus” I am exploring how one’s environmental surroundings are absorbed into one’s psyche and how this changes through relocations. In these days of refugees relocating from their homelands to distant places, my move from the Midwest to the West may seem trivial, but there are still feelings of dislocation and assimilation that take place.

I am approaching this work as both a window through which I observe my new surroundings and a mirror where I bring my sensibilities to bear, reflecting on my inner state. My work in the Midwest was also dealing with memory.

CB: What are the distortions that appear in your photographs? What do they represent for you; do they have significance beyond their role in your scenes?

EJ: The distortions are my reinterpretation of reality. Reality is considered the state of the world, or of things as they exist. But, what actually exists? Are dreams “real”? Don’t people really experience their dreams? I believe that each person creates his or her own reality in some form.

My concept of reality (as expressed in my work) is a fluid state, ever changing…. Sometimes just out of reach. I feel there are parallel realities that can intersect and blend. I strive to reach outside of the conventional construct of what I real to draw inspiration for my work. This is one of the reasons photography is so compelling to me. It has been considered “truthful” and “real”, so gives me the opportunity of playing with that truth.

CB: There are elements of nature, wildlife, landscape, man’s inclusion/interaction with nature in your work – can you comment on why you choose to depict these elements in the way you do?

EJ: I have always been drawn to nature. Specifically, growing up in the Midwest gave me much to draw upon. The four seasons gave me the opportunity to revisit specific areas throughout the year and to witness vast differences. This directly influenced my memory pieces.

“Why” I depict these elements the way I do is a hard question to answer. Take for instance my attraction to trees…. their longevity can lull us into a false sense of immortality. They are seen as powerful symbols of growth, decay and resurrection…. Human themes for sure! I am beginning to become attached to mountains in much the same way as I was to trees.

CB: What makes still photography your choice of expression? Do you create work in other mediums?

EJ: Before digital cameras I created three-dimensional forms made from recycled paper: basically, sculptures and vessels. I also made jewelry. In fact my first manipulated photographs were of my vessels. I still feel a desire to work with my hands, but photo work is my passion. As all of my work is manipulated in some manner, mainly consisting of many layers – so my work could be considered akin to collage. My earliest college degree was in graphic arts, so I’ve always been drawn to imagery, color and form. The digital camera seemed the perfect instrument to capture images solely for the purpose of unloading them into my computer where my art-forms are created.

CB: What are you currently working on? Any new projects?

EJ: I am developing a continuation of “Coming Into Focus” that deals with migration….. which is a broad subject, but entails nature (animals that migrate), and the personal. I have combined images from different times, different places in my work, but want to emphasize that more.

To see more examples of Ellen Jantzen’s work, visit her website at

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Noora Isoeskeli @ Photographic Centre Peri

Noora Isoeskeli / Your Gaze Is a Loaded Gun
14th July–6th August 2017

“The name “Your Gaze Is a Loaded Gun” refers to the power that is loaded in a gaze. The exhibition is centered around two questions: what kind of power the gaze holds in the world of a sighted person and what our relationship is with the nature and natural.”

Photographic Centre Peri
Itäinen Rantakatu 38,
20810 Turku

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Irene Tondelli @ Torrefazione Vittoria

Irene Tondelli: FAR NORTH
22nd, September/10th, November 2017

“Far North is a breathtaking project dedicated to traveling to the North.
The solitary journey is a catharsis where the absolute presence of nature transfigures and resizes the weight of everyday life, in a kind of psychoanalysis between nature and the author who also questions his place in the world. “Feeling small and powerless in front of the manifestations of Nature sometimes scares and disturbs but also infuses an enormous sense of relaxation and peace.” Of safeness but also of proximity to the idea of ​​infinity.”

Torrefazione Vittoria
Via Ferrabò 4, Cremona (Italy)

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Book Review: The Best of LensCulture Vol. 1

From the series “Sois Belle” © Annelie Vandendael. Winner, Emerging Talent Awards
2016. From the publication “The Best of LensCulture, Volume 1.” Courtesy of LensCulture,

“How to discover the best practitioners worldwide amidst our image-filled cultures of the 21st century?”, Jim Casper, the Editor-in-Chief of LensCulture, asks in his introduction. “Our editorial team scours the globe – attending festivals, portfolio reviews, exhibitions and graduation shows – in search of new and developing talents. And each year, we organize four annual photography awards to extend our reach even further.” In addition, LensCulture sends out its calls for entries in 15 languages, uses social media and taps into photography newtworks all over the world. In other words, the LensCulture team is undoubtedly very active.

But what are the criteria for great talent? “LensCulture draws on the expertise of an international panel of jury members for each award. These jurors are active and influential in the world of photography. Thanks to their experience, they are adept at identifying photographers who are doing something special in their work. You can be assured that the 161 photographers you will discover in these pages are among the best of the best.” In other words, there are no criteria given and explained respectively.

It might of course very well be that this not exactly illuminating self-promotion – trust us, we are the experts, Jim Casper is basically saying – is well deserved. Although, to claim expertise without elaborating on the criteria employed is pretty common, I do find it not exactly convincing.

On the other hand: It is indeed difficult to define relevant criteria for judging pictures. The protagonist of Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, who attempted to define quality, eventually came to the conclusion that such a definition is impossible yet that quality can be felt. Differently put: The more time you spend with and around photographs, the greater the likelihood that you will develop something like an educated feeling.

So, let’s look at the pics. First come the Portrait Awards and to these I warm to most and especially to the one by Luisa Dorr from Brazil.

MAYSA: Maysa is an 11-year-old girl entrenched in the poverty and trauma of one of São Paulo’s worst slums. Her possible way out? The “Young Miss Brazil” beauty pageant. Luana, Maysa’s younger sister, has decided she also wants to be a model. Photo @ Luisa Dorr. From the publication “The Best of LensCulture, Volume 1.” Courtesy of LensCulture,

What draws me to this pic is first and foremost the determination that Maysa radiates. And her outfit. And how her younger sister looks up to her as a role model, or so it seems.

In the Street Photography Awards section there are lots of shots that I loved. Check out Sylvain Biard, Graciela Magnoni, Mankichi Shinshi and and and. One of my favourites is RED by Gareth Bragdon and not least because he tells the story of how he took this photograph. “It was, first and foremost, an absolute mistake”, he writes. Getting curious? You’ll find the full story in the book …

Red © Gareth Bragdon. 3rd Place Singles, LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2016.
From the publication “The Best of LensCulture, Volume 1.” Courtesy of LensCulture, lensculture.

Then there’s the section that shows works from the Emerging Talent Awards. It felt difficult to make a choice and I very probably would settle for different pictures next time. For now have a look at the one by Ben Thomas that he describes as “a further deconstruction of cities and urban areas with a primary focus on the use of color and flatness”:

Photo: Ben Thomas. CHROMA II
From the series “Chroma II” © Ben Thomas. Juror’s Pick, Emerging Talent Awards
2016. From the publication “The Best of LensCulture, Volume 1.” Courtesy of LensCulture,

In this section you will also get to see the cover photograph by Annelie Vandendael. This is how she comments on it: “Nowadays, it is no longer obvious whether we are looking at ‘real’ images or fake ones because they are all manipulated and photoshopped. But representing real people with their imperfections is far more interesting to me.”

The tome concludes with the Exposure Awards. I’d suggest to check out Einar Sigurdorsson’s ‘Sheepwatch’, Vladimir Alekseev’s ‘Life in Russia’ and Alan O’Riordan’s ‘Mending fish nets’. I’m pretty certain that looking at these pics will make you want to check out all the others in this section, and in the whole tome, too.


The Best of LensCulture Vol. 1
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam 2017

The Best of LensCulture, Volume 1 is published by Schilt Publishing, available in stores and online for £22.50 | $29.95 | €25.

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2017 Thesis Exhibition @ Photographic Center Northwest

© John Wilmot

2017 Thesis Exhibition
June 29-August 10, 2017

Thea Billing, Joan Dinkelspiel, Cian Hayes, Harini Krishnamurthy, Albert Varady, and John Wilmot

“This exhibition marks not only the culmination of the 53-credit program, and presentation of a year-long project for these individuals, but introduces a new generation of Northwest artists”

Photographic Center Northwest
900 12th ave. · Seattle, WA 98122 · USA

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Inge Morath @ GrazMuseum

Inge Morath − Ausfahrt von Mrs. Eveleigh Nash auf der Buckingham Palace Mall, London 1953
© The Inge Morath Foundation / Magnum Photos / FOTOHOF archiv

Inge Morath: Portraits
4 July to 28 August 2017

Opening: July 3, 18:00

Graz Museum / bag Straße 18/8010 Graz / Austria

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Robert Glas @ Foam

Robert Glas: Before the Law
21 July – 10 September 2017

“Glas goes to great lengths unpicking bureaucratic procedures, methods of identification and legislative inconsistencies. He went through various lawsuits in order to make and publish the images for his series Voor Vrij Nederland (2014-2016), which is exhibited at Foam. The photographs depict interiors of detention centers for undocumented immigrants in the Netherlands. It is hard to imagine these unremarkable spaces to be the cause of extensive legal strife concerning freedom of the press. The almost clinical depiction of the rooms stands in stark contrast”

Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam

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re:collection @ Museum of Contemporary Photography

Left: Guillaume Simoneau; Top Right: Christian Patterson; Bottom Right: Rachel Papo

Jul 13 – Oct 1, 2017

Opening Reception for re:collection July 13, 2017

“re:collection, a celebration of the MoCP’s vast archive of photographs, and an exploration of how we perceive images. A stream of images runs through the galleries, spanning the history of photography and offering a diverse array of approaches. Each photograph speaks to its neighboring photograph in terms of content, form or other, more subtle, connecting factors waiting to be discovered. At certain junctures, groups of images pool related ideas to address some of the most pressing social issues of our time. Each installation of images starts with a camera-less photograph, a nod to the origins of the medium and its fundamental ability to record light and shadow. The gesture is also meant to underscore the unreliability of photographic representation, which is always a translation of reality rather than a direct copy. The exhibition will include works by Evan Baden, Dawoud Bey, Lynne Cohen, Kelli Connell, Kei Ito, Deborah Luster, Danny Lyon, Rachel Papo, Christian Patterson, Guillaume Simoneau, Angela Strassheim, Penelope Umbrico, James Welling, and many others.”

Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
600 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605

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Richard Misrach, El muro, al este de Nogales, Arizona (Wall east of Nogales, Arizona), 2015, pigment print mounted to Dibond, 60″ x 79-1/8″ (152.4 cm x 201 cm). © Richard Misrach, courtesy Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery

June 28 – August 18, 2017

Opening reception: Tuesday, June 27, 6 – 8 PM

“This multimedia installation of photographs, sculpture, found objects and sound examines the complex socio-political dialogue surrounding immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border and is the final showing in a multi-venue tour that included the San Jose Museum of Art; Amon Carter Museum of Art, Fort Worth; and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville. ”

510 West 25th Street

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SUMMER ’17 @ C. Grimaldis Gallery

Ben Marcin – “Dominican Republic, 2003”

June 22 – August 26, 2017

Opening Reception: Thursday, June 22 6 – 8pm

C. Grimaldis Gallery
523 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

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