Jessica Somers : Bend So Not to Break

Jessica Somers is a photographer specializing in historic photographic techniques and self-portraiture. Her interest in photography began at a young age by her grandfather's side as he took thousands of photographs and with the invitation into her parents' late night printing sessions that were held in the bathroom which was transformed into a darkroom after sunset.

Jessica grew up in Wallingford, CT. She received a B.F.A. in studio art and a minor in English from Albertus Magnus College in 1998 and an M.F.A. in Photography from The Hartford Art School in 2002. Her work has been exhibited regionally and is published in the second edition of The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James. Somers currently teaches photography at Tunxis Community College in Farmington, CT and Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT.

The self-portrait is my primary tool in art making. The photographs in the series "Bend So Not to Break" explore the struggle and balance between the choices one makes and the uncontrollable circumstances that intervene with these choices. Though not all of the images in this series are of me or even about experiences I have had directly they are always self-portraits. Whether I am physically present within the frame or not, the photographs are about the process of my own self-discovery. I attempt to understand the way life can lead us and search for contentment and the ability to allow myself to be led.

The process of making each photograph is very personal, not only because of my connection with the image or the range of individual prop-symbols found within each photograph but with the slow, meditative process of taking the photograph. This is especially the case when I put myself in front of the camera. The scene is "previsualized" but, since I use no mirrors to check my positioning, the poses are unique to the moment. Often, while waiting for the shutter to trigger, I am drawn into a meditative state allowing the emotions conveyed in each portrait to fully form from within.

The images are presented as Ziatype prints on salted cotton paper, printed approximately 8x10 to maintain an intimacy and preciousness within the photograph. The film used to create the images was not cleared of chemical residue allowing for serendipitous surface marks. Much like the uncontrollable circumstances illustrated in my photographs the chemical residue is uncontrollable and creates a veil between subject and viewer inviting a dream-like interpretation to each unique print.

Through the personal exploration of photographing the self I am finding that even within moments of uncertainty lay happiness, abounding love and the achingly beautiful realizations of sacred and finite human life.

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Issue #35 June - July 2009
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