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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 http://www.ellenjantzen.com/

About Cary Benbow

Photographer, Writer, Publisher of Wobneb Magazine

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