XCETERA

XCETERA PHOTOGRAPHY

AN INTERVIEW WITH JENESSA SCHULTZ

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Why photography? 

I chose photography because I was an addict from the moment I had a camera in my hands for that purpose, it was like it was always meant to be that way. I’m a quiet, introverted young woman, and I always have been, so for me, photography is important to communicate to the world my feelings, my thoughts, and what I see as beautiful. It’s a moment of vulnerability that I would normally keep locked up.

Elaborate on finding beauty in the broken. What does this mean to you?

I remember when I was really young, I had this cute butterfly clip – one of those glittery ones with beads and wings on metal springs. I played with it all the time, and eventually it broke. One of the wing springs came loose – it also lost an antenna. I remember thinking it was even more beautiful now. I remember I had horded many little broken things like that. Simple, pretty little things that were broken. A tiny porcelain kitten that was missing a leg.

It’s a difficult thing to place my finger on, even when I developed this quirk when I was small. I think it’s akin to the great stories in our lives – the heroes with a purpose, the villains with sad, relatable backstories. The best stories are the ones that have these backgrounds. It makes them relatable and real. It brings them a breath of life where there would be emptiness otherwise.

Nothing in life is really perfect, and we’re all a little screwed up in our own way. A little bit broken. It’s what makes us who we are. Our scars, internal or external, tell about our lives. So for me, nothing is as beautiful to me as the things that are broken. I try to add some element of that to everything that I photograph now. It wasn’t always that way, but it’s developed to be a part of my identity as a fine art photographer.

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Tell our readers about the importance of perspective in your work.

No two people are going to say or think the exact same things about my work, or the same things I will say, and I find that purely fascinating. I love to hear what people are thinking. My work ranges from just creative stories I’ve created in my mind to ones that are very, emotionally relevant to my life. So, for people looking at my work, their experience of it is going to be different from my own, because their lives and emotions are different from mine. My only hope as far as perspective goes, is that when people look at the photograph, they get just a little bit lost in it – because then they’ve connected in some way.

How about mood and character?

Mood is always, always something I consider when I’m creating a photograph. It’s that subtle little detail that can entirely change someones experience of that photograph, and it should never be neglected. Sometimes, it’s very straight forward to me what the mood should be, and other times, I have to sit on it for awhile and plan it out.

Character is a little more tough. It depends on how much of a back story I’m building, or whether I’m just trying to create a feeling. Often times, what I’ll try to do is make that character a placeholder, so that the viewer can place themselves there. I almost never want the character itself it to be the focus of the photograph, which is why I often won’t show a face. I want what the character is doing, or what’s going on around them to be the focus.

Walk us through the design and creative process of your photos.

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Oblivion – A couple of years ago when I was first starting to break into conceptual photography, I was trying to develop concepts based around certain themes, and one of those themes was nightmares. I had gone out and created my first photomanipulation, which I had called “Falling Off the Face of the Earth” (as seen here: http://xcetera.deviantart.com/art/1-Falling-off-the-face-of-the-earth-294762017). Although I had already “done” the photo, I kept coming back to the project and this theme in particular because I just wasn’t quite satisfied with what I had already done.

So one particular morning (at about 6:30 a.m.) after watching a workshop from a particularly inspiring photographer, I got up feeling amped and decided to create Oblivion. I knew that I wanted it to be dark and surreal, and to my luck it was a beautiful, foggy morning. I set up my tripod in the middle of the road, set up my remote timer, ran, jumped, spun, flipped, and then dashed out of the way of cars. I’m pretty sure I was very entertaining to the person on their balcony talking on the phone in the condo next to me. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do in photoshop, but I knew once I had all the pieces I need it. The rest is history.

I ditched the name “Falling Off the Face of the Earth” for “Oblivion”, not only because the former is a mouthful, but because the second is one more of mystery and permanence. It is most definitely the stuff of nightmares.

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Discovery – This one is a much less of a mouthful to explain than Oblivion! Discovery was born from the idea that even in the darkest times, you can find strength, good inside of yourself. You just need to discover your purpose, your light within yourself.

The execution is a lot more of a mouthful. It’s a composite image, so it’s an image made of many different pieces. I set up my tripod and taped a grey fabric to the wall of my space room. I set up two fans to get the motion blowing through my hair. One shot was of the basic pose. One shot was the placement of the hourglass in my hands. One shot was my “dress” (which is actually just composed of a sheet) being flipped in the air to give the impression of also being “blown”. I have to merge all of these pieces together in photoshop, smooth out the background, and then fix the “light”. I had to make the light appear as though it was resonating from the hourglass. I also worked on the colours – making the overall tones cool and brightening the red hair (not going to lie, mostly because I like red).

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Fracture – This photograph is a perfect example of a “mood” piece. It has a small concept, with the “character” breaking the thing she’s touching. She looks likes she’s floating, and her hand touching the wall doesn’t appear to have been applied with force. She’s naked, as though vulnerable. The tones are dark. It’s hard to put a single word to the mood here, but it’s something that’s very relatable – to be vulnerable, and trying so hard not to harm others or make an impact, but eventually, no matter how gentle you are, somethings going to give in from beneath your very breathe or slightest touch.

Apocalypse – This is one of my favorite images I’ve created ever, and very rare in that I created the image within 48 hours of its conception. Most of the time, I take months to do this.

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It’s a very self explanatory photograph, with a pretty easy basic premise to pick out. A woman taking her dog with her on a picnic, when she looks into the sky to find the sky is spinning with black, unidentifiable things that seem out of this world. The image is very warm, but with impending doom. It definitely falls under my nightmare category, at least for me, because I imagine myself there, how my heart would sink, my stomach would turn. I can picture the panic. The photograph is simply the calm before the storm, before all hell breaks loose. It tells of things to come.

Execution was easy for the main part of the photograph. The girl, the dog, the flying hair, the wind blown dress, and the falling orange all came together without a hitch. The sky is composed of an inverted star trail, blown out of proportion, which I had shot the night after shooting the young woman and my dog. In case you’re curious, although shooting stars seems pretty straight forward… it’s not.

Was there a specific place/time which influenced your emotion which was conveyed through your work? What was the emotion? Tell us about this experience.

If there is, I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was. I know that I’m drawn to darker themes, and also to the more whimsical things, impossible things. I couldn’t tell you why, or why these things are re-occuring. I can’t tell you what experience influenced my ideas of beauty and broken. What I do know is that I’ll continue doing it because that’s what speaks to me the most.

What can we expect in the future in upcoming projects?

My favorite photographs (most of which I talked about here) involved some dark themes. You can definitely expect more of that, especially more destructive ones. Those are the ones that are most fun for me to create and for me carry more weight. That’s about the most insight I can give right now – aside from that, it’s difficult to say exactly where my work will take me. I’ll continue to try to challenge myself, and the future is very exciting.

Photos: Xcetera Photography    Interview: Kathleen Cerrer

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