This month we are exhibiting the work of Jasmine Swope in conjunction with our show, Voyages. We were first introduced to Swope’s work when she showed in our first alternative process exhibition, Illusion & Chemistry. We fell in love with her ethereal palladium landscapes and curated The Tides of El Matador, a solo exhibition.
Tell us about photographing The Tides of El Matador. What was the process from planning to photographing to printing? What do you think about while photographing?
My aim is to make pictures that at the same time are lyrical and informative, intensely personal yet revealing. I am inspired by the ever-changing landscape of surf and sand, and the quiet of early morning light is my favorite time of day to make pictures. While imaging a print on the computer, or in the darkroom watching the image emerge on paper, I think of how a brief moment captured with the snap of the shutter is extended and becomes permanent.
Beyond the aesthetics, is there an environmentally political message in this work?
Yes. My hope is the work will serve as a means for connecting viewers to the beauty and benefits of our ocean world and inspire them to take action to protect and preserve it. All coastal states, including California, are dependent on a healthy marine environment. The ocean plays an enormous role in our quality of life, from influencing our climate to benefiting our economy to providing people with open space and recreation. But coastal marine areas are fragile and jeopardized by overdevelopment, climate change, and pollution. Only public action can reverse the course and protect them for future generations. Fine art can be an effective catalyst for change.
The palladium prints are stunning. How did you learn this printing process and what made you decide this was the best process for the work?
I first became fascinated with the platinum/palladium process while viewing a photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, whose work has inspired me to explore the aesthetics of beauty while making a picture. The Palladium process in particular is a favorite of mine due to its great range of subtle tonal variations and archival permanence. I begin by making a picture with film and then use a hybrid method of combining digital processes with traditional palladium printing. I learned the technique of making a digital negative and platinum/palladium printing at an alternative processes workshop with master printer Kerik Kouklis.
Each one of your portfolios also contains a limited edition handmade artist book. Tell us about your bookmaking experience; how did you learn the art of booking making?
It is self-gratifying to create something from concept to completion. My intent is to offer a similar visual experience with the images in the book, as one would have viewing an original print. The books are made by hand with some basic tools such as digital print photo paper, a printer, a paper cutter and adhesive. Each page is cut, scored and folded forming a two-page spread, which allows for the pages to open and lay flat within the binding. The process for making the books was self-taught by trial and error. My hope is that the books are viewed with as much pleasure as I take in making them.
How do you feel your work is interpreted in book form as opposed to wall-mounted prints?
A photography book is a tangible item with a collective body of work telling a story within the progression of sequencing, and can be easily shared. The books are original archival pigment prints equivalent to looking at a wall-mounted photograph and the viewer is able to view a portfolio of images as a group in the series.
You have had an extensive commercial photography career. How has your commercial experience influenced your personal work?
I find there to be a noticable divide between commercial photography and fine art. After 20 plus years of working to client’s specifications, always looking for distinct sharpness and meticulous lighting definition, it was a lengthy endeavour to redirect my sensibility of making a picture primarily by recording an image with technical execution. In my landscape work, when I am concerned with the aesthetics of beauty, my work engages me organically as I merge tonal elegance with the underlying substance of a visual record. I usually work with a small aperture, make long exposures and convert the pictures to black and white to capture both aesthetics and timelessness. There is a timeless quality in a black and white photograph that brings an element of mystery thus allowing memories and emotions to co-exist with the eccentric beauty of the unknown.
Finally, we ask this of all of our artists; how do you define success in art?
For me, success in art is about awareness, embracing the passion within, execution of ideas with conviction, and sharing with others.
The Tides of El Matador is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through December 28.