Do memories and people truly fade, or are they eternally embedded somewhere in our consciousness, only to be obscured by time? Photographer Jordanna Kalman resonates such thoughts through a personal work of analogue photography.
Hi Jordanna! Welcome to Lomography Magazine. First things first, how did you get yourself into film photography?
My interest in photography started at a pretty young age, I grew up with a darkroom in my house so I was lucky enough to have access to that environment. Right from the start I felt like it’s what I was supposed to be doing.
Compare digital and film. What are the qualities film photography have that you can't find in the digital medium?
Film has a more sensory experience; you can hold it, it smells, there’s a process involved in bringing the images into being. I especially love polaroid because the image always surprises me-- sometimes not in the best way but in using it there’s a mystery and an anticipation that doesn’t happen with digital. And for me digital has no physical presence, I feel that its ease allows it to be very utilitarian but pretty unromantic.
We adore your themed works on memory and nostalgia. What prompted you to start your series "Sometimes (memory version)" and "Invisible"?
Sometimes (memory version) grew out of a desire to reconnect with work I had made years prior. I had lived in London for a year (I usually live in NY) and I missed my time there. I still felt very close to the pictures I had made that year but the memories of my time there were fading. It felt natural to start removing the people from the images as a representation of my fading memories and this way I could make the work relevant to my current feelings.
I was working on Sometimes (memory version) among other projects when my mother died very suddenly. I began removing figures from my more current work to reflect my grief and inability to be present in the world. It also became a symbol of all the work my mother would never see. This is what became the series Invisible.
The photographs in said series are like portraits -- but in a non-traditional sense. The subject isn't there. To whom do you refer to, the people who are 'absent' in the photographs? What do they represent?
Generally the subjects in my photographs are stand-ins for myself to convey my current feelings or mood, so the removed subjects reflect either my memory loss or grief depending on which series.
It’s tricky trying to explain my work because even when the subjects aren’t ‘invisible’ I don’t consider it as a portrait. I think of a portrait as a representation of that person shown and my images are about me-- but they’re not self-portraits because I’m not physically present in the image.
It’s especially hard trying to explain to the people in my pictures “this is not a picture of you.”
Time fades as do people, but the photographs don't. That seems to be the vibe I get from your work. What do you think of the idea?
Making pictures helps me deal with my emotions which otherwise don’t get an outlet. I can look back at pictures I’ve made and think oh that’s how I was feeling then. I used to write in a journal daily but that’s given way to making more pictures which is why my work ends up being so personal most of the time. I don’t consider my work a straight up diary but it I think it is a chronological marker as it mirrors where I am in my life.
Let's get into the bigger picture. How do you see human relationships and the impermanence of life?
I tend to have very complicated relationships and since the death of my mother I’ve more or less shut everyone out because it’s just too hard for me to deal with love and trust and loss.
Moving on to your technicals in photography -- what inspires in your art?
I love looking at everything. I don’t know that I’m directly inspired by anything specific, I think I’m more driven to be at work all the time, to be looking and taking in as much as possible from everywhere and then that gets filtered into my images. Sitting next to me is the pile of books I’ve been looking at the last few weeks and in there is JH Engstrom, Kiki Smith, Lucas Samaras, Duane Michals, Man Ray, Joan Aiken, Annie Dillard and Calvin Tompkins. I have a short attention span so I always need a lot of options to go to!
What elements do you usually look for when taking a picture?
My number one need in image making is excellent and interesting light. I’m obsessed with how light changes throughout the day and during the year. My current project is about giving light a physical, weighted presence by layering it on a body either in the moment or combining images.
Lastly, what's next for you? Any upcoming project?
Besides the current series I’ve been working on with light (The Hole Sea) I run an online photography gallery called Streit House Space and we’ve just started a new instagram based residency program (@streitlab) which I’m pretty excited about. Artists will be creating a series specifically for the account which centers around the theme of “photographs of photographs.” I think instagram is a great platform for experimentation and doing things you might not normally do in your practice and I can’t wait to see what people will come up with.