Driven by a desire to take the control back on how women are portrayed, photographer Amanda Jackson blends whimsical elements and unusual color palettes to create portraits that celebrate the beauty of the female form.
Hello Amanda! Welcome the Lomography Magazine. Tells us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hello, Lomo world! I’m nearly a quarter of a century old and I’m a creator at heart. The photography seed was planted when I received a Barbie Polaroid camera as a present on my eighth birthday. I shot anything and everything. Nothing was excluded from my interest. My parents had to constantly refresh my supply of pack film, eventually causing them to buy it in bulk. After awhile, my image-making fell into dormancy, as things often do in a child’s life, but that seed was still there. At the age of 17, I worked as an editor on the yearbook staff. Part of my job was to photograph students and events around the school. When I first held a borrowed SLR in my hands, that dormant seed finally began to grow.
Since then, I have branched out from those first methods of image-making, while taking root in no one place, but in many ideas. My work mainly focuses on fashion and conceptual imagery. I’m constantly experimenting with traditional and alternative processes.
Your focus is mainly on portraiture. How did your interest with photography started? Have you always enjoyed photographing people more than other subjects?
My artist vision started long before I considered myself an artist. I’ve always been drawn to certain aesthetics, especially in clothing. I became interested in photography as a way to be part of the fashion world. For a very short time, I tried my hand at modeling, but found that I was drawn more to image-making than being in front of the lens.
My photography instructor in college told me many times, “You’re going to bottleneck your talent if you only shoot portraiture. You should not limit yourself like that." I wasn’t interested in photographing anything else, so I did not take his words to heart. Years later, after quite a bit of disappointment, I found out just how "bottlenecked" I had become. My work was stagnant and I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. It was then that I began to broaden my horizons and experiment with nature as a subject. Women are, and will always be, my favorite subjects, but allowing myself to expand my vision has really helped me grow as an artist.
Describe your photography style in three words.
Whimsical, experimental, and feminine.
My most cherished childhood memories come from the stories my mother would read to me at bedtime, tales of beautiful princesses with magical powers living in their opulent and secluded castles in far away lands. I want to make the viewer feel as if they are visiting an alternate reality when they look at my work. In my imagery, there exists a few familiar elements which work to ground the viewer, but there is also a sense of hyper-realism, begging them to look deeper. In this sense, I’m always playing with new ideas about how to create these strange worlds. I also believe in giving power to the female gaze so that women will have a unique way in which we can perceive ourselves. I’m telling the story of what it’s like to be a female from a female’s perspective.
Your portraits are usually are drenched in unusual colors. What role does color play in your photography?
Color is the language revealed to us through light. Each color has a certain meaning and those meanings can shape the way we see the world. It’s not difficult for me to admit that I’m a bit obsessed with color theory. It seeps into my everyday life: my clothing choices, the foods I eat, and it even affects which products I buy at the grocery store. Because color plays such an important role in daily life, it creates certain perceptions about that life. I like to challenge these perceptions by shifting the colors of a scene in unexpected ways. It is an invitation to question what we think we know.
What inspires your photography?
Fashion! There is no better inspiration than the fantastical scenes depicted in fashion editorials. This is the line of work I’d love to be in very soon. There was never a time in my life when I was not creating, so part of my method is instinctual to me and I cannot explain it. Comparing my creative output and satisfaction from where I used to be to where I am now, I can simply say that the key to inspiration, for myself at least, is authenticity. Living a genuine life that aligns with my desires and morals allows me to fulfill my creative potential.
What I surround myself with greatly affects the work I produce. I tend to immerse myself in an eclectic mess of art forms, remaining open for something to strike a chord or ignite a spark. It can be a very chaotic process. As Don Draper said, “Just think about it, deeply, and then forget it. An idea will…jump up in your face.” Though he may be a fictional character, I find these words to be absolutely true.
How do you plan for a shoot? Do you prefer having an image in mind before shooting? Or are you the type who goes with the flow?
Both of these methods are pretty common in my workflow. I have a lot to say as an artist and as an activist. By combining those parts of myself, I strive to tell stories through the work I create. When I am attempting to communicate a very clear message, it is important to have a plan. At the same time, I also have a strong desire to experiment and to allow myself to make mistakes. Now and again I’ll embark on a journey with no real direction. I’ll see a glimmer of inspiration, and the next day I’ll be 200 miles from home, striving to make that inspiration come to life. Creating is a must for me and it doesn’t always need to be planned. When it strikes, I just let it take me. This is how I reveal my hidden artistic vision to myself. I let the story unfold.
What’s your most favorite photograph you’ve taken?
This is tough because I’m constantly evolving and appreciating the new works I create. But I’d have to say this is my favorite photo. It is from a collaboration with a local intimates designer.
You shoot with both analogue and digital gear. Does it matter what medium you use? In what situations do you feel more inclined to shoot on film and vice versa?
Because of my tendency to shoot experimental films, I choose the digital medium when I am looking to achieve more predictable results. It makes it much easier to spot mistakes and allows for a larger variety of post-processing possibilities.
At first, I was a bit afraid of film. I was worried I would mess it up royally and have nothing so show for the model’s or my time. Not having that little screen on the back of the camera to show me my mistakes was frightening. Once I began to gain confidence in my craft, I introduced film into my workflow, and it changed the way I understood photography as a whole. There is both a sense of nostalgia and a calming sense of being from analog. Sure, it’s possible to manipulate film in post-processing, but I tend to find it much less necessary than when working with digital. To me, having grown up in a digital age, analog is more raw. Through its tangibility, a deviation from the fleeting digital world, I find it to be very real, but at the same time that’s what makes it magical. I am more likely to choose film when I’m feeling spontaneous. Each variety has it’s own unique characteristics, and I like to discover these for myself.
What’s a typical day in your life like? What do you love aside from photography?
Well, on my days off you won’t see me out of bed before 8 am unless there’s the promise of an adventure. I’ve rejected the idea that the early bird gets the worm, because, well, worms are kinda gross. I like to think that it’s the well-rested bird who, with her copious amount of energy, flies great distances to taste exotic berries growing high up in the trees instead of settling for what is on the ground. It’s important that I get my eight hours, or I’m just not myself. Who am I, then? Well, I am an artist.
Beyond photography, music is another one of my crafts. I’m a singer as well as a guitarist, although I put much more stock in the former. My personal style is very important to me and I try to rock thigh high boots on the daily. When I’m not moonlighting as a shoe saleswoman during the day, I am living out my dreams as a fashion photographer. You can usually find me at resale shops, on a quest for the wardrobe for my next big shoot.
Any photographers do you look up to? What do you like most about their work?
I’m a sucker for a good concept and Tim Walker is the master of conceptualization. I’m always looking forward to what he does next. His work encourages me to challenge boundaries and try new things.
A photographer whom I’ve looked up to ever since I began, Emily Soto, has been such a great inspiration for me. I studied her work when I was learning techniques, and, in a sense, she gave me the tools to showcase my artistic voice in an attractive way.
I also cannot forget about Annie Leibovitz. The art she creates is timeless, while being both classical and inventive at the same time. One day, I would love to meet her, if for nothing more than to tell her how greatly she has influenced me.
Any projects that you want to promote?
Yes! My most current project is to promote myself to employers. Ideally, I’d love to dive right in and work in the fashion industry, but I’d be happy to get my toes wet working in any photographic field.
written by Eunice Abique on 2017-03-18