About The Show
At Cross-Purpose is a survey of two bodies of work comprised of night and infrared landscape photographs. While both series function autonomously, each addresses an inherent anxiety to do with perception and viewing.
Our relationship with darkness is fraught with longstanding tension derived from a justified fear of potential harm due to an inability to assess one’s surroundings. This work is an exploration of existence outside of the safety of the domicile and an observation of how one may perceive that external space. These images cooperatively address the visual information both granted and withheld from the viewer. This encourages the viewer’s perception to mold a narrative of the particular landscape via an absence of information, similar to the sometimes fearful narrative one constructs in the absence of daylight.
The landscape series utilizes the infrared process to illustrate that we are increasingly at odds with the natural environment. This mode of photography allows normally imperceptible infrared light to pass through to the image, granting the viewer an impression of what is otherwise left visually unarticulated. In this case, the additional visual information afforded to the viewer’s perception illustrates an alienation from the natural environment. Viewed within the context of climate change and an ever-increasing separation from traditional natural surroundings, the landscape is transformed from lush greens into deep reds that, while still aesthetically beautiful, give the viewer an implicit sense of otherness." - Erin Jennings
MBG Artist Interview
MBG: I was not surprised at all to read that you are also a filmmaker and documentarian as your black and white series is especially ripe with untold stories. Is it possible that the dark spaces in these images leave room for the viewer to conjure a narrative beyond a fear of the dark? Is it your hope the viewer will question their fear of, and possible distaste for, the unknown outdoor terrain?
Erin Jennings: That's a very intuitive question. I feel that this work depends necessarily on a lack of information, a lack of light, in which the viewers can construct their own narrative. In photography and film, the narrative lies in a synthesis of the perspectives of the camera operator and the viewer. In the instance of this work, the lack of visual information provided by the darkness within image allows the viewers to interject their own fiction into the photographic space. This has to to largely with how we perceive nocturnal darkness; our imaginings provide a negative connotation to the spaces lacking visual data.
MBG: You mention the infrared color photography points to climate change and alienation from the natural landscape, but I find your infrared images to make the landscape even more interesting! Does the advent of digital photography make this concept less effective? I wonder as viewers get more used to digitally painted images of the landscape do we allow more poetic version of Earth's landscape to thrive in our imaginations or is this work a plea to help keep our natural landscape from changing?
Erin Jennings: I think the work does not necessarily point to climate change, but I think it may invariably be viewed through that lens due to the salience of the issue. I feel the process leads the viewer to re-examine the landscape as something foreign; this invokes a sense of the landscape that is incongruous with what would otherwise be considered well-trodden photographic content. The use of digital manipulation to create fantastic images has become commonplace, and this may convolute the impact. I feel that the majority of landscape photography perpetrates an erroneous redundancy. Landscape images have become a reassurance of an ideological paradox. We view the landscape through the lens of a bucolic past that now has no bering on the reality of our contemporary existence. While my landscape work is ultimately not a departure from this tradition, it does jar the viewer out of a common viewing space to reassess the reality of the landscape, if only briefly.
MBG: As a filmmaker, do you have a favorite film that addresses, (whether scientifically, politically, or creatively) the current predicaments surrounding Earth's landscapes and resources?
Erin Jennings: Though my partner and I work in the documentary mode, I feel that narrative films within the horror/ sci-fi genre best address our anxieties to do with threats we perceive to be out of our control. There are quite a few films I can point to in this regard, but I think the films that ultimately place us in a post-apocalyptic environment of our own making resonate with me the most. Mad Max: Fury Road(2015) is an excellent example of a contemporary film with in this paradigm. Nuclear disaster as showcased in The Day After (1982) also comes to mind as a film that features a man-made catastrophic future that renders the earth uninhabitable. While the cause of disaster is not as specific, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (2009) also follows central protagonists through a post apocalypse towards an inevitable collapse that can be considered a perverse demonstration of Manifest Destiny. Ultimately, I would say that Take Shelter (2011) is currently my favorite pick. In this film, a husband and father (Michael Shannon) has disturbing visions of the beginnings of an indeterminate cataclysmic event, which compels him to renovate a backyard storm shelter amidst protest and claims against his sanity from family and friends. Without launching into a full synopsis, I can state that this film speaks to an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and foreboding many people experience over elements of our contemporary political environment. Current socio-political circumstances threaten potential disasters that range from global economic collapse to the collapse of our ecosystem due to industrial negligence. My work barely offers a mere intimation of these issues, and by no means does it have a solid bearing regarding any potential catastrophic destruction of the contemporary landscape. The work merely separates the viewer from the space via a process driven effect, which articulates an otherness of the viewer in the context of the landscape. If my work does address these issues, again, it is due to the lens the viewer applies due to the salience of these issues.
About The Artist
Erin Jennings is a Memphis based photographer and filmmaker, working in camera oriented mediums since 1997. She is co-owner of Memphis film production company, slaproductions, which specializes in producing documentary concert and performance films. Her photographic work utilizes film, digital photography, and the digital infrared process. Jennings graduated from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production in 2001, a Master of Arts in Political Science (Politics in Film) in 2009, and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography completed in December of 2010. She currently teaches photography at The University of Memphis.
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