“For me, it is not a choice. I see photographs wherever I look. I take photographs in my mind even when I don’t have a camera – I am click, click, clicking away in my head. I see photo opportunities everywhere. I did not choose to be this way, this is just who I am, it is natural to me.”
Jana Maré (born in 1978) is a contemporary photographer currently based in Melbourne, Australia. At the moment she is undertaking a Masters of Fine Art (Photography) at RMIT University (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) in Melbourne, Australia. The first place she studied at was PIC (Photographic Imaging College).
Jana Maré went there for a year to build up a portfolio to get into university. She then completed a Bachelor of Media Arts (Fine Art Imaging) and then a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Photography) being awarded First Class Honours at RMIT.
In her new series of photographs called “Around The House”, Jana Maré explores performance in front of the camera using the artist’s body.
Using the artist’s body in open natural light, the work exhibited explores interior spaces, the psychology of the home left empty and forgotten. The body emerges as furniture, or a part of the architecture, lending to the space an exposed human presence, camouflaged and yet part of the urban interior landscape.
Jana Maré states:
“To perform in front of camera – to appear sculptural and at times lifeless – makes me feel alive, especially inside forbidden environments with limited time to photograph. The work is intuitive with a sense of urgency and spontaneity.”
The photographs provide an exploration of identity. For the artist, the act of photographing, the performance, being photographed and then creating the physical photograph is a life cycle in itself and gives the artist a validation of existence.
The home is usually a place of comfort, order and safety, the artist has deliberately chosen houses and locations that are in a state of flux and change, show a disruption, distortion and discomfort to the usual placement of the body in a home.
Interview with Jana Maré
Jana, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
I remember a time when I was photographing lions in Africa in an open-air jeep and the lion started to stir – it was so majestic being so incredibly close to such an amazing creature and it was a thrilling experience being out there in the wild with no cages or bars between me and this lion only a few metres away.
For my recent series of self-portraits some of the locations have been very exciting. Sometimes they have been abandoned houses, some houses in the midst of renovation in the middle of the night. Once I had to ask a construction worker and a woman on the street to turn around for a few minutes while I got naked and posed on top of a pile of rubble that was a demolished house. People walked past and cars drove by. It was an incredible experience that left me on an amazing high and adrenalin rush for a few days! All the bruises, scratches and dirt that I get are nothing compared to this feeling!
Why did you become a photographer?
I am a photographer for the simple reason that I am passionate about photographs – everything about them: taking them; how it makes me feel to take a photograph; looking at photographs; seeing into the photograph.
For me, it is not a choice. I see photographs wherever I look. I take photographs in my mind even when I don’t have a camera – I am click, click, clicking away in my head. I see photo opportunities everywhere. I did not choose to be this way, this is just who I am, it is natural to me.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
Photography is my passion. I use photography to communicate my ideas and express myself. I feel a strong need to document the world around me and I am happiest when I use photography to illustrate my fears, loves and emotions.
Art is open to interpretation. I do not want to prescribe a response, but I guess I want viewers to question the photograph and hopefully connect with them in some way.
There is a term which Roland Barthes calls the ‘punctum’ which connects and triggers the viewer at an emotional level, I hope my photographs achieve this connection and trigger with the viewer.
I would love my images to create an internal dialogue with the audience.
I want to create images which are thought-provoking and challenge the viewer. I do not just want to create ‘pretty pictures’.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of photojournalism. His images and concept of ‘the decisive moment’ have inspired my way of photographing and way of seeing.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
It’s difficult to choose only one quote so I’ve included a few that really speak to me about photography and my own practice.
“To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters.”
“To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.”
And I don’t know who said this but: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
How would you describe your photographic voice and creative process?
The majority of my work is intuitive with a sense of urgency and spontaneity using available light. I prefer taking photographs that are not too constructed, that are moments in time that can never be recreated – candid photographs.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Just keep photographing until you find it! It’s also important to know and research the great photographers from the past.
As Henri Cartier-Bresson said: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I am more of a traditional straightforward photographer, preferring to use natural lighting, real locations (as opposed to a studio) and using very minimal, if any, digital manipulation.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Seeing things in a photographic way constantly – having the eye for composition, lighting and having a passion for photography.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the flood of images we are exposed to every day.
Composition, lighting, what Henri Cartier-Bresson called “The Decisive Moment”, and a term which Roland Barthes calls the ‘punctum’ which connects and triggers the viewer at an emotional level.
Sometimes, a really great photo will reveal more about the photographer than the subject. I think, in a way, every photograph is a self-portrait. This is when I call it an ‘honest’ photograph.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
What inspires me is the most ordinary things in life, I love turning the ordinary into something extraordinary! I love to see ordinary things in everyday life that people would just normally walk past and make something extraordinary out of it. Things that are broken, dirty, gritty – I don’t take ‘pretty pictures’.
Inspiration also comes from life, death, relationships, break-ups, other people, the environment around me.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
The kind of camera and equipment I use varies on the different projects I am working on at the time.
This ranges from using a Canon 5D Mark II, tripod and wireless remote control for my latest series of self portraits to using a Nikon FM2 with slide or black and white film for street photography, to a medium format camera or even 45 camera with slide film to shooting my abstract dirty windows and surfaces. I also recently purchased a Nikon D800.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
What book about photography would you recommend?
Three essential books I recommend a photographer to read are:
“Ways of Seeing” by John Berger.
“On Photography” by Susan Sontag.
“Camera Lucida” by Roland Barthes.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
Shoot, shoot, shoot. If you do something you love then it isn’t really a job.
More about Jana Maré