“I think my style came to me naturally. It is quite formal and suits the subject matter that I am working with.”
Jessica Auer (born in 1978 in Montreal) is a Canadian landscape photographer. She holds a MFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in Montreal (Canada).
Jessica Auer is a documentary-style landscape photographer from Montreal. Her work is largely concerned the study of cultural sites. From the beaten track to the frontier, she explores places where history and mythology are woven into the landscape, and where contemporary landscape issues emerge. Jessica Auer is the recipient of several awards such as the W.B. Bruce European Fine Art Travel Fellowship and the Roloff Beny Prize, as well as grants from the Quebec Arts Council (CALQ). Her work has been exhibited in Canada and the United States and is held in various private and public collections, including the Canada Council Art Bank and the Cirque du Soleil. Jessica is a co-founder and a board member at Galerie Les Territoires in Montréal and teaches photography at Concordia University. She is represented by Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Ottawa.
“Unmarked Sites” by Jessica Auer
Over the course of two summers Jessica Auer explored the landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador, photographing cultural sites to show how history and mythology are written into the landscape. While looking to the land for signs of the past, she examines the relationship between landscape and regional identity. The resulting narrative reveals the intricacies that relate exploration, settlement, preservation and modern tourism. “Unmarked Sites” is available as an artist book.
Interview with Jessica Auer
Jessica, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My parents bought me a Polaroid camera when I was eight years old and told me I was the official wedding photographer for my sister’s wedding.
Why did you become a photographer?
I always knew I wanted to be a photographer and I was steadfast in my plan. I didn’t always know I was going to be an artist as opposed to a commercial photographer or photojournalist, but I made that decision when I went to University and figured out that I could perhaps make a career out of being a landscape photographer.
What does photography mean to you?
Very difficult to put into words. Photography pervades my life as I take photographs, think or write about images almost every day. I’m also married to a photographer. But I would say that I am as close to my subject matter (cultural landscapes) as I am to the medium of photography itself.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Bernd and Hilla Becher because of their approach to “documentary” photography, but mostly because of their discipline and commitment to their projects.
Your favorite photography quote?
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
How would you describe your photographic style and creative process?
Research and project based. Documentary-style.
“My photographic work is what I call project based. Usually I come up with an idea and then I go to find a place to photograph that’ll best express that idea.”
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language?
I don’t really know. I think my style came to me naturally. It is quite formal and suits the subject matter that I am working with.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
Analogue, large-format colour photography.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Depends on what they are trying to do, say, show.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
A good balance of content and form.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
History, exploring, cultural landscape issues.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
A 4×5 view camera and Mamiya 7 rangefinder.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
American Suburb X.
What photography book would you recommend?
Way too many! But the first one that comes to mind is “Why People Photograph” by Robert Adams.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Work hard and be passionate about what you do. Anyone who works really hard and never gives up will succeed to a certain extent. Of course it helps to be creative and innovative but the rest is mostly luck.