It Takes A Village...

I am in full swing now, dedicating this year to getting The Burn published by Kehrer Verlag in Germany and making an accompanying limited edition, hand made book that will include a unique encaustic piece. This process is an education. When I had my Look and Leave book published, I pretty much handed over the files and the Center for American Places did the layout, sequencing, editing and designing. George Thompson did a fabulous job. There is much to consider when creating a book and I am realizing that the photographer, whose work it is,  is not the most objective. Bookmaking is a collaborative effort and I feel so fortunate to have wonderful, talented people on my team.
  Teresa Pankratz, an incredibly talented interdisciplinary book and paper artist is collaborating with me on the limited edition book. I had a long conversation with her about how I envisioned the book. Next thing I knew, Teresa came up with this amazing structure that will delight the viewer. We have the broad brush strokes in place and are now honing in on the various papers, dimensions etc. It is VERY PRECISE work and Teresa is a master. Each book with have a "jewel" at the back...a unique encaustic piece in addition to the prints.  
I have also had the pleasure of working with Walker Blackwell (formerly of Black Point Editions).
He has started, with other passionate photographers (Maria HummelEileen MuellerAshley SingleyMatt AustinVictor Yañez-Lazcano and Kate Roger) a community darkroom for Chicago, called Latitude. Walker is going to help me convert my files so they are the European CMYK standard and make proof prints for the publisher.

Then there is the writing. I started by looking at poetry I loved, especially by Mark Strand. I sent some of the poems to my dear friend and mentor, Dick Olderman. What I got back from him was....
 "What do you have to write of your life that would be what you want to pass on, as the poetic image of a glance ... and can be reached without a camera. See what comes out of you.  Look to yourself for nothing and that's where it begins.", I have been challenging myself to write more. I am finding that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can sometimes have access to thoughts and words without my censor at work...  a  beginning. 

stay tuned

The New Year

I know I haven't written much on this blog over the past couple of months. It has been a time of  transformation. As you may know, I had a sister who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 5 1/2 years ago and the disease finally took her this past November. I have been consumed with this "sea change" in my life and have not felt much like writing. As time has passed, I am finding my energies slowly returning, hence,  an update on my creative endeavors.

I have always used the camera to better understand the world around me. These past 5 1/2 years have been no different. As fate would have it, I started The Burn project at the same time my sister was diagnosed. It has been a gift to me because I have been able to funnel many of my ponderings on the meaning  of life  into my photography.

The year 2013  will be focused on having  The Burn published by Kehrer Verlag, a publishing house in Heidelberg, Germany. The book will be dedicated to my sister. I envision it as a quiet, meditative experience for the viewer.  I have had much input from others on how to think about the creation of the book.

My first "mentor" was Joerg Colberg, the editor of the blog Conscientious. I met Joerg in the Netherlands at the Noorderlicht Photography Festival. He shared with me a few invaluable suggestions:
Never rush the process of creating a book and  every decision made needs to support the underlying vision for the book, including the design , text, papers, format etc. I must say that I was a bit overwhelmed, but it all made sense.  I am so appreciative of Joerg's generous guidance.

The next person I met with was Lauren Henkin. I had signed up for her workshop at Filter Photo  titled Turning Toward Books : Creating Artist - Directed Publications. I thought I might get some ideas for the trade book. Unfortunately I was unable to attend (at the hospital with my sister) but I did have a brief visit with Lauren, who shared some thoughts on  limited edition, handmade books. The idea appealed to me not only as a way to raise money for the trade book, but also because I have always enjoyed making things with my hands.

In doing more research on Lauren's site, I realized that she had lived in Portland for a few short years and  had tapped into a talented pool of artisans. It was at that point that I decided to think about trying to collaborate with someone locally. Immediately, Teresa Pankratz popped into my head. I have known Teresa for years and knew she had just completed a MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College in Chicago.  I called Teresa and the rest is history (not quite, but is in the making)! Teresa has come up with an amazing structure for the book which includes an encaustic piece.
Form and Content seamlessly joined.

I am thrilled to have these 2 projects in front of me and will keep you posted on how it all develops.

New Year, New Projects, New Challenges.

Life is good!

The Evolution of an Artist Statement

I began the Burn work over 5 years ago. As many of you know, it coincided with my sister's first chemotherapy treatment. For the first 2 years of the project, I couldn't / did not want to, make the connection or discuss it in my artist statement.

Burn No. 21

Artist Statement Version #1

While accompanying restoration ecologists on prescribed burns, I am drawn to the ephemeral quality of a single moment when life and death do not seem opposed to each other, but are parts of a single process to be accepted as a whole.
The Burn series evolved from my ongoing interest in life cycles. Controlled burns imitate naturally occurring fires by removing accumulated dead vegetation and releasing seeds from dormancy. By opening the woodlands to more sunlight, the fires prepare the soil for new spring growth, and the cycle of renewal continues.
Burn No.74

After attending an artist residency with many writers, I was convinced that my sister's illness was a very important part of this work, and that I needed to include it in my statement.

Artist statment version #2
   While accompanying restoration ecologists on prescribed prairie burns, I am drawn to the ephemeral quality of the single moment when life and death are not opposites, but rather parts of a single process to be embraced as a whole.

As fate would have it, this project began on the same day (and actual hour) of my sister’s first chemotherapy treatment, having just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The parallels between the burn and chemotherapy were immediately revealed to me as I photographed with my sister in my heart and mind.

Burning helps reduce invasive vegetation that crowd out native plants, allowing sunlight to reach the seedlings. By opening the woodlands to more daylight, the fires prepare the soil for new spring growth, and the cycle of renewal continues. So too, chemotherapy removes unwanted growth, allowing for new healthy cells to reestablish themselves. It with this deeper understanding of the life cycle that these images were created.
And then I went to Fotofest where I met a curator who said that the artist statement did not really reflect what she was seeing in the work. I let this feedback simmer for a few months. I knew she was right and struggled with how to rewrite the statement. I worked on it on and off and nothing was coming to me. I could "feel" it but not articulate it.
I then had a very interesting conversation this summer with 2 dear friends who both completed their PHD's in art history. To my utter surprise, one friend said, and I quote, "It is not the job of the artist to write about the work. The job of the artist is just to make the work. Writing about it should be left to others." 
You can't imagine the weight that was lifted from my shoulders. I felt liberated....only I still didn't  have a statement that could guide the viewer.  My other friend offered to write the statement for me. I can't tell you how appreciative and grateful I was.  
I am thrilled to finally have an accurate and articulate statement which accompanies the work as I send it out into the world.
Burn No. 96
Final Artist Statement
These photographs are part of a series begun in 2007 when I observed my first controlled prairie burn. I was immediately struck by the burn’s visual and expressive potential, as well as the way it evoked themes that are at the core of my photographic work.  A controlled burn is deliberately set; its violent, destructive force reduces invasive vegetation so that native plants can continue to prosper.  The elements of the burn—the mysterious luminosity, the smoke that both obscures and reveals—suggest a liminal space, a zone of ambiguity where destruction merges with renewal.  These images of regenerative destruction have a personal significance—I photographed my first burn at the same time my sister began a course of chemotherapy—yet they constitute a universal metaphor:  the moment when life and death are not contradictory but are perceived as a single process to be embraced as a whole. 
Burn No. 48
Thank you Debbie!

on equipment

I have always felt that the camera I use is just a tool for my creative vision. I have never felt that more clearly than today. There are so many options for making an image.

 I traveled to Mexico earlier this summer and some of my very favorite images were taken of birds flying overhead while I was out at sea with my iphone using the retro camera application!

A new compact camera just came out which I decided to try, given all the pre-release hype. It is the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 that includes a large sensor and bright Carl Zeiss lens. This is from the dpreview review...

"Cyber-shot DSC-RX100,  is an enthusiast compact camera based around a 20MP 1" CMOS sensor. It features a 28-100mm equivalent lens with F1.8-4.9 aperture range and image stabilization and is the first Sony compact to capture Raw files. It can shoot 1080p60 and capture 17MP (16:9 crop) stills simultaneously. It features a lens control dial and a 3:2 aspect ratio sensor (the same proportions as most DSLRs). It's also the first Sony compact to feature the company's 'WhiteMagic' LCD technology, promising a brighter or lower-power display."

My new point and shoot arrived a few days ago. I charged up the battery immediately and took it out that evening. I was amazed at its ability to "see." It also gave me the option of shooting square.  Another tool in the toolbox!

iphone photography ~ Lori Pond

While at Fotofest I met a wonderful photographer, Lori Pond, who was showing some of her iphone photographs. I did not see anyone else (in the 4th session) showing work created with the iphone. Many of us carry around iphones but few have been as creative as Lori. Along with the images, Lori has generously shared how she created each image.


Steps: This image was made at the Self-Realization Fellowship Center in Encinitas, California. Founder Paramahansa Yogananda built a pool overlooking the ocean that he used for his daily exercise. After his death, the pool was drained. I used the Plastic Bullet app for light streaking and moody color palette.

Lights: I was eating dinner outside in Encinitas, California on a balmy night last summer. I looked up and saw these lights and wanted to remember the experience. I used Plastic Bullet for the color streaking, star filter look, and saturation.

L1: At an artist walk years ago, I bought a beautiful ivory carving of a woman's hand, complete with carved mehndi designs on the back of the hand. It was made into a necklace, and I loved wearing it. One day the little finger broke off at the first joint, so it felt weird to wear the necklace after that. So, I kept it in front of my computer with the palm up. I decided to make a kind of still life self-portrait out of it, so I put an L Scrabble tile in its palm, then photographed that with the iPhone. I made another image of my arm with the iPhone. I blended the two images together to make my self-portrait. I used the app Big Lens to create the special effects around the sides of the image.

Ironing: This is a view of my laundry room, which I've seen thousands of times since I moved into my current house in 1994. It never occurred to me until I was carrying my iPhone everywhere to make an image of of this room. I think I make a lot more varied images now, because I DO carry my iPhone everywhere. An oft-repeated saying goes something like this: "The best camera is the one you have with you."
The vignette comes from Big Lens, which also provided the Lomo filter, bringing a 70s look to the image.

Canelo: This is Bill Steen's backyard in Canelo, Arizona. He builds straw bale housing and holds workshops on how to build them. I was taken by the light at dusk on his property. Everything turned gold. I used Vintage Scene to put some texture into the image, and Photoforge to enhance texture/contrast/brightness of varying parts of the image.

El Profeta: While in Mexico for Dan's workshop last December, I noticed while driving around the state of Sonora that there were a ton of roadside shrines. Shrines to family members who had died in traffic accidents, shrines to the Virgen de Guadalupe, you name it. I started to look out for them, as some of them are quite striking. I used Big Lens to create selective blurring in the image, and King Camera to create the texture overlay.

Watch Out For Clouds: I saw this fisheye mirror on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, where I work on the "Conan" show. These mirrors aid the many truck drivers who deliver sets, lighting, wardrobe etc. to various parts of the lot. (There are many narrow alleyways and vision is very obscured.) I was walking by this mirror at lunch one day, and saw the reflection of the sky in it. Since I had my trusty iPhone, I couldn't pass up this photo op! I used Photoforge to emphasize brightness in certain areas of the image, and to create a vignette around the edges.

Underwater: This is my most recent image, using the front camera to take a self-portrait. I had just downloaded an app called Power Cam, which I used to create the texture on my skin and take away color. I also used Power Cam to create the water ripple effect over the face. Power Cam actually plays this water ripple effect almost like a movie, and you simply stop the movie when enough ripple has accumulated. I've worked in TV graphics for 25 years, so to see this on my PHONE just blows me away. It used to take a whole room of computer equipment to make something like this happen!

Self Portrait: With the Slow Shutter app, I can create light trails with my iPhone. For this image, I layered an in-focus exposure over an exposure using Slow Shutter to create my hand movement. I also used Dramatic B&W to de-saturate and grunge up the image a little.

Pogo: I recently collaborated with abstract painter Barbara Nathanson on a piece called "Nothing in the Entire Universe is Hidden." It was shown in January as part of exhibit "VS." at Gallery 825 in Los Angeles. One day, while standing in her studio, I glanced down and saw her 14-year-old dog peacefully napping. I used Photoforge to create the bicolor wash over the image, and Pic Grunger for the texture/frame.

Overhead: When I flew to Mexico last December on my way to an iPhone Artistry workshop with Dan Burkholder, I went crazy making images of my view outside the plane's window. I used Photoforge to enhance the contrast of the image and to put a bicolor wash over the image.

So impressive! If anyone has favorite iphone pix you would like to share, I would be happy to post. Thanks, Lori, for your inspiration!

How Photographers Spend Their Time

click chart to enlarge

This chart was created by A Photo Editor and I thought it was very telling. It also made me feel better as I have been lamenting on how I haven't been able to work on my encaustics since leaving the Ragdale residency. There are many facets being an artist and they are all equally important. It is lovely to create wonderful work but if it just sits in your studio, the cycle is not fulfilled. It must be seen by others. What are you doing to get your work seen?

Change of Mind

June 17

I have been in an agitated state for a few days. It wasn't until yesterday that I realized it was because of this new camera and project. I did a shoot with the camera and and found myself struggling to figure out all the settings. I know nothing of video shooting and do not really want to spend my energies figuring it out. SO, I decided to let it go. I love the patina and smoky residue of my canon 5D and will stay with it for a while longer.

June 18

Taken with a plastic holga this more like it...low tech with lots of trial and error. I just LOVE the plastic holga lens!

The Challenges of New Equipment

June 16 ~ Sixty plus 20 days

I just purchased this new camera with the help of the recent PDN Curator's Choice Award. The decision was based on wanting to shoot some video. The learning curve is STEEP as the camera is more like a computer and the choices are staggering. I am a creature of habit and keep longing for my Hassleblad...and then I am reminded of fabulous new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, where the main character longs for the past only to learn that the present is pretty darn good! If you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat.

I also got a call from my 91 year old father last night who, after years as a PC user, has decided that for Father's Day he is going to take us up on our offer to help him switch to a Mac!

I am reminded that....

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan Watts

Nourishing our plants and ourselves....

Heading to Mexico in a few weeks and thought I would see how well an iPhone application works in anticipation of using it down there. It is always a challenge to master new technology. I must say that I am inspired by my father, who at age 91, just bought the iPhone!

June 9 ~ Day 14

As it is graduation time, thought I would share a graduation speech worth your time to consider...

For Grads: You are Not Amazing
By The Rev. Anne S. Howard on May 31, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Commencement Address by The Rev. Anne S. Howard*

We are gathered here to celebrate you graduates—you ascend to a new height today with the conferring of these graduate degrees.
And so I’d like to begin by saying: you are not amazing. Despite your accomplishments, your regalia, your degrees and pedigrees, you are not amazing—but you might be. Let me explain.
The Dalai Lama, in his book Ethics for the New Millennium—the book that was chosen this year for the UCSB program—said, “There is nothing amazing about being highly educated; there is nothing amazing about being rich. Only when the individual has a warm heart do these attributes become worthwhile.”
Well, I think it might be nice if your expensive education were to prove worthwhile, so I’d like to talk about the temperature of your hearts.
By warm heart, the Dalai Lama of course is not talking about the way you feel about your puppy. He is talking about an ethical principle that he sees as necessary for the peace and well-being of our fragile planet. He is talking about that imperative that is at the core of all the great world religions, about something more important than the practice of religion—he’s talking about compassion.

In his book, as you know, he presents a long list of disciplines for achieving a practice of compassion. It’s a daunting list. I recommend each and every virtue he names—but I know it’s just darn hard to master them all. And I’m aware (in my work with The Beatitudes Society with graduate students across the country) that the practice of compassion is not something that we naturally accumulate along with our degrees.
So today I want to offer you a short list, just the elementary basics--a toolkit for compassion. And because I know that commencement speeches are as forgettable as wedding sermons, I want to offer you a brief mnemonic device --the S-A-Ts. I want you to remember the SATs—not your high school SATs—but something new to tuck into your toolkit—along with your diplomas, resumes, job applications, and cleaned up FaceBook Profiles.
First, S. S means stop. Stop what you are doing. Stop working, stop pushing, stop achieving, stop producing. Stop texting, typing, clicking and twittering. Stop on a regular basis. At least once each day. Stop once a week. S means stop—it comes from something the ancients called Sabbath—the early Hebrew notion that workers ought to get a respite from oppressive overlords at least one day a week. Stopping was so important to them that they included it in their creation myth, in their definition of the Creator: on the seventh day, the story goes, God rested. The Hebrew word “rested” translates “exhaled.” God exhaled. Remember Sabbath, remember something you already know, deep in your bones, remember to exhale.
We have trouble remembering to exhale and we have trouble remembering that Sabbath was a time meant for rest, refreshment, delight. Over the centuries, we got it all wrong. Sabbath became a set of “thou shall nots:” do not work, do not dance, do not play cards.
The academy has done a bad job with the notion of Sabbath too—we know that sabbaticals are really only time away from classrooms and committees; time that must be justified by publication. Not time to exhale.
But the beauty of Sabbath persists across cultures. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, rings a small bell throughout the day in the Buddhist community of Plum Village, a “mindfulness bell.” When the bell rings, it is a signal for all to stop, to take three breaths, and then resume work.
Sabbath means you take time out to engage in the things that feed your body and soul: you eat, you dance, you listen, you make art and music and love and prayer.
You might stop for one full day each week; or it might be an afternoon, a moment. Whatever it is, if we are going to check on the temperature of our hearts, we all have to stop.
Working without stopping, Thomas Merton said, is a form of violence—one that we have perfected with our 24-hour days. This violence colors the way we gobble up resources; it hobbles our capacity for creativity and clear judgment; it tears at the fabric of our relationships. I am told that the Chinese pictograph for busyness is composed of two characters: Heart-plus-Killing.
Stopping is the single most live-saving thing we can do—the most counter-cultural act of resistance we can mount. We stop, so that we can pay attention:
A is for Attention. Be aware. Take a look at where you are. Did you see that cormorant over the lagoon—have you ever noticed one? Did you notice the look in your mother’s eyes when she saw you today in your funny hat? And how about the way you feel right now inside your own skin?
And what about the world beyond your own little sphere? What do you allow into your field of vision, your range of care?
This is the reason Thich Nhat Hanh rings the bell. Be here now. The bush is afire, Moses discovered, and took off his shoes to dance. Heaven is here, Jesus said, and invited everyone to a party; this is the only moment we have to love one another. This moment matters.
Pay attention to what counts: What do you love? Is the work you are about to do with your new degree truly your vocation—that place where your deep joy meets the world’s great need? Or is it just what everyone expects you to do?
One last letter, T. T is for thanks. Practice saying thanks. Start by thinking of all the people who helped you get here today. You know who helped you believe in yourself. Say thanks for them. And you also know who stood in your way, the ones who made your way a little rougher. Say thanks for them too; they were your best teachers, and there will be many more like them along the way.
Saying thanks reminds us that we are contingent beings. We are not alone. You are, I am, more than a solitary mouse-clicking unit staring into a flat screen. We depend upon one another. We know in the 21st century that we can no longer live in our old myth of Western individualism; we do not ride alone on our ponies into the Western sunset. We are learning, after all those cowboy movies, what our great-grandparents knew—and Ayn Rand didn’t: we are better when we stand together, when we recognize our common ground, when we raise a barn roof or build a school or design a national health care system together—for the common good.
Most of you were born around the beginning of the 1980s—you spoke your first words in that decade known as the “me” decade; and here you are in a new century characterized by a new vocabulary: you live a reality shaped by words like network, internet, linked, global, web.
Saying thanks is one simple way to be mindful of your complex web of relationships, and of that pulse of Compassion that beats at the heart of the universe.
That’s it, the SATs. Three letters—and one last quick thing, a picture, a snapshot to paste to the lid of your compassion toolbox; it’s a picture of your Wild Space.
Wild Space is theologian Sallie McFague’s term for that part in each one of us that does not fit our consumer culture’s definition of the good life.
McFague suggests that we discover our Wild Space this way: imagine a circle. Within that circle is the model of the dominant culture: white, Western, male, middle-class, heterosexual, educated, able-bodied, successful. Now, put your own image of yourself over that circle. Some parts may fit that model, some may not. The part of us that falls outside the circle is our Wild Space.
The parts that don’t fit may be obvious: race or gender. Some aren’t so obvious: surviving a failure, or a loss, the struggle with addiction, or simply our refusal to buy into convention. Anything that causes us to question the dominant culture’s notion of success is our Wild Space.
It’s our Wild Space that allows us to question our definitions of power and so discover more egalitarian ways relate to one another. Our Wild Space allows us to re-imagine the way we consume the earth’s resources and so live in such a way that cares for our planet and our neighbors. It’s our Wild Space that allows us to create an alternative vision of the good life. Wild Space is our hidden key to the practice of compassion.
So that’s the tool kit:
Stop. Pay attention. Say thank you. And keep an eye on your Wild Space. I bet your heart will not only warm, it will light on fire.
And then you might just be amazing. I hope so. God knows we need you, our planet needs you, to be nothing less than amazing."

*2009 University of California Santa Barbara Graduate Division

Taking Stock and Writers Block

Fall has arrived. As I look back over the summer I am overwhelmed with how packed it was, from multiple family visits and the creation and dissemination of Crude Awakening. And tonight I have 2 simultaneous openings, one in Chicago at 310conTEMPORARY Gallery and one in San Francisco at the Corden Potts Gallery. There is much coming up...but in the mean time, my glasses broke, my car is in need of repairs, there is a water leak in the house and my computer keeps reminding me that my start up disc is dangerously full. There is much to take care of.

What I hope for this coming fall is to focus on my teaching engagements, for which I am so delighted and honored to be involved in. I have my critique group starting up this week and several speaking and workshop commitments. I also spent this past week in the North Woods of Wisconsin cutting out 1000 monarch butterflies that will be part of an installation that I am working on for the Frontera Grill space. I would love to post some pix but am too nervous to download anything more on to this computer. I am having a 2TB internal drive installed on my computer tomorrow. Once that happens, I will be sailing!

Whew! I finally posted. Hope everyone is well.

Monthly Photography Magazine Interview ~ South Korea

The August issue of a Korean photography magazine called "Monthly Photography" in which I was interviewed just came in the mail. There is a 12 page spread, spanning many years of my photography career. I don't speak or read Korean but have the English translation which I thought I would share.

MT ~ When and how did you first start your career as a photographer? (What motivated you to become a photographer? On your website, you stated that you have practiced clinical social work for 35 years.)

JFA ~ I have been a part time practicing clinical social worker for over 35 years. When my youngest child began grammar school and some time freed up, I began taking art classes and decided to try photography as I had just purchased a new camera in preparation for a trip to South East Asia. At the start of the class I did not really understand the nuances or poetic potential of photography. I had an exceptional teacher, Richard Olderman, who taught me to see with my heart. I learned over time that the camera was just another tool for expressing oneself.

MT ~ Where and why did you shoot the ‘Burn’ series? How long did it take you to finish the series? Looking at the series works, you must’ve been working while the prairie was still burning, and that seems very dangerous. What was the most difficult thing while working on this series? What would you say the subject of this series is? What motivated you to choose this subject for your work?

JFA ~ The seeds of inspiration for The Burn series was years in the making. I have always been attracted to the mysterious qualities of smoke and fire. I remember passing an open field of burning fire while traveling in Mexico. I had wanted to photograph then but the circumstances at the time did not allow it.

In the fall of 2008 I was attending an artist residency at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois. Ragdale is situated on acres of beautiful prairie land. While I was there the restoration ecologists were doing a small controlled burn. Controlled burns are crucial to the restoration of natural habitats. The burning helps reduce non-native vegetation that can crowd out native plants, allowing sunlight to reach very young native plant seedlings. I began talking to the ecologists and inquired about photographing with them. They said that would be fine but I would need to wait until the spring, as the controlled burns were finished for the season.

The following spring, in early April, I called them. As fate would have it the restoration ecologists were heading out to do their first burn that very day. I was elated....and was also the first day (actual hour) of my sister's first chemotherapy treatment. She had been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The Burn was photographed with my sister in my heart and in my mind. There are many parallels between the prairie burn and the chemotherapy. The burning of the brush or application of the chemotherapy clears the dead underbrush/cancer cells, making way for new healthy growth.

This series has been physically and emotionally taxing for me to produce. After 3-4 hours of photographing in the smoke and fire, I am greatly fatigued and drained. I wear special clothing because the smoke saturates everything. It often takes months for my camera equipment to be smoke free. While I am photographing, I always dedicate the work to my sister. It has been a blessing to have this project to focus on while my sister is simultaneously going through her chemotherapy.

MT ~ Reading your statement about ‘Burning’ on your website, "While accompanying restoration ecologists on prescribed prairie burns, _I am drawn to the ephemeral quality of a single moment _when life and death do not seem opposed to each other, _but are parts of a single process to be accepted as a whole" you seemed to express part of your own grasp about ‘life’ through this series. Would you tell us more about what you have realized about life while you’ve been working on this series?

JFA ~ I have spent much of my photography career wondering about the larger questions of did we all come into being, how do we leave this world and what is the meaning of life. I have used the camera as a tool to try to address these issues. By drawing on my life experiences that includes raising a family, extensive travel and having a clinical social work practice, I am able to come to a better understanding of the life/death question. You can't have one without the other, just like you need to the dark to understand the light. If there were no darkness, light would not exist.

Death is one of the great mysteries that face us all. I do not think one can really live fully without embracing death and dying. By observing the natural world I am able to see the cycle of life more clearly and am attracted to images that reference both life and death in one image.

MT ~ Tell us how you first began working on ‘Katrina’ series. What motivated you to go to Katrina? Looking at the gruesome scenes of Katrina, I would say I could sense part of your feeling while shooting these scenes. Tell us more how you felt while working on this series.

JFA~ Like all who watched the tragedy of human suffering unfold for days on end following Hurricane Katrina, I felt a profound sense of helplessness. This feeling led me to volunteer my skills as a clinical social worker. I had no idea how my expertise would be used. All I knew is that I would be on a team of sixteen mental health professionals from across the nation.

I was assigned to a program called “Look and Leave” organized by the City of New Orleans. The program was designed to provide the evacuated residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, then scattered over forty-eight states, with an opportunity to return and view their homes for the first time since they fled the storm.

By the end of my first day serving on the “Look and Leave” program and viewing the remains of the devastated community, I felt physically ill. Following three days and seven bus trips, I had an unrelenting “Katrina cough” along with a pounding headache. The physical and emotional fatigue was so pervasive that I had to leave the site. This was a turning point for me. Within an hour of returning to the hotel room, something within me shifted and I knew I needed to do more . . . . I decided to photograph what I was seeing, with the hope of helping in a more concrete way by giving others visual access to my experiences.

MT~ Did you intend to deliver any message to the audiences through your work of Katrina? If yes, what was it?

JFA ~ On the last night of my first trip to New Orleans, there was discussion with members of the relief team about how we might be ambassadors for the people we served by keeping their stories alive and their needs in focus.

Our natural instinct is to try to generalize any experience. To do so about my post-Katrina experience would be unfair to us all. During the time I spent in the Lower Ninth Ward, I encountered feelings of frustration, anger, fear, helplessness, shock, despair, hope, optimism and love, both my own and those of the residents. The best and worst of humankind were revealed, as it often is in such extreme situations. I saw people looking to profit from the misfortunes of others and people who showed boundless generosity toward complete strangers.

I was privileged to be with families at an intimate and critical time, a time when daily concerns receded and what was most vital rose to the top. I learned so much from the people I worked with. Their strong sense of faith sustained many. But, most importantly I learned that what is essential in life is not where we live, where we work, what we own, or how much money we make, but how well we love and treat one another.

MT ~ Since you have worked as a social worker for more than 35 years, you must’ve engaged a lot with people and I think most of your work subjects are reflecting stories related people, human beings. However, it is interesting that in most of your works, figures are excluded but still show the trace of people’s lives. What do you think? What did you intend from not showing figures on your works?

JFA ~ Much of my early work from Mexico included street photography. There was a time when I was comfortable with shooting people whom I did not know. Then I became more self conscious about it. I guess you might say I became more shy. I am no longer comfortable taking people's photographs without their permission. In order to do a really in depth project with people, you need to spend a lot of time with them. The commitment is intense. I did do that with a woman who was undergoing breast cancer. In the end she felt the photographs were too revealing and did not want them exhibited. The photographs are really beautiful but will probably never be seen. Maybe that has something to do with it...It really takes a toll on me to dive deep into other peoples lives.

MT ~ Your first and only book ‘Look and Leave’ has achieved a lot of attention from American media. What kinds of works are included in this book? Please introduce about your book to our readers in Korea.

JFA ~ The photographs in this book were taken at time when I was in deep mourning for the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward and for our nation. I felt like a walking container for all the grief and sorrow that I absorbed while trying to support the residents as they returned to their homes. It is through this “lens” that the images were made. One question that has often been asked of me is, “Why are there no people in the photographs?” As a social worker, I felt it would be unethical to intrude on the personal lives of the families as they were trying to cope with their losses. When I did decide to photograph, it was with the conscious decision to do it before or after I reported to the “Look and Leave” site, thus avoiding any ambiguity between my professional roles as a clinical social worker and a photographer. I discovered that the potency of these photographs is due, in part, to the merging of the two professions at the moment the shutter was released.

MT ~ Mourning Light, Chiapas, and the first part of Mexico series look like you photographed out of framed photographs. Please explain about work process of these series and the reason why you have chose this manner of shooting photographs. What kind of effect did you seek?

JFA ~ I have always been interested in mixed media as a means of creating more luminosity, mystery and surface in the photograph. I applied beeswax on the surface of the Mourning Light photographs as a way of creating this effect.

The Chiapas series was created as a response to having visited the San Juan Chamula Church, just outside of San Cristobal, Mexico. I was not allowed to photograph inside the church but made images of the exterior and the surrounding areas. When I came home and began editing the work, I realized that I could scan objects that I had collected from various trips to Mexico and combine them with the images. This is what I did with this body of work. It all just came together with little thought. One of those wonderful moments that rarely happens! Adding the bees wax was another way of enhancing the mystery and giving the work more depth.

In my newest work from Mexico I am transferring xerox color copies onto a gold leaf prepared wooden panel and then pouring resin over the image. It becomes much less photographic and more about texture and light. The luminosity of the work is extraordinary and by doing the transfer, I loose some of the detail of the image. The viewer is forced to fill in the missing pieces or, even better, spend more time in wonder.

MT ~ ‘Visitation’ series look different from your other work series. This series seem the only one that you had set the stage and directed the scene with a garment while other series are not. What are you trying to talk through ‘Visitation’ series?

JFA ~ This work was inspired by a dream and a painting that referenced flying. This work addresses the non material, spiritual world; what we don't know but what could be.

I have always loved fabric and was a quilter for years before I became a photographer. I live on the shores of Lake Michigan and would always wait for the perfect weather conditions to shoot this work. The wind, the light and the cloud cover needed to be just right for it to work. For 2 years I would carry a 15" x 15" piece of fabric with me. Many, many images were taken but only a few worked artistically.

MT ~ I would say many of your works are close to documentary or topographic works except ‘Visitation’ (it is close to conceptual work to me). How would you categorize your works?

JFA ~ I think it is difficult to categorize my work as I am constantly changing and evolving. My photographic images reflect my curiosity about life and there is a freedom I feel with the photography in that there is no one I need to please, but myself.
It has always been "off limits" to others in that I shy away from commissions or commercial work. I am not interested in "branding" or having a specific style. I am only interested in giving expression to my inner voice.

MT ~ What are the most important sources for you to get inspirations for your works?

JFA ~ I think the combination of my life experiences and my observations on the bigger questions of life have been the driving force behind much of what I photograph. There is a collective unconscious that we all tap into. It doesn't really matter what country you live in, what race you are or what language you speak. We are all made from the same cloth and want similar things from our life. We are all born and we all die and in between we hopefully find love and meaningful work. I love the quote from Joseph Campbell..."The privilege of a lifetime is becoming more of who you are." I am still working on this.

MT ~ Tell us more about your technical know-how. What kind of camera do you use? Are these all film works or digital? Do you print by yourself?

JFA ~ I started the with 35 mm camera then moved to a hasselblad medium format camera for years. I had a darkroom in the basement of my house and I would do all my own printing. Then came Katrina. I had not planned on doing any serious shooting when I went there and only brought my Canon Rebel XT. Prior to that I had never worked digitally. I now use a Canon 5D and do all my own printing on the Epson 4800. I have also used the holga camera, which I adore.

MT ~ You are working in both black and white and color. How do you determine to work either color or B&W on each subject? What kind of effect do you purpose by choosing one?

JFA ~ I had only worked with b/w film up until Katrina when I shifted to color. I really like both and I think the project dictates the direction I go in. I just want to create the strongest image possible.

MT ~ What are you currently working? Have you started any new work series? What’s your plan?

JFA ~ I have been deeply disturbed by the oil spill that just happened in the Gulf of Mexico. I have been reading about the devastation to so many life forms. I am working on a conceptual body of work that will address the vulnerability to human life that is caused by risky drilling practices and speak to the broader issues of protecting our earth. There has been so much finger pointing but really, we are all responsible and we all need to find a solution not just to this spill but to all environmentally compromising practices worldwide. Probably by the time this article goes to print, the work will be completed.

I will also continue working on The Burn, which is an ongoing project.

MT~ What’s your goal being as a photographer?

JFA ~ Interesting question. I really don't have any goals as a photographer per say. I am interested in making the world a better place and have found the camera to be a good tool for that. I will continue to address social and spiritual concerns as they arise. I am also really enjoying mentoring other photographers. I have a monthly critique group in which I am able to help others realize their own vision. It is really fulfilling to be part of other people's growth and development.

The Great Buildup

© Burn No. 8

My Epson 4800 has not been used for several months. It has been very interesting to watch my mind play with the thought of getting Bertha (my printers name) up and running again...making all kinds of deals with her. You see, the nozzles get clogged regularly, the rollers smear black ink in places it shouldn't, and Bertha doesn't always recognize the feeder friendly paper... the list goes on and on. So you can see why I was DREADing starting her up again, thinking that I may have to invest in another printer.

As the day is coming to an end, I am happy to report that I have worked out the major bugs and the printer is happily humming away...for now, anyway.

© Burn No. 74


These pictures were taken on a small lake in Northern Wisconsin with a lens extender that did not belong on the camera.
I was experimenting. Wouldn't you know it...I loved what was captured in the camera. That is the good news...the bad is that when I tried to replicate the feel of the images again with the lens extender, I couldn't. So it goes.

This work will be exhibited at the Wallspace Gallery in Ottawa, Canada this coming month. More details to follow on my website.
I am off to San Miguel Allende in Mexico with the annual Frontera Grill staff trip. Looking forward to shooting my heart out!
More on that when I return.
Happy Fourth of July!