Interview: Jenny Riffle

Lauren Howie Laur: In your opinion what makes photography art?

Jenny Riffle: Well, what is art? That is a hard question to answer, but I believe that art is a way to express one's ideas and help communicate visually, or through all of the senses. I think photography does exactly that, it translates your ideas into an image and can show subtle emotions that we don't have words for.

Gibran Looks Away, 2007 © Jenny Riffle

Lauren Howie Laur: In "The Space In Between" you are investigating the psychological spaces of the people surrounding you. How did you begin this project and what really motivates you to keep focusing on these people and the idea?

Jenny Riffle: I had been shooting portraits in college and was not quite sure what was behind them but wanted to continue and I really felt drawn to a sort of stillness that photography creates. When I was shooting my subjects they were frozen in time and stuck contemplating that moment, what was running through their mind was a mystery but at the same time I was creating an ambiguous narrative about them using the surrounding environment to tell a story. In this project I am influenced by early photography like daguerreotypes. When photography was first invented there was such a long exposure time, the subject of the photo had to be still for minutes and there were neck braces and head braces to keep them still, the "moment" of the photo was extended and it was sometimes captured as bury eyes and ghost like figures. It almost felt like we were seeing the essence of a person, and not what they actually looked like. The title of my project references this extended moment, as in the space in between the lens opening and closing. I am fascinated by these moments caught on film as portraits, what are we actually seeing a representation of? A physical body or a psychological one?

Lauren Howie Laur: What is the deep ultimate message you want people to get from you and your work?

Jenny Riffle: Overall I want people to come away with a sense of empathy and greater appreciation for the uniqueness of humans. I am drawn to shoot portraits of people because I am fascinated with them, I want to tell a little story about who my subjects are, but also I want the viewer to be able to recognize themselves in the image. To connect with an emotion or gesture they see in the image, and to learn not only about the subject but maybe to think about themselves as well.

Seth After Moving, 2008 © Jenny Riffle

Lauren Howie Laur: What influences your work? Anything outside of other photographers?

Jenny Riffle: I am influenced by film and people in my life as well as other photographers. I love David Lynch films, how he creates an ambiguous narrative that can be followed on a subconscious level. You do not understand the whole narrative, but somehow the story makes sense. And I am influenced by the people in my life, by moments I see and want to remember, by the beauty and drama that is all around us.

Emily and the Venetian Blinds, 2007 © Jenny Riffle

Lauren Howie Laur: Do you find yourself always looking at the world wondering how it would look as a photograph?

Jenny Riffle: Yes! I am always taking photos in my mind, everywhere I go. It seems that I am always looking through a lens even when I'm not, sometimes I even close one eye to make what I see more two dimensional when I am imagining the scene as a photo.

Lauren Howie Laur: Why is photography important to you?

Jenny Riffle: Photography is important to me because it has become a part of how I express myself and my ideas to the world. By nature I am a very visual person, that is how I learn best and how I communicate best, I remember peoples faces, not their names. Some people are drawn to words and melodies, I am drawn to images; to teach me things, to make me laugh, to entertain and to help me see the world and remember it. Photography is my memory, I want to capture everything with my camera in order to remember it.

Hunter Laying Down, 2007 © Jenny Riffle

Lauren Howie Laur: If you could tell a photographer such as myself, just starting out and exploring in photography, one thing for the future, what advice would you give?

Jenny Riffle: Listen to your own voice, the will be a lot of people telling you what to do and you should hear them and consider what they say, but in the end your own voice is the most important. It can be very confusing to listen to other people because someone will tell you one thing and the next will tell you the exact opposite, that is when you know that you have to decide on your own.

To view more work visit Jenny Riffle's website at http://www.jennyriffle.com/

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