Entries in Quinn Jacobson (33)


Master Photographer Quinn Jacobson Talks About His Craft


The Studio Q Show LIVE! S02 E02


Quinn Jacobson - A Photographic Heritage

A documentary made by the very talented French artist, Benoît Boucherot. It's about some of my time in Europe - this is the story of how Centre Iris represented me. It shows some of my exhibition, portratis session work, and teaching in the studio in Paris - 2010 - 2012. 



The Studio Q Show - S01E05: WWPD & Developer

A new show has been posted. I talk about World Wet Plate Day (honoring F.S. Archer) and developer - making the developer and some common problems to avoid.



Defining Personal Vision In Photography

Photography is to seeing as poetry is to writing.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about personal vision as it applies to photography. 


I think it was Chuck Close that said photography is the most difficult craft to have a distinct, personal vision (paraphrasing). Few truer words have ever been spoken. Photography is ubiquitous, easy to copy or emulate, and influence is incessant. It’s almost impossible to say that you’re doing something original in photography. However, I believe that you can find your vision to say or ask something new within that framework.


John "Nemo" Nemerovski - Whole Plate Alumitype - August 2012For those of you that have read what I’ve written in the past, or have heard a lecture or a talk about my work, you know that I’m a firm believer in context and intention. In other words, if you have context and intention for your work, you’ve started the journey on defining a personal photographic vision or style. 


There are no hard and fast rules, no gospel, if you will, about all of this. It’s simply opinion. Some opinions ring more true or valid than others for me. I believe that if you begin with context and intention, meaning you’ve done the intellectual work for the images, and you’ve found a deep well to draw from, you are well on your way to articulating what’s important, meaningful or serious about your work. Along with that, you’re defining your personal vision. 


When I started making images for my project, “Portraits from Madison Avenue”, I had already explored a lot of the questions that drove the work. What I didn’t realize is that what I was doing was defining why I make photographs, or defining my personal, distinct vision – both aesthetically and intellectually. My work on that project began many, many years ago (1980s). One of the reasons I never fully articulated what the work was about rested in the aesthetics. It was Wet Collodion that gave me the visual building blocks and metaphors to dig deep in the project and fully bring the ideas and aesthetics to the public in a real way.


I had, from the beginning, wanted to achieve four things with my portraiture work. The first thing was to create portraits that were “temporally confusing”. That means photographs that are timeless, or blur the line between historical and contemporary imagery. I wanted to infuse the idea of memory, or my memories and questions, into the images through the aesthetic. The second thing was to create photographs that were “ghostly”, or disturbing and attractive all at once. I wanted the viewer to feel the presence of the sitter in the photograph. The third requirement was to create photographs that had a unique signature through the use of very shallow depth of field, anathema to the 19th Century aesthetic, and unique lighting – a Caravaggio aesthetic – if you will.  And the last item, but not the least in any sense, was the person I photographed. I only photographed people with a unique (sometimes very subtle) look and an interesting story. All of these elements came together with the Wet Collodion process and I pursued it with everything I had. 


It was somewhere between 2005 and 2006, that I first saw work similar to mine begin to appear online. At that time, I was almost finished with the project. I had the first exhibition of the work in March, 2006. People started asking me if it upset me. It did. It wasn’t because I had a copyright on the look and feel I was using, but because I knew the work I was seeing lacked personal (distinct) vision. They hadn’t done their intellectual work; there was no context or intention. They were simply copying an aesthetic to use to make portraits that looked “cool”. This was the beginning of what has turned into hundreds and hundreds of portraits that look like my style; there’s a plethora of photographers making portraits very similar to mine today. Every once in a while I’ll get an email with an attachment asking me about how I made the portrait (attached in the email) and it’s not my photograph. So now, my work gets in the long line of the “Collodion Mug Shots”. And if you don’t take the time to read about my work (my statements) and how I’ve defined my personal vision, I get lost in the shuffle. 


I completely agree with Chuck Close. It's very difficult to define a personal style or vision in photography. If/When you do, I suggest you defend that vision. Make sure people understand that you have context and intention with the work, and that you’ve done the intellectual work. In other words, stand your ground, be proud of what you’ve done. So few can really do it.