Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jessica Todd Harper

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?

My whole childhood, I painted and drew with much enthusiasm. When I was 15, photography "happened" to me one summer when there was no more room in a painting class at the local junior college. I was placed in a photography class instead and from then on I couldn't put the camera down. I had a wonderfully encouraging teacher, Bill Jeagar, followed by still more excellent teachers in high school and in summer workshops (Mark VanWormer, Steve Bliss, Arnold Newman). I knew I was very excited about photography, but looking back, I was very fortunate that talented people were so generous with their time.

I think being an artist is not so much something you choose as something that you are born being. You are an artist and then you work around or with that. There are a lot of people in medicine in my family and I have often envied them for the logical progression of their careers: medical school, residency, patient care. It' s not like that with art. There are no guarantees that if you work hard enough, or are talented enough, that you will be successful, be able to support yourself, or importantly, make a meaningful contribution to others. But in the meantime, if you are an artist, the art just comes - weather you like it or not- because you can't stop it. Even when I have been very busy and don't actually make pictures, the world keeps presenting itself, day and night, and I can't stop wanting to make some sense of it, to describe it, to honor it, to record it. And I get this restlessness that is not relieved until I make some pictures. I keep working in this field not so much because I am inspired (though there are many I admire!) but because other than making pictures and putting them under my bed to show no one, I have no other choice than to be in my field.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?

Organized portfolio reviews are a very practical means by which curators and dealers can meet artists and vice versa. Review Santa Fe was particularly helpful for me.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?

Oh gosh I was so lucky! Several things came together for me but what started a certain domino effect was being selected for PDN's 30 and as one of the winners of the Santa Fe Center for Photography (called "Center" now) Portfolio Competition. From there I found a dealer, Cohen Amador Gallery in NYC, and a rep, Judith Miller Inc. (NYC). These things build on each other, and soon I as talking with publishers and getting editorial assignments. Damiani published my first book. "Interior Exposure"- a beautiful production for which I am very grateful, and my gallery put on a beautiful show to accompany it. But in addition to luck, were two other key factors: a willingness to be rejected (often) and a body of work at the ready for the times when I was fortunate enough not to be.

Self Portrait with Christopher (Clementines), 2007

Mom, Dad and Emilie, 2004

Self Portrait with Christopher, Papa and Ah-Choo, 2003

Chloe with Sybil and Becky, 2005

Self Portrait with Mom and Dad, 2007

Sarah with Zephyr, 2006

Sybil with Colleen and Will, 2006

Becky in the Dining Room, 2005

© all images Jessica Todd Harper

About this Blog

Two Way Lens is a project designed to inform and inspire emerging photographers wanting to focus their creative output in a way that enhances their chances of finding an audience, being included in exhibitions and ultimately achieving gallery representation. The journey from inspired artist to successful artist is one that is often difficult to negotiate and hard to control. On these pages, I will feature the experiences and opinions of other photographers who I have found inspiring, and hopefully the knowledge they have built in their own experiences will be valuable to all of us finding our own way to sharing our creativity with the wider world.