FotoFilmic//SOLO is a new original series of international juried calls designed to provide some of the most respected and influential photographers working today the opportunity to directly mentor the next generation of photographic artists working on film and analogically. As juror of the first edition legendary San Francisco artist Todd Hido chose amongst many applications the work of Los Angeles photographer Jill Beth Hannes to receive FotoFilmic’s inaugural solo exhibition award running October 14-December 3, 2017 at the FotoFilmic//PULP Gallery in Vancouver, BC (Bowen Island).
Ahead of Saturday, October 14th’s SOLO opening where juror Todd Hido and winner Jill Beth Hannes will have a chance to chat in person, we asked Jill a few questions on her photography, artistic life and aspiring vision. The present interview is also to be published in print in the upcoming limited-edition FotoFilmic//SOLO Exhibition Catalogue Volume 1 with forewords from juror Todd Hido (see our SOLO Exhibition page).
Jill Beth Hannes graduated from The Academy of Art University in 2010 with a BFA in photography. She started taking photographs in elementary school when she was given a disposable camera for a class project. She’s been obsessed with creating images ever since. Her work is cinematic, dream-like and most images stem from a personal experience. Prior to winning FotoFilmic’s first SOLO Award she was recently shortlisted for the Next Photographer Award by D&AD. Her work has also been regularly published around the world notably with GUP, VICE, The Wild Magazine, Schön, The Photographic Journal and Contributor. She lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
F/F: Congratulations again on being the recipient of the first ever FotoFilmic//SOLO Exhibition Award, we’re incredibly excited to help pioneer a new era for your work and look forward to a great show presenting 10 photographs from your recent work this fall! How does it feel to have such a formidable, influential figure of contemporary photography such as Todd Hido connect on a personal level to your work?
Jill Beth Hannes: First I would like to say how honored I am to be the first recipient of this award. It’s truly the highlight of my career thus far. Also, thank you for providing this platform for analogue photographers. Having Todd Hido connect to my work feels very unreal and special. I felt so connected to his work and excited about photography when I first viewed it. I think it has shaped how I portray mood in my work so having him view my work and feel something is cosmic.
F/F: Let’s talk about your photography and the few different series represented in the exhibition: some of the pieces on display go back as far as 2012, yet the bulk of the show reads very coherently and seems fused around one same core narrative of feminine identity and existential longing storyboarded against the loose background of a colorful roadmovie. Can you tell us a little about the stories behind your images?
JBH: Each photograph is like a still from its own film. The story is always based on a feeling from a moment in my life and the women in the photograph are immersed in that one feeling. As I mentioned previously, I started this series when I was getting sober. I was numb for a long time so getting sober was really about allowing myself to feel again. I needed away to personify these emotions. I use vast backgrounds because I love the feeling of being lost it gives and I think throughout this whole process I’m lost and finding my way.
F/F: In his comments Todd Hido emphasized how he did at first appreciate your work on its own aesthetic grounds but soon came to embrace it on a deeper level pointing to the sort of autobiographical tension the images reflect. There’s a saying in photography that each and every photograph made might always be more about the photographer than any actual subject, and if true your work embodies a far more honest approach by purposefully “fleshing” out that belief with transparency. Todd Hido seems really drawn to that honesty, which puts your photographs in a different category, one where stories told in images are eloquently real. Can you elaborate a bit on how your own experiences might play an important role in your photography?
JBH: Every experience I’ve had is in my work. I’m not great at talking about myself or my feelings. This is how I express myself and tell my story. I live first and then recreate it in my own interpretation. I’m also an observer. I’m quite and a bit reserved and just taking everything in all the time. Photography is a way to regurgitate all of that so it doesn’t stay swimming in my head.
F/F: Looking at your work certain influences come to mind, such as Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” from the late 1970s, or Nikki S. Lee conceptual documentary series ” A.k.A. Nikki S. Lee”. Has the work of Todd Hido also been a source of inspiration for your photography, and if yes in what way?
JBHL: Todd Hido has been a huge source of inspiration. The way he captures mood and this sort of eerie feeling of suburbia is something that I look up to. I love his use of color, the soft blues and yellows mix so well together. There is also this vouyeristic quality I’m drawn to. That feeling of something so beautiful being right in front of me but I feel a bit bad for looking for too long.
F/F: Your work is integrally film and instant-film based with often different film formats involved in the same series: what makes analogue photography so central to your practice? And what is your relationship to digital photography today?
JBH: I started shooting with film. I’ve always shot with film, its how I learned photography. Its like a sacred practice of loading the film in my camera. It gives me a sense of comfort. I also like the fact that I can remain in the moment when I’m shooting. I don’t have all the digital images to look at. I do shoot Polaroid but I only have so many images so I have to be very careful with each shot which i like. It makes each image feel so special.
F/F: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our few questions! Before we let you go, where would you like to see your photography go in the next few years? Any special project or achievement you have in mind that you’d love to become reality soon?
JHB: Thank you as well! As far as my photography, I would love to keep showing my work in galleries and telling my story. I would like to finish my first book that I’ve been working on. I also want to start creating short films.