Jennilee Marigomen is a Canadian photographer from Vancouver, Canada. (b. in 1982)
We spent some time with her in NYC during the New York Art book Fair, here is an excerpt from our meeting!
You live in Vancouver, what relationship do you have with this city and the nature that surrounds it?
I have lived in Vancouver all my life. The city is plentiful in elements of nature and is surrounded by many beautiful mountains, beaches, trails, and lakes. Growing up, it was easy to take the accessibility of nature for granted, and I longed to live in a busier city. After travelling as an adult, I learned how lucky I was, which led me to focus on my natural surroundings. When I travel, my aesthetic and sensibilities seem to always say consistent, and my images stay for the most part, natural, calm and introspective.
Themes regarding the study of “everyday urban phenomenon” and the tensions between the natural world and urban intervention are recurrent in your work; is there a link to this location?
A large part of my photography is about the subtleties and displacement within nature and urban environments. Vancouver is a place where there is an ongoing tension between urbanity and natural intervention and vice versa, so you can find many interesting things on the shortest of walks. The slower pace of the city causes me to observe and reflect a lot, especially when I’m walking from one place to another. By being in that mindset, I can pick up on natural subtleties.
Even if light is a basic element in photography, natural light seems to be a huge component of your work; can you tell us more about that? Does Vancouver have a specific light?
I love the ephemeral nature of natural light. Light on its own stands as a beautiful subject, and I love photographing it as is. I do think that Vancouver has a specific quality of light. Because the days can be shorter here, the light is always moving. I am sensitive to the Pacific Northwest’s shorter daylight hours, and working indoors doesn’t help. When the sky is clear and the sun is shining, it feels like a breath of fresh air. I feel revitalized. Many people who live here seem to fall under the same spell. People stop their work for a moment to be in the sun. They go for a hikes, bike rides, and walks, knowing that the probability of weeks of rain is high. In David Horvitz’s book “Everything That Can Happen In A Day”, he presents a project that says “On a day the sky looks especially nice, show your admiration by releasing a balloon with a rose tied to the end of the string up into the clouds.” I guess in a way, my photography is showing an admiration to light.
There is also something very nostalgic in your images, what is your relation to time and the past in general?
That is an interesting question. You are right, I do prefer to take images that are more reminiscent of the past then about the future. It is easy for me to get caught up in thoughts of the past. I have never been one to plan too much ahead, and have always lived “in the moment”. Someone once told me that I see the world through “rose tinted glasses”. Sometimes I can be found alone and content, replaying fond memories in my head. I enjoy the warm safety and absoluteness of the past. I am also interested in where photography comes into play when it comes to recalling old memories. I don’t know too much about my childhood and rely on old photographs. I have one small childhood photo album. Because of this one album, it is hard to distinguish what is actually a memory, and what is a memory of myself looking at the photo as a child and imagining the details of when the photo was taken. Maybe what I remember is a mix of both imaginary and real.
You also collaborate as a photo editor / art director on 01 Magazine, what other photographer works are you looking for and interest you?
Some of my favorite photographers include Wolfgang Tillmans, Jason Fulford, Rinko Kawauchi, Ali Bosworth, Jason Nocito, Luigi Ghirri and Anders Edström. Through 01 Magazine and some slideshow exhibitions I have worked on, I have been lucky enough to work with and make friends with some of them.
You used to work for some clients & brands, how do you consider commissioned work compared to your personal work, does it modify your approach in this type of context?
While doing commissioned work, I try to stay as close to my personal work as possible. I only accept projects that align with my personal work. I have been lucky enough to work with great clients who let me do my own thing creatively. I look to photographers like Anders Edstrom, Jason Fulford, Ye Rin Mok, and Mark Borthwick, and their style and spirit shines through their commissioned work. That is the kind of work I want to make.
There are many events or collectives related to “women in photography” as if it was something specific. How do you consider this being a woman? Do you think it makes a difference?
I think it is great that these groups are about exchanging ideas and facilitating a dialogue amongst women in photography. When it comes to my work though, I personally don’t think about it too much.
You seem to be very present on social media outlets (tumblr, instagram…) and it looks like an everyday practice for you. How do you consider these media, how and why do you use it, what does it bring you?
Tumblr has been a great way to share inspirations. It has been a great way to see what other artists are up, new and old, and it has sometimes led to collaborations. I have been able to categorize my inspirations on tumblr with different blogs.
For the most part, I am self-taught, and learning about how other photographers work has been invaluable to me. I look at taking photos and sharing them on Instagram as a daily practice. The kind of photography I enjoy the most shows the individual viewpoint, spirit, and sensibility of the person taking the photos. I love it when I can look at a series of photos by someone and can tell that they have a great sense of humor. That is why I really like Instagram – for the most part, the images that come up on my feed are taken in the moment and show glimpses into how people think and what they find interesting. Through that, you can get a sense of people who are likeminded. The subject matter takes precedence over technique and equipment. I really like that honesty. It’s also just a way to share photos when I don’t have my film camera with me.
I remember that you often referred to Chance With Wolves (music blog), what is the place of music in your life and eventually in your work?
Walking is a very important part of my work. When I am walking, I am usually listening to music. That is when I am the most perceptive and in-tune with my surroundings. I’ve mentioned this before in a past interview.. but I remember one day last year when I was walking home from work with my camera. It is normally a 10 minute walk. There was a sweet light coming through the trees. I was in a pensive mindset, the right music was playing in my headphones, and I was taking everything in through my senses. I could hear the sounds of leaves rustling mixed with the camera shutter, the smells, the feeling of the wind on my skin. The stimulation of my senses brings me into a state of awareness that make me aware of the subtleties around me. The normally 10 minute walk lasted hours.
Chances With Wolves is group of wonderful New York based DJ’s, whose whimsical and magical radio show brings something out of me, especially when I am taking photos.
What do you think about fashion, is it something you are interested in, does it inspire you?
Fashion is a constant inspiration, especially when it comes to colour and lines. I studied fashion in university, so it has always been a part of my life.
Can you tell us some words about the diving pictures we used for the Ts collaboration?
The photo was taken on an August afternoon outside of Whistler B.C. Some friends and I had a picnic near a lake, despite the clouds looking dark and heavy. As people started leaving the lake, my friend John Paul spontaneously ran onto the dock and jumped into the water. Out of nowhere, it started hailing biggest balls of hail I have ever seen. The hail was the size of ice cubes! We hid under a small wooden parks board sign while everyone packed up what they could, and ran to our cars.
You were here for the NY Art Book Fair and you looked so excited to be here; what is your relationship to books and publishing in general?
Being in New York during the NYABF felt like a dream. It was great to meet the artists who I’ve been corresponding with for years, or artists who I have admired but have never met. It was also very inspiring seeing years of hard work by these people on display and seeing how they are presented. The pace of the city during the fair is also exciting and inspiring, and it’s great to come home with a fresh outlook.
I really enjoy working on book projects and highly respect it as a medium. I hope to do more in the future.
What about your future projects, any exhibitions or publications?
I have been working on a book with a few Canadian photographers, in collaboration with Tokyo based Twelve Books and Inventory Magazine. It is called “Queen of Tsawwassen”, the name of a ferry that connects Vancouver to Vancouver Island. My boyfriend (an Industrial Designer) and I have been exploring new ways to unite product design and photography. Also, the next issue of 01 Magazine will be out soon.
Conversation with Jennilee Marigomen, New York City 2012. Photography by Études Studio.