Taking care: Jennifer B. Hudson

by Alessandro Trabucco

 

Jennifer B. Hudson photographs hit for their particular sharpness and visual power, they are images built in their slightest details, with an almost maniacal meticulousity, through which the artificiality of the composition assumes the value of a new perceptive reality, equally plausible and concrete as the empiric one is.

The American photographer creates a sort of parallel universe where human beings make actions that make sense in that specific situation, but whose meaning can be only perceived by intuition and not completely revealed by the artist. The recourse to forms of metaphoric or allegoric representation places Jennifer B. Hudson’s work on a plane of aesthetic research very close to a kind of visionary and symbolist art, but the references it is based on are, instead, deeply-rooted to the real life-experiences of the artist, personal events that gave rise to deep reflection, rendered into images of a strong expressive power.

Your images often describe events that you personally experienced, as well as very delicate topics. In the MEDIC series, for example, various fellows seem subject to clinical operations through obsolete machines and to all appearances not suitable for the function they have to be used for. What specific event originated this series and what is the message you want to transfer through these photos?
A few years ago, I endured a lot of medical testing, doctor’s visits, specialists, scanning, diagnosing, re-diagnosing. In the end, we determined everything was the result of strangely behaved migraines, but it was a very uncertain, frightening time in my life. I did a lot of thinking about relationships, especially love relationships during times of darkness, or struggle. Medic is about unconditional, empathetic love. Each image explores some sort of sacrifice, memory, or sacredness between two people, and investigates the complexities of how we cherish and care for one another.

With the series BAPTISM, on the contrary, you explore the unfathomable, you do not care about the body but rather the soul, representing what actually harbours in the deepest of the human nature, the spirituality, the faith, difficult to represent unless, as the great art did in the past, through metaphors or allegories. How did you approach such themes?
Baptism is an autobiographical narrative series, depicting my own experience through a spiritual understanding and transformation. I was raised as a Southern Baptist. As an adult, I found I had many, many questions about how I fit, especially as a woman; what my faith meant in my life, and how it has changed the way I see the world. I boiled the experience down into ten phases, and each photograph represents one step in the process. Interestingly, creating the work helped me to see things more clearly, personalize them, and genuinely cherish them.

Your photography is visionary but based on real sensations, experienced on your own skin. What are the reasons that move you to speak about yourself through the photographic images instead of any other expressive means?
I love photography because I feel like there is truth in it. Whether the image is digitally manipulated or what, it began with a photographic image of a real thing, in real time. There is something that haunts me and thrills me in the idea of documenting images that are physically in front of me. Maybe it’s romantic, but I love it.

The compositive aspect, in your photos, is very interesting and even characteristic of your own work. The central framing prevails with the representation of one or, sometimes, more main subjects dominating the scene. Could you explain us the genesis, development and technical aspects of one of your photographic projects?
It really depends on the project. For Baptism, the work began with a series of sketches, or diagrams I created and then closely followed. I photographed the model and hundreds of machine parts separately, and combined them digitally to create the finished photographs. For Medic, I assembled masses of military waste and forgotten machine parts, and created small scale sculptures by connecting and assembling objects, creating new, imaginary machines from the detrius. Some objects were also photographed alone, and added digitally, allowing me to play with shape and scale, and truly re-purpose the objects. I created a full scale set of the room, and photographed the models and sculptures inside of the space.

What are the projects you have been currently working on?
Currently, I am working on a project entitled ‘33’, which explores the idea of balance and sacrifice in love relationships. I am creating full scale room installations and photographing them without the use of digital manipulation. It’s a new process I’ve been building toward since my work with Traveler and Baptism. I’m excited to work with my hands so much, and see these surreal images happen in my presence. The photographs will truly be documents of these dreamlike places that I’ve labored to create. I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

IMAGES

Baptism 1-4: PrayerMachine | Surrender | The Former Self | Transgression

Medic 5-8: BorrowedTime | Manna | Messenger | Safekeeping

Traveler 9-12: Adornment | Listener | Portal | Reminder

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