Interview: Jennifer Georgescu

Jennifer Georgescu’s work describes instinctual aspects of humanity correlating to and differing from societal structuring.  With a background in painting and photographic arts, she utilizes medium format film photography, installation, and digital technology.  Her projects analyze dualisms in language, relationships, mythologies and control.  “I often search for the balance that exists in between these dichotomies.  This is how I view humanity; always teetering on the line between fiction and reality, domination and submissiveness, self and other.”
Georgescu is based out of San Diego, CA. Recent exhibitions include the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, and the Center for Fine Art Photography.

Mother Series
In 2015, I became a mother. I was prepared for the grueling labor, and sleepless nights, but the loss of my sense of self can as a surprise. I had no time to think and I began to feel like a shell of a person. My early days of motherhood were alienating and awful as well as sentimental and dear. I began to see myself as defined only by a relationship
I felt that my son was an appendage of myself; the embodiment of self and other. It was hard to accept that he was a growing, changing person while I was to remain forever split. When he is near my thoughts are entangled around him and when I am away I cannot seem to be the person I was before.
A child is how we remain on Earth; they are our legacies. As I see my son grow I feel my time begin to speed up; I feel my decay. When we think about birth we must realize our death. Motherhood is precious and raw; wonderful and dark.

Jennifer, first tell us a little about yourself and how you came to start working with photography as your medium?

I knew from a very young age that I was meant to be an artist. That is what I started out loving most in life and I still do. I started out the traditional way with drawing and sketching from models or from photographs. I began to paint a lot in middle school and my parents were very supportive of me and sent me to an art high school. It was there that I was introduced to photography for the first time.

I started to manipulate my photographs early on with double exposure, props, painting on my lenses, etc. I was constantly trying to find a way to merge my painting and photography. I began painting on my models and projecting images onto them. I would photograph these scenes and paint form them.
I attended a BFA program in Nashville, TN at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film and I was introduced to studio lighting and that really changed my way of thinking. All of a sudden I could really shape every aspect of my photograph, I could create feeling much in the same way I could by painting.

I began building sets and props and eventually started making panoramas. I was shooting medium format at the time and began stitching my frames together using Photoshop. Slowly, I began to stitch photographs together in other ways, by making photomontages where everything was preconceived for the final product. It was at this point that I discovered my medium; I was able to paint with photographs.

When I had the privilege of seeing your work printed, the first thing that struck me was your specific color palate – a very cold yet bold color scheme. Can you tell us more about your choices you make when making this work and how you defined the work using this color palate.

My color palette really shapes the way that my images are read. The skin tones I use have a hint of a sickly yellow that when paired with lush plant life or organic material, create a layer of beautiful / grotesque. The colors also speak to aging paintings with an extra nod to the renaissance chiaroscuro. These layers of meaning emphasize the push / pull intimacy the mother is experiencing while also relating our legacies to our own deaths.

You say that you plan the photo ahead of time, and then you go and photograph it. It seems that you have a very clear idea behind every photo and you allow yourself to use any tool needed to accomplish the actual photo – if Photoshop, lighting or props. Can you tell us a little about this process and what inspires you the most to create these images?

I look at images obsessively and I absorb absolutely everything. I have always s kept a sketchbook and that helps keep track of my ideas. Sometimes I think over problems in my sleep and wake at various points in the night to sketch out ideas.

I often just have just one picture come to me and I obsess about it until it is fully realized but sometimes I see flipping back through my sketchbooks that I have had an idea repeat numerous times; then I know it must be created. My joy comes from visualize something, obsessing over it, and then making it come alive.

This project is very personal but you were able to create a project that even people who might not have children could relate to by using fantasy and a more surreal approach to your images. It seems that in general your work has always had this element of fiction – what draws you towards this type of visuals?

I think that fiction has always been an escape for me. I have always been drawn to fictional literature and myth. I think that fiction has historically been used to explain the parts of ourselves and our universe that we don’t understand. It creates an easy entrance to digest the topics of our lives; where we come from, why we are here, and what makes us, us.

What was the hardest part creating this project?

I think the hardest part of creating this project in particular is that I am living in it. Right now I am in the throes of living for my children.
I am their constant caretaker and I make my work when I should be sleeping late at night. By escaping my role in the wee hours I feel something of my former self. I think lots of mothers feel the hardship of finding time for themselves.

What is the experience of photographing with your children like?

I wouldn’t say that photographing my children is about me and them. I have always used myself as a stand in or a character to relay a concept. I have been photographing myself for 15 years but I would never call my work self-portraiture. I am photographing my children in the same way; they are stand ins for children.

I do however like being able to share my work process with my children. They are preforming a role and interacting with the camera in the same way as I do. Working with children is also interesting because you can’t really control them and they add in their own elements by their moods and by the way they choose to interact with me.

I think one of the main things your tackle is the character of the Mother – this idea of a hidden person that is also present. There is an interesting tension between the child and the mother – a close yet tense relationship. Can you talk about this notion from your perspective?

When people try to prepare you for motherhood, they always talk about the physical challenges. They warn you of the never-ending feedings and the sleepless nights but they don’t warn you about the mental challenges. I was not prepared for a complete loss of my identity.
I feel the hardest part of motherhood is never having time to think. During the day I act only for my children and that for me is bliss but there is also a resentment that lies under the surface that we as a society don’t like to acknowledge. It is human nature to be selfish and it is human nature to desire a sense of self. I see motherhood as wonderful and awful. It is hard and rewarding; it is about love and wanting to escape.

What do you hope other people get from your work? And especially other mothers?

I want people to understand the rawness of human relationships. I want to reveal the push and pull, the beauty and grotesque of our everyday interactions. That is how relationships work, they ebb and flow, they are up and down. They move with us and are never static.

I see motherhood as the most spiritual of relationships. Experiencing feeding someone from my body, touching them constantly, and staring into their faces almost 24 hours a day gave me the feeling that I was them. I felt that my sons were an appendage of myself. It is said that babies view their mothers in the same way; that they must realize they are their own person. While my sons gain their independence I am mentally resistant to their not needing me. They will grow to be an individual while I will remain a split person.

There is a history of putting immense pressure on mothers. It is a tiring, grueling, and alienation job but it is also one that you are never allowed to complain about. If a mother speaks of her problems she is deemed as ungrateful or simply a bad mother. The profession of mother hood is viewed as a non-job that lasts 24 hours a day. I recognize and feel a profound bond with my children but there is also a darkness there that is not talked about.
I am looking at my children as appendages that nurture my soul while at the same time crushing it. I feel pressure and beauty, and the awe and awful in all of human relationships. We are dynamic and multifaceted so it is inconceivable that our relationships would be anything else.

Your work has many visual metaphors and symbols – how important is it for you to have all these “codes” in your work? How do you decide which visual reference will you use for every specific photo?

The viewer can only gage the relationships I am showing through the filter of the codes they are given. I use heavily weighted, traditional, religious and mythological symbols that speak to the dichotomies of birth and death, tradition and heritage, and the way that we shape and are shaped, by others. I am especially drawn to the way the meaning of iconic symbols can be changed through context.

Who inspired you and your work the most?

Duane Michals,. David Hilliard, Sandy Skoglund, Bill Henson, Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Wood, Tom Chambers, Bill Finger, Simen Johan, Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia. And Cornelia Hediger to name a few.

What is next for you as a photographer?

My art mimics profound moments in my life and I find joy when this resonates in others. The power of making my work lies in making things that seem crazy and overly revealing to myself and then having others say “I feel that way too.” It connects me to humanity. I see another project in my future about motherhood but I also know that whatever large event that marks me next will be shaped into another body of work.

To see more of Jeniffer’s work visit her website