Amy Jasek is the Film Shooters Collective featured artist for January 2016. Her dedication to the craft of photography and the medium of film is second to none. She shoots primarily street photography and is based in Texas. An interview with Amy is featured below.
Some of us have seen this picture of you as a little kid with a camera. How did you get your start?
Ah yes, that picture. I really can't remember a time when photography wasn't part of my life in some way. My dad gave me an Olypmus RC when I was 7 (for Christmas), and I clearly remember making the photo that became my first print; it's still hanging on the wall at my parents' house. I didn't do that much photographing when I was little, but I was always hanging out in or around the darkroom. I used to play in there on the floor while my dad was printing. The smell of film & chemistry is very nostalgic for me. Hanging out while dad did his photography, and being photographed, was just part of normal every day life for my mom and me.
In high school and college I was always the one with the camera, usually a hand-me-down from dad, but really I didn't start thinking about photography beyond snapshots until I was about 26. The indestructible Sigma point & shoot I had been using (and dropping) for ages finally bit the dust, and my dad gave me a brand new Canon Rebel as a replacement. It was a gift with significance; I remember being amazed that I owned such a great thing. I went to Rome for 4 days in 2003, with the 50mm 1.8 lens so that I could make pictures without a flash, saw a couple of nuns sitting on a bus, had this thunderbolt moment where I HAD to photograph them, and when I got the negatives back that was it. I knew what kind of images I liked to make.
Your dad is quite the photographer. How did having someone like that in your life help to shape your own personal vision and goals?
My father's dedication to the craft of it, and his tireless devotion to photography in general, are probably the reason why I still prefer film. It doesn't matter how much effort it takes, it's worth it. A photograph that doesn't require some kind of chemical process just doesn't seem right to me. He is very much into preserving things with a photograph, the historical side of it, and I think that influences me as well. Of course, having someone with every piece of gear you could ever need, and more technical knowledge & experience than a handful of instructors also helps!
It was important for me to find my own way in terms of subject matter, however. Discovering "street photography" was what really propelled me to get serious about things. It's uncanny how I ended up with a Rolleiflex right after I moved to Manhattan. My dad never has pushed me into photography, but he sure does have a way of knowing what to give me at just the right time.
What is it about street photography that you gravitate towards?
It's hard for me to say. I just kinda knew that was what I wanted to do, once I saw that roll of film, although I didn't know there was a formal term for photographing strangers until about 10 years later. I have always thought people are at their most beautiful when they are unawares, and I love people, so I suppose that's part of it. Also, I think that little moments are important, little moments that might go unnoticed, and street photography lets me highlight those.
Have there been any times where you were burnt out on the craft or street photography as a genre and if so how did you push through?
Not really - I don't live in a very pedestrian area, so while I do always carry a camera, I'm not super saturated with it. If I am burning with the desire to photograph and can't think of anywhere to go, I paparazzi my family. There's an ebb and flow to the volume of work I produce throughout the year, and the fact that I just make work for myself probably helps. The only deadlines I have are self-imposed. The public side of photographic life can burn me out a little, and when that happens I tend to quit attending things.
If you could have three photographers, famous or not — dead or not, over for dinner who would they be and what would you have to ask them?
I would love to meet Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander, and ask them both what it was like to make street style photographs in earlier decades. I would love to hear their thoughts on the digital age, and how the genre, and photography in general, has changed from their point of view. I would also like to know how they curate their own work. It would be interesting to hear them talk about how they got their starts, how they dealt with adversity and criticism. The third person I would invite is Vicki Richardson Reed. I don't know if it's against the rules to choose an actual real life friend, but the fact that she has managed to balance motherhood, relationships, and family, with the drive & need to make art, is a huge source of inspiration for me, and one I could benefit from hearing about often (if only we didn't live so far from each other).
You mentioned he balancing of the need and drive to make art with all of the other factors of life. What keeps you going down this path?
I love photography. It's part of who I am, and I really don't see it as a choice, even if the particular path I am on right now changes, which it well may. Photographing has been the one constant in my life; it hasn't always been at the front, but it has always been there.