Jennifer Greenburg Statement


Artist Statement
It is my strong belief that the image created by the camera is not necessarily a record of what has actually taken place, but rather an impression. My work questions and toys with photography’s inherent ability to document. My subjects pose, and are fully aware that they are being photographed; the ensembles and environments are found and accepted as is. Editing and shaping is done silently from behind the camera.

I do not believe that anyone can resist changing their mannerisms or body language in the presence of a camera, and my photographs acknowledge the relationship between photographer and subject. I recognize that I can only capture that which I am allowed to capture. I have the ability to impose my own position on the image, and I do. I believe that the notion of an authentic reaction or even the privilege of it cannot exist. What my subjects reveal is always veiled; it is that veiling which creates an interesting photographic dialogue in which the work can exist.

The Rockabillies is work from the past seven years which examines a unique global subculture and my relationship with it. The individuals portrayed are not actors, but rather contemporary participants of Rockabilly culture who have co-opted the looks and values of mid-twentieth century America.

The Rockabillies are an anomaly compared to other subcultures in that they base themselves and their lifestyle on another generation as opposed to music, ethnicity, or station. This group is not interested in historical preservation from the point of reenactment, yet they rarely stray from established archetypes. Vintage cars, clothes, and furniture are collected, often restored, and then used functionally for daily life. In social settings, individuals keep to strict guidelines regarding dress and behavior that directly reflect values held by Americans in the 1950's. Education is rarely a topic of conversation, and generally a much larger importance is placed on lifestyle than upon careers. The sub-culture is almost exclusively Caucasian with small Asian and Hispanic pockets and almost no blacks.

I am uncertain why or how this phenomenon is taking place. My initial discovery of this population was through my lifelong love of vintage clothing and music. It was with great surprise that my interest uncovered an entire culture of people who love the things I love, yet who also live their lives in such contrast to my own contemporary realities. I was seduced by the idea that one could ignore the harsh truths of modernity in lieu of an imagined romantic innocence attributed to the middle 20th century. This seduction caused me to immerse myself among this group of people as both a participant and as a voyeur for nearly a decade. My photographs serve as records and monuments to an autonomous and unique way of life.


Process Statement
The Rockabillies is a series of images made with a Calumet 4”x5” view camera. The view camera is an important tool that makes these images what they are. The individuals portrayed place a lot of importance on how they present themselves. Great care, time, and energy is spent making their visual appearance perfect. The view camera clearly exhibits and celebrates these details. It also allows me to face the person I am photographing, thus making the process intimate. There is no hiding behind the lens.

The view camera also eliminates the possibility of the non-posed image. I have little interest in candid photographs. The Rockabillies are interested in their own iconography and I choose to show them as just that- icons. Candid photography would be a betrayal of their inherent value system and I am dedicated to preserving their pathos. Therefore, I arrive with my view camera, and I wait- watching and listening- and when the subject is ready, I oblige by making the exposure.


 
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