From the Boston Voyager
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jayne Guertin.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Photography has always been a part of my life. I come from a large family, and when I was young my father was always taking photos of his children or movies of little skits my siblings and I would put on to entertain ourselves and our parents. Weekend evenings often included the projection of images, both movies and slides, on a large screen. It was a kind of ritual, a way to gather the family and share memories and laughs. This was back in the analog days, and I was fascinated by the raw material used to capture images and by the entire process of photography. In my early teens I got my own camera and snapped everything I saw. Who knows what happened to those old photos.
Much later, when I moved to Boston, I took a few photography classes in composition, darkroom, and black and white. That is the extent of my photography education, other than reading about it. I didn’t get serious about pursuing photography in a meaningful way until I went back to school for my MFA in Creative Writing in 2013. It was only then that I began to see the similarities between the written word and the image—how both required good composition, light, darkness, perspective, framing, and a story. I soon found myself capturing images as notes for my writing, a visual aid that, interestingly, I rarely looked at. I think the act, itself, of capturing a moment, left the imprint in my mind. Photography is now a daily practice, as I find it enhances my writing experience (also very much a visual pursuit) and my writing, in general. And, of course, I enjoy it immensely!
Please tell us about your art.
I create images—and I generally photograph what moves me: landscapes—lush or barren, flat or mountainous—seascapes, pastoral, and street photography. I shoot people less than I do things. I’m beginning to play with abstraction, and I’m also working with collage—both paper and digital.
I am a writer who uses images in written works. And I am especially intrigued with erasure as a form of poetry. For the past three years, I have been working on a large project that I eventually hope to turn into a book. It’s a collection of erasure poems and images of dead sunflowers that I present side by side, or merged together. The text for the poems is sourced from Vincent van Gogh’s letters. As I read the letters, I’m looking for fragments, words, phrases, isolating them on the paper until a poem emerges. It’s an intuitive process, which is how I ordinarily work, and what I am essentially creating is a transformative experience, using van Gogh’s letters—whether business-like to his brother Theo, or gentle advise to his young sister Wilhelmina—into another form of art. I’m planning to add some micro-essays in the mix, as well. So, I have a HUGE portfolio of glorious mammoth sunflowers (dead and in full bloom) that, when I’m photographing them, seem to almost speak to me. No, they do.
I’ve had a few showings of the sunflower images and people really respond to them. I often hear from those who see the images that they feel a sense of kinship with this wild creature as if flowers are human, and I agree, they do seem to have emotive qualities, whether as portraits or merged with text.
Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
Unless you’re independently wealthy, I think that most of us are facing financial challenges. I came to art at a later age, after I’d already had a fairly successful career in the legal field. But I still had, and continue to have, many challenges—most of them financial. I’m a freelancer, so I am all too familiar with the erratic work schedule. What carries me is the old adage, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I say that because I think it’s true. But it might take a long time for the money to follow. So, I’d say to younger or new artists—don’t get discouraged. Be persistent and hopeful. It’s hard work (hard work no matter from where you come), often with little return. Do what it takes—work the late shift, get up early—to stay true and close to your work. Carve out time for your art and try to be ruthless about it.
I know writers who wake every day in the wee hours to finish their novels. Some of them have young children and the small hours are the only hours in which they can scratch out their narrative. And some of them have regular jobs that take them to an office for work each day. No matter what kind of artist you are, the struggle remains. We’re all fretting over financial concerns. Those concerns don’t really dissipate when you have some success, because you also have to keep making, all at a cost.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Well, I have to first thank my super supportive husband for allowing me the space and the time to work on my craft. I don’t know how I would have been able to do what I’m doing without his encouragement, and I’m eternally grateful for his patience and support because, as most of you know, it’s not easy for artists to eke out a living. (Not that I am.) So, because I’m highly sensitive to this issue, the worth of art (never mind the cost of materials!), I think the greatest way for people to support an artist’s work is to purchase their artworks, share the art via social media, talk it up! and perhaps consider becoming a patron to an artist. Gallery owners should try to reach out to as many diverse artists as possible. It’s so important to represent art born from diverse backgrounds and experiences—it enriches the lives of us all.
I’ve been fortunate this past year to have my photos appear in several national and international juried exhibitions. In fact, the next exhibition, THREE, begins Thursday, June 14, and runs through July 13 at the Attleboro Arts Museum. I’ve also had images appear in various literary journals, and on the front and back covers of the fantastic anthology “Seeking Its Own Level: an anthology of writings about water,” featuring Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, Bret Anthony Johnston, Jill McCorkle, Jamie Quatro, and more. I also did book covers for the January 2015 Bennington Review, as well as the interior photos. And it was a great pleasure to be asked to contribute an image to accompany the amazing short story, Sea of Love, written by Maria Mutch, published in Smokelong Quarterly.
My writing can be viewed online, on my portfolio at: https://jayneguertin.com
You can see my photography at: https://jayneguertinphotography.com
And you will find a mish-mash of both on my blog at: https://banksofnoon.com
- Address: Jayne Guertin
- Website: https://jayneguertinphotography.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaynecguertin/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JayneGuertin
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jayneguertin
- Other: https://banksofnoon.com
All images by Jayne Guertin
A bit about Franklin Farm in Cumberland, RI, a place (as I say in this piece) I have been photographing for years.