Amy Jasek - The beauty in candid moments
Street photographer Amy Jasek (Round Rock, Texas) believes that passion and a positive attitude are the keys to a happy, creative life. This belief is clearly reflected in her work which shows an especially keen eye for those little moments that make us smile. In her photography we encounter an extraordinarily close connection to the world around her, as well as an attentiveness - maybe even tenderness - towards the people she photographs. It is entirely unsurprising then that her 7 year old daughter remains her favourite model although she loves taking pictures of strangers.
What inspired you to start with photography?
My father is a photographer, so I grew up surrounded by it and hanging out in the darkroom with him; it's always been part of my life. What really inspired me to start taking photography more seriously, however, was one moment during a short vacation in Rome. I was riding on the bus and noticed a couple of beautiful nuns opposite me - I HAD to take their picture. When I got the film back, I was so excited about what I had created that it changed my entire point of view. I went from "taking pictures" to "making photographs" just like that.
Growing up around a photographer must have been great! Do you see a strong influence of your father in your own work or do you see yourself as embarking on entirely new terrain?
I feel like my father and I are very different photographers in terms of subject matter.
My favorite genre is street photography, because for me candid moments are where real beauty happens.
My father doesn't find street photography particularly interesting, but he is very supportive of what I do all the same. His interests tend toward the documentation of things for historic value, landscapes, railroads, and - especially - caves. The work he does in the total darkness underground blows me away!
So, although you do street photography, you are looking for beauty beyond documentary aims? What are the aspects that strike you as especially beautiful in the things that happen on the street?
My own passion lies with photographing people. My motivation for street photography is to showcase the beauty of the people I see. It gives me a chance to show others my take on the spirit of a place and time, and the people in it. The first street photo I ever took was the result of me being so moved by the stunning beauty of those two nuns riding a bus, and it's all gone from there. Everyday interactions and unguarded moments are special favorites of mine; these are things that are easy to overlook as we hurry along in our day to day. For me, a candid moment, even between total strangers, is more beautiful than any posed shot with a gorgeous model.
It's real life, and what could be more precious than that?
Obviously it's up to my viewers to decide whether I am successful or not, but if any person looks at a photograph of mine and gets a sense of joy and life, then I consider my job done.
Speaking of models: You do take a lot of pictures of your daughter as well. Do you think these pictures contradict what you just said about the beauty in candid moments - after all she is aware of your camera - or do these shots happen mostly in a casual and candid fashion like your street work? Are these pictures part of what you consider "your work" or are they personal pictures in the sense of the "making pictures" vs "taking pictures" distinction that you mentioned earlier? (For me clearly Making! They are great!)
This is interesting and something I hadn't really thought about before. In my mind, it isn't a contradiction, because I see myself as having several different sides to my photography. As a parent, I have always taken a lot of pictures of her, both for documentary purposes but also because she is adorable and so photogenic. (Yes, I am biased.) It's only within the last couple of years that I have started making photographs of her in a more artistic way - photography of that type period is very new for me. I will suddenly get an idea for a shot, something that is *made* instead of just taken, and she is my go-to source for a model. We communicate well; after 7 years of togetherness we are definitely able to read every nuance of each other. Really it doesn't take much direction on my part, so it is still fairly candid: I tell her what I want to do, and describe the kind of mood / scene I am trying to make, and she just does it. Yesterday we had an argument over the shirt I asked her to put on; she said she thought it would look terrible in the photo. I think that was a glimpse into the future for me!
Something else I have started up this past year is a series of candid family photos. It's made me take a different look at everyday life around my own house, which has changed my point of view in a good way. I feel like it makes me reach beyond that need for new stimulus and work with what I have, which is a positive thing for life in general.
On top of all of this, I have started a few different projects and series that are contrived. Usually the inspiration hits me out nowhere and ten minutes later I am texting friends to ask if they are up for it ... I hesitate to call them models though. I feel like we work together.
If I am going to photograph someone, I want the person that they are to shine through whatever layer I am imposing on them.
It's pretty exciting to me that people who don't really like to have their picture taken are willing to get in front of my camera!
What camera would that be then, just out of curiosity?
Mainly I use a Hasselblad 500 c/m - I enjoy the process of looking down into the camera rather than straight at my subjects, and I love the larger negative - but I also use either my Nikon F or FM2 for a slightly different look and style. If I am photographing at night, I go with the autofocus option of my Canon EOS.
By the way, do you still sometimes just "take" pictures without thinking about them in artistic terms or are your cameras "possessed by art" now?
Yes, I do still take pictures without thinking about them too much. That's a big aim of mine with street photography in particular.
I don't want to overthink it; I want to just let my eyes see, then hit the shutter.