Jeanne Widmer created her series Dejaview as a part of the Atelier 33 exhibition, currently showing in the Griffin Main Gallery until March 26, 2021. Jeanne’s collection shows the common occurrence of precious, natural spaces being encroached on by and destroyed by man-made structures. To learn more about Dejaview, we asked Jeanne some questions.
Which of these images was the impetus for this series? How did it inform how you completed the series?
When I started shooting for this series, I focused on those first two images–“Rose Colored Facade” and “Triplets”– trying to capture the geometric aspects of the brick buildings and manicured trees in dramatic light. It was early fall with full foliage, and after a summer drought. But then before dawn one rainy morning in October I explored an access road on the other side of what I came to see as the wetland and I was struck by the carelessness of the development– broken trees, ripped out foliage, and pavement. So #3 “How Did the Shore Become Paved” became the impetus for further photo exploration. I studied maps of the city and discovered the relatively small area was an established (and supposedly protected) wetland. All of the subsequent photos were an effort to dramatize that reality.
How has your photography changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? Has the Atelier been a motivator to persevere through these trying times?
Last spring my behavior was relatively similar: being careful, socializing little, and walking daily. Then I found myself shooting on my daily walks, finding distance photography somewhat mundane at the time, and began experimenting with abstract macros, which I really enjoyed. That became my Atelier 32 project and I really feel it would not have happened without the Pandemic ironically. This past fall, inspired by a Landscaping class with Bill Franson, I began arbitrarily taking photos at the office park. When the Atelier 33 began, I continued to expand my exploration. The Atelier definitely was a great motivator and supporter.
How do people’s attitudes versus their actions towards nature influence the way you represent nature in your work?
Especially throughout this pandemic, how many photos of sunsets, sunrises or grassy knolls have others sent you? Many more than usual has been my experience, always accompanied with how peaceful it is to be in those locations at this turbulent time. We all love nature. But our environment has been harmed by people’s carelessness over and over when it comes to commercial development or money to be made. That duality is a major problem of our age.
What do you hope we as viewers take away from viewing your work?
I entitled this series “Dejaview” because we have seen this happen everywhere. Shortly after looking at my photos last fall, a photographer friend of mine told me she visited a shopping mall and noted a wetland which abutted the parking lot. She said she would not have noticed it before seeing my photos. I hope people become more aware of new developments and, especially if they have any connection to city or town government decision makers (I am a Town Meeting Member and we vote on zoning), they will stress the need to preserve our precious environment.
Tell us what is next for you creatively.
I have returned to photographing people in the pandemic. I am not sure where it will take me but it has been fun. Both my masters and doctoral degrees have centered around understanding individuals and motivations and the complex and subtle emotions that underlie our experiences. Those are playing a big part in this project.
You can see Jeanne Widmer’s full Dejaview collection on the Atelier website.