Jack Spencer Prints
Jack Spencer (B. 1951 - ) is a self-taught American photographer. He is a native of Kosciusko, Mississippi, a land that found its way into many of his works. The subject of his photographs is usually the rural life in the American South and Mexico. His precisely crafted prints are the result of an exceptional vision, original darkroom technique and an extraordinary sense of story.
"I believe that all art work is portraiture and, in its most pristine and honest form, I believe it is self-portraiture. This is true not only in the photographic arts but also in music, literature, painting or sculpture. It is also true if you are building a house or simply mowing the lawn. The person creating is always reflected in the effect of the final creation. Cause and effect is the law of art… the rule that can never be broken. If one intends with the honesty of self-expression, then the result will be worth looking at, no matter how primitive or how sophisticated the means of accomplishment."
His best known series is Native Soil that features deep sepia tones combined with deep-South imagery: the humid bayou country, horses, and the every-day man of the Mississippi River Delta. In 1999, they became the subject of his first book "Native Soil". "That series was about my past and my changed perceptions about my past... I forced myself to interact with people and cultures that I had always known about but never really knew, only to find that I had missed a great deal," says Jack Spencer.
After Native Soil, the artist went on to explore the mystical country of Mexico. For three years Spencer worked on Apariciones, a series of over seventy-five images of people and landscapes filled with magical realism. In words of Jack Spencer: "It is a land that celebrates its ghosts and fantasmas. Dia de Las Muertes, or the "Day of the Dead", is an event during which the dead are enticed back from the grave for a day of dance, song, food and drink to celebrate with the living. This work, apariciones, is work that I could continue for a lifetime, as I developed such a great love for Mexico and the Mexican people."
Many of Spencer's works suggest an introspective, allegorical dimension. His haunting images look very distinct from other photographs made on silver gelatin paper. The slightly out-of-focus quality of his photographs is achieved by skillful manipulation of the printing process in the dark room, when the negative is projected through transparent materials, thus distorting the light. The prints are then varnished with subtle tones of earth-yellow or earth-red pigments. He has also created such series as This Land, The Gestures and Portraits, Flores and The Lost Boys.
"The work I make is pictorial and expressionistic with the rare exception of the Lost Boys series, which are pretty much unmanipulated. I have very little belief in the idea that I am locking a moment in time. I don’t buy into the “Decisive Moment” philosophy, believing that all moments are decisive and ripe with choice. Edward Steichen once said that “a photograph is a lie from start to finish”. I believe he meant that there are a great many variables that are hidden from the viewer, of which only the artist can translate. I think that whatever is recorded on the film plane is merely a jumping off point. I don’t allow the mechanics of the machine/camera to dictate what I feel. After exposure, expression for the event and my own subjective interpretation of that event are the only things of importance to me. Personally, I believe there is a vast difference between the “snapping” of a picture and the making of a piece of art. It is that “doing” that is important. The selling of art is commerce; the hanging of art is décor; the talking about art is rhetoric. The only thing that can rightfully be called “art” is the process of its creation. After that is accomplished, the only thing that can be hoped for is that the viewer will be inspired to contemplate what “meaning” that work has for them."
Jack Spencer's photographs have been widely exhibited throughout the country and are featured in many museum and corporate collections in the United States and abroad. He now lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee.
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