Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work and words of Jack Spencer.
How did you get started photography?
I started when I was in college in 1970. I dabbled in it for ten or fifteen years and finally became obsessed with it in the mid 80’s.
Which photographers and other artists work do admire?
Early on, there was the usual suspects . . . Ansel Adams, Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Kertesz and so on. When I saw Robert Frank’s “The Americans” and “London and Wales”, I was completely taken with his approach, which was bold and unflinching. I saw the same thing in Sally Mann’s work. She is and old, dear friend, but she has the same bold approach,fearless. I also like Steichen’s work a great deal for a lot of the same reasons. But there was something about his pictorialist approach that was appealing to me as well. I like the idea of making images from a creative point of view. Early on, my style developed with an idea of combining the almost documentary style of making images and then interpreting them in a pictorialist way. I do not like to simply allow the camera or the machine to do my work for me.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you overtime?
There are many. Two that always stay with me however, are “Lela” by Edouard Boubat and “Streetcar, New Orleans” by Robert Frank. I happen to own a vintage print of “Lela”. It is a particularly heroic image yet full of mystery and mood that can’t be defined. Boubat often declared his undying love of Lela in interviews. There is some mystery as to what happened to her. The story is that she died a few years after the image was taken in 1938 or so. “The Streetcar” image to me, is the personification of the pathos of humanity. It is one of the most profound photographs I have ever seen.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.
My “process” has evolved and continues to evolve. No day is ever the same. I suppose the perfect day of photography is about the same as a perfect day of fishing. At the end of a long day of shooting, I got some good ones and caught my limit. These days are rare however. Some days, you don’t even get a nibble.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
I can’t think of any. It is like playing. There are things one must figure out, but that is the fun of it. Art is a predicament one gets oneself into. Getting out of the predicament is the challenge that tickles the senses.
How do you overcome a creative block?
All things work out in the way they are supposed to. Knowing this and being patient is the key.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
I have been an artist of some kind all of my life. It is my world. I am a sculpture, a musician, a painter and a photographer. I get up every day at around 6 and go to work making things. That is pretty much my world view . . . as the world goes on about its business, I go on about mine.
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
I try not to allow that to come into view. Art is self-expression. If I am concerned with what others think about my work, I am not doing my job and somehow the works gets distracted or infected with an outside influence. The work has to stand on its own. Having said that however, I am pleased that so many people enjoy my work. But honestly, I don’t give it much thought. I can’t afford to.
I am about to embark on a six week (likely) 12,000 mile shooting trip out west to finish the “This Land” (working title) book which I have been working on (off an on), for eleven years. Other than that, I have no exhibits planned for a while and will just go on about making things.
Thank you Jack for sharing your work on Rfotofolio.
To learn more about Jack Spencer please visit his site at, Jack Spencer Photography.