Jane Olin has lived and worked as a photographer in California’s Monterey Bay area for over thirty years. She brought her full attention to photography after creating a successful business with her husband and raising her children. Living at the epicenter for the West Coast photography movement, she learned the skills of straight photography and the tenets of the historic Group f/64 from the assistants and students of Ansel Adams. She participated in workshops with prestigious photographers including Ruth Bernhard, John Sexton, Joyce Tenneson, Brian Taylor, Martha Casanave, Holly Roberts, and Christopher James, which enriched and broadened her perspective.
Rfotofolio is pleased to share our interview with Jane Olin.
Which photographer and other artist’s work do you admire?
From the very beginning of my career, I looked for artists who were able to create images that held an energy, an essence, a quality that was difficult to articulate but could be felt. I connected with several artists work, Edward Weston primarily his still life studies, Minor White’s work and Imogen Cunningham beautiful work including her stunning magnolia blossom. Georgia O’Keefe is another artist whose work I admire not only for her beautiful paintings but also for her focus and grit.
Would you share an image that has stayed with you over time?
Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom; this image is beautifully executed with such care. After admiring this image in books for many years, I happened to be in the home of an acquaintance; there it was on her wall: Imogen’s beautiful magnolia blossom image. I asked my friend about it. She told me that she bought it at a fundraising auction in the 70’s. She cherished it and knew what she had. A few years ago, I attended a fundraising auction and there was my coveted Imogen Magnolia Blossom. It was an estate piece (not a vintage Imogen piece like my friends) but I bought it. I was (am) thrilled to finally have it my procession. Imogen is another artist I admire not only because of her beautiful work but also for fierceness, focus and passion for her art. She is a great role model for me.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
I took a yearlong nude workshop from Martha Casanave. We worked with models at her studio in Pacific Grove. I made many images during that year but none of them satisfied me as much as Nude 1 and Nude 2. These two images were not made during her class. A friend found out that I was taking a nude workshop and asked if he could model for me. I made these images one afternoon outside at my home. I envisioned them as high-key images only after I saw the contact sheets.
Making these images gave me a great deal of confidence. I realized that if I worked long enough on an image and was willing to experiment, take risks and sometimes break so-called darkroom rules, I could create the image I envisioned. I am proud of these images; they are unique and beautiful.
I made these images at the very beginning of my career. I prize them because I learned a great deal about commitment, perseverance, vision and trust while making them.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
Unequivocally yes. Working as an artist, is my calling; I have passion for this work. I am happiest when I’m in my studio creating. That being said,
I believe it is incumbent on an artist to put their work out into the world. Our world needs art and artists.
Please tell us about your process? What is the perfect day?
I work in my studio Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I work with my IT/office manager on Fridays. My photographic projects bubble up from my deep intuitive. My decisions about my work in process are definitely supported by my intuition. I try not to second-guess my decisions; I allow the work to flow with little interruption; I trust the process. And I’m committed to risk taking. I want my work to reflect who I am in this world of a zillion photographic images. As my body of work takes shape, there comes a time when I begin to edit images. When I come to this juncture, I edit and edit until I’m able to create the strongest possible portfolio. Editing is sometimes difficult but absolutely necessary.
My perfect day is working in my darkroom on prints that deeply reflect who I am and my vision. That’s very exciting.
What Challenges do you face as a photographer?
I have finally reconciled and do understand my creative cycle. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my creativity is cyclical and if I am patient an inspiration will bubble to the surface of my consciousness. During those fallow periods, I work with anything that interests me on any given day. But the key is to keep working: I photograph, I make photograms, I make cyanotypes, and I look and look at negatives but most important I always keep myself open to inspiration.
Of course, another challenge always lurking in the shadows for analog photographer is loosing darkroom materials. I’ve tried duplicating pieces using available papers, toners, etc. with very poor results.
As an analog artist, digital photographic technology is a challenge. I do have a digital camera for snapshots but I use film exclusively for my work. I once said I would never use digital for my work. Not that I don’t admire some very beautiful digital work. The reason I am dedicated to analog is twofold: I love darkroom work and I do not like to sit in front of a computer. That being said, I need to backtrack a little. My new work, Site/Sight Unseen is a hybrid. I print my one-of-kind process prints in the darkroom and then create pigment prints from the original silver prints. And the digital prints are quite beautiful.
Is there one thing that you wish people would stop doing when it comes to the creative process or in the art world?
I’m astonished at the prices that dealers and others ask and get on the secondary market for photographs. The artist gets none of that and is usually dead. If only we could, as a nation, support artist while we are creating our work.
I would like to see more women photographer’s work in Museum and Gallery exhibitions and collections. There is still an uneven playing field for women artist.
If you could spend the day with another photographer living or passed who would it be?
Imogen Cunningham and Georgia O’Keefe – they were great artists but even more important to me, they were great role models: fierce – dedicated – focused – fighters. As women artists, they had a great deal of prejustice to overcome.
Keep working through so-called blocks; understanding that the creative process is cyclical and always stay open to inspiration. I attempt to stay open to inspiration through my meditation practice and my present moment awareness practice.
I will continue my life-long commitment to evolving as an artist by creating from an ever-deepening source.
Thank you Jane for sharing your work with us.
To learn more about the work of Jane Olin please visit her site at,Jane Olin.
To learn more about Imogen Cunningham please visit the Imogen Cunningham Archive.