Photography Now 2017 – Jeanette May

Artist Interview

This is an open series of interviews with the artists in the Photography Now 2017 exhibition.


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Jeanette May – Red Phone, 2016

1. Where are you from, and what is your background in photography? How did you get into photography?

I grew up in a small town near Chicago, IL. As an undergrad I studied painting, but quickly fell in love with the immediacy (compared to painting) of photography. I went on to earn an MFA in Photography from CalArts. Although I work exclusively in photography now, I function more like a painter.

2. What inspired you to make the work in Photography Now 2017? What is the work about? Please describe one piece, the evolution of the concept, and the process?

I began the Tech Vanitas photo series in order to address our anxiety around new technology and love for beautifully designed, obsolete technology. I gather an ever-expanding collection of commonplace technology and arrange them into precarious still lifes. I use strobe lights and digital photography to capture a coffee percolator and film camera teetering atop a shiny boombox that spews magnetic tape across the keys of an Underwood typewriter. My background in painting is clearly evident in my reference to 17th Century Dutch vanitas paintings, including the quality of light and color in my photos. At the same time, the compositions and artfully designed arrangements hint at contemporary product photography and advertising imagery. Finally, these photos are filled with nostalgia for old technology and yearning for the latest must-have enchanted objects.

3. Much of the work in Photography Now 2017 seems to describe a distance between the subject and the viewer, a disconnection, and/or a dystopian situation. How do you think your work relates to these ideas?

I don’t see my work as dystopian…filled with anxiety, yes.

4. What are you working on now?

I continue to work on the Tech Vanitas project. I’m still borrowing, renting, and occasionally buying, objects to photograph. I recently changed my format from vertical stacking to horizontal tumbling disarray.

5. What is the one photograph you always wanted to make but never could?

I have no answer to this question.

General exhibition information:

Photography Now 2017
November 4, 2017 – January 14, 2018
Juried by William Ewing

Featured Artists: Lars Anderson, Sarah Anthony, Ben Arnon, Sandra Bacchi, John BarnardEmily Berl, Adam Bernard, Christopher Paul Brown, Tianqiutao Chen, Jennifer Garza-Cuen, Orestes Gonzalez, Tamar Granovsky, Alejandro Loureiro Lorenzo, Jeanette May, Zora Murff, Laurie Peek, Ceaphas Stubbs and Ayumi Tanaka.

See full exhibition information or exhibition guide (