Jenny Riffle was born in Washington State in 1979. She received her BA in photography from Bard College in 2001, and her MFA in Photo, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in 2011. Riffle received the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship grant in 2013 and the juror’s award at Newspace Center for Photography’s 2012 juried show for her project Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting, and will be having a solo show at Newspace in December 2013.
Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting
“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Riley grew up in rural eastern Washington. As a child he read Mark Twain’s stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and decided he wanted to be like those mythical boys. He wanted a life full of treasure and adventure. He got his first metal detector when he was eleven and to this day he continues to seek treasure in the dirt, in sandy beaches or even looking through a handful of change for wheat pennies and real silver. In my project, Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting, I have been following Riley out on his hunts and photographing the objects he collects. I explore the line between documentary and fantasy as I look at the objects he finds, what drives him to continue and the mythology and history of the treasure hunting persona.
In Scavenger I don’t try to reveal Riley’s essence as a traditional portrait would, but build upon it to create a more complicated presence. I express my romantic view of his life and his treasure hunting obsession and choose not to show his daily activities outside of that. By only showing one side of his personality I create a larger than life character. I photograph him in Twain’s spirit, as a mythical adventurer, like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
The objects Riley collects are an escape into this mythology, a fantasy world full of possibilities. Riley finds little monetary reward for treasure hunting since most of his day is spent digging up worthless pull-tabs and random scraps of metal, nevertheless he spends all his free time scavenging. The thrill of the hunt and the spirit of adventure are all he needs to keep going.
Jenny’s work was included in the recent exhibitions Elles: SAM Gallery, Featuring Northwest Women Artists and Push at G. Gibson Gallery. Riffle’s work was published in The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography, by the Humble Arts Foundation and her work has been featured in numerous publications including The Stranger, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and Visionaire. Riffle is currently living in Seattle where she teaches at the Photo Center Northwest and exhibits her work nationally.
To view more of Jenny’s work, please visit her website.