Jody is currently a graduate student, pursuing her MFA in Photography at the Academy of Art University with a focus in Fine Art Photography. The project, “Behind the Scenery”, grew out of her great interest in the importance of home. Jody describes this project as “the landscape of her life”. For the past 16 years, Jody has been an Adjunct Instructor in the Art and Design Department of Oakton Community College in northwest suburban Chicago. Upon completion of her MFA degree in the Spring of 2017, Jody plans to add Digital Photography courses to her teaching repertoire. She will also be looking for venues for her photography online, in galleries and in print.
The project “Behind the Scenery” comes out of the very personal connection I have with my home. I created these images over the past 5 years to help me to understand why I am so driven to take photographs of homes in my suburban Chicago neighborhood. I want to understand my strong and almost spiritual connection with my home, and my need to belong in my neighborhood. The more I photograph, the more I learn about myself.
I began photographing in my neighborhood while I was renting an apartment in Des Plaines. The day after a big blizzard, I grabbed my camera and headed out. The snow simplified the shapes and covered up much of the color – leaving wonderful lines and geometric shapes. I found myself photographing what I called the “graphic design in my neighborhood”. That winter, I kept on looking for lines and shapes that made formal compositions. I used the houses and garages, along with light poles, fences, shrubs, and shadows to create them.
As the seasons changed, late afternoon neighborhood walks continued to be the source of my images. Although the formal composition of a house and yard still attracted me to a property, I was becoming very interested in yards with meticulously sculpted shrubs. For me, their shapes and groupings gave them human qualities. I started relating to them as characters in my photographs. I imagined myself playing with them, daydreaming of experiences I had as a child, and feeling the emotions I felt in my childhood homes. A couple of years into the project, I bought a vintage two-flat in Skokie. When I first walked in the door, I felt something so familiar that it startled me. It was as if the house was alive and had a spirit of its own. Like the shrubs that had become “characters” in my photographs, I realized that houses have “lives” too. When the arrangement of windows and doors and plantings is just right, they can even have very human faces. Now when I photograph houses, I feel as if I meet them and imagine them as neighbors.
My approach is to casually walk up and down neighborhood streets with my Canon 7D, being keenly aware of formal compositions made by the houses and their surroundings. When I find a scene that makes me feel something or experience a memory, I move around until all of the elements work together to bring it alive. I use my camera to redefine the boundaries and spatial relationships between elements to create a new perception of these spaces. The photographs become new places in which to daydream.
To view more of Jody’s work, visit her website.