L'Oeil de la Photographie highlights The Dramatic Imagery of Jessica Lange by Ieva Bluma

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written by Ieva Bluma

Jessica Lange © Ieva Bluma

Jessica Lange is a true Hollywood legend and one of the greatest actresses of our time.  She has won two Oscars, three Emmys, five Golden Globes and multiple other awards.  Perhaps many people are unaware of the fact that she is also a very accomplished and talented photographer, winner of the prestigious Lucie Award in 2012.  I spoke to the artist in Barcelona, shortly before the opening of her  exhibition “Unseen,” and the presentation of the accompanying and eponymous book of photographs Unseen.

What are these pictures?, I ask.
Oh, things that I see, she replies.

“I find photography a most mysterious process – capturing that moment in time and space, elusive and fleeting, and crystallising it.” – Jessica Lange 

We have always admired Jessica Lange as an actress.  We recognise her from her memorable roles in King Kong, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Tootsie, Frances, Blue Sky, Grey Gardens and dozens of other films.  More recently she has been known for her hugely successful portrayal of four different and powerful characters over the course of four seasons of the hit television series American Horror Story.  So it is interesting to discover the Jessica Lange is also a very talented photographer.

Lange has a fascinating and sharp photographic eye, with a real ability to capture life and turn it into an artistic mystery.  Her sense of composition and framing is very strong, present, balanced and detailed, and yet her images offer space and freedom that allow her to express fragility, vulnerability and loneliness.  The photographs create poetic mysteries that connect to people’s emotions and resonate.  This makes Jessica Lange’s realist images almost abstract, and her work does much to activate human imagination.

I was delighted to visit Ms Lange’s exhibition in Barcelona, “Unseen,” and to meet with her for a personal interview about her art.  As a painter and photographer myself, I found this to be a unique opportunity to engage in a creative conversation with the talented Jessica Lange

Ieva Bluma:  Your images are very artistic and well-composed, and the use of light and shadow is incredible.  There is so much that is going on in our photography, and I feel that it is the same as when you perform as an actress.  There are so many emotions and layers in your acting, even when you are still and don’t talk.  I think it’s the same with your photography – even if there’s a bare space in the image, it is still full of mystery.  Do you create your images by instinct, or do you plan the details ahead of time?

Jessica Lange: I’m always shooting on the street without setting anything up.  I think framing and composition is partly luck, but also there is this split second where you compose your frame and put what you want in it, and this is instinctual.  What appeals to me is the negative space or the centre of focus.  It’s a very personal and emotional reaction to what I'm seeing in the moment.  I take the camera and snap the shutter because there is something in the environment, something in the light, something in a gesture of a person or a moment of connection between people that touches me emotionally.  It comes out of instinctual moments and I think the things which interest me as a photographer are the same things, I find interesting as an actress - observing, watching, looking and being present so you don't miss things. 

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