Artists I Love: Jenifer Altman

by Matt on February 28, 2008

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While I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve and fall in love with
art, fragrance, flavors, trinkets, images and ephemera about
three-thousand times a day, it’s rare that someone comes along and
seeps deep inside my brain and makes me love something inside-out. If
I’m making no sense to you whatsoever that’s ok, it’s a hard thing for
me to explain myself. Enter Jenifer Altman. We met a few weeks ago via
email and chatted about photography, but since we met I’ve been
following her series of polaroid images as well as her lovely blog
Nectar & Light. 

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It’s
hard to describe what I love about her work and it’s much easier for me
to explain how it makes me feel. Have you ever fallen asleep on a couch
next to a sunny window during the late afternoon, only to wake up 30
minutes later slightly hazy, fully relaxed, the sensation of the warm
sun enveloping you like a fuzzy blanket? This is the closest I can come
to describing how I feel when I view Jen’s work. It’s still, it’s
quiet, it’s soft, with a peace and warmth that can only come from
circumstance and not deliberate planning. In a word it’s magical, and
artistically her vision inspires me to no end. Her use of polaroids
convey something that couldn’t quite be achieved any other way, and her
sense of tone and color create that dreamlike state that seems to be
unmatched anywhere. Jen was gracious enough to join me for a little
q&a about her new blog and her photography.

How long have you been taking pictures? What is your background?

After my first attempt at college after high school, I dropped out and decided to join the Navy – basically to see the world.  I was one of the lucky ones as the ship I was assigned to was getting ready to change homeports from Norfolk, Virginia to La Maddalena, Italy {on the island of Sardinia}.  I was also lucky enough to have a job that afforded me a lot of opportunity to travel.  During this time I met my husband and we followed the tour in Italy with one in England.  I think it was during this time that I truly feel in love with the idea of photography – but I was not really shooting a lot – and I do regret that – I have so many stamps in my passport and so few photographs of that time.  We were getting ready to head back to Italy when we learned we were expecting our first daughter – we decided to move back to the states at that point.  Subsequently I returned to school to study Interior Design.  One of my selected electives was Photography – that really introduced me to the bones of it.  But truly the love affair has only become heated in the last year.  Working with a professional photographer – who has become one of my dearest friends – was a reawakening.  She taught me about lighting and equipment – everything that she knew was at my disposal and it continues to be such an amazing experience.

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What is your philosophy about food?

Food is love.  It is simple as that.  My philosophy is that we must eat to survive – so why not make it the most insanely divine experience everyday.  I love to cook – I do so with a rather adventuresome spirit – I have this inability to follow any recipe whatsoever – except when baking of course but I have been known to take a detour there as well.  And we really make an effort to eat as naturally, organically and locally as possible.  I still get the occasional craving for some sort of unmentionable drive-thru fare – but for the most part we are very careful what we put into our bodies.  I think a lot of new parents go through this – as they are beginning to feed their children they are much more cautious about reading labels and ensuring they can pronounce all of the ingredients; you then begin to think, “Why am I not eating this way as well?” – and then it simply becomes a family affair.  And I tend to go for the real stuff – butter, cream – you will not find any diet anything in my house – we are simply mindful of our intake {most of the time!} – but life is too short for margarine.

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What are your guilty pleasures?

I have too many!  Have I mentioned how much I love life?  I just don’t believe in depriving yourself – that is not to say I believe in excess either.  I just think everyone needs to find that happy little place in the middle.  I do have a seemingly never ending addiction for vintage cameras; I have learned to appreciate what a difference 600-thread count sheets make and I always end my day with a hot soak and a single, beautiful little scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Artistically speaking, what inspires you? Who are your influences?

My mother is a painter so I grew up with a very strong understanding and deep appreciation of art.  Travel and my rotating obsession with certain places and times of history have been strong influences as well.  But being apart of the online design/art community for the last two years has opened my eyes to so much more than I could have imagined.  And while I find the simple, naturally lit tabletop photography of Jennifer Causey to be inspiring, I also love the sharp contrast and Dutch influences of photographers like Ditte Isager and Gentl & Hyers.  I just try to soak as much in as possible – from all sources.  But I am also inspired by this almost underground movement of “everyday” photography – capturing those seemingly inconsequential moments and finding something deeper and something strikingly beautiful.

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You capture a very dreamlike essence of light. It touches every single image of yours that I’ve seen and I’m blown away. What is it about the light that moves you?

As you know light is obviously a major player in photography and is probably the next most important element outside of composition.  My friend Amy taught me so much about light and how to make it work for you as opposed to against you.  But the greatest thing she has done for me is influencing me to shoot film.  Polaroid in particular captures light and transforms it into a milky dream of warmth and beauty.  It is so hard to really put into words – but I aim for that effect in my Polaroid work – I actually make a point of shooting into the light just to see what happens.  In most cases – the photograph becomes a dreamy landscape – a blanket against the chill.  I also think light has a spiritual effect – something out of our grasp – yet comforting and all consuming.  Light comes from within – within us – within the earth – it is so powerful.

What’s it like being a Mom?

I never thought I would be the type of person to stand atop a mountain and proclaim that motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to me – alas, here I am.  I have three beautiful daughters and everyday I look at them and know that life is good, that all is right in the world, that they are beauty divine.  It has changed how I look at everything – I am so protective of them – but love that they each show an independent streak.   

Describe a dream day of yours.

I am living it.

Can we please work on something one day, together? Please?

Name the date sweetness!

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Jenifer’s other non-polaroid work is just as inspiring to me. To view much more of this talented woman’s work make sure to check out her sites:

Nectar & Light
Jenifer Altman Photography

Thank you for indulging me, Jenifer!