Jessica Ingram was born and raised in Tennessee. She received degrees in Photography and Political Science from New York University and her MFA from California College of the Arts. She was included in 25 Under 25, (PowerHouse Books 2003) and American Photography 20. She contributed to What We Want Is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art (SUNY Press 2004). Along the Way, a video she completed with the Cause Collective was a 2008 Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival. Jessica’s work is motivated by her desire to understand how people relate, what they long for, and what motivates the choices they make. Along with her art practice, Jessica develops and leads community based arts programs, most recently Fostering Art, a photography and writing program for foster youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jessica lives between Nashville, TN and New York where she teaches at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Parsons the New School of Design, and works with PixelPress Magazine.
It looks like all of these photos were shot in the same day. How long have you been working on this series?
‘It’s interesting that they look like they were shot on the same day. I started this series in some form in 1999, though I have been photographing my family since I was a kid with a Kodak 110 camera. In 1999, though, I moved back home after college and started looking more, and thinking about focusing on my family more. I love the images from 1999-2001 — I was shooting everything while I was with my family. In 2001, though, I moved to San Francisco for grad school and kept trying to make work there, and wasn’t happy with the work, so I started shooting for long periods at home, and then going back to SF to print and think about it, which was a new and wonderful experience. Before I had always lived where I was working, and the separation of making work one place and dealing with it in another was nice. So I worked on it in a very focused way from 2001-2003 in grad school, and then continued after for a couple of years, and honestly, I still work on it. I just finished some portraits on my great aunts and uncle that I will add to it. It doesn’t feel finished. I’m still learning a lot about my family, and it’s a wonderful, and difficult, but ultimately worthwhile experience’.
How did this series come about?
‘It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how and why I started this series. I really have been photographing my family for as long as I have been taking photographs. In college, I took some pictures of my family over the Christmas holiday, and I clearly remember feeling, after printing the work prints, that I had taken photographs that actually communicated something-they expressed how I was feeling. And at that moment, I realized that photographs can have power, that they can say something. It was big moment for me. I also know that I use photography and the experiences I have with people through photographing them, as a way to ask questions, and to gain entry. This is true of photographing my family as well. I wanted to really look at them, and understand my relationship to them, and ask questions’.
Where do you find you do your best work?
‘I have done projects in other cities, in New York, and I’ve done a couple of projects in San Francisco, that I am just wrapping up, and I love them. I do feel pulled back to the Southeast U.S., and to where I’m from-very often. When I have project ideas, they are almost always are based in the Southeast, and usually in Tennessee and Alabama. I live and work in New York now, but am back home a lot to make work. I’m typing this at my mom’s kitchen table in Nashville, TN’.