Jamie Knowlton works and resides in Portland, OR. She’s worked with photo and film for nearly a decade and has been published online as well as in numerous magazines. Previously living in Austin, TX and Denver, CO, she is most inspired by spatial aesthetics, life-size dioramas, DIY culture, and plants. She views the body as a major political point of change and her latest work strives to explore that, reappraising the concept of body as object and incorporating the body into a moving still life.
How did the idea for the series come about?
I had initially been drawn to photographing still life scenes and the human body, however, they were not yet entwined. This evolved to incorporating the human body with small statues and trinkets, draped in fabric. Over time, I was interested in pushing the body beyond the spectrum of body vs. objectification into a new realm of inventive movement and understanding. Now, I am curious about how different bodies, when photographed with the same objects, change the life and conception of the said object. People always have more to offer than objects, but when bodies become objects and objects living, what does this mean?
Can we photograph the female body differently in a more powerful way?
There is SO MUCH to say and discuss on this topic. For one, I think it is pivotal that female identified bodies continue to produce work and get recognition for documenting other female bodies. Mainstream culture is dominated by a patriarchal vision of how a female body should be conceived. It is my belief that images that challenge this mainstream vision should be championed as visionary no matter their particular look, first celebrate then critique. With that said, I think perhaps being the activist that I am, I would remove gender entirely from this question. I think all bodies could use an overhaul of representation, male and gender fluid bodies included. Images that convey vulnerability and authenticity, are my bread and butter, @thefemmepride is an excellent example of someone doing this very well.
What inspires you?
So many fellow artists and photographers, a few include Ian Miyawaki and Ana Cuba. My partner just got me Mapplethorpe’s Flowers. I have been intrigued by his nudes for years and now the minimalism and colour precision of these pieces just really blows me away. I have always been involved in high and low brow art. I love entangling the two cultures, in the flesh and in my work. The DIY culture has been monumental in my life due to the fact that it allows you to have a unique and fresh aesthetic without being rich and you create / are gathered into incredible communities of support and inspiration. Also, plants in and of themselves. All the shapes and dynamism that comes with them. When I’m stressed, I think of all the shades of green that I can and the natural environments you would find them in.
How would you define beauty?
Any sentient being that is raw and unkempt in the world, anyone who chooses to be vulnerable and thus powerful in spite of the potential repercussions. That is brave as fuck.
Film or digital?
I shot film for a decade and just recently purchased a really old, shitty Kodak digital zoom camera from a thrift store. It allows me to test shots, which I like and allows me to get closer for some shots than my favourite film cameras wouldn’t necessarily allow. Also, I like the immediacy that digital provides in regards to uploading to the internet and etc. I think a good photographer has many tools in their toolbox, in some regards. My best tool will always be that of film cameras. The loyalty remains.
What makes you happy?
Movement and adventures. Pretending I’m a professional detective to cover up the fact that I just ask a lot of questions because I can’t help it. Talking to people about art, so thank you.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on several zines for the Portland Zine Fair. One of which includes some of these photos. The premise is that I find you on Tinder, you agree to come over and let me take your photo nude, even though we’ve never met. I’ve had three participants so far and it has been monumentally nourishing for both parties involved. I learn so much about working with new models and humans in general, and they have all come away feeling elated and empowered. Spontaneous vulnerability on both ends. It’s called “Our First Tender Date” and will be available on my website at the end of July.
photography: jamie knowlton