A few years ago while applying through grade school I met a wonderful young lady who was attending LSU. Her name is Mercedes Jelinek!! See her website here: mercedesjelinekphotography
She is an amazing photographer and I was so fortunate to meet her. I have been following her for quite sometime and I was fascinated by her Photo Booth Project! Here is what she had to say about it!
How did this project come about?
I grew up in a small town. I loved how everyone knew everyone else, people would wave as you passed by and I loved the sense of community but things changed when I moved to Baton Rouge.
I was finally charmed by Baton Rouge a few months after moving into my first apartment. It was just a tiny run down studio, in what was thought of as a drab and dangerous part of town – the longer I stayed there the more I realized the perception in no way matched the true nature of the neighborhood. I felt alone and separated from the environment outside my barred front door. I wanted that small town feeling back, I just needed to figure out how. One day I sat outside my front door near the street and greeted all those who passed by.
what artist inspired you to do it?
I am greatly inspired by Richard Avedon’s “In the American West” and Alec Soth’s ” Sleeping by the Mississippi” projects.
do you still continue to do the project?
Yes, I just had a show of both the Baton Rouge and Brooklyn Neighborhood Photo Booth in San Antonio Yesterday. It’s not really something I will ever stop. I am always shooting an much as I can ( except have been slowed down a bit by the good old New England weather). Once it warms up I will be right back out there between 1-3 times a week.
Why black and white? why film?
I wish I could remember the name of an artist I saw speak years ago… Anyway he was a ceramicist and he was discussing why he chose to only make black and white vessels for a large chunk of his career. He was actually quite heated when someone asked him why he would do such a thing when he had so many different materials at his disposal. He replied “Color has impure seduction.”. That really stuck with me. Our eyes are instantly attracted to colors… If we decide to get rid of that element you are left with focusing on just the light, line, shape and texture of a scene. This is really what appeals to me about the black and white medium. Another reason, is that the project has to do with being human. I photograph people from everywhere, with different backgrounds and experiences, but in the end we are all the same. We are just people trying to survive, trying to be happy, trying to figure out our next move. I think this is illustrated well by creating this kind of monotone connection between all the portraits. – (I can go on about this for hours in depth so let me know if you need me to elaborate on this later)
Besides the fact that I still can see the differences when it comes to dynamic range between film and digital, I have to say it’s the tangibility of the materials. It’s something I can touch, it’s a beautiful chemical reaction that still translates into more megapixels than any (affordable) professional digital camera can offer. I can make something, I feel, is becoming more precious and rare in today’s instant gratification digital world. I want to make something more for the people who sit for me, something more then just a tag on Facebook.
Why the selection in the backdrop?
My backdrops are chosen from available materials bought or found from the neighborhoods I shoot and lived in. In Baton Rouge it was a grey sheet from my bed, in North Carolina it was a borrowed white sheet (more like a sail), and in Brooklyn in was some fabric I bought a few blocks away. I don’t want the backdrops to look like a professional studio or exactly like Avedon’s work. I love that the backdrops I used are placed loosely and move with the wind. This often gives hints of the neighborhood around my subjects as they do.
How do you get the prints to the people you are photographing?
I deliver them by hand or send them by mail.
Since I have been so inspired, I have decided to have my students at Cal Stat San Marcos University create their own photo booths in VSAR 302!! I am excited to see how they turn out!!!