Observing an L.A. Photographer: eighth in a series. This time, a student inspired by Los Angeles.
Art Center College of Design photography student Jessie Gentry is fascinated by Los Angeles' history and multitude of neighborhoods, especially the city's grittier sides. She is a native Angeleno who mostly explores the areas between downtown and Hollywood, sometimes by car, sometimes by bicycle in order to be closer to the street and discover the "layers of human experience." She is a photographer who prefers to hang out in MacArthur Park over Old Town Pasadena.
Gentry, 24, admires directors David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock and the dark and disturbing art of Cindy Sherman. So it's no surprise that she likes to control every aspect of her images: portraits, nudes, and tableaux with a mysterious, often spooky quality. Her current project is a series inspired by news accounts of Los Angeles women who were murdered by their husbands. The photographs show the locations where the crimes took place.
"This project was specifically inspired by my fascination with the news and the way it is mediated, much like images. I'm attempting to memorialize these women through researching their murders and piecing together details to locate them in the real space of Los Angeles." Because of the time-consuming nature of producing these photographs, she only has two so far -- and a notebook full of potential future subjects.
"To find my subjects I search news stories, bypassing anything that has become a huge media spectacle, choosing to focus on the unknown," Gentry says. "The more I study images and image-making the more apparent it becomes that an image carries several meanings, apart from the face value. I explore this by using images to create narrative."
She chose to study at Art Center for the most practical of reasons. After an exhaustive search of Los Angeles photography schools, she was convinced that Art Center would give her the technical training she needed to thrive as a professional. And she felt that if her quirky style and subject matter presented a problem for her teachers, "we'd work it out between us."
So far, so good. One area of common ground with her instructors is her love of traditional film. "I'm in the club that thinks film will always look better than digital. Also, it's nice to be more physical, to be able to deal with a material rather than just a set of numbers. Instructors at Art Center are excited when you use film." She shoots on film and prints digitally.
Gentry is thinking of going to film school after graduation, possibly on the East Coast. This would seem a natural progression, given her highly orchestrated scenes and cinematic lighting. For now, she has unfinished business with Los Angeles. By visiting the crime scenes, her photographs and the city have become intertwined and, like a good movie director, it seems logical that she would want to bring all of this to some sort of interesting conclusion before she moves on. Hitchcock would have been intrigued.
All photos by Jessie Gentry. Click on images to view larger.
Top: The Potluck, June 2008.
Middle: Scene of Kazumi Miura's 1981 murder on North Fremont Avenue in downtown Los Angeles.
Bottom: Untitled tableaux, 2008.