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Interview & Portfolio: Jock Sturges on Fanny

photo-eye Gallery Interview & Portfolio: Jock Sturges on Fanny We are pleased to announce that on Friday April 10th, Jock Sturges will be at photo-eye Gallery for an artist reception for his new exhibition, Fanny — in celebration of his new monograph by the same title. In anticipation of the exhibition, we have asked Sturges to share a little more about his past, inspirations and how his long-term portraiture project in France began — and of course we discuss his goddaughter Fanny.
Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1995 — Jock Sturges

We are pleased to announce that on Friday April 10th, Jock Sturges will be at photo-eye Gallery for an artist reception for his new exhibition, Fanny — in celebration of his new monograph by the same title. The focus of this new book is one of Sturges’ most well known models and his goddaughter, Fanny. The images are photographed in the naturist community of Montalivet, France, where Fanny and her family make their home. The images span more than 23 years, beginning when Fanny was just four years of age. Produced in both black-and-white and color, this extended portrait documents not only Fanny’s journey from child to adult, but also her growing rapport with Sturges. Sturges has a firm belief that a model's relationship with the photographer is evident in the images, and that each image is the result of a collaboration.

In anticipation of the exhibition, I have asked Sturges to share a little more about his past, inspirations and how his long-term portraiture project in France began — and of course we discuss his goddaughter Fanny.—Anne Kelly

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 2005 — Jock Sturges

Anne Kelly:     How did you find yourself photographing in Montalivet?

Jock Sturges:     When living in Vermont I had a photographer friend by the name of Peter Simon. He was the younger brother of Carly Simon, the singer, if you can remember that far back. Their father was Simon of Simon and Schuster. Anyway, Peter would come and hang out at Marlboro college where I was both an undergraduate and the sole member of the photography faculty — a position which I created by insistence. (The faculty was sweetly tolerant of my arrogance...) He was pretty much a fixture. Then he disappeared from the local scene so when several years later I ran into him on the sidewalk in Brattleboro I was intrigued to know where he had been. He pulled a thick paperback book out of his knapsack and handed it to me. It was a guide to the world's naturist beaches. He'd been all over the world making the photographs for it. I flipped through it and was pretty impressed by the range of places and people depicted. I'd never seen anything quite like it. So, just to have a question to ask I asked him which place had been his favorite. "Montalivet!" he replied at once and listed a string of superlatives. Oldest, biggest, best, etc.

A few years later I was in Europe visiting friends. The weather in Paris was hot and oppressive so the collective vote was for a trip to the beach. Off to Montalivet we went for what was planned as a three day weekend. We stayed three weeks. I was hooked. The next year a planned trip of three weeks expanded into two months, which has pretty much been the pattern since.

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1990 — Jock Sturges
AK:     When did you realize that photographing the friends that you made in Montalivet would become a long term project — and that you too would become a part time, long term resident?

JS:     Actually all my photography consisted of long term projects well before I started going to France. I discovered in the early seventies that the work of people whom I knew well was far superior to what I achieved with people whom I knew less well or not at all. So starting in about 1972 all of my work became serial. As to knowing I would become a long term resident...? I didn't have the financial resources to be at all sure of that during the first few years but pretty quickly the place became indispensable to both me and my wife, Maia. Living without it is pretty much unthinkable.

AK:     You have mentioned that many of your influences are painters — how does this impact your work?

JS:     I am indeed far more influenced by paint than anything else. I have specific heroes and influences (Egon Schiele, Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Boticelli (more the miniatures than the well known seasons), rose and blue period Picasso, Cranach the Elder, the Bruegels, etc., etc.) but in general I love artists who depict aspects of an elegant line, be it awkward or the opposite and/or whose work is articulate in the grace of the common. I am inspired by the craft of paint as well as by the choices painters make. I love to distraction the Chauvet Cave paintings in France as much as I do the sparse precision of Rembrandt etchings. Most recently I find myself stunned and inspired by a Spanish painter: Dino Valls. So much to see and swallow. We are what eat, right? Want to compose your photographs well? Look, borrow, learn.

Images Courtesy of Jenny Riffle © 2015

AK:     Prior to receiving your MFA at SFI, you received a bacholors in perceptual psychology. Does your interest in psychology influence in your image making?

JS:     My reading in psychology has been an enormous part of my making pictures. I am always in search of who the people I photograph ARE so I might better work with and for them. My work is always about relationships after all.

When we make pictures the event can be one of three basic things in the life of the person photographed. With gradations betwixt, of course. It can be a negative, harmful event that erodes self-confidence and self worth, it can be a neutral event of no particular significance, or it can be positive, affirming event that reifies and helps and adds to self-worth. I try and work only in the third catagory. Always. But doing so has a lot to do with knowing who is before you.

AK:     Who was your most influential professor at the San Francisco Art Institute?

JS:     Fred Martin, who was head of the painting department and taught an obligatory course in art history. He was articulate and deeply well informed and full of enthusiasm which, given the early-morning, yawning, forced audience his class consisted of was pretty much a miracle. I quote and borrow from his pedagogy all the time.

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 2011 — Jock Sturges
AK:     Fanny, the book, contains almost every image that you ever shot of its namesake. Can you expand on that?

JS:     Fanny from the beginning only posed once or twice a summer. When she did, I made almost no failed pictures so I had not the least complaint about this. Given her family circumstances and the death of her mother, I think that she needed some level of reassurance that she was not in our lives because of her beauty as a model. In any case, with this book I decided for two reasons to print almost everything. Firstly, to paint as complete a picture of her being as possible and secondly to show the process and evolution of our shoots together. The latter was the sort of exposition that I found fascinating as a younger photographer.

AK:     Anything that you would like to add?

JS:     I've just last week returned from a glorious two days in France spent photographing Fanny who is now close to giving birth to her first child. The exceptional pleasures and emotions of our working together puts me in mind of the fact that a life lived in art has no greater reward than the privilege of doing the work. Shows, books, museums, workshops; these are acknowledgements for which I am grateful. But severally or even in aggregate they do not hold the least of candles to the intense joy of being in the light making pictures of someone I love. That for me is the solution to the problem of art — in a nutshell. It is the doing of it that eclipses all else.

Opening, Artist Reception and Booksigning
Friday April 10th, 2015 from 5 – 7pm
photo-eye Gallery, 541 S. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, NM
Exhibition continues through May 23, 2015

Order a signed copy of Fanny

For more information or to purchase a print, please contact Anne Kelly at 505-988-5152 x121 or

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