Jennifer Garza-Cuen is a photographer from the Pacific Northwest. Currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, she received her MFA in photography and MA in the History of Art and Visual Culture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2012.
Does your role as Assistant Professor of Photography impact your photographic practice in any way?
I believe that whatever we do on a daily basis impacts our work and practice. We are both constrained and liberated by the confines of our routines. During term I think about images but rarely make them. I am busy building curricula, reading and researching artists, and working with students among other duties. I feel privileged to support students as they begin to discover what photography is or will be for them. During winter and summer breaks I travel and photograph, focusing entirely on my own work. That rhythm creates a relationship between thinking and making that I personally enjoy.
The different locations within your body of work Imag[in]ing America are quite spread out within the United States, do you typically spend a set amount of time in these locations or do you find yourself shooting the series over a longer period and/ or several visits?
This work is intended as a constellation of American places. I spend weeks if not months in each location. I typically begin with a one month visit and follow up with return visits during the same season, so my series are often built out over a few years.
Do you have a particular method or approach that you use when shooting a new series?
When I begin a series, I do what most documentary photographers do, I drive a lot, stop, knock on doors, I meet strangers and listen to their stories. I also read books and watch films or TV shows set in the location, and I pull as much as possible from my own family history, teasing out biographical details from my family archive. That personal, cultural, and ancestral knowledge is layering into the images. The idea is to interweave my own biography with a quintessentially American experience.
Do you plan to continue your project Imag[in]ing America with other locations?
Yes, I am currently working on a series in Buffalo, WY.