In my landscape work Primordial I embrace photography’s ability to create fictional worlds. In my aesthetic choices and the cropping out of all human presence, I hint at another dimension, a fantasy world of only trees in a time before humans. By doing this I hope to open a door into the communal imagination, a space to consider our place in the environment and our relationship to it.
Cracks Into Other Worlds
I can only feel my body when I’m looking at the fading leaves and the bending branches of the trees.
If we don’t change the way we relate to nature, will we be banished from it?
For several weeks at the end of 2022 I made long exposure pinhole images in the parks of Mexico City. Instead of capturing a fraction of a second as a traditional photograph would, I captured many days all in one image which erases the human presence. In a city with a population of 21 million, the images became a fantasy world without people.
What if we were all destroyed in an instant? Would anything remain of us?
Our particles sink into the ground, buried and eaten up by a tree’s hungry roots. We awaken again as part of the tree, standing tall and strong. In the future we are one with nature, we are nature. We dream of human forms wandering lost through the forest but they are only dreams and now we stand tall in one place for our whole life as a tree.
The Woods Enclose
In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic I felt lost, the days slipped by. I wanted to step away from screens and go outside and use my hands to make something instead of scrolling through the news. This brought me to several analog processes. These images were all made with a Polaroid Spectra Pro camera and expired film. I have been drawn to the forest in my work recently and its power of personal transformation in folklore and fairy tales. It is often a place to face challenges, a place to find yourself or be lost forever. I took the Spectra with me on my walks around the forest in my neighborhood and around the Seattle area trying to capture some of that power.
“The woods enclose. You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up. There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy. Once you are inside it, you must stay there until it lets you out again for there is no clue to guide you through in perfect safety; grass grew over the track years ago…”
-Angela Carter, The Erl-King
Jenny Riffle (b. 1979, Mt. Vernon, WA) graduated from Bard College in 2001 with a BA in Photography; she received her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in 2011. Riffle works with narrative portraiture and landscapes that explore the psychological essence of a person or place. Her current work explores the power of nature in the Pacific Northwest. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally and she has been featured in, and photographed for numerous publications worldwide including WIRED Raw File, Time Lightbox, The Independent, The Guardian, The New York Times, Telegraph Magazine, M Le magazine du Monde, Glamour, NPR and VICE.
A book of her collaborative self portraits It’s Raining… I Love You was published in 2020 by Minor Matters Books and her monograph Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting was published by Zatara Press in 2015. Riffle’s awards include Artist Trust’s GAP, FotoFilmic’s BMNF Award, The Pilkington Prize, PDN’s 30, and the Aaron Siskind Foundation Grant. Riffle lives in Seattle, in addition to her art practice and editorial work she teaches at Photographic Center Northwest.
Explore PCNW's Gallery & Events