By Miriam King
Part # 1 of this post is here
A little while later Jackie met her husband, who is Irish, and moved to live in Ireland. It was at a time when the Catholic Church was constantly in the news, with scandal after scandal coming to light. She had decided at this stage that she wanted to be an artist, and once again she wanted to use photography to explore the country and society now lived in, particularly the Catholic Church she was hearing and reading so much about.
This time she spent a very difficult year researching renaissance painting, iconography and Byzantine art. It was almost impossible to get permission to photograph any of the religious orders as they were suspicious of being portrayed in a bad light. Eventually one closed order allowed her in. She sat and watched the nuns, wondering what it was that gave them the faith to lead this kind of life. The project moved away from the political situation and even the Catholic Church in particular, to the question of individual faith.
She photographed the everyday institutional life of the nuns using the traditional colours and symbolism of Renaissance painting. These photos were published in the book ‘Faith’.
Ten Miles Round
When Jackie and her husband originally moved to Ireland they lived in Dalkey (a small town on the edge of Dublin) but then they made the move to an extremely rural area in Co. Louth. She knew that for her next project she wanted to stay at home in her local community. She began to build up a picture of the area by collecting photos of familiar images that were already in her head; the pothole outside the local shop, the telegraph pole that was falling down that she drove past every day.
Initially she decided to leave aesthetic aside and use her brain instead of her eye to begin the project. The aesthetic came to her when she came across an early Van Gogh painting in a museum in Amsterdam. She instantly recognised the Northern European monotone shades of cyan and grey, with a little red peeping through, and realised that was the aesthetic she wanted.
Next she began to photograph people in the community. She was allowed to use the waiting room of the local Credit Union as a studio. At the start she had to intercept people coming out of the shop and persuade them to sit for her, but word quickly went around that she would take your photograph for free! Then she began to go into peoples homes, photographing interiors as well.
She explained that you have to know what you’re aiming at and what it is you want to communicate with the audience. She wanted to tell the story of the people in a community and of an area that was wild, chaotic and untamed and she used the landscape photos of hedges & grey skies and the portraits and interior photos to communicate this.
She also said that the advantage of photography as an art form is that it is far more accessible to people than other forms of contemporary art. People are used to seeing photographs all around them every day, in advertising, magazines & newspapers and so they are more willing and able to read art photographs.
Jackie ended the talk by saying something that I really love, “If you know how to look at things you can begin to understand them”. I think that was one of the things that really came through from listening to her speak was that her photography was very personal to her. She used it time and again to explore and make sense of her environment and her life. I found it inspiring and fascinating to hear her speak about her life and her creative process.
‘Photographs’ an Exhibition by Jackie Nickerson continues in the Sirius Art Centre in Cobh until Thursday, April 1st.
Images from Une Nouveau Ideal,