Jessica Todd Harper; photographer, mother, and inspirational artist, has been selected to showcase her work at the "Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016" competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Founded in 1856, The National Portrait Gallery was the first portrait gallery to be opened in the world and to this day, is home to the largest collection of portraits in the world. It honors British history, but above all, promotes admiration for those individuals who have made an impact on British culture through portraiture. The prestigious exhibition will open its doors on November 17th and will run through February 26th. From there, Jessica's work will go on tour to two other renowned galleries in London, the first of them being the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens in Sunderland, England! This museum holds great history of it's city as well as grand collections of work from photographers, painters, and other artists. Jessica's work will lastly be displayed in The Beany House of Art and Knowledge, which is part of the Canterbury Museums & Galleries located in Canterbury, Kent, England. The Beany House is the cities main museum, library and art gallery.
Jessica Todd Harper has quite an exciting month ahead of her to say the least, and AK&Co. could not be more proud and pleased to announce the wonderful news! AK&Co.'s Laura got the chance to chat with Jessica about her work in the upcoming "Best of Contemporary Portraiture" Exhibition before the opening!
Below - Jessica's featured photograph in the exhibition. This is Jessica's sister, Becky.
AK&Co: This is an extremely prestigious exhibition. Take us through the selection process.
Jessica Todd Harper: You were allowed to send up to five photographs, but you had to send in the actual prints, not the digital files - even though one would assume in this day and age it would be done digitally. From there, they contact you to let you know if your work will be featured in the show. So, I sent in three photographs and hoped for the best. A few months after I sent in my prints, I got the great news.
AK&Co: Who did you share the news with first?
Jessica Todd Harper: I shared the news with my sister first, who is also one of my subjects in the pictures. She was so excited and proud of me. My sister is always proud of me and my work.
AK&Co: How did you go about choosing the photographs you wanted to submit in the show?
Jessica Todd Harper: I simply submitted work that I took in the last year. The work I submitted, it was not what I thought was my strongest. You never know what the turnout is going to be.
AK&Co: What do you look forward to the most about the exhibition?
Jessica Todd Harper: I am truly just pleased to be in it, and am excited to see everyone else's wonderful work up.
AK&Co: Are there any contemporary artists or photographers whom you look up to or get inspiration from?
Jessica Todd Harper: Arnold Newman. He was considered the father of environmental portraiture. The way he composed his photographs was so influential for me because I am interested in incorporating environments into my portraits. I actually crossed paths with him at a young age and got to chat with him for a bit. He was a very sweet person.
AK&Co: How do you think contemporary photography has changed over the years?
Jessica Todd Harper: Contemporary photography has changed so much in the last five years. IPhone’s are everywhere these days. Photographers used to just carry their cameras around, but now they carry their IPhones as well. People are switching back and forth between the two constantly. Times have truly changed.
AK&Co: What is it that you want to say with your photographs?
Jessica Todd Harper: It is all intuitive. You just know when you see it, a moment, if it is going to be successful or not. There is not a boring photograph out there.
AK&Co: How is your own personality reflected in your work? How would you describe your photographic style?
Jessica Todd Harper: My work looks a lot like Northern Renaissance paintings. Paintings from the Northern Renaissance are not exciting or important like stories from the bible. They are just regular spaces with regular people and regular occurrences. After time, they unfold, and then you see what it is all about. I typically photograph what I have at hand and what is around me at that moment. My personality and culture is drawn to a certain kind of reserve. There is always a lot going on in a photograph of mine, but it is not all obvious at first glance. The more time you spend with the photographs, the more you see what is going on, and the more you understand.
AK&Co: Establishing connections with your subjects can be difficult, but it is one of the most important skills a portrait photographer must master. How do you connect with your subjects?
Jessica Todd Harper: It is a combination of making them feel like they can be vulnerable around you, not because you are their best friend, but because there is something comforting and nonthreatening around you so they can almost ignore you a bit. The goal is to have my subject almost forget I am there.
AK&Co: What has been one of the most touching moments you have experienced as a portrait photographer?
Jessica Todd Harper: Once, I photographed an Olympic swimmer, Dara Torres, who gave birth just 16 months prior to winning a gold medal. I was photographing her for a magazine and we were in her dressing room, and she had about 500 bathing suits to choose from. She was trying one on when all of a sudden her two year old escaped from her nanny, running right across the room into her arms. I captured that exact moment. That is something I will never forget.AK&Co: Goals for the future?
Jessica Todd Harper: I want to keep producing work that I care about. To take things as they come and to just keep shooting. There is no waiting around for inspiration.