The above set of images from local photographer Jessica Rinks captures various locations around the La Grange area in the vacant dead of night. Can you pick out where any of these haunting photos were taken?
We chatted with Rinks about her work and career, and her passion for nighttime photography:
Patch: Tell us who you are, where you're from, and what you're up to these days.
Jessica Rinks: I am a photographer, multimedia artist & musician living in Chicago. I am a resident artist at the Chicago Art Department & Gallery (where I have two upcoming solo exhibitions this year), and to put food on the table I work as a freelance photographer (weddings, events, product photography, etc), and I work at The Den Theatre, a performance venue in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. To supplement, I sell my artwork at galleries like Blue Eyed Jack in La Grange.
I was born in Elmhurst in 1988, grew up in Burr Ridge, and received my BA from Dominican University in River Forest. I play frequent shows with the garage rock band Duller Colors. And finally, October 12th I will be opening an exhibition of a project that I've been working on for 18 months, a visual and audio study of roadside memorials across the united states, documented and studied as a facet of folk art, political football, and sociological/psychological tool for mourning & warning. There is a film and audio piece in the exhibit which were collaborative works, as well as a 28 of the almost 200 photographs of unique memorials printed large scale. This will be debuting at the Chicago Art Department Gallery in Pilsen.
When did you first get interested in photography? When did you get your first camera?
My first camera came from GameWorks (an arcade) in Vegas. After spending a series of long days playing video games to earn points, I purchased my first 35 mm camera in their points-to-rewards exchange. For being in grammar school, I was a mean "Mortal Kombat," "Virtual Reality" player. I took this camera with to the Grand Canyon that same week, where I took my first true photographs. I was terrified of heights at my young age (9 or 10), and refused to even look over the edge of the canyon. However, when I was behind my camera, I grew courageous and confident and hung my legs over the edge of the cavernous canyon to get the photograph I wanted. I still have the photographs to this day, and they're pretty alright!
How did starting this project come about? Was it for school? How did these locations catch your eye?
I began photographing at night because I was in photography school but worked & attended class all day. It seemed a natural choice to be able to finish my assignments on time. However, this convenience became the basis of my work for a few years. Specifically the "Achapo" body of work (what these photographs are from, large-scale printed on canvas), started in 2009, became a way for me to examine the quiet and meditative scenes, and isolate light and atmosphere as the most important variables. The locations for the body of work are from all across Illinois, and the midwest as well as Georgia. The locations themselves were chosen on the basis of representing the feel of the ever-elusive Americana in a time of sterile corporations and strip malls.
What do you find so captivating about night photography? What about these images were you trying to express with their use of light and shadow?
Night photography is a whole different beast. There is a subtlety to the colors and light permeation, a stronger degree of color saturation, a true chiascouro of light & dark. Atmosphere is translated well in the dark. Also, the act of photographing takes much longer (30 seconds-3 minutes) and thus becomes more intentional, meditative and thoughtful. The ability to depict a light & dark contrast is also a symbol in many works for the duality of morality, permenance/temporal things, hedonism/minimalism, etc.
There's a sense of isolation, or loneliness with these photos, due to them being mostly vacant places. Is there a specific theme you're working with when shoot these? What does the absence of people in these pictures mean to you?
Many audiences have likened my work to Edward Hopper's (which is insanely flattering). I think we share the ability to reduce scenes to their necessary details, embrace minimalism, and show subtlety in large color fields. I've never pursued a specific theme for this project, it just manifested through following my eyes to places I found beautiful & serene. I like the idea of meditative spaces, places without the distractions of people (and I have included a few people in some works, but they are moving about so they create more temporal, ghost-like forms over the canvas of the still scene). I think the human race is self-obsessed enough already, and that it is an escape to be able to truly study something outside of ourselves.