PDN: How did you select the
portfolio of 10-20 images that
you submitted to Light Work?
I submitted the Eden series
[from her ongoing “Imag[in]
ing America” project]. At the
time, that was my most recently
PDN: Photographers often
struggle with editing their own
work. How did you choose the
images for the Eden series?
J.G.C.: You have to give it time.
I’ll edit for months after I’ve
shot a series. It’s also good to
get feedback from mentors or
colleagues. But editing takes time
because you have to separate
yourself from the making of the
images in order to see what’s there.
PDN: What are your methods
of separating yourself?
J.G.C.: I try to print [the work]
and let it live somewhere in
small format. I’ll put up a wall of
images. I move images around,
put them in different groupings,
and sequences. The goal is to see
how they stand up in relation to
each other, and to find the images
that continue to resonate after
I’ve distanced myself from the
making of them.
PDN: You see what continues
to resonate: Can you explain
that a little more?
J.G.C.: When I talk to my students,
I say this is slow imagery. It’s not
meant to sell something. It’s meant
to reveal itself over time. You step
away and say, OK, there are things
that I know that I wanted, and I
know were there because that’s
what I saw when I was making
the images. If I step away from
them long enough, or find ways to
surprise myself with the images
again, then I can see whether what
I was after is actually conveyed.
But there’s only so much distancing
we can do on our own, bringing
in other people that you trust
to respond is also really helpful.
Also, if you can bring in people
who are not from the photo
world, that’s helpful too, because
you get a sort of raw response
from someone who doesn’t think
about photos all the time.
PDN: Can you give me an
example of an image that
revealed itself over time to you?
J.G.C.: I was photographing a
woman in a space in front of a
piano. I had recently lost my
mother. As I was photographing
this woman, I realized how
much her presence felt like my
mother’s. It was a very haunting
kind of moment. There was a
calm over everything. When
we finished shooting, she
walked over to me, pulled out a
handkerchief, and handed it to
me very matter-of-fact. And all
of these memories came rushing
back to me because my mother
had always, always carried a
handkerchief. This was a very
personal response to a shoot that
lived very separately [from the
photograph]. But I continued to
look back at that image, and see
that so much of what happened
in that room is there: that sort
of ghostly heaviness, that calm.
And when people respond to
How i Got tHat residenCy
LiGHt work artist in residenCe
Photographer Jennifer Garza-Cuen has landed seven artist’s residencies.
Here she shares insight about applying for artist’s residencies, including
the Light Work program, her latest residency. BY DAVID WALKER
Left: From Jennifer Garza-Cuen’s series
“Eden,” which depicts a community
of Adventists, Mennonites and
Quakers in Vermont. She submitted
in her application to the Light Work
residency program. BeLow: To edit a
series, Garza-Cuen says, “you have
to separate yourself from the making
of the images.”