Firstly, can you briefly describe who you are and what you do.

I am a photographic artist, creating images that stimulate the imagination. I use source material collected over many years in a variety of different ways, to create images with and without a camera.

You say that you’ve always been interested in collecting curiosities from nature, and in arts and crafts. How did this lead you to photography?

I’ve always been fascinated by nature and grew up in a very artistic household, this encouraged my obsession to seek out and record anything of interest.

To begin with, I experimented with anything – textiles, ceramics, painting, drawing, photography, graphics, trying to push their limits as far as possible, combining different methods and techniques to see what effects could be created.

Photography appeared in all of my projects, whether documenting the process / experimentation or the final piece itself. It wasn’t until a visit to the V&A to see the Shadow Catchers exhibition that I became fascinated with the different processes of photography; exploring light sensitive paper and chemicals and creating images without the use of a camera. Later on, I became interested in the idea that people associated photography with truth and that truth could be manipulated.

What inspired you to turn physical objects into a 2D image using a scanner rather than a camera?

While I was working on my final project at University, I hit a brick wall. Carrying on from a previous project, I was looking for a crispness and clarity within the image that was evading me. The scanner was an idea inspired by the photographer Robert Creamer, an idea that had been simmering over a period of time and felt appropriate under the circumstances.

Initially the results were disappointing, but with trial and error the Hybrid series emerged. For me the results were totally unexpected, the light producing very theatrical, atmospheric, dramatic images.


What are your influences?

My first massive influence was Andy Goldsworthy; he inspired me to look at my surroundings and to see everything as a possible artistic influence. I grew up in a house in the middle of a woods, the source material led me towards artists such as Karl Blossfeldt, Trevor Ashby, Susan Derges, Daro Montag and Joan Fontcuberta.

What inspires you to create?

My main inspiration comes from the beauty I find around me; in nature, life and decay and the transformation of colour, shape and texture. I’m also drawn to damaged, worn-out, discarded objects that hint at a history/story. I love setting up still lifes and being able to draw on a vast selection of collectables, it is not hard to find creative inspiration – things always seem to fall into place.

I try to give objects a new life, whether as part of my collection or placed within one of my images. It’s rarely an easy journey, but I’ve learnt with perseverance, there is achievement at the end.

Your work is a mixture of so many different artistic methods; collage, digital art, assemblage, sculpture, camera-less photography. How would you define your practice in a nutshell?

If I had to describe myself at present, it would be as an illustrative still life photographer.

I’ve always been taught to push the boundaries and experiment as much as possible; that there is never an end – just a continuation of possibilities.

In your “Hybrid” project, you talk about Victorians scouring the globe to bring back specimens from the natural world, leading to their hybridisation. Do you see yourself as a “collector” character in a similar sense, when it comes to assembling your work?

I never really saw myself as a collector until university, when it was pointed out to me. I have surrounded myself with objects from a very early age; it probably started with a contest of cowrie shell hunting on any given beach with my mother, who in turn had done so previously with her mother. This led to collecting any objects that inspired and fascinated me; feathers, plants, crystals and seed heads etc.

Fifteen years of collecting provides a wealth of material. With this material, alongside the brutality of the light from the scanner, I am able to create a theatrical photographic moment.


Your images are exhibited as massive prints. What led to the decision to print at such a larger than life scale?

I personally feel that these images aren’t particularly big and would love to increase their size. The objects I work with contain a massive amount of detail, which would be lost at a smaller scale.

I am actually in the process of looking into other scanners that will enable me to produce images on a much larger scale, possibly even cover an entire wall.

What’s been the best part about your creative journey?

When you set out on a creative journey, all experiences become knowledge. Growing up in a creative environment has its advantages, and when that environment is surrounded and draws upon other artistic beings, the influences are endless.

I have experienced many art mediums and all have encouraged me along my journey. By the time I applied to do a photographic degree, I had actually done very little photography! Most of the photography I had done was without a camera, leaving plants to rot on light sensitive paper in light sealed boxes for weeks/months.

I’ve never been afraid to experiment, to question or set out on my own; I prefer to choose an unknown path. Part of the attraction is not knowing what lies ahead, but believing every journey has an end. For some people it is important to know where they are going, but for me it is the journey, experimenting, the unknown that fuels my creative drive. Perhaps the best part of my journey is that I expect to get lost, but I know that I get there in the end.


Where do you see your work going next?

When I finished university and the ‘Hybrid’ project, I had reached a deadline but I hadn’t finalised what I actually wanted to say. This has always been the case with any project; subsequently one body of work tends to follow another. At the moment, I have been offered a 6-week residency at Cornwall College, with free reign to create or carry on with a project of my choice, finalising with an exhibition to show case final pieces.

As always, I am experimenting with new methods and ideas, looking to inspire a new generation at Cornwall College.

And finally, why do you make art?

It’s my language, the way I feel I can confidently communicate. It allows me to express myself, in a better way than through words. It is a positive release, in a very stressful world.


See more of her work at www.jessicasummersphotography.com