You probably have see Jennifer Loeber's nudes before. These refreshing unpretentious portraits are at once casual and deliberate. Jennifer's work is unapologetic and asks the viewer to reflect on their own experiences and perceptions.Her work reflects an artist observing life fully.
NP: Tell us a little about yourself.
JL: I was born and raised in New York City and thought for sure I was going to be a nurse when I grew up. Then I found out you may have to touch naked strangers and rethought that plan.
NP: How did you discover photography?
JL: My high school homeroom class was held in the school's darkroom. My first real experience with photography was as a very unwilling model for the senior photography class. I was promised it would be fun but wearing pink sequined gypsy pants and posing with a tambourine is never fun, under any circumstance. I could clearly see the appeal of being on the other side of the lens. I was introduced to Nan Goldin’s work that year and fell headlong into a deep love affair with photography. I moved to Boston after high school and attended the Massachusetts College of Art, studying under Nick Nixon. I used an old Crown Graphic and a junkie Rolleiflex and photographed my then very punk rock centric life.
Post college I moved back to New York City and started working as a photo editor at magazines. I put aside my own work during this time for the 9-5 grind until 2004 when I co-directed a documentary film with my husband and a friend. I also shot a series of still photographs during the course of our year and a half of filming and really found my photographic voice again. So I took a leap of faith, quit my full time job and started shooting like crazy.
NP: Where do you find inspiration?
JL: Most of my inspiration in the past few years seems to come from film- this is likely a side effect of being married to a film critic! I seem to always have one I associate with a project in some way. Right before I shot "Zeig Mal" I watched bits and pieces of one of my favorite Kubrick films, The Shining. You can hit pause on that film in almost any scene and have a complex and beautiful, stand-alone photograph. I'm a huge fan of natural light and Kubrick's use of light is just totally inspiring.
Before I left to shoot my new series, "Cruel Story of Youth", I re-watched one of my favorite teen angst films, Ladies and Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains. Iwas headed off to live in the woods for a few weeks with a gaggle of teenagers and wanted to re-acquaint myself with disaffected youth feeling that seems to start surfacing as soon as you enter ninth grade and realize that you have the ability to dye your hair primary colors. While I was there shooting I became totally enraptured by a film my husband tucked into my luggage before I headed off- Lucile Hadzihalilovi's "Innocence". I would huddle up in 20 blankets and watch it on my laptop late at night while record-breaking monsoon style rains were pounding the area. It's set in an all girls school tucked away in what can only be described as a very magical looking forest and really echoed my own surroundings and feelings at the time. I have a major crush on that film.
NP: How did your "Zeig Mal" Project come about?
JL:I had been exploring portrait photography more and more in my work when I was faced with a situation not that unfamiliar to female New Yorkers- being flashed on the subway. It got me thinking about the give and take involved in have a successful flashing (at least on part of the flasher…) and that same sort of give and take you engage in when photographing portraits. The idea of photographing nudes had never seemed in the slightest bit interesting to me until I realized the inherent challenge in finding something different within it.
NP:. Where did the title "Zeig Mal" come from?
JL: In 2006 I got married and went to Berlin for our honeymoon. I fell in love with Germany and began googling everything and anything related to it upon our return. Through the magic of the internet I somehow stumbled upon the controversial 1974 sex education book, "Zeig Mal". The English translation is "Show Me".
The book included photographs of children and pre-adolescents in the nude, rather than the more accepted use of illustration in most sex ed books. Ultimately it was deemed subversive and obscenity charges were filed against it. I became really interested in the idea that nudity is almost exclusively viewed in a sexual manner- even when used as a children's primer about their own biology! The title stuck with me and when I started working on the nude portraits I immediately thought it would be a good fit for the series.
NP: What's next?
JL: In the immediate future I'll be taking a dose of cold medicine and going to bed. Further on from that is the ongoing continuation of "Zeig Mal" as well as getting "Cruel Story of Youth" out into the world. It's a series I'm really excited about not only because it’s so close to me personally but because it was a real challenge. Photographs of teenagers seem to be the trend du jour so similarly to "Zeig Mal" my goal was to find a way to rethink that concept a bit more interestingly.NP: Thank you so much! To see more of Jennifer's work please visit: www.jenniferloeber.com.