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Kaitlin Jencso photographs everyday moments in public life and uses them to investigate the intimate and inadvertent ways we communicate our private selves. The results are beautiful, thoughtful and often haunting. This Saturday, her Looking Glass exhibition opens at Hamiltonian, with a 7 to 9 p.m. reception (artist talk is May 1) and we caught up with her to chat about inspiration, process and intimacy. Don’t miss this (and follow Kaitlin on instagram at @kaitlinjencso).
Brightest Young Things: What attracted you to exploring the private lives in public?

Kaitlin Jencso: I have spent the past decade photographing the private aspects of life (primarily in my own family). Working in that vein allowed me an insular and very intimate window into how people behave when no one is watching. When I switched over to shooting fully digitally at the end of 2016, I found myself drawn to more of my everyday interactions and life, and not necessarily the controlled and well-trodden territory of my family and home.

Having the camera with me all the time, especially when I was going out, I began to notice that I was constantly seeking out people and how they were choosing to present themselves in public. I get that we are all performing a version of ourselves every time we step out of the house. We play up a specific aspect of who we are, or even who we want to be. I really feel like social media has allowed us to really blur the line of who we are on a personal and intimate level and the persona we make public facing. The ubiquity of social media—posting selfies, what you’re doing on a Saturday night—allows us to present a heightened, hyped version of our experience. I find that fascinating. I love to see what choices people are making (myself included).

by Kaitlin Jencso

BYT: Tell us a little bit about your process – how do you find your scenes, your subjects?

K.J.: I make it a practice to carry my camera with me every time I go out. I stopped shooting primarily color film in 2013 and switched over to a DSLR for about three years. But, you know, this camera was bulky. Cumbersome. I felt like taking it with me was too much of a production and generally chose to leave it at home. I found myself out and feeling like there were shots I needed to take, so my iPhone was filling in the gaps. However, it didn’t give me the control of quality to achieve the image I wanted—so I decided to invest in a mirrorless digital camera. This kind of changed everything for me. I could easily take it everywhere and shoot in wildly low light and get images that were high quality and beautiful. This allowed me the freedom to shoot constantly and without external lighting or production.

Also, being that person in a friend group who always has a camera pretty quickly gets glossed over and people don’t even pay attention to you when you pull out the camera. So I shot a lot of imagery of my friends as we were just out and about. I would say this project is half people I know and half strangers.

BYT: Pick a photo, any photo in the show, and tell us a little story behind it?

K.J.: Like I said, I always have my camera on me in the evenings—so most of these images I made while I’m out doing something on the leisure side of life. I’m constantly scanning and looking for plays of light, color, or the strange/out of place. The image “Untitled (Wynwood)”—I shot that in Miami when the Hamiltonian brought the fellows down for Art Basel. (I’m a Hamiltonian fellow, represent.) We were walking from some pizza place/bar in Wynwood out to another art fair to see a performance and the whole time I was constantly stopping to shoot things that were a bit off, or the way a light hit a particular fence, and then running to catch up with the group. When I took this shot, I was looking at these two buildings that were jutting out into the sky, appreciating their drama, when this woman walks across my line of view, lit by on coming headlights.

I was drawn to the strangeness of her situation — flooded in cinematic lighting while walking in the street instead of the sidewalk, and walking in a determined fashion with a troubled look on her face. It very much reminded me of the film It Follows and I felt compelled to photograph the scene. I love this image because I feel like it’s the start of a whole narrative, but one we will never know and a life we are not privy to. All I have is a photograph I made of this person as I perceived them in public moving from one place to another. I really love the mystery and openendedness of that.

Wynwood by Kaitlin Jencso

BYT: What are you hoping people walk away from after the show? How do you hope is affects the way they think?

K.J.: I want people to enter into this space that is vivid, saturated, and compelling and come away with their own slant on what exactly is going on. I was drawn into the part of Alice in Wonderland when she encounters the caterpillar and he asks her, “Who are you?“—and I invite the viewer to consider this very question. We are all constantly looking at screens, and chasing a good time, and broadcasting it to the world. And I love and appreciate this notion and look to photograph it as a way to show the actual beauty in the everyday. I say all of this completely without judgement, as I am another person constantly looking at the world through my own glass, my camera lens. And also my phone. I’m clearly enamored with voyeurism.

BYT: And finally a recommendation: Who is someone whose work you are very excited about these days and why?

K.J.: It’s hard to choose just one! My gut says to talk about Tania Franco Klein. She is creating vivid, highly saturated, cinematic photography that is incredibly compelling. She deals with concepts of loss, searching, and the juxtaposition between beauty and tension. Here in D.C., I would name a few photographers: Jennifer Sakai, Veronica Melendez, Larry Cook, Eddy Aldana, and Terri Weifenbach.

by Kaitlin Jensco