New Zealand photographer Jennifer French has succeeded, perhaps unusually, in practising her medium on both sides of the art and commercial divide, by strict separation of the two strands. Graduating BFA from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 1987, and later MFA from Melbourne’s RMIT in 2000, French has carved a niche for herself as New Zealand’s leading specialist photographer of art, documenting New Zealand projects in Venice Biennales and as Gallery Photographer at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, together with her art practice of sporadic production of discrete bodies of work.
Fluid ideas of time, its circularity and duration, and intuitive resonances of location or situation, and the nature of perception informed by such thinking, underpin her work. So, not so much Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ – a crisp excerpt from time’s flow. For her, ‘Photography, in the creation of the image, is an effect performed upon the object, by a photographer. It is a caress. It is a personal testament, a set of subjective mysteries. A use of image as metaphor for the act of looking.’
At the same time, French considers the photographic image as technologically arbitrary – a framing, a set of tonalities and colour, created by an optical system. In seeking to escape the frame, or utilise its fiction, French’s quiet meditations catch ‘things that could escape back into the ether with no one the wiser, if someone wasn’t there to arrest them.’
French has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand, including ‘Darkness & Light: Looking at the Landscape’ at Auckland Art Gallery (2000), and ‘A walk in the black forest’ at SHOW in Wellington in 2005. She was awarded the Möet & Chandon Fellowship and Residency in France in 1995, and graduated with an MFA in 2000 from RMIT, Melbourne, Australia.
French lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.