sometimes the streets smell like piss
the corner sidewalk toilets
of our more transient residents
sometimes the streets smell like piss
sometimes the streets smell like piss
the corner sidewalk toilets
of our more transient residents
400,000 (and counting) men, women, and children adorned in pink pussy hats marched together in the most civil foot traffic New York City has probably seen in decades.
Running around the city in a blizzard gives you that sense of adventure and the opportunity to capture something unique.
I like taking pictures of people because it feels right. I enjoy observing people in general: the way they speak, eat, laugh, stand amongst each other, anything. I find people extremely fascinating. They are more interesting than inanimate objects. Sometimes, it's the imperfection of a person that makes the photograph beautiful. Landscapes and objects can be too beautiful and too pristine, while photographs of people have personality. The camera allows me to capture these personalities and moments of humanity, and share them with the world. Other people get to see what I see, observe, and love. It instills meaning into a candid shot, and serves as a way for me to communicate other people's stories as well as my own.
These photos are from a road trip I took this summer with my sister and a friend. We traveled from Texas all the way to California, hitting Dallas, Austin, Marfa, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas.
Anna was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in New York City. She studied Photography and Global Studies at Parsons the New School of Design and recently graduated in May 2016. She loves to travel and her dream is to travel and photograph people around the world and share their stories. She hopes to move back to Florence, Italy soon where she studied abroad last year. For more of her work, check out her Instagram and website.
Introduction by Natalia Lehaf
When I first saw Jennifer’s art, I was immediately captivated. I haven’t seen an artist evoke raw human emotions with tiny objects – things – like this ever before. Her work is endlessly beautiful and unique, and her ability to create new worlds in her miniature diorama photography is eerily inviting. The fragments of Jennifer’s work are composed with tactful and resourceful planning, as she prioritizes the time and thought going into her work from the very conception. Once she has an idea, she begins to hand-make accessories or meticulously select the exact item to complete her vision. These concepts laid out on a 1:12 scale speak the stories of her thoughts and experiences. Jennifer is a true storyteller, mirroring the intimate details of her life onto the figures in her projects. It takes courage to reflect, confront, and defeat one’s secrets and fears; it takes heart to turn that process into a calculated formula for artistry.
The following has been edited and condensed from an interview with Jennifer.
I put a lot of my anxieties and longings and nostalgia and darker moods into my work. I fixate on things; if something sets me off it’ll be in the back of my head for a long time.
You see her fear and you always want to know what’s going on.
I grew up in a traditional family and while I never felt any pressure, there was an expectation to grow up, get a job, get married, and have kids.
I decided not to have kids because, aside from never feeling like I was meant to be a mother, I always had this fear of giving birth and having a child in my life. I wanted to use this doll – and the way she always looks scared – as an extension of my decision to not have a baby. You see her fear and want to know what’s going on. I put her in traditional baby environments, but always in an enclosure to portray feeling trapped.
This is a doll I got from the Dollar Store when I was little. It is about an inch-and-a-half tall. All I remember is finding her and putting a dress on her. I don’t remember ever consciously deciding to keep her. I’ve been really intrigued by her because the way she is painted makes her look creepy. I wanted to keep it simple but also play with the color pink to represent the [societal] tradition of always assigning colors to gender, but also to contrast the fear with a lighter color.
I wanted him to be completely emotionless, expressionless; you can ascribe whatever you want to this form.
Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a routine and I’m not always content with that. Not to say that this guy always represents me, but I wanted to represent the idea of being stuck and going through the motions. He’s about an inch-and-a-half tall and made of polymer clay and wire. I wanted him to be completely emotionless, expressionless; you can ascribe whatever you want to this form, but at the same time, he’s completely lost everything about himself. You watch him in a 9 to 5 setting. People spend most of their time at work and then come home and have to decide, “Do I have time to go out, or should I just watch TV, eat, and go to bed?” I wanted to keep it to those very specific tasks.
The longest part in anything I do is the beginning; I think about an idea for forever. I plan out every tiny little detail before I start doing anything. I made the figure in one day and he sat there for a few weeks while I gathered the supplies for his environments. After I had everything I needed, I did one thing at a time. The entire series from concept to finish took about a month or two.
These images were presented as a series, but I did one image at a time over an extended period of time. It’s something I keep coming back to. I grew up in a very conservative Christian family – and I didn’t realize until recently, but a lot of my struggle with that is never feeling like I could fit into it very well. I never felt like I was ever being a Christian because I didn’t understand how to be.
Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out who I am and what I think about certain things, and it’s made me think about the effect my past and the household I grew up in have on me. These feelings have come to the surface a lot, and are things I’ve wanted to explore more.
I have always had this deep fear of Hell – and it’s something that I really needed to sit down and reconcile that I was not going to be afraid of anymore. Even when I decided I wasn’t a Christian anymore, I thought, “Oh, no – this is definitely making me go to Hell.” My process in making this was also my process in deciding not to be afraid of Hell. So, this is a guy approaching an altar full of flames with a demon eating a person at the center, and blurred on the right side is a guy falling off a cliff.
I wanted to keep the tones fire-oriented and warm for hell – the red, yellow, orange – with a black background. I was partly inspired by two medieval courses in college; one was called “The Art of the Apocalypse.” So the way I depicted hell is similar to the way it is depicted in medieval art.
You can see the church as a light in this darkness, or you can see it as “there’s something wrong here – something dark in this supposed light.”
I wanted to pose this church as a mysterious place. Why is it there? Why is it at the bottom of a hill? And then light it at night, spotlighted, so you notice the church but then you have that deep, dark light coming from the entrance. You can see the church as a light in this darkness - when I showed it to my mom, that’s what she automatically saw it as – or you can view it as “there’s something wrong here – something dark in this supposed light.”
I was shopping for another series when I came across this statue with nothing drawn on it. Since my time growing up, I’ve really been intrigued by religious typography. So I wanted to pose this one like an old, religious painting. I painted the figure and used different colors to represent the idea of Mary:
Jesus has the white for purity, and Mary has some of the white on her but I also wanted to show all of the other features with the other colors.
The doll featured was the inspiration for this whole series coming together. I used a doll with very defined feet because I knew I wanted to focus on her feet and I wanted there to be toes. Originally, I was going to call this series “soft focus,” but I decided to go with the feel of everything, which is melancholy. One of my main goals with this was for each image to represent an emotion, and I liked the idea of giving dolls – little figures – that voice for people to relate to them. I project myself in her to an extent – not things I am feeling now, but things that I’ve felt at some point.
I didn’t keep it all in focus because I wanted it to be a motion of everything being swept away, in a dreamlike state. She’s finally found her peace and she’s reveling in it.
I’ve been thinking about the word “dry” for a long time. It’s probably more of a Midwestern thing, but this image shows a time when it’s dry and hot, and even though it hasn’t rained in a while, you’re still sitting on your porch drinking tea or lemonade. I wanted to create an image that embodies the feeling of waiting. I focused on her feet more so you can see the detail of the porch and the expanse before her. You see that she is just sitting there waiting for this change.
The twigs are the focus of this image because they are a reflection of what’s going on inside of her. It looks like a scarf on her, in a suffocating way.
The Chair-O-Plane illustrates my favorite thing to feel – the wind. There is a type of joy when everything is fading away and you are not focused on anything else but the feeling of the wind. I really romanticize this feeling in my mind. I had an idea of this icon and everything being calm for a moment; it’s lit brightly to give a dreamlike reflection.
Jennifer Nichole Wells is an artist out of Jacksonville, FL. She creates small-scale tableaus to be transformed through her camera lens. Her images serve as explorations of loneliness, depression, anxiety, nostalgia, hopelessness, and hope. You can find more of her work on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.
Chelsea Window #1
Windows focus our view onto an image, perhaps different when our line of vision is changed, but a single image nonetheless. Does perspective matter if you’re only being presented with the same glass guarded picture again and again? Yes. Looking down 23rd street here, I focus on a memory. What I see in her is very direct, and almost toy-like. I can tinker with this view. I can focus on the black car, and be sad; focus on the red awning and be mad; or focus on the nothingness surrounding what’s focused. I choose to ignore what is apparent. I take this picture while in a comfortable relationship for 3 years from the 21st floor of the apartment building I live in.
Chelsea Window #2
Windows constrict our views - sometimes onto a grey image where there is no escaping that bleak outlook. It’s hard to see anything but what is right in front of you, and looking away to the black outreaches only seems more hopeless. I’m focused but also trapped. I’m depressed in my apartment on the 21st floor, and Chelsea looks ugly--vicious even. The only option is to remain in this box and hope my perspective changes soon. This window is less of a lens, and more of a cage. I take this picture as a depressed and single 21-year-old, a month away from what would have been 4 years in a relationship.
Chelsea Window #3
Windows magnify our views on the everyday world around us. Chelsea takes me by surprise this afternoon. The monotonous blue skies and humid weight of the skyline are greeted by a purple sunset that caresses the tops of buildings. For the first time in weeks, the window on the 21st floor seems like it’s inviting me to see a bigger picture. There’s freedom and hope in this skyline. She had tricked me earlier—life isn’t the dark box it seemed to be before. There is a reason to look up, and no reason to look down. I take this picture a couple weeks after the last, healing slowly.
Chelsea Window #4
Windows don't matter at all. Our view is strictly what we want to see, no glass can distort or control that. If I want to see something, then that’s where I’ll look. Windows are clear for a reason - so we, as humans, can see whatever we want, at all times. The 21st floor allows me to see everything in The City—in her—but I choose to simplify that view. What matters is the emotion; the shapes I have lost and the colors I have gained. Maybe the window is trying to protect me from what’s on the other side, but I need to feel that visceral pain to grow. And I have felt it. I took this picture at the peak of my relationship, but now looking back, it foreshadowed something both ominous and beautiful that was going to occur. The biggest loss and gain in my life to date.
Chelsea Window 0
You were the best.
I needed your sex.
Focused and lost,
I was in pain
You were out of
Like a sunset,
Only hides the ugly.
You’re so ugly.
This collection of photos was taken over a time period of three weeks, during a vacation in Portugal. Although they span the southern tip and northern shores of the country, they all include meaningful substance to me. From the town my mother was born in, to my absolute favorite place to visit as a child, I can look at these photos and instantly return to a memory created there. I think that is my favorite thing about photography; the ability to capture and share the perfect scenes life brings me to.
Photographs are memories. They are sights. They are smells. They are sounds. They are my time capsules for things I don’t want to forget. With my camera around my neck, I have developed a new way of looking at the world. I have fallen in love with light and the details that most people overlook. I have learned there is beauty everywhere; you just have to find it – a concept that can, and should, be applied to every facet of life.
Stephanie DeSousa is a current graduate student pursuing her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She believes everyone should find three hobbies they love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative. Photography lets her be creative. You can see more of her work on her website.
What does the death of a relationship look like? Nearly everyone has a friend or acquaintance whose relationship suddenly splintered, but did that break feel that sudden to those in the relationship? I met with Sophie Nau to talk about her photographs and the story behind them. Sophie’s photographs document a trip to San Francisco she made recently to visit a boyfriend. Her pleasant pictures of an idyllic city do not initially convey the growing distance between her and her boyfriend. The fragments of text reveal the disconnect that exists between our records of the past, such as photographs, and the reality actually lived. Sophie views this visual storytelling as a way to process this “weird stuff happening in a beautiful place” before she can establish the distance needed to write further. Our conversation led to swapping stories about exes and breakups, and reflecting on how much can be left unsaid between two people – how hard it can be to even talk about your own feelings.
- Thomas Baldwin, editor
Sophie Nau is a writer living in Santa Monica and is currently working in film and TV production. She loves to bake and has been baking since she was four. One future project she hopes to expand upon is a photo series capturing how food and cooking connects communities and family.
Mayda is a classy woman who is gorgeous from the inside out. I was sitting next to her while she was eating breakfast with her daughter and a relative. Mayda was ecstatic when I approached her for a photograph, she told me I asked the right person. She immediately struck a pose and held it patiently as I snapped away. She then asked me if I was Armenian, and I told her I was Jordanian, but she herself was Armenian. Her eyes immediately started to swell up with tears as she explained to me why she was in Los Angeles (regarding family matters). Before parting ways, she pulled out a delicious date-filled, home-made cookie from her purse and wished me a beautiful marriage in the future. - Rachel Hawatmeh
Rachel likes food and taking pictures of people. She lives in LA. Find more photography by Rachel Hawatmeh on her Tumblr.