The Tell – Self Portrait – © Jaeda DeWalt
01. Do you consider yourself more of a photographer or digital artist?
Both . . .I consider myself a photographic/digital artist. I started out doing traditional photography and then my father gave me a digital camera and introduced me to the wonders of Adobe Photoshop. I then fused digital and traditional together. Eventually the digital camera and darkroom came to be my preferred way to create images. . I don’t use 2 or 3-d rendering programs, vector graphics or a graphics tablet – just a standard mouse. My techniques are more about using, images i photograph with a digital camera and layering and/or modifying them. There is a lot of refining, alternating, blending and manipulating involved in many of my more surreal and conceptual artography.
02. Most of your work revolves around self-portraits. Why is that?
I originally did self-portraits because of the content of my book, “Haunting Hands”. I felt it necessary and appropriate. After that, it became a matter of convenience as I was always available for a shoot and there were no limits or boundaries when using myself as a model. Everything I wished to express felt personal and intimate. I wasn’t sure how I would use someone else to express my vision. As time went on, I developed a desire to fold others into my photography. However, I discovered that I still needed to be the main focus of my images. Or I would inevitably pick a model who photographed like another version of me. I also cherish my privacy and solitude. It is difficult for me to open up my little universe and invite someone else into my creative process without it feeling intrusive or overwhelming. Even though photographing other people has always proved to be a richly rewarding experience for me. The struggle has always been getting to the point where I commit to doing a shoot with someone, as part of me always wants to back out and cancel. Most of the models I have photographed have been friends, the shoots unplanned and spontaneous. The other models were people persistent about working with me. They nudged me enough to make the shoot happen.
03. Much of your work tends to be very stark or surreal. Why do you think this appeals to you?
I feel like a wanderer between worlds most of the time. One foot barely in reality and the other foot placed firmly in the land of dreams and nightmares. I think the starker more surreal aspects of my work appeal to me because these images mirror the way I experience my world. It is kind of stark, isolated, dreamlike and marked with intense highs and lows. The images feel like the ethereal world, in which I, choose to live.
04. When you start an image, do you have an end-result in mind, or does it evolve as you work?
There are times that I have an end result in mind. My ideas are planned out, well-crafted and defined. Other times the idea pops into my head and I will do a spontaneous photo-shoot and see what develops. Either way, the end result never matches my original imagery or vision, but it makes for a wonderful starting point.
05. How do you know when something is done?
When in the processing stage of an image it is a feeling I am chasing after. When I look at an image and it “feels right” I know I am done.
06. Where do your ideas come from? Do you ever suffer from a creative block? What do you do to keep yourself creatively charged?
Inspiration comes from tapping into a source greater than myself . . . the universal thread . . . the collective consciousness . . . Spirit . . . God . . . LOVE – whatever you prefer to identify it as. It is the of opening/expanding . . . receiving of creative energy, surrendering to it, embracing it, channeling it, processing, expressing and outputting it through my unique personality and soul imprint.
I never suffer from a creative block because images, creative connections, words, and poems are spinning in my fast, hyper-active mind, 24/7. I do suffer from periods of depression, angst or high anxiety, at these times I lose my drive to create and will experience a block of inactivity. I don’t do anything to keep myself creatively charged but I have observed that when I allow other people into my world, it becomes more high-stimulus and I, in-turn, more productive.
07. Many of your images appear within the context of a series,what is it about the series that appeals to you?
I find that doing my individual images in the context of a series allows for a broader emotional canvas. I can let an idea, thought or feelings evolve, progress and move through me and in turn my images. I like the sense of completion I receive when taking a series from conception to birth.
08. Are you trying to convey a specific emotion with your work?
Most of the time i am just chasing after an image in my head and it is only in hindsight that i reflect upon the meaning/emotion. Recently, i have become more interested in making a conscious choice in choosing what message i wish to convey and what kind of feelings i want to bring to the surface. I have recently become more purpose orientated with my work. I want my images to do more than entertain the imagination. I am now at a place in my life where i desire to create art for purposes of inspiration, healing and connection.
09. What do you find the most rewarding about what you do?
I find sharing and connection to be the most rewarding aspects of what I do. My art is my link to the outside world. Sharing it feels like an intimate experience for me. I like the idea that something I created from a personal place can be a vehicle for allowing pain, joy, sensuality and creativity to surface and be experienced by others. I also like how sharing my work puts me in touch with other artists. It gives me a chance to experience new perspectives and different types of creative energy.
10. What is the role of the erotica in your work?
When it comes to erotica, I put the emphasis on sensuality. I like to take the sensuality to the edge of what would be considered erotic but not quite go over that edge, perhaps just blur the line a bit. I like pushing boundaries without quite crossing them. I feel that the most erotic feeling to be experienced is that of anticipation. For me the image of two people just about to kiss, lips so close but not quite touching, faces tilted, eyes closed – is more tantalizing than an image of two people already engaged in a kiss. The suggestion of . . . is very stirring for me as opposed to portraying/photographing some act that is sexually explicit.
11. I’m curious about your technique, can you tell me about your process for creating an image?
In the way of studio photography my technique for creating an image is a lack thereof. I do a lot of experimenting. I’m not one to document, craft or develop various techniques, it feels too tedious. How I create an image depends on my mood and materials at hand. When I first started out, I was using house lamps positioned very close to me – it was all I had at the time and I was using my sheets, comforters and table cloths for backdrops. Then I acquired one halogen lamp, purchased some backdrop materials from a fabric store and began experimenting with B/W 400 CN film. Eventually I got some halogen work lights, constructed a simple home studio and mostly shot with a digital camera. I like to keep things as simple as possible it makes the creative process feel more enjoyable for me if I am not tied up in technical aspects. I find those things tend to work themselves out. And in the way of the digital dark room . . . i do, do a lot of finishing work in Adobe Photoshop.
12. What would you identify as some of the key milestones in your evolution as an artist?
The influences of others have manifested as key milestones in my evolution as an artist, including; models I’ve worked with, along with friends, love relationships and fellow creatives. Each person offered me new ways to approach my photography. They provided me with a link me to the outside world and gave me different ways to look at and live my life. Another milestone was almost four years ago when I took time off from relationships’ and went into seclusion for several years. During that time I started taking good care of myself emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I opted for a natural, holistic approach to my overall health. I became a vegetarian, then a vegan and embraced the benefits of yoga and meditation practices. I gradually worked through my destructive behaviors and the reasons behind them. This changed the creative process for me. I let go of the belief that I needed to create from a place of dysfunction, darkness and despair.
13. How did you become a photographer?
Quite by accident . . . . in my early twenties I had dreams of being a writer, perhaps a great novelist dreamy sigh. Around that time I started putting together the book, “Haunting Hands”. Initially intended to be a collection of poems I had written about surviving incest. I decided it would feel more personal if I created the cover for the book myself. I purchased a camera and turned my living room into a makeshift studio. I did a series of self-portraits and then another and another. The process of creating and putting myself in front of the camera was cathartic, liberating and healing. The photographic medium opened up a whole new world for me and ignited a kind of passion within that I didn’t even know I was capable of experiencing. My book transformed into a photographic essay and that started me down the path to becoming a photographic artist.
14. I see that you have a book out now. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Yes, I am very excited about it! J A E D A – shades of the soul was published in December 2008. Through my poetry and artography i bare my body and unravel my soul. It is comprised entirely of my self-portraits and in it, i share my spirituality, sexuality, pain and triumphs.
15. From your web-site, it is clear that you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. How has this influenced your work?
What does it feel like for this to be public knowledge? My earlier work greatly consisted of survivor-related photography. It is a recurring theme for me. Yet as I progress, heal and evolve my work has started to reflect other aspects and themes. Having it public knowledge has been an empowering experience. It took away the negative power incest used to have over me. Negative power such as keeping secrets, keeping silent, unsuccessfully trying to repress and bury my feelings. I no longer felt isolated or alone in my experience. I was able to let go of the shame. It gave me a chance to turn my pain into something productive instead of destructive.
16. So, would you say that, to some degree, your work is therapeutic?
Yes, my work provides me with a safe way/place to express and store my pain. The process of creating is cathartic in and of itself. Once my feelings and experiences are expressed through images or words . . . I feel this tremendous sense of relief as i release my feelings out into our loving universe. Then our universe is able to shoulder some of my pain, which in turn, helps pave the path to healing.
17. Do you see a relationship between emotional pain and your creativity? What about love, when you are in love how does that impact your work?
Yes, for the most part, pain has been the prod when it comes to my creativity. In my earlier works I created from a place of destruction and dysfunction. It has only been within the last couple of years that I have been able to create from a place of peace, balance and awareness. When I am in love, my creativity goes into overdrive, most noticeably when in the initial stages of infatuation. I am in a blissfully altered state, feeling euphoric as my emotions and senses heighten – combined with a pace that is frenetic.
18. Can you tell me a bit about your book, “Haunting Hands”?
I published a small run of, “Haunting Hands” back in 1996. I was in my mid-twenties and at that time, i felt a desperate need to process what happened to me in some tangible form, such as poetry. Then came the need to get this story to others and raise awareness to childhood sexual abuse/incest, from an adult survivor perspective. I also wanted to feel connection to other survivors.
The book is visceral, raw and dark. It mostly expresses what it felt like to be victimized and to try and live day in and out with the pain attached to being victimized and the destructive ways in which I tried to numb or manage that pain – as an adult. I created more survivors related photographic art and poetry after publishing that book. In hindsight, the book feels incomplete to me.
19. What would you like to say to your viewers and readers of your artwork?
I would like to let my viewers know that i feel blessed to serve them with my passion. And I hope my art serves them emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I want to reach into their hearts, invite deep emotions to surface and inspire them. My art is about being one of the connecting factors in the universal thread we share.
Purpose + Passion = BLISS :)
20. How do you like living in Seattle, Washington?
I love living in Seattle, it is the perfect city for me. I love the melancholy lullaby of the rain and the overcast skies.
30 Random – an odd assortment of personal revelations
Coming to life, my first video…B/W Emotions
Absentia & Speak
Extracting the magic from the tragedy . . .
My new book is here! JAEDA shades of the soul – PREVIEW
How the Bride of Innocence was conceived . . .
Manic Reflections & Bi-Polarities
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