Creative Adventurers: Jennifer Lynn Morse

Creative adventurers are artists and makers who do more than sit in the studio. In this monthly feature, I’ll introduce you to an inspiring person who pushes beyond the bounds of the label “artist” or “adventurer.”

Photography is a pretty ubiquitous art form these days. Everyone has a camera and everyone takes pictures. But in an age of millions of digital snaps, Jennifer Lynn Morse takes a different approach. She creates timeless works on film, often using techniques first invented and perfected during the early years of photography.

jennifer lynn morse behind the camera

Jenn has an interesting aesthetic and I love the way she mixes modernity and the past to create powerful images. We have collaborated on many art projects. She is one of the people I miss the most back in New York, so it’s probably no surprise that we have continued talking via email. Here’s one of our recent chats about her work.

(That first image is by me. All the others are from Jenn. )


S: When did you start taking photos?

J: Fairly early on, growing up on the cusp of and in the 21st century  I had the privilege of having access to automatic cameras from a very young age. The earliest I can remember taking photographs is when I was about 5 years old with my parents “old” plastic 35mm camera.  I used this camera (or one similar) until I was about 12.  I took pictures of the things I loved: my beanie babies, my sea shell collection, my “home grown” crystals, figurines, insects, and then of course of I photographed the people I loved: my parents, brother, friends and cousins.

jennifer lynn morse

I found these images a few years back and was shocked to see distinct threads in my style of seeing and framing.  While I was photographing at a young age, I, of course, never viewed this as making art; it was just something I felt compelled to do. They were things I felt compelled to preserve.  Making art was taught to me as painting, drawing and ceramics…mediums I was pushed to take more seriously as a child, teenager and even as a college student.

jennifer lynn morse

S: I know from experience, taking photos with you often begins with a trip, even if that trip is just around the corner to a new place you had not yet visited. Did your work always involve an element of travel and adventure or has that evolved over time?

J: Well from when I was young I don’t think I photographed outside the front door, and though now I do travel with my camera, in principal I don’t think a whole lot has changed.

I work with my limitations; for me this is a core element to discovery and art making. Otherwise, man, the world is way too big! I’m not sure I could ever decide what I wanted to focus on. It helps to have part of that decision made, then it’s just all about follow through.

jennifer lynn morse

If one were to look at some of my newer work, the words “travel or adventure” may not come to mind, the images are quiet, still, intimate… they reflect on a space between a sense of home and being lost in a dream. But as some of my friends and models know, we certainly do go on adventures for some of these shoots. But general they are not exotic or perfect locations, they are what is available, and in the Hudson Valley of New York (where most of the images are made) the locations can be both lush and understated.

jennifer lynn morse

Nevertheless it’s true that I do travel and I will bring my field camera along.  So the geographically locations can range, but I think the images emit an “other” sense of location, this I search for in new locations but  ultimately has to do with me creating it. I have to say though I am just as happy photographing in my home as when I am adventuring around.

jennifer lynn morse

jennifer lynn morse

S: Yes defining “adventure” is often an interesting task. So often what springs to mind is clinging to a rock face or jumping into a waterfall or some other kind of exciting experience outside our daily norm. But really, what is adventure? I’ve often heard my friends who are young parents admit they were envious of the traveling I’ve done, but really, becoming a parent is just as adventurous as climbing a mountain, if not more so. Adventure is more about challenge I think, which goes hand in hand with working in between limitations.

I actually found it very hard to photograph in Norway because the scenery was just too grand. How many breathtaking shots of fjords can you take before they are no longer interesting? I ended up being more interested in photographing the tourists experiencing this magnificent scenery through their own tiny, digital frames instead of with their own eye.
A lot of your work seems to stem from a reference in the past – whether that is art history or your own family history. What do you find inspiring about the past? Why is history important?
J: For me looking and studying the past and art history is immensely important to how I see the world today. It started with a fascination with my own genealogy/family history and being impressed by the stories that unfolded one after another, that came from a simple curiosity and a few questions. I think it is a very human thing to want to feel connected our lineage and to want to leave behind a legacy of some sort.  Really, in the end, that’s all we and our families are: a string of stories which are able to be re-told in the present moment, sometimes distorted but usually with good intentions. These stories are often oral but more often they are photographic.
jennifer lynn morse

But my work is not really about the past, it’s about a time that can’t be defined, a time that often can be seen as mimicking the past, but if you look closely there are plenty of hints that tell you its not. The point for me in referencing the past is to create a feeling that is universal, while not overtly being stuck in any particular point in history.  This ambiguity allows us to get past the surfaces to be able to look at our human selves.

jennifer lynn morse

Find more of Jenn’s work and prints for sale at her new website.