The Panther Spotlight Series is where we recognize our fellow students who are taking their perspective industries by storm and creating a name for themselves beyond campus. First up is a photography major who takes a more hands-on approach with her photographs to create compelling imagery.
Jessica Vass | @Jessvass
Year & Classification: Sophomore expecting graduation in spring 2019
Hometown: Grew up in McDonough and College Park/ East Point area
How’d you get started in photography? My mom is an artist so I was raised in an environment where I was encouraged to be creative, and art was seen as a real career path. I have always been interested in many forms of art, but it wasn’t until high school that I feel in love with photography. I took a film and darkroom class in high school where we did everything the “old fashioned” way. We shot black and white film, developed the film ourselves, and made prints in a darkroom. I fell in love with the process because I was literally making photographs with my hands. From beginning to end it is a hand on process, which is different than digital photography. I feel a lot more connected to the work when I am exerting this kind of energy into a project.
What is your favorite place to shoot/most unusual place to shoot My favorite place to shoot in the ATL area is Arabia Mountain. Its not too far from where I live in East Atlanta and its not only beautiful but its so unique! I feel like I’m on another planet when I photograph there.
Among your works, which one is your favorite? I am unsure if I have a specific project/ image that is my favorite. As an artist, my style and interests are always changing so I tend to like some images for awhile and get bored of them later. One project that challenged me was a portrait assignment that I decided to do in Marakesh, Morocco. When I arrived I didn’t realize that many people there still believe that if you take a photo of them you are stealing their soul. I don’t take many portraits because I can be quite shy behind the camera. These factors challenged me to step out of my shell and go up to people and ask them if I could photograph them. Photography is great because it allows me to be like a scientist where I am studying people, things, and multiple topics. I made a lot of conclusions about the moroccan culture through my portraits.
How has being at Georgia State University helped your art career? There are a lot of students commuting at GSU, so it’s not a “typical” college experience. My classmates and I all have very separate lives away from school which I love. We are diverse, independent, and most of us are working in the field that we are studying. Teachers are encouraging us to submit our photography to galleries, museums, and competitions. They want us to start building our career while we are in school. Another huge part of my college experience that wouldn’t have been possible without GSU was studying abroad. I went to Florence, Italy for a semester and took art classes at Florence University of the Arts. I was able to use my hope scholarship and grant money toward this adventure. I also received scholarship money from the study abroad office at GSU and received a fellowship with the program I chose.
Do you prefer film photography or digital photography? I prefer film photography mainly because I am more knowledgeable about it. It is fun and adventurous because there is always a risk involved. For example, you may loose hours of work if you mess up the chemicals while developing! I also think more about my images and work when I am shooting film. Because I only have so many exposures in a roll of film, I am more thoughtful when looking through the lens as opposed to digital where I can unconsciously take 100 images in a few minutes.
What’s your favorite place to travel? My first thought is Italy, because I stereotypically fell in love with the city where I study abroad. I love Europe in general, maybe its because I have family from England.
Who has most influenced your work? This may sound like a “cheesy” answer to some, but I have had the most influence in my work. Making art is much more meaningful when it is personal. When I have a connection to the topic I am more invested which leads to more powerful results. My childhood experiences and family are both very influential in the subjects I photograph. Sometimes it is hard to not let teachers, peers, and an audience influence art work. In reality, they do have an influence to some degree; however, I think its important to alway photograph what I want to photograph, not what I think my teacher wants to see or what my Instagram followers will “like.”
Checkout more from Jessica: http://www.jessvass.com/new-york/