As you may have seen on Instagram, the Denver Art Museum held a Curator’s Choice: #DispatchPortrait contest in conjunction with the opening of the photography exhibition Alec Soth: Colorado Dispatch (on view through November 29). We received numerous stunning and moving contest entries and after some deliberation photography curatorial assistant Micah Messenheimer landed on a winner...congratulations @wildbluebug, more formally known as Jodi Jahrling!
Here is Micah’s explanation of how he chose Jodi’s portrait (above): “While @wildbluebug’s photograph is stylistically very different than Alec Soth’s work, by interacting with her subject, the photographer is able to create a situation where the woman relaxes into the picture. She’s aware of being photographed, but doesn’t seem concerned with projecting an ideal image for the camera. The inclusion of a woman’s environment—what looks to be a used furniture store—gives some additional clues to the viewer that helps us piece together the story of the photograph. The text provides a parallel narrative that also directs our eye to some of the details of the photograph like the yellow nail polish that might have gone unnoticed at first glance.”
Elle Welch: Tell us more about yourself and your background as a photographer.
Jodi Jahrling: I turned pro in 2007 with my own business, specializing in family portraits. At that time I was wildbluebug.com, but it no longer exists, a name created while I was a military spouse living in Baltimore, MD. Divorce, moves, new marriage, and job changes have since turned me into Director of Operations for Mobloggy®, a digital marketing agency near Vail. The photography has evolved to accommodate the business, where I mostly do headshots for LinkedIn profiles and product photography for websites and brochures. My favorite subjects remain people, but I love photographing food and pets. I belong to NOCO Pro Photo, a photography MeetUp.com group out of Fort Collins, that also gets me out to exercise the photography muscle. I am most proud of producing a “Minturn Mutts” calendar as a fundraiser for a community nonprofit. I held an open call for local dogs, gave everyone who came a free 4x6 print, then had private sessions for 12 selected months/dogs that highlighted local landmarks, ending in a big party to sell calendars and reveal the cover dog. I was able to help raise several thousand dollars for the community.
EW: What made you decide to enter into the #DispatchPortrait contest?
JJ: Funny enough I’ve never entered a photo contest before, but Alec Soth’s image caught my attention, so I read further. I closely follow Humans of New York and was intrigued and inspired to create my own version when this “style” was also mentioned in the contest post.
EW: Describe the relationship between the photo and the caption.
JJ: I come across interesting people all the time who seem to be comfortable opening up to me. As humans, it's our responsibility to help if we can. In this case, she needed someone to listen and I did.
We all have the need to feel attractive, even if it’s not for anyone else but you. But, we often let others’ drama get in the way of taking care of ourselves. The photo reminds me to free myself of chaos and clutter so I can focus on showing my own beauty, inner and outer.
EW: What do you like most about Alec Soth’s work?
JJ: Vulnerability. There is awkwardness in the people and places he captures. They feel unaltered, unfiltered, and open to showing their authentic self. I’m also a sucker for the moodiness of black and white. The stories add color.
I viewed the exhibit August 1. It’s beautiful. I especially like the iPad videos of Alec explaining his vision. Seeing the videos first gave me additional insight into the photographs.
A big thank you to everyone who entered in the contest. Keep your eye out for more opportunities like this to come from the #DenverArtMuseum!