Photographer Jack Spencer Says Follow Your Own Muse

PHOTOGRAPHERS. ARTISTS. On my Great Output blog, I published a post about a remarkable photographer, Jack Spencer, who will have a solo exhibition at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina throughout the month of March. Entitled “This Land,” the exhibition will feature precisely crafted archival pigment prints of landscapes that Spencer shot while traveling some of the back roads throughout the U.S. and Canada.  

Spencer, who resides in Nashville, TN, is a self-taught photographer whose work is included in many collections, including The Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Berkeley Museum of Art, and Elton John’s photography collection.

He regards printing as an integral part of his art, and says he “rarely allows the camera to dictate the final expression. For many works, the camera simply provides information and a starting point.”

Jack Spencer Photograph of Woodland Path, Cumberland 22
Cumberland 22, 20 x 24-in. Archival Pigment Print. ©Jack Spencer, www.jackspencer.com

I wasn’t the first writer to ask him what advice he would give to other photographers and artists who may be just starting out. He told me that his own career has taken a circuitous route that has been the result of many trials and errors “that have been fascinating in and of themselves. My mistakes gave me their own rewards…my successes gave me theirs.”

So, he advises photographers and artists to “Follow your own muse. Find your own distinct voice. And don’t ask anyone’s permission to be an artist.”

“Art involves honest expression. It should be something you do—not to make money or gain fame or notoriety or attention,” says Spencer. “Too many people construct obstacles to the ‘flow’ by second guessing what others will think or whether or not it will be successful or whether or not it is weird enough to set itself apart.” He believes that type of thinking has nothing to do with art.

He advises photographers to “Look for images that ‘shimmer’—not just on the print, but through the viewfinder as well. If an artwork shimmers, it has soul.”

Jack Spencer photograph of Two Wild Horses
Two Wild Horses, Cumberland Island, 22, 20 x 24-in. Archival Pigment Print. ©Jack Spencer, www.jackspencer.com

On his website, he explains why he believes artists should be infinitely curious and not be afraid to risk trying something new: “Playing it safe is for brain surgeons, not artists. Fear inhibits curiosity and creativity.”

When you visit his site, you’ll see a rich and wonderfully varied body of work.

“I do not believe that as an artist, I should repeat myself,” Spencer says.”I don’t think a writer should write the same novel over and over, or a musician should write the same song over and over. ..Our world is so vast and there is so much to explore.”

To see more of Jack Spencer’s beautiful work, visit: www.jackspencer.com

To learn more about the Rebekah Jacob Gallery and its in-depth focus on modern art and photography of the American South, visit www.rebekahjacobgallery.com

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