Friday, October 19, 2007

Jennifer Matthews: A photography exhibition with heart by Pam Rosenblatt

***Jennifer Matthews' "Heart Moon" was snapped at 2 a.m. in Denali, Alaska.
The heart shape was formed because Matthews did not use a tripod.

Birds, flowers, roots, clouds with rays of light showing through them, and a moon shaped like a heart. These are just some of the subjects in several of the Jennifer Matthew photographs that were on display in Sound Bites, 704 Broadway, Ball Square from October 3 – 17.

“It’s at Sound Bites Restaurant because it’s a really famous restaurant for artists and musicians and writers. And they all come here. And so it’s an honor to be hanging my photographs here,” Matthews said.

Originally from Freehold, New Jersey, Matthews has been a Somerville resident for 10 years. A well-respected songwriter and musician, she has developed her eight year interest in creative photography into her first exhibition taking place at Sound Bites.

All Matthews’ photographs at the show were taken while on tour in Alaska. “Creatively, I love the atmosphere in Alaska. But the nature is unbelievable. It’s so beautiful. The rivers and the mountains are so beautiful that I’m really inspired there -- as an artist and as a musician and as a photographer. It’s a haven for creative artists,” she said.

She usually spends three weeks every summer in Alaska with her manager, Rose Gardenia, and plans on increasing her stay to four months this coming summer when she will first drive from Boston across the United States, traveling to and playing gigs in Texas and California and then going on to Oregon and Washington and finally ending up in Alaska. Besides having shows in the United States, she has toured as a musician in Japan, Korea, England, Scotland, and throughout Europe, she said.

Matthews got involved with photography because she loves to travel, and she realized eight years ago photography was a passion of hers. “And as a writer – I’m also a writer and a poet – when I travel I get inspiration out there. And I found as I travel, every time I have a camera I always photograph,” she said. “I realized, when I would look through the lens and I would be taking pictures, I just felt this creative energy behind the camera. And so I’ve been taking creative pictures for about eight years.”

Many people have looked at Matthews’ photographs and suggested she have a show with the intent to sell them. She had never put any of her photos up for sale until she hung some up for this premier exhibition at Sound Bites. “I always used to give them away, but now I’m going to start selling them,” Matthews said.

Matthews is really excited about having her work at Sound Bites. “Because it’s an artistic voice,” she said. ‘And also I told Yasser Mirza , the owner here, that I have these wonderful photographs of Alaska. And this is an Alaska show. It’s all Alaska. And he said, ‘Bring’em in and hang them up and we’ll do a show.”

She doesn’t put her photography into one category. “Actually, it depends on the day, where I’m photographing. I just did a whole spread on Glouchester and that was more artistic things. I spent a lot of time photographing a fountain as the water came out of the fountain capturing the water coming out and then the way it would ripple in the water. So it depends on the day,” she said.

In general, Matthews photographs sculptures, nature, art, street scenes, black and white, and things capturing her attention. In the show, she has a few pictures with flowers, photos which she hopes portray how much magic there is in nature. “Every photographer has a different eye…I like to photograph people too but I like to photograph them in a more natural environment where you’re capturing them in these special moments that they don’t realize that they’re in the camera,” she said.
Having a writing background seems to influence the way she takes pictures. “I think I photograph like a writer, in a more poetic way, so to speak,” Matthews said.

The cameras Matthews uses meets her purposes. In fact, she takes photos with only two cameras – a manual old Canon for most black and white shots and a high end Kodak digital. She is totally self-educated in photography. “Even with my manual camera, I would just take photograph after photograph until I learned the camera creatively on my own. Even with songwriting, I taught myself how to play guitar and I work better when I teach myself. I’m still learning every day,” she said.

For additional equipment, she often uses a tripod. But once, when she had just finished a gig in Homer, Alaska, she was on the road in a vehicle with Gardenia and had forgotten her tripod. It was 2 a.m. and summertime which meant it was light outside. “So what happened is we left the gig and were on the road and I looked and said, ‘Oh, my God, that moon is incredible.’ I got out and it was setting.

Actually, the moon was setting over the mountain. It was 2 a.m. and the moon usually comes up for three hours and then it sets. So it was setting over the mountain,” she said.

“So I got out and I didn’t have a tripod. I started shooting it. And because I didn’t have a tripod, the camera moves a little bit when you snap the picture. I snapped it and I looked at the screen and it was a picture of a perfect heart,” she said. This picture of the moon as a “perfect” heart is on display at Sound Bites.
Also on exhibition at Sound Bites is a photograph of a solitary, upright bald eagle with his head bowing down towards the ground, not flying and proud as usually depicted in photos. “I sat with him for a while,” said Matthews. “He was on a ledge over a building. And I got about six foot shots of him. And he was sitting up there and he was looking around and he was like pluming himself. He was sticking his beck into his feathers and then he was fluffing them out.” Matthews’ photo has captured the eagle to look almost human and vulnerable.

Unlike many modern day photographers, Matthews is exhibiting photos all in their original state. “Some people put their photographs into Photoshop and they manipulate it and they add colors and all that. I didn’t do any of that. All these shots were 100% natural as they were taken,” she said.

Matthews will have another photography show at 1369 Coffee House in Inman Square, Cambridge, in the spring of 2008, in affiliation with Out of the Blue Art Gallery, Central Square, Cambridge. And she hopes to have more exhibitions in the future.
Matthews has published photos in the past including in her poetry book, Fairy Tales and Misdemeanors, (Ibbetson Street Press, 2003) and, more recently, on the front and back cover of Ibbetson Street 21.

Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe are two photographers whose work Matthews admires.
If anyone wants to learn more about Matthews’ photographs, please log onto .

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