Woman Crush Wednesday: Janna Ireland
Written and photographed by Janna Ireland
Interviewed by Xinxin Zhang
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2011, I began making photographs at my husband’s grandfather’s house in the San Fernando Valley. Once home to seven people, the large house is now inhabited by my husband’s grandfather alone. The ball machine on the tennis court is overrun with crickets. The pool is faithfully cleaned, but rarely receives swimmers. Many rooms have gone unchanged in the years since my husband’s grandmother died. Particularly intriguing to me is a suite of four now-unused rooms at the front of the house all done up in shades of pink, still and well-dusted as period rooms in a museum. Filled with opulent furniture, silk flowers, and delicate figurines of porcelain and glass, they seem to me deliberately feminine rooms, designed for entertaining, not living. I made more photographs in that part of the house than any other.
I work best with privacy and a lot of time, and I often photograph myself. The house in the Valley provided an incredible opportunity to dig into the themes that are central to my work—domesticity, isolation, black identity, and the performance of femininity—in an unfamiliar way. In much of my older work, I explored my own experiences and internal life through photographs; in The Spotless Mirror, I am playing a character, and her life has little to do with my own. It is a fantasy, born of a fascination with representations of wealth.
Woman Crush Questionnaire:
1. What is your motivation to make your genre of photographic art?
I hope to make work that allows people who look like me to see their own humanity reflected back to them.
2. How does your cultural background influence your art?
As a young artist, it was so important to me to see work by black artists that dealt with the complexity of black life, especially photographs, and especially those made by women. I want to make the kind of work younger me needed to see to feel that I had a place in the world.
3. What is the most difficult thing you have experienced making photos?
I always seem to be short on money or time. The most difficult thing I have experienced--and am currently experiencing--is desperately wanting to make work and not having the resources I need.
Artist Lifestyle Questionnaire:
1. How would you describe your creative process in one word?
2. If you would teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
3. What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
I really loved the Suspiria remake. It was shot so beautifully. My husband is going to laugh at me for saying that; I've spent years insisting that I don't like horror movies, but we recently figured out that I love them.
4. What is the most played song in your iTunes Library?
I have two toddlers. My most played songs are from the Daniel Tiger soundtrack. When I can get away with listening to my own music, I play Patti Smith's "Revenge" a lot.
5. How do you take your coffee?
With cream, no sugar.