Woman Crush Wednesday: Jade Doskow
Jade Doskow is an architectural and landscape photographer based in New York. She holds a BA from New York University, an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, and is on the photography faculty of the School of Visual arts and International Center of Photography. Her Lost Utopias series focuses on the architecture from past World’s Fairs sites that once inspired and redefined the possibilities of the future. Depending on the site, the architecture is now used as a tourist attraction or is overtaken by nature. As of recently, Jade is represented by Tracey Morgan Gallery. You can view more of her work here.
Interview by Hallie Neely
It appears the majority of the sites you’ve photographed are still standing, although obviously not always in the best condition. Can you speak a little about your photograph of the site of Manufacture Liberal Arts Building, Grand Peristyle, & Agricultural Building from “The Columbian Exposition,” Chicago 1893 World’s Fair? This image seems much more enigmatic than the others.
This was an early experiment in the project, and a great example of my work process. Every shoot I bring with me original fair maps, and in physical space trace out where fair structures once stood in the now-contemporary cityscape. Typically there are at least two or more street names that are the same as the year of the fair, allowing me to align where things once existed even if everything structurally is gone. The 1893 World’s Fair captured my imagination on many levels, and certainly was the most iconic in American history. Paradoxically, most of the original fair architecture was lost to arson before the decision could be made whether or not to make some of the buildings out of more permanent materials. The Manufacture Liberal Arts Building was enormous in scale and elaborately decorated with sculptural reliefs. When I retraced where this huge building once stood, I found nothing; a nondescript embankment by Lake Michigan with a few streetlights and a parking lot and some scrubby bushes. During the day, it was hideous. So I thought, why don’t I come out here at night and do some long exposures, see what happens, if I can somehow convey grandeur through absence. It was a cold, foggy night. Ultimately I got the film back and the negatives were incredible, unearthly. The image you see here was about a 25-minute exposure. It was one of those magical moments when the elements align and something extraordinary happens. This photograph also serves as an interesting testament to the disconnect between what has happened before we arrive on a bit of land and our psychogeographic experience of it, our knowledge of that site-specific history.
You’ve come a long way since your earlier work, although you’ve clearly always been interested in architecture- at least for the last 10+ years. Do you think you’ll begin a new project of interiors like No Rio again? Or have you become too obsessed with exteriors?
Architecture shapes our lives in ways both peripheral and straightforward, and through my work I aim to explore that gap, whether interior or exterior. I love shooting interiors. As I am shooting large-format film and opt not to bring in lighting, the exposures are usually very very long. Each of the No Rio pictures was a minimum of a 2-minute (usually more like 5-minute) exposure. Long exposures create a time-space that is out of the current flow of time passing, a kind of hyperreal state of existence through the eye of the camera. Intimate spaces packed with details, textures, light filtering through blinds, these create an uneasy psychological charge that I find fascinating.
No Rio was a project that was born out of personal relationships and love for that place as well as the need to document the interiors before the building was demolished and rebuilt (which is happening as we speak). Typically a personal connection has to be there for me to get really involved in a project. So yes, I aim to always shoot both, just waiting for the next interior-inspiration to come my way! I recently moved out of NYC so have been playing around with the way light travels through my new home.
Your photographs are incredibly intriguing. Each image provokes a ton of questions, and brings to light the history of architecture and its future. Are there any sites that have stood out to you more than others- positively and/or negatively?
The most exciting sites to photograph are the ones that do not tell an easy story: some examples would be 1964 New York and 1968 San Antonio. These sites are constantly transforming, providing me with the opportunity to constantly re-examine how these sites are being thought about within the current trends of shared public space and smart repurposing of architecture. The 1964 site has been treated in a multitude of ways: the 1939 New York State pavilion is now the Queens Museum of Art, and has been beautifully renovated in recent years. Just 50 yards away is the 1964 New York State Pavilion, designed by Philip Johnson. This structure is a real metaphor for the entire Lost Utopias project: created by a famous architect, bizarre in scale and design, semi-abandoned, situated on a large park in a major city, and with no funds to properly restore (or demolish) it. In recent years volunteers have repainted sections of the pavilion in the garish bright red and yellow that Johnson originally envisioned. However, in light of the fact that the Pavilion is in poor condition, there is a visual disconnect between the condition of the structure and this bright, candy-hued paint job. And then just 50 yards from that is the Unisphere, the icon of 1964, which has been completely renovated. There are wildly different treatments to various parts of the site. San Antonio has been grappling with how to treat the 1968 site for some time now; in fact, I am currently in conversation with AiA San Antonio about how to illuminate this discussion through the Lost Utopias photographs. While I was there shooting in 2013, they were demolishing buildings left over from the 1968 Expo. Today new master plans are being discussed and it is a lively conversation on how to make this site relevant and vital to the city. I am really looking forward to working with the city to both continue making pictures and contextualizing the 1968 site within the whole project.
After each year’s World’s Fair is over, most of what is built kind of just falls into the landscape and becomes another mark that man has made. What are your thoughts on these structures having a one-time use? Does it bother you that they take up the space, or do you enjoy the clash they make with the nature surrounding it?
I am a huge fan of clashing—-you took a word I often think and use!—- and feel the nature of photography is a clashing of time and space. There is a metaphysical quality to this medium that cannot be simulated in any other. People often immediately respond to the ‘clashing’ aspect of my pictures; a Pizza Hut in front of the 1958 Atomium, the overgrowth of plants around the 1904 Flight Cage, the Sunsphere shining dully over an office park. Whenever making my work, I try to illustrate as many layers as possible through the pictures, of design, of development and transformation and repurposing, of nature’s abundance engulfing the sites. Every piece of architecture on the planet, really, is created for a specific answer to that year/ place/ budget and we can never know how it will function in the future, really. In the entire scheme of things, what really is permanent?
This truly is a life-long project. Were you prepared for the years of dedication you were getting yourself into when you began? How many years do you think you’ll want to wait before you photograph the 21st century fairs’ sites?
My general rule of thumb is to wait 5-10 years until the site has really started to transform into something else. Recently I attended my first actual live fair, 2015 in Milan, and it was incredible to see the myriad design planning that went into it, and it was killing me to not make work. But I have to wait and see what rises up out of the ashes, so to speak. I anticipate finally photographing the 2010 site in Shanghai next year.
I do not like to leave things half-finished, so upon starting the project, I really thought okay, 2 years North America, 1 year Europe, 1 year Asia, a few months Australia—-done! Cross it off the list. Well, not quite. Logistically each shoot takes a ton of research and preparation, not to mention fundraising frequently to make it happen. This all takes time. Add to that the unforeseen obstacles which often lead to reshoots—-more time! (For example, when I first photographed in Montréal in 2012, an entire island that I needed to shoot was closed down for a Nascar event. In 2015 I returned and was able to access those last few pavilion buildings.) Mentally it is not easy. After ten years of shooting, finally this year, partially in thanks to the beautiful book published by Black Dog this year, the work is really getting out there in terms of exhibition and print. But along this journey, it has been a struggle, as people always want to hear about a new project, what’s the new project? what else? And this topic is so meaty, so vast, that, as you correctly described, it is indeed a lifelong work—-a lifelong investigation into how we shape our cities, how architecture functions, and how we choose to preserve or discard specific pieces of art and architecture. When I think of the artists I most admire, they often delve deep into a singular idea that opens up into much, much more, such as Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs of architecture and the sea, Gordon Matta Clark’s building cuttings/ films/ pictures. Ultimately photography is a bit of a time-machine, and these sites are a bit of a time-machine, so bringing together this medium with this subject makes for infinite variation and introspection, and infinite ways to approach these ideas through, simply, my camera lens.
How would you describe your creative process in one word?
If you could teach a one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
We would sit on a corner and watch light pass.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Mary Wood's Beyond the Architect's Eye
What is the most played song in your music library?
Two, Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13" (A very scratchy Horowitz recording) and My Morning Jacket "Golden"
How do you take your coffee?