Biography: Jackie has been a photographer for over 30 years and lives in Queenstown, New Zealand. She has been awarded Master Photographer status multiple times in New Zealand and Australia for her unique black-and-white aerial imagery, and is the only person to have won both the Australian and New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year and Landscape Photographer of the Year awards.
Along with her partner Mike Langford, Jackie is co-director of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography in New Zealand. Both are award-winning, internationally recognised photographic lecturers and judges. Jackie now specialises in teaching photography and fine art printing.
In recognition of her experience, ability and past awards, Jackie has also lectured in photography for 10 years and has hosted workshops for professional photographers. She has also judged various photographic competitions for the past five years.
EPSON/NZIPP Photographer of the Year (2008), NZIPP Landscape Photographer of the Year (2008), NSW AIPP Landscape Photographer of the Year (2007) and NSW AIPP Professional Photographer of the Year (2007).
What matters to me most is being out there exploring who I am, increasing my skills base and expressing myself through photography. I consider photography to be an art and my photography to be classic black-and-white landscape photography, where the fine art print is the most important end result of the photographic process.
CNET Australia: what inspired you to take up photography?
Jackie Ranken: I seem to have had a camera in my hand from an early age because I have pictures that I made at school at the age of 12. At 15 my father, Richard Nell, gave me my first SLR camera. He was a keen photographer at the time, with his own darkroom, so I immediately started to process and print my own black-and-white images. Later that same year I successfully applied for a job as a greyhound race photographer, earning a commission from each sale. This regular Saturday job and the encouragement from my father helped establish the foundation of my photographic skills and helped fund my growing passion.
What technical and artistic challenges do you face when taking your aerial images, as opposed to landscapes or documentary images?
The challenge of photographing most aerial images is to keep the images in focus, camera-shake-free and correctly exposed with the horizon level.
I am known though for a series of images called "Aerial Abstracts" where there is no horizon. I wanted to shoot straight down to the ground exploring the abstract nature of my local landscape in drought. These images were all taken from my father's bi-plane; the bottom wing was in the way, so I asked my father to fly a loop over the specific landmarks I wanted to photograph. When I made my exposures, we were at the top of a loop where I am looking up, but looking down to the ground.
Perhaps my early experience of photographing the greyhounds helped me respond quickly and intuitively to seeing "the shot". I guess the process is also a kind of performance; I produced a photographic book called Aerial Abstracts that documents the whole process and includes 42 aerial images. These books are available through me (email@example.com) or the Canberra art gallery.
Many of your images, particularly your aerial landscapes, are constructed to the point of abstraction, with an emphasis on line and form. Is this a conscious decision?
I have always had a natural affinity to textures, lines and shapes. I believe I have a natural sense for composition and enjoy looking for balance and harmony within the viewfinder. This has extended into my current landscape work (in New Zealand), where I still have an affinity to textural patterns and forms.
Has your workflow changed much in the transition from film to digital? And does digital allow you to achieve the same depth and tonality as film does?
My workflow process has changed. I probably spend more time behind a computer then I did in the darkroom (much of this time is writing and running a business). My darkroom equipment is currently packed away. When I do get the time to sit, process and play with my images I believe I can achieve a wider range of tones with digital technology as I have more control. I can produce black-and-white photographic prints made from my Canon Pro 9500 Mark II that have the same characteristics as a traditional fibre-based analog print made in the darkroom, but I have more choice of papers and it's more immediate.
My creative process is not complete until I have produced a print; the ultimate expression is to show the work as an exhibition and/or book.