// Jane is a Canadian photographer who loves photographing the streets, both in concrete and in abstract images. She loves people and their faces, and she has a particular skill for capturing colours and works with a number of techniques to create artful abstractions of life in the streets of Vancouver.
Jane´s son, David, was a photographer. She understood none of it, then. Two years after his death, she moved to the quietest part of the city, to avoid incessant ambulance or police sirens — where there is only ocean and forest. “One cold, January morning, I went out, and found myself making pictures of a blooming Rhododendron, with my iphone. There was another person there, doing the same. We talked and talked and talked and he convinced me to get a camera. I did.” Jane bought a mirrorless camera and began figuring it out. “A lot has happened since then,” she says. “I have ten million questions and I will discover every answer. … My camera is a part of me. It is my hand, my eye, my heart, my intention, my tool, my brush, my connection, my love.”
“A work that did not begin in emotion, is not art.”
What draws you to the arts?
“They’ve always been in me. If I knew anything during those confusing, insecure, adolescent years, I knew that I was a creator. I was happiest when I made things, or drew and painted or wrote. I love music. And I absolutely love seeing plays and hearing bands, live. I’ve been a painter and I’ve been a potter. When I wanted to learn to paint, I bought acrylics and watercolours and canvases and paper. And, like with photography, I jumped in, and then, as I learned as I went. … I’m a proponent of “learning by doing”. You know, there’s always a way.”
What do you like most about your abstract street images?
“These pictures are like dreams. These pictures come from my mind, imagination and heart. “
Jane´s series is about this unique, confusing, terrible time, 2020, COVID. While the days do move along, they seem oddly disjointed and crisp and scratchy or strangely soft, describing sadness, loss, and desperation, in clouds of confusion. Jane took all these photos in Vancouver — mostly in the West End, as she is not comfortable travelling in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Walking those streets, early on during the pandemic, was fascinating and interesting and terrifying. It felt as if people who were out and about were either survivors or fools for being out. It was confounding.
Early on, people would look at each other suspiciously. “Like we were enemies,” says Jane.
As the days went, Jane began to look more at light and shape and colour and shadow and texture. She would walk the streets and alleys in her neighbourhood, as always, but with a new eye, hoping to describe some magic in a picture. All of the images began as something simple. An idea or a feeling. Confusion. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Sadness. Loss. Yearning. Pain.
“I tried to picture those things, but with light, because there always is one!”
When people ask her how she does this or that picture, she usually finds herself explaining that it comes from her intention and her heart. “Sappy but true!”, she adds. In general Jane edits colour very little, but most of these have the exposure dialed up a little bit. “Vancouver is a beautiful city. We live between the mountains and the ocean. However, Vancouver isn’t very colourful. It’s grey, and rains most of the winter. Condos and office towers are steel and glass or concrete. They’re grey, too. So, it’s natural that I’m always searching out locations that are colourful,” she says. Some of Jane´s artful images were created through double or triple exposures. Others use intentional camera movement or long-term exposure to achieve the desired blur effect. Each image describes what Jane imagined and felt. “It’s like painting, to me. When I make these pictures, I feel like my camera is my brush. I hope these pictures are positive and malleable.” They clearly demonstrate the magic of photography, how imagination mixed with intention and heart are emulsified and transformed from dull, plain, quiet scenes into something intriguing, thoughtful, dreamy and wonderful.
To us, Jane´s images do appear dreamy, they speak of beauty and the joy of colour in this world, even -— and maybe especially — in dark times.
Click on the photos to see a larger image.
ALL PHOTOS © JANE GISMONDI
To see more of her photography art visit Jane´s Instagram page. (On Instagram she is known by her maiden name Nancy Jane Biller.)