"My approach was to look at this place — my home — and think about it as
if it were already in my past."
That’s how Jillian Ryan explains the development of the photographs she’s exhibiting at the UNH Museum of Art as part of the B.A. and B.F.A. exhibition. A senior ready to launch, Ryan is preparing to leave not only UNH but also her childhood home in Nashua, New Hampshire. That latter and formidable transition inspired a process of image-making that answers the question: what does home look like?
Ryan took her time answering the question. Often using an unwieldy large-format camera with a tripod, she’d slip her head under the dark cloth, painstakingly setting up and executing her shots. She worked with film rather than digital technology, spending hours in the darkroom perfecting details. And she patiently waited for inspiration. It could take time for the right visual to grab her attention. No preconceptions.
"It’s important to me to be true to what I’m seeing and the way I’m reacting to it and to capture it in the moment," she says.
Ryan understands her process might be too slow for some photographers, but it’s important for the contemplative nature of her work.
While developing this series she calls "Time Changes Still," Ryan thought a lot about the memory of home — not of particular events but rather how certain images persist in the mind and represent a broader understanding of home. What are "the images that linger," asks Ryan? What are the images that communicate "home" to a wide range of people?
As one way to get at the universal quality of home, Ryan took photos at a friend’s home in York, Maine. She wanted to stand in her friend’s shoes and see home through her eyes. In other photos, Ryan introduces figures, such as her beloved grandfather, Pa, suggesting that family and people are important to the concept of home. Throughout what she calls a "fragmented but unified" group of twelve images — landscapes, interiors, and figures — Ryan seeks to create a kind of collective human memory of home.
"Jillian’s work ethic is as relentless as her curiosity," says photography professor Julee Holcombe. "In this age of information overload, she has remained present and grounded. She remains humble with each accomplishment she achieves. Her ambition and mental clarity are to be admired."
Jillian Ryan recently spoke about her work at Naked Arts: Creativity Exposed, an event that exposes the inner creative process of artists working in various disciplines. Naked Arts is part of the annual UNH Undergraduate Research Conference.
Ryan's photographs can be viewed at the Senior B.A. and B.F.A. Exhibition, which runs through May 20, 2016 at the Museum of Art.