MAGAZINE // ARTISTS
Jessica Backhaus was born in Cuxhaven, Germany in 1970 and grew up in an artistic family. At the age of sixteen, she moved to Paris, where she later studied photography and visual communications. Here she met Gisele Freund in 1992, who became her mentor. In 1995 her passion for photography drew her to New York, where she assisted photographers, pursued her own projects and lived until 2009.
Jessica Backhaus is regarded as one of the most distinguished voices in contemporary photography in Germany today. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin. Based in Berlin, Jessica divides her time and life between Europe and the United States.
Photographs capture a moment in time, but what is time? This is a question that haunts me. Photography, for me, has roots in the desire to preserve and hold on to something that has happened in the past. The passage of time and transience are issues that occupy me and play a significant role in my work. I am captivated with the experience of vanishing and slipping away.
In the same way capturing the past fascinates me, I am also deeply fascinated by the unknown quality of the future. At the beginning of a project I never know what will happen. I quote one of my favourite artists, the painter Agnes Martin: “Not to know but to go on.” We have expectations, dreams, hopes and move on. Painters who start a painting and first put brush to canvas, writers who start the first sentence of their novel, composers who write the first note in their musical compositions, filmmakers who start shooting the first scene in their movies, photographers who take their first image of a project. We all don’t know how it will end. More and more I believe that it is all about the journey, the journey that one person takes to follow their convictions, and the journey we take while creating any possible art form.
When I start a new project I don’t know where the project will take me. Sometimes I am lost and I have to continue my search. Agnes Martin describes this process very well in her text What We Do Not See If We Do Not See: “Life is an adventure and adventures are difficult. They are hard work and one does not know how they will go on or how they will end (…) we know that this step will be in the dark and will require courage (...)”. I feel that it is necessary to go through this process and I long for this journey into the unknown.
I take pictures because I want to touch people’s hearts and move them. I want them to feel something. To create an emotion within my work is vital for me.
Taking photographs can be lonesome, but somehow I enjoy this loneliness, because it allows me to feel, to see and it brings me fulfilment.
1 Agnes Martin, Writings, Hatje Cantz, 1992