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Start with a Connection

Photographs and remarks by Jovell Rennie

Spring 2022, FORUM Magazine

MY PROCESS HAS TO START with a connection. Sometimes that looks like a common interest; other times, it’s a shared curiosity. Every time though, it has to feel like a collaboration. Trust has to be established between myself and the persons I’m photographing. Photography allows me to participate in moments that I might otherwise feel out of place in, in a manner that feels genuine and isn’t obtrusive.

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Whether it’s people or places on the other side of my lens, each photo made reminds me to sit in a moment. One of my goals is to give the viewer a sense of place. I want them to feel like they’re there.
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Alaska is a photographer’s playground. Finding new ways to show off the landscape can be a challenge. I sought to create abstractions and focus on the minutia of certain scenes. It isn’t my intention to trick the viewer but to show them something familiar in an unfamiliar way.
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My goal is always the same: maintain the dignity of my subject. For the series ‘Skatey & the OGs,’ I chose to make the images in black and white because it strips away all the ‘extra’ things about a moment and allows you to focus on the individual. Their expressions, the lines in their faces, their hands, etc. We see the jewelry, and we know it’s shining—color doesn’t add to its richness. The day was a great one. We weren’t going to let a lil rain slow us down. In the last photo, you see Skatey sitting on the trunk, letting you know where he’s from. Anchorage all day. ■

JOVELL RENNIE (b. 1992) is a Trinidadian-born, Anchorage-raised artist. Rennie’s early photographic work focused on sharing his experiences of Alaska with a global audience through social media (Instagram & Twitter), web (Buzzfeed, CNN, Complex, Highsnobiety) and print based outlets. He has continued to use photography as a means of expression and connection within his community. In 2018, Rennie co-founded Akela Space, a gallery showcasing contemporary Alaska art. He is also the creative lead for the Black in Alaska storytelling project, supported by the Rasmuson Foundation; Vice-Chair of the Municipality of Anchorage Arts Advisory Council; and previously served as an advisor for Black Lives in Alaska: Journey, Justice, Joy, an exhibition at the Anchorage Museum.

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