"I have always liked to photograph people of all ages. I'm fascinated
by the way skin metamorphoses over time, from infancy to old age. And I find people
of all body typesfrom heavy to thininteresting as well."
Joyce Tenneson, described by critics as "one of America's most interesting
portrayers of the human figure" combines sensuality with spirituality to
create ethereal, and often mystical, images. Born on May 29, 1945, in Boston,
Massachusetts, Tenneson did not have what one would call a typical childhood.
She grew up on the grounds of a convent where her parents worked, an experience
which would have a tremendous impact on her future work. "This world I grew
up inone of rituals and cyclesstill haunts me visually,"
she explains. "Perhaps this is why I have always been fascinated by the stages
of life, from birth to old age, and then regeneration." Tenneson's mother
Anna, who died when her daughter was just 21 years old, was an identical twin,
a connection that fueled Tenneson's creativity, as well as her "fascination"
with identity, inner connection, and mirroring. "I'm mesmerized by the way
mirrors seem to have a magical life of their own. For me, reality is a combination
of our outer and inner realities, and the use of mirrors and other techniques,
like double exposures, leaves room for the unknown to emerge."
In her 20s, Tenneson explored the autobiographical aspects of her photography
by taking hundreds of self-portraits. Since then, she says, her work has become
more metaphorical, though it is still "part of an ongoing visual diary that
reflects my inner journey." The first 15 years of this journey was spent
as an art school instructor in Washington, D.C., during which time she published
two books [IN/SIGHTS: Self-Portraits by Women, 1978, and Joyce Tenneson,
Photographs, 1983] and had many international exhibitions. In the mid-Eighties,
after "feeling restless and yearning to move forward and grow both personally
and professionally," Tenneson moved from Washington, D.C., to New York to
try her hand at assignment work. "I wanted to try to bring a sense of the
spiritual into the world of commerce."
She succeeded. Tenneson has become one of the most sought after photographers
of our time, with an immediately recognizable signature style. She's photographed
many celebrities and public personalitiesJodie Foster, Demi Moore, Kathleen
Battle, Patrick Stewart, Natasha Richardson, Ed Harris, Susan Sarandon and Judith
Jamison among othersand her assignment work has appeared in many major magazines,
including Time, Life, Esquire, Premiere and The
New York Times Magazine. Her personal work has been shown in over 100 exhibitions
worldwide and included in many museum and private collections. She is the author
of six booksLight Warriors [Bulfinch Press, 2000] is the most recent
oneand has won numerous awards, including the International Center of Photography's
Infinity Award for best applied photography. In 1990 she was named "Photographer
of the Year" by the international organization, "Women in Photography,"
and in a poll conducted by American Photo magazine, she was voted among the ten
most influential women photographers in the history of photography.
So what's next? Tenneson is already hard at work on her seventh book: photographs
of women between the ages 70 to 100. And while this one will finish her investigation
of the lifecycle of the female psyche, she says she'll never stop being curious
about people. "People are the center of my work and I'll always be interested
in their inner life. It's what's below the surface that continues to fascinate
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