Joyce Tenneson
Joyce Tenneson

PDN: You're very well known for your nudes, and for your images that explore the female psyche. . . . But you also do other work—celebrities, portraiture, etc. How do you decide what your next project will be?

JOYCE TENNESON: Once again, I never really had a master plan of what I was going to photograph in my life. I just have always tried to photograph things that are very close to me at that particular point in my life. So I first did self-portraits because I was trying to figure out who I was. And then I moved on to trying to metaphorically investigate those deeper emotional essences that we're all in touch with, and I tried to bring them forward visually. All I can say is that I'm very pleased with the fact that I've been able to stick to what's been important to me. And I've been able to balance that with making a living in photography. I've always had a part of my career and my life, which is devoted to self-investigation. And that has shown itself in the kind of work that I do. And as I've grown as a person, my work has grown and changed. For example, I think the new book, Light Warriors, [Bulfinch Press, 2000], is a much more straightforward and direct piece of work, and it's more outwardly strong. And I think that mirrors the fact that I am more outwardly strong now, because I've gone through a lot of things in my life that have made me that way. The work definitely reflects that.

Light Warriors -- Buy This Book
PDN: What prompted you to do your most recent book Light Warriors?

JOYCE TENNESON: All of my books sort of emerge as a natural process of my own growth, both as a person and as an artist/photographer. I've always been interested in the workings of the female psyche, and the complexities that surround that—
the darkness and the light. And after I finished my last book [Illuminations, Bulfinch Press, 1997], I tried to think about what is left that I feel unsatisfied with in terms of my own ability to probe it. I thought, "I really am interested in the age group between 20 and 50 and what it means to be on this journey to find yourself and to find your own essence, and what's important to you in your life, intrinsically, rather than the material aspects of life." And so I set out to document—although these are rather poetic renditions in a way—people who I felt were on that kind of a personal quest or journey.

PDN: How did the title come about?

JOYCE TENNESON: I searched for a long time for the title to this book, and for a long time, it was called "Spiritual Warriors" in my mind, because it really is a group of photographs about a spiritual quest. But I was afraid that the title would be misinterpreted as some kind of new-age thing, and I didn't want that. And in the middle of the night right before I had to really lock in a title, I woke up, and the title "Light Warriors" blazed in my head and I thought, "Why didn't I see it before?" It's so perfect for the book, because photography is light writing, and it's a much simpler title. It says the meaning of what I think the pictures are.

Another reason is that all of the women in the book seem, in a way, like pilgrims to me who are moving towards something. And that something is their essence—who they are at a very deep level, and what their powers are, and how they can develop those powers to become whole. They are all light warriors.

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