Meet the Artist: J Forsyth

Melbourne Arts Club have teamed up with The Other Art Fair this year to help promote Melbourne's creative community. Our very own J Forsyth will be exhibiting this weekend, 4 - 7 May at The Facility in Kensington and we got a chance to talk to her about herself, which she LOVES......jokes. Be sure to get down to check out her work.


Tell us about your work. What do you try to achieve through your photography?

Ha! Well, I'm not sure whether it counts as an "achievement" but I find great happiness and calmness in stopping whatever it is I'm doing to take a photo on 35mm film. If I see something that catches my attention, I find it hard to walk past without stopping to capture it on film - if I don’t take the photo, that specific moment will torment me for ages afterward. Hence I always carry at least one camera in my bag!

How long have you been taking photos of things? A while! My nana bought me a small red point and shoot (film) camera when I was in grade 5/6, probably pretty similar to the point and shoots I'm using now. I was always a little too scared to take too many photos and waste the film so I always cherished each shot and really thought about it.


Why did you start, and then continue, taking photos?

To capture moments, as cliche as that sounds. Of course my subject matter has changed a little over the years from family portraits and home life when I was young. Once I finished high school and began travelling, my main focus was more documentary style photography - but the motive is the same

Who’s your favourite photographer? I have two: Bernice Abbott and Robert Frank

What’s your favourite plant? Robert (plant)

I stole that joke from a mate.


Where do you make your art, and how long is the process for you? Is it a slow burn and you find yourself working on pieces over a long period of time, or when inspiration strikes, it's all done and dusted relatively quickly? I make my art in the daily travels of life. I find I need to take photos of something that catches my eye straight away because when you return it always looks different. I am not super organised with getting film developed so sometimes it's months or even years before I see the shot again. So in that sense it can be a real slow burn. It all depends on mood; mood changes what you see and I can’t force it, if I don’t get an instant feeling for something, I don’t want to waste my time. I find when I try too hard to force it, I feel really uneasy when I get the film back because that forced feeling I was experiencing when I took the photo returns.

How does living and working in Melbourne influence your work? When I was in high school, I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula which is not really my kind of place for photography. I used to take the train into the city and walk around most weekends to shoot the building and city life on black and white film. Once I finished school I spent six of the next twelve years travelling, and the feeling of the new, of exploring and adventure... the excitement created by those feelings is what fueled my work. But now I have returned to Melbourne, I find the changing landscape of Melbourne’s inner suburb streets captures enough of my attention. But when I do leave Melbourne on a road trip or whatever, I take a lot more photos, not missing the opportunity to shoot the buildings and spaces I pass, knowing you can’t go back to that place in that moment.


How has traveling impacted your work? As above. After Uni I went overseas for three years - and sometimes the pursuit of the best image is exhausting and can change the happiness you feel when travelling. I found this happened more when I switched from film to digital. You send too much time trying to create the perfect image. I bought a Pentax K100 while in Canada and travelled with both that and my digital camera until I broke the screen on my digital camera. After that happened, I found the freedom to shoot like a film camera returned and I enjoyed the experience more,

Who or what do you turn to for inspiration on days when creativity just isn’t flowing? I’ve learned to just leave it alone. I work commercially as a photographer and that can take all your creativity at times, and when you’re getting paid you do have to force it so with my creative work, if I am not feeling it? I'll just wait until I am.


What is your favourite piece of work of yours and why? At the moment it’s a tie between Farm House and The Commission Flats. Both taken on cheap point and shoots, and both only 1 frame.

I took the Farm House shot before a friends wedding. The simplicity of the chair and the light caught my eye and the combination makes me feel really calm and emotional at the same time.

The Commission Flats was taken on my way to work on a sunny summer morning. I love the commission flats around Melbourne, I think they are truly beautiful. On this particular morning, the sun was beaming down and the contrast of the blue sky and green field made me feel excited about the future of our city and hopeful for the world. I get to experience the feeling I felt that morning every time I look at the photo.

Who are some of your favourite artists? Alive or dead, near or far. Howard Arkley, and you can’t go past Warhol - if just for the historical impact he made! LishBarraud, Jason Parker and Lauren Guymer and my favourite local artists and definitely ones to watch. I will add Bernice Abbott and Robert Frank to this section also without getting into a debate about photographers being artists...


What's your plan for this year? I photograph the Pub Footy League each year, making 80s esque footy cards of the players and we hold an exhibition of all the photos from the season each year. We just launched the footy cards and club photos for the 2016 at the Renegade Pub Footy League season fundraiser which was held at The Tote last week, and it was a blast. Later this year we'll hold another exhibition that includes action shots from the games as well as candids taken of the community that makes up the Pub Footy crowd.

Needless to say, I now have shooting-one-handed-with-a-tinny-in-the-other down pat. Last year I got caught on the wrong side of a team's banner and had no choice but to turn and run with them to save myself and my beer... oh, and my camera. I tend to mostly shoot Pub Footy on digital as its easier to fix my beer related mistakes.

I'm also showing my work in the upcoming The Other Art Fair exhibition, but once that's over, nothing is set in stone. I am working on a few different projects, but if I write them down I will feel compelled to complete them and I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment!

What’s the best advice you could give other budding photographers? Try and make time for both creative and commercial work. It’s awesome that photographers can use their skills to make money but commercial photography killed my creativity for a while and took all of my time ,so I wasn’t shooting any film or enjoying the world around me. It can be hard to strike the right balance but it's worth trying because when you nail it, you're so much happier and more fulfilled!


The Other Art Fair opens this weekend, 4 - 7 May at The Facility in Kensington. Get more info here.

For more info and to follow J: Website: jnotjay.comInstagram: @jnotjay_forsyth

--- Words: Julia HowlandImages: Courtesy of the gallery/artist.

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