John Foster: Jen, you are known as a designer—your work has received many awards, you also do illustration, painting, maps and diagrams, lettering and photography, which you collaborate on with your photographer husband Bill. Tell our readers more about your world.
Jen Renninger: I’ve been an illustrator and designer since 1998 and have really always loved both disciplines. There is something about creating work as part of a collaboration alongside an art director or other counterpoint that is simply wonderful. While its very rare to actually meet anyone I’ve worked with, there is a lovely web of connection that never ceases to inspire. While I freelance with people around the world, Bill teaches photography and art history. And when he’s not inspiring others, he is riding his mountain bike. Actually, I’ll brag about him for a moment here. This past summer he came in first in his age and category in the USA national championships for mountain biking.
JF: I am most interested in your photography collaborations with Bill, and your new series Into the Light. The work is so metaphorical, it relates to the common man overcoming some strange obstacles and occurrences. Tell us how you two come up with ideas. Do you sit and sketch first, or do ideas evolve organically through discussion?
JR: Occasionally we do start with a fully formed idea, but typically the images emerge from something around the location where we are shooting, or even an object or prop that intrigues us. In all honesty, it’s usually pretty intuitive: Bill will think of something and then I’ll play off of his idea and vice versa. The most apt analogy is that we are like a musical group jamming. We’re just two people instinctively building on each other’s ideas. We are very fortunate to have a very similar visual aesthetics and tendencies. It sets the foundation for everything we do.
JF: It looks like location is very important in your shots. Do you travel to exotic locations for shots or wait until say, you might be on vacation or traveling?
JR: Nope, we live in a vacation destination (or so we saw in an ad on the subway not too long ago!). Actually, we are very lucky to live in great location for shooting (Florida), where we are graced with wonderful weather for much of the year. In reality, most of our images are shot in places that are fairly plain—we just shift the perspective. We do try to take advantage of unusual environments when we find them though. The curious and unusual is so often right out in the open. Most of the photos in the show were taken within a five-mile drive of our house.
JF: Lastly, your show just closed at a gallery in your home state. Are these photographs strictly fine art, or have you ever used any of them for editorial art, which they would be perfect for?
JR: We actually met while going to school for commercial photography. Bill has an MFA and I have studied fine art. Maybe because of the dual areas of study we share, neither of us have ever liked the line that is so often drawn between fine art and editorial or commercial work. For both of us, editorial work (and advertising) can most certainly be art, especially when it becomes a transformative experience (those recent amazing GE commercials come to mind immediately!).
To answer your original question though: shooting together like this was a project that we undertook simply to renew a creative passion for photography, which we both love. While none of these were shot or used for commercial work, we would never be opposed to the idea. Certainly any opportunity to share what we love, whether it be editorial or fine art, would be welcomed with open arms.