Jenna Opsahl is definitely one of the best photographers I’ve met on the web. I see a reality I recognise in her pictures, one that is more magical than the usual images you get in fashion magazines. Her work has the otherworldly, slightly unreal quality that makes you want to actually go into her universe, rather than just have the clothes on the model. I remember stumbling across her blog nearly a year ago, and instantly falling in love with her Pirates of the Caribbean themed outfit post, and with her passion for fashion photography. I spent some time chatting with her, and I asked her some questions about her work, her love of mythology, the creative urge, and what inspires her.
Hi Jenna! So, what have you been up to lately?
Well hello! Lately my life has kind of been a weird mixed-up ride, but I am really loving it. I have been taking a break from my university, not sure if I am going to go back. I just went on a month-long study abroad trip in London which was beautiful and perfect. Other than that, I have been home with my family, feeling creative and excited to take some time by myself.
Tell me about your time in London! Did you find it a photogenic city?
It was very interesting because usually when I am really happy I become very creatively productive, but in London I didn't take too many photos. (Well, my best friend got annoyed when I said I didn't take many and I still had 1000 to show her. But after a month of life I would usually have waaaaay more photos, so that was "not too many photos" for me.) I think London is the most beautiful city, but I really just wanted to experience it rather than be behind a lens for most of the time. "Documentary-style" photography isn't really my style, either. I prefer to set up shoots and I was just so busy in London I didn't have time! But London was really awesome. I was part of a travel study group for art history so the course was mainly going to museums to look at art and the way it is displayed. The rest of the time was just exploring London and falling in love with it.
That's interesting that you mention you like to set up shoots. I've always thought your photography reminded me a little bit of Tim Walker, and he's very much the same in that way, preferring to create his own world. Do you find it more interesting to MAKE a picture, rather than just TAKE a picture?
AHH that's literally the best compliment. He has been my inspiration since I started photography and a lot of his work was what made me want to get into fashion when I hadn't considered it before. I definitely think of it as a mixture of kind of painting or sculpting with objects and people as well as capturing light and moments. I am very interested in creating my own world but acknowledging how human that desire is. I am very interested in the human experience and how a certain kind of magic comes with that. That might be why I love fantasy and mythology so much, which tend to show up in my work.
You've done many projects based around mythological stories, like your Daphne and Apollo shoot, and The Midas Touch. I've always found Classical characters fascinating, as you can probably tell from my blog title! Are there any particular stories or archetypes you want to do next?
Yes! I am working on Icarus which I hope will be really cool, and I am also batting around the idea of self-portraits as the Furies just because I think that could be awesome. I also love the Muses and have been thinking of doing a series of portraits about them. And, of course, who doesn't love Persephone and Hades, so that might be coming at some point!
The models you pick are quite otherworldly. If you could work with anyone, any model or actor, who would you want to photograph?
It's funny because the models I pick are just my close friends. I think the most important thing is making the model comfortable so that it feels like a collaboration. I think making someone feel beautiful is one of the most magical things. But I would have to say my favourite models are Natalia Vodianova and Sasha Pivovarova so I would love to work with them. Mostly I want to photograph anyone who wants to be photographed and who wants to be creative!
Would you say your art is a cathartic process?
Yeah I definitely would. Making art is purifying, calming, and comforting. I would also say it's really energizing. When I am taking pictures or making things I feel like I am my most intense and responsive version of myself.
Are you a perfectionist?
I don't really think so...Generally I just want to do the best work I can. I don't really stress over making things perfect. I tend to enjoy moving on to the next project, maybe because I really like change and progress. But that certainly doesn't mean I won't put everything I have into what I am working on. It's more about the feeling behind it than perfection.
And finally, my last question before I let you go! How do you imagine your future as an artist? Not in a practical, five-year-plan way, but in your wildest, most precious dreams?
WOW MY FUTURE UMMM… I mean I definitely want to stick with photography and get bigger and more fantastical shoots going on in my life. I just want to make really inspiring, awesome things. Also I have a secret dream to be the set designer for an INCREDIBLE Peter Pan play and to design the sets and costumes for period pieces. Basically I just want to create dreams and inspire people. Thanks so much, this has been awesome!