Interview: Justin-Michael Emmanuel
Luca Curci talks with Justin-Michael Emmanuel during CONTEMPORARY VENICE – 8TH EDITION, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Justin-Michael Emmanuel is a mixed media artist that primarily uses photography and the written word to explore ideas of family, love, and Blackness. He is currently based in Boston, MA, and Hartford, CT. Justin achieved a Master of Fine Arts degree from The University of Hartford Art School in 2021. His work has been exhibited internationally, at universities and art galleries throughout the United States, and has been published in art magazines and blogs.
Luca Curci – How did you get to photography? Do you remember why you took your first professional photo?
Justin-Michael Emmanuel – I was exposed to photography for the first time during college. It wasn’t until I was helping a friend with his photo project that I realized how complex the medium was and how powerful a tool it could be to inform others. My first ‘professional’ photo might have been taken for a class, all I can remember was that I was immediately obsessed with the action of releasing the shutter.
LC – According to you, what makes a good photo? Which details do you focus on?
J-ME – I think emotion plays a fundamental part in what makes a good photo. Oftentimes the photographs we make are a response to something we feel. I think that being very aware of how we are feeling and how those emotions can impose themselves onto the pictures we make is very important. I like to focus on the little details in a photograph that allow me to read a bit deeper into the story that it presents. Those details could be almost anything, from items to text to even the way the light is being used or not used.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
J-ME – The work that is a part of this ITSLIQUID exhibit is certainly focused on a specific theme. The photographs that are here are a part of a larger body of work entitled “A Face full of Mangos” which is about ideas of family and love.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
J-ME – Yes, I certainly do. I find art and photography to be a huge stress relief for me personally. I use it to respond to the multitude of things going on in my life at any given moment, whether it be joy or sorrow. The photographs that are present for this exhibition are meant to elicit feelings of warmth, love and joy.
LC – What is your creative process like?
J-ME – As I touched on before, I find that my relationship to photography tends to be very call and response. There is something that moves me, either negatively or positively, and I respond to it with the camera. I take pictures to either support an idea or complicate it to the point where its objectivity is now in question. I enjoy the mode of working where I let myself just take pictures, see what I’ve photographed and then after a while, go back to them and attempt to make sense of not only what I’ve photographed, but of how I’ve photographed them.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the exhibition?
J-ME – I do. I appreciate the work ITSLIQUID is doing to promote art and support a wide range of artists. I also found the theme to be intriguing. I often think about the relationships between body and space. And the complexities of how one’s identity can be informed by their environment and vice versa.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
J-ME – I feel that my photographs bring up questions about domesticity and self-understanding and how the home environment, for many, is a sacred and safe place but also how it can be a challenging and even hurtful one. How one’s identity and relationship to their family may be drastically different to that of their friends or the outside work. I think some of these ideas and the conversations they may evoke relate to the exhibit’s themes of mixing identities and those relationships between body and space, self and environment.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
J-ME – Most definitely. I think it can be a wonderful opportunity to get your work out there and get people excited by it. It’s a great opportunity for exposure and I would encourage many of the other artists I know to give it a try, you never know what can happen!
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
J-ME – Absolutely! It was a pleasure working with and communicating with you folks throughout the entire process with respect to the social conditions we are experiencing right now with the global pandemic.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
J-ME – I think ITSLIQUID presents a fantastic opportunity for artists of all backgrounds to share their art with various communities worldwide. I am someone who enjoys making connections to people who are vastly different from me, and through ITSLIQUID I was given the opportunity to do that. As I mentioned before, I would encourage others to do the same! You never know who you might meet, what connections you might make, or who you might touch via your art.