Erica Jay: What is Photography?


For me, photography is the expression of an inner world, shareable and communicative. When I first became involved in helping make images, mostly as a fine art subject, my immediate goal was to immerse myself in someone else's thought process, the space that they created. How can I help the photographer share their vision?

While in high school, I would find inspiration and refuge/escape from a very suburban lifestyle in fashion and art magazines. I would recreate Annie L or Steven Meisel photographs with the help of a friend, who also shared my desire for escape. We loved Kate Moss the most—she seemed like us—out of place and a little weird, but still interesting! After a pilgrimage to Barnes & Noble to pick up Vogue or Interview, he and I would recreate our favorite editorial layouts in my bedroom, complete with my mother's makeup, thrift store wardrobe and, most importantly, an over exaggerated sense of whimsical purpose. We spent hours meticulously planning our point-and-shoot shots and we were proud of our unpolished, overexposed, technically incorrect result. Although contrived, what I loved most about our projects was the challenge of being able to insert myself into a realized vision, which is what I try to accomplish now as a subject: that sense of disappearing into the imaginary world appealed to me. How can emotion, mood, and that inner world translate using motion, gesture, or a slight turn of the head? How does the beam of light falling on a face make you feel? If I put my hand out like Kate's, I can channel what the image is saying! It seemed magical. Neither of us looked like the models in the magazines but we were able to recreate their poses. Emulating these small moments was much more interesting to me than playing around with the styling accoutrements.

With fine art modeling, the body is the only tool available to create the vision—I think this is an expression of the genre in its purest form— fine art photographs aren't selling anything, they aren't trying to persuade. There is no artifice, no elaborate styling. A simple photograph of a hand can say as much as a portrait, if not more. Ripping off photographers (and models) as a teenager helped me understand that early on. I was able to decipher the power and influence of classical art, architecture, language and culture—these coded references can be found in the images. It felt like being able to understand a secret language: there is a bigger world out there to explore. Photography, for me, is just another form of communication.

Erica Jay, fine art model

Photograph by © Cory Rice

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