Photographer Ellen Jantzen has only lived in Santa Fe for a few years, but she’s already formed an attachment to the high desert environment around her and been honored for her New Mexico-based work.
Jantzen won “Special Photographer of the Year” in the digitally-enhanced category of the 2017 International Photography Awards Competition for her series “Coming Into Focus,” which she started in Santa Fe in 2016. The competition drew entries from more than 12,000 photographers around the world.
“In this series, I am exploring the realm of one’s environmental surroundings, how it is absorbed into one’s psyche and how this changes through relocations,” explains Jantzen, who moved from the Midwest to Santa Fe with her husband, artist Michael Jantzen, in the spring of 2015. “I’m striving to visually capture the essence of my new environment while at the same time learning to understand.”
Photography didn’t become part of Jantzen’s life until 2003, when she was encouraged to take photos of vessels she had made out of recycled paper. Her formal schooling had been in fashion design, which led to a job at Mattel toys and freelance work making 3D prototypes for various companies.
“I was disillusioned with the corporate world and wanted to do fine art,” she recalls. “I bought a five megapixel camera and asked myself how I take what’s inside of me and depict something new through photography. Digitally manipulating a photo is my version of painting. It’s a way of creatively bringing myself into the photo.”
Through the years Jantzen has created many award-winning series of photos. Her “Point & Shoot @ 70MPH” photos from 2010 document road trips around the U.S. “Disturbing the Spirits” is an emotionally-charged body of work inspired by the Midwestern landscape that was put together in 2013 in St. Louis while Jantzen was experiencing the aging of her parents.
About her 2015 series “Unity of Time and Place,” which reflects a major transition in her life, Jantzen says, “After spending the last several years immersed in the past, I am ready to embrace the future. But as I set out, the past is with me, transformed.” That year, she was the winner of the 8th Julia Margaret Cameron Award, which honors women in photography.
“Coming Into Focus” features mountains, mesas and roads that Jantzen says remind her of waterways in the Midwest.
“Amplification,” one of the photos within the series, is a digitally-manipulated photo of a land formation between Taos and Abiquiu that was taken in January 2017 when a light blanket of snow covered the ground.
“I still have many places to explore in New Mexico,” Jantzen says. “It’s exciting to photograph new locations and then come back to my studio and be able to have so many possible ways to manipulate the photos.”