Jacs Fishburne is a nomad with a passion for creating. She believes in not knowing what comes next and finding the beauty in every area of life. She creates because it’s her way of understanding the world around and within her. She creates because it’s the only way she knows how to live.
1. How did you get to where you are as an artist?
I got to where I am as an artist by accident and with a lot of willpower. I grew up in an artist household (my father was an oil painter and conserved paintings for a living) and while I always leaned towards things that were creative, I honestly thought I was going to end up in business and athletic training. A lot of my progress has been pure luck- picking projects and jobs up at the right time and just putting myself out there as honestly as I could. I think being completely honest with people in my life and in my art helped a lot; it helped to build my fan base really organically and allowed me to take chances without fear.
2. Describe a typical day for you.
My typical days are kind of boring- I wake up early and pull up my computer as my coffee is brewing. I tend to try and bust out emails and boring things as early as possible leaving me time to focus on the act of creating something, whether it’s something large or small. I always, always, always create something each day. It may not be something I’m proud of, but it keeps me going in a solid rhythm and I never know what will lead to something else. I read a lot- I try to finish my work by 3pm that way my mind can settle down and reset itself, and reading has always been my go-to escape from normal life. Reading keeps my mind flowing, sometimes words or phrases get stuck in my head and so I write them down to explore later.
3. Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by people and life. My father was someone who lived an extraordinary life and I remember being a child and vowing I was going to live a life as interesting as his. Traveling wakes up senses up and keeps me sane- if I stay in one place for too long, depression sets in heavily and I tend to go stir-crazy. It’s strange, but as a photographer, I’ve found most of my inspiration comes from literature, painting, and music over photography. Architecture (specifically Romanism, Gothic/Neo-Gothic, Baroque, and Modernisme (Spanish Modernism specifically Antoni Gaudi)) also inspires me. I love photographing people because everyone tells a story; their story is always so unique to them and yet so in tune with the history of the human race.
4. You’ve traveled a lot of places for your work. What’s been your favourite place so far and where do you still want to go?
I want to go everywhere! I love traveling off the beaten path and traveling solo for me allows me to blend in and really immerse myself in a city and culture. My favorite place usually changes from day to day but I fell so hard for Spain while hiking the Camino in 2015. Spanish culture throughout the different regions is so beautiful, open, and friendly. Croatia and South Africa also made my head spin and had this home feeling. I love traveling to wide open spaces- national parks and green areas- something about the vastness of the world ignites my senses and leads to this incredible feeling of peace within me.
5. What are your thoughts on art censorship on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram?
I think censorship is kind of hard to tackle. The thing with Facebook is that it was built originally to connect college kids with one another; as it opened up to the rest of the population, it still remained primarily a way to just connect, kind of like MySpace was back in the day. I recognize people use Facebook for work and want to be able to put their work uncensored on there but I kind of view it like Disney: it’s where a lot of people are but don’t whip out your dick, even if it’s for art, because it’s a family place.
It kind of sucks since so many social media platforms are cracking down on nudity, even artistic nudity, as they are bought out by larger platforms and brought further into the public sphere. People like to push boundaries, artists especially, and the rise of social media has given so many people a way to share themselves and their art with the rest of the world so you tend to want to share your work on places where everyone is (like Facebook and Instagram) but those sites were set up as family friendly arenas for people to share their lives. Artists came in and realized the full potential of these sites and tried to use them as avenues to share their work, but the problem is that these really aren’t the best avenues for people who work with the human body.
The other problem is that both companies were created in America and America still has a long way to go to shake off it’s puritanical roots. If you really think about it- 100 years ago, it was illegal for a male to show his nipple in public. 100 years from now, it may be illegal to show an ankle again, who knows. History tends to be cyclical and we’re at a point in America where we could either keep pushing ourselves to where places like Europe are in terms of acknowledging and understanding that the human body in and of itself is not inherently sexual or we could blast ourselves back to the middle ages and have a new rise of conservatism.
6. Do you think that anyone can be a model?
I think anyone can act as a model but honestly modeling in the larger sense is really fucking hard. You need to know yourself and your body and your face, you need to know that you will not be everyone’s cup of tea or even their tenth shot of whiskey. Just because someone is pretty doesn’t mean they will be a good model. So much goes into it, especially in the freelance art modeling communities, that people don’t recognize. They think it’s easy to just get up there and put yourself out there, but modeling requires so much attention to detail: you need to know lighting and angles and facial expressions and how to hold things, really awkward and uncomfortable things, while still looking like you stepped off Mount Olympus. It requires a lot of energy and dedication to your craft and the desire to get outside of yourself and allow someone else to take control for a period of time.
7. What's the most ambitious project you've worked on to date?
Currently it’s trying to take a self portrait in all 59 major national parks in the US. It’s a lot of logistical work to get things figured out and get yourself into some of these beautiful and remote places. I think photographing the last five years of my father’s life as he declined from Parkinson’s with Lewy Bodies Dementia was also really ambitious looking back on it. At the time, it didn’t seem that way, it was simply just my way of coping with the situation, but to really dedicate myself fully to documenting the demise of someone so fucking full of life was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
8. What's the biggest creative risk you've taken so far?
I honestly think allowing myself to go full time freelancing was the biggest creative risk I’ve taken so far. I had to really let go and trust in the universe that it was all going to work out and there are times when it’s still so frustrating and all I want to do is go back to a normal boring job where things are planned, but at the end of the day, I’m always proud of myself and what I’ve done which makes it all worth it.
9. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists/creatives?
Always, always create. If you get blocked, try something else! I have a friend who hit a wall creatively and decided to become a butcher because it was the furthest thing away from photography he could think of and it shook him up and let the ideas flow in again. I’m someone who prefers switching around mediums and tackling a lot at once; I’ve come to realize that I function better with a long term project (and having about six of them going at once) than with immediate projects because I can hop around between them when one gets too daunting. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. Part of the fun of being an artist/creative is the process of fucking up and taking risks. If you take yourself too seriously, you’ll be less likely to take a chance on something and you never know where your next project will come from. Lastly: don’t compare yourself to others. I know this is the hardest one and truthfully the one I am TERRIBLE with, especially when you see so many awesome people doing incredible things across the various social medias, but your process and timing for life is going to be completely different than someone else's. Your journey is not their journey and comparing yourself honestly makes you forget how wonderful and special your life truly is.
10. What’s next for you?
I wish I knew. Right now I’m taking a break to finish my second 366 project and get my health in check. I’m in the process of working on two novels which is kind of scary because I’ve never even finished a short story. I could write academic papers ’til the cows come home, but anything beyond prose or a poem was beyond my reach until recently. After that, who knows! I’ve found if I have really solid plans they all get blown to hell, but if I have vague ideas of a direction, things come about in the most unusual and awesome way.
Interview by Glodeane Brown
All photos provided by the artist.