Interview with Donnette Zacca, Jamaican fine art photographer

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Born in 1957, Donnette Ingrid Zacca, MFA, is a highly regarded artist and premier photographer in Jamaica. She sat down for an interview with Elton Johnson, editor of the Antillean Media Group. Here is an excerpt, with a link to the full article and a gallery of photos below. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.

“A rural Jamaican existence offers nothing less than extreme solitude to minds rearing and fully-charged with artistic tendencies,” says Donette Zacca, an artist who hails from the rural western end of Jamaica.

“With no conscious influences, no affirmed ideas, no distinct places or people and only one major event my life, I became moulded into an appreciative substance of the outdoors.”

Zacca’s artworks consist largely of images taken from the observation of her external surroundings, in addition to more experimental collage-type photography and double-exposure portraits. Her photographs typically espouse the theme of feminism with most of her images speaking to the issues and concerns of women.

Her work has been featured in numerous publications (Small Axe MagazineThe Best of Sky WritingsFifty Years, Fifty Artists), received countless awards (National Gallery of Jamaica Purchase Award; National Heritage Trust Photography Competition Awards) and featured in international and local exhibitions. To date, one of her most famous bodies of work stands as her Issues of Fertility display, which exhibited at Jamaica’s Mutual Gallery in 2008.

We interviewed Zacca on her achievements as an artist, and her outlook on photography in Jamaica, given increased funding and support for the creative industries in recent years.

AMG: Describe your art.

DZ: As an artist, I have experimented and explored a number of art forms. My latest indulgence is stone carving. I have done some paintings and drawings, sculpting and assemblages – but most of all I prefer photography in all forms.

Out of many years of working in the darkroom, working with analogue cameras and alternative photographic processes, I can confidentially say photography is my primary process for expressing all kinds of ideas. My expressions are said to be romantic.

AMG: How did you get started as a photographer?

DZ: Just around Third Form (age 13-14) of my high school years, one of my uncles visited Jamaica from the United States, and brought me a gift of a Kodak Instamatic Camera.At the time the camera was considered state of the art because of its size and flexibility. It was a point and shoot camera that used a small cartridge, and only had a maximum of twenty-four exposures.

AMG: What do you think makes your work different from other photographers?

DZ: In the practice of art, individuals bring to their production parts of what is innate. So personalities, experiences, influences, beliefs and skills are elements we transport and infuse in what we do. Who we really are is mainly what we can express, and by extension what our work is likely to exhibit.

I embrace the outdoors. I am an observer of natural light, an explorer of new places —I embrace valuable and energetic companionship and I grasp what I can of life. My work is all from my personal experiences which makes them an extension of who I am as a person.

AMG: Who are your mentors and inspirations in photography?

DZ: I am inspired not so much by people, but what I see and process. During my years as an art student, I was captivated by the works of Ansel Adams, an American photographer. I liked the exquisite details and colours of the photographic images he was able to capture. He was a perfectionist. Adams added life to his photos, he studied and developed all the necessary applications he needed to be exceptional. I always thought‘I’d like to be like Adams when I grow up’.

Later on in years I enjoyed Aaron Siskind for his eye for textural details. I also enjoyed Andy Goldsworthy for this gift and exercise of patience.  From Goldsworthy I learned that nothing will happen on its own.

I have somehow taken from the world just what I need. My exposure to a variety of art has given me great sensibility.

[ . . . ]

For the complete interview and a gallery of photographs go to http://www.antillean.org/donnette-zacca-first-lady-of-photography-876/

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