Buro 24/7 Interview: Jessica Lange

Buro 24/7 Interview: Jessica Lange

American actress on the opening of her new photography exhibition in Moscow

Interview: Buro 24/7

Image: Buro 24/7 Russia

Passionate about photography since she was young, Jessica Lange tells Buro 24/7 about her retrospective ‘Unseen’

Academy award-winning actress Jessica Lange, renowned for her roles in the hit TV series American Horror Story and films including King Kong, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Titus, is also an avid photographer - a relatively unknown aspect of her life in comparison to her acting repertoire.

As part of the 10th International Photography Month in Moscow Biennale 2014, the 64-year-old actress is showing her work called 'Unseen' at the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow. The photographic exhibition features more than 140 images of her numerous travels shown through a black and white filter. Buro 24/7 caught up with Lange to find out more about her photography which allows her to live "simply and freely".


Jessica Lange

You started photography in the 1990s after a long break, what was your vision at that time?

I was interested in photography when I was young but wasn't seriously engaged. I began to actively only take photographs 15 years ago when I travelled to various places. However, I must say, photography has always been part of my life. I love photographers, some of my biggest influences include Josef Koudelka, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Manuel Bravo. 


What do you mean "seriously"? 

I mean that as a young photographer I was not too involved. Yes, my interest has always been there, but I was engaged in theatre, mime in Paris, then when I returned to New York plunged into my acting career. It was only 15 years ago, when I was given a Leica camera that I began to shoot more often. It was a very slow process. Previously, I had completed projects in my head and now the concrete ideas are born. 

Jessica Lange

Do you still use a Leica camera?

Yes, and I only use film. I never work with a digital camera because the pictures leave me indifferent; I think that film has a certain tactility, sensuality and depth. I know that digital photography can produce a countless number of manipulations but for me it does not have the same weight as film.

In general, I'm fascinated with the old approach to photography. Now, I like to work the daguerreotype, and I communicate with those photographers who use this antique technology. I also do photogravure; I am very interested in the process of working with the negative when you use copper plates, fill them with ink, doing impressions and drive them through the printing press. This gives the work a special depth and it becomes even more interesting than the traditional printing on silver gelatin plates.

Jessica Lange

Your project 'Unseen' features images of Mexico, New York, Sicily and Russia - how were your travels in these places?

I photographed the Mariinsky Theatre, in Saint Petersburg where I watched the ballet. Aside from this, I have only visited Russia once, not as a tourist but as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and our mission was to work with orphanages.

I can't say that a lot of filming time was limited, but I always need to get acquainted with a place. I've never had much interest in tourist attractions. I travel to Mexico year after year, getting to know the place better and better. I established, relatively speaking, an intimate relationship with the country. 

Tell us the story of Donata Wenders who has become, in a sense, your "godmother" in the public sphere.

She was the first person who I showed the photographs to when I arrived in New York. She offered to print them in a large format in her workshop and has supported me greatly throughout my career.

Jessica Lange

Why did you leave America and move to Europe? 

It is very easy to explain: I was 18 and had just graduated from the University of Minnesota. I met a group of young photographers and documentary filmmakers who were going to the South of Spain to make a film about the Roma who dance flamenco in Andalusia, and they invited me to go with them. Do I want to stay in Minnesota, I thought to myself? The answer was no, so I set off on an adventure and that's how it all began.


What defines you more - actress or photographer?

When I play any character that grabs me, then the balance is tilting in the direction of acting. But when I see something unusual that I have the opportunity to document, the photographer inside me wins.

Jessica Lange

Do you want to photograph on set?

No, it doesn't interest me. I know that many actors capture pictures of each other in the process of filming, but for me it's another world.


Tell us a little about your children's book, It's About a Little Bird.

It all started with an innocent occupation. I always liked simple pictures of people and hand painted postcards. I took pictures of my granddaughters, and I wanted to paint their portraits in an old style - I am very interested in this technique. Then, one morning, I woke up with a story that I wanted to tell you. I wrote it for children and hand painted the pictures.

Jessica Lange

In a recent interview, you said: "I want to live the rest of life without goals, simple and free." Does photography allow you to?

Yes, photography gives me boundless freedom, especially if we compare it with a movie theatre. 


Do you have plans for any more movies in the cinema?

I must admit that I have already completed my cinematic career, but maybe you'll see me a couple of more times on the screen. 

Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange

'Unseen' runs from March 12-April 20 at the Multimedia Art Museum, in Moscow, Russia.

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