CENTER’s Editor’s Choice Award 3rd Place Winner: Jodie Hulden
Congratulations to Jodie Hulden for her Third Place win in the CENTER’S Editor’s Choice Award for her project, Left Behind. The Choice Awards recognize outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter. Images can be singular or part of a series.
Juror Bridget Watson Payne, Senior Editor, Chronicle Books shares her thoughts on her selections:
The quality of work submitted to this year’s CENTER Awards was extremely high. It was a joy to view so many powerful images—some beautiful, some wonderfully challenging, some tranquil, some brash—all deeply engaged with the world and the workings of the mind. And, accordingly, it was difficult (at times if felt nearly impossible) to narrow down hundreds of strong portfolios to just three winners. But, as every editor knows, narrow down we must. All three of this year’s winners engage with themes I saw resonating across many of the entries—and, indeed, have seen resonating in the larger photographic community in recent years—but each brings to its theme and subject matter something entirely new and fresh.
Another recent movement in photography is the making of pictures in abandoned interiors. Decay creates interesting tableaus, and the history behind the images is often just as striking. Left Behind, a series of images made in the abandoned gold rush town of Bodie, California, takes that trope and moves it into brand new territory. These photographs are exceptional for several reasons. For one, the intimacy of these vignettes of personal objects (blankets still on beds, coats still on hooks, picture frames, enamel cups, reading glasses) juxtaposed with ruined textures (peeling wallpaper, water-stained wood, tattered fabric) is extraordinary. Second, and even more essential, is the photographer’s use of light. The milky sunlight that permeates these images gives them both a softness and a clarity rarely seen. Rather than being handed spookiness or tragic nostalgia, we are invited to contemplate, among other things: “dreams…the vagaries of life…strength…loss…[and] the uncertainties of living.”
Bridget Watson Payne, Senior Editor, Chronicle Books
Bridget is a writer, artist, and book editor. She is the author of the books including This is Happening: Life Through the Lens of Instagram, and New York Jackie: Pictures from Her Life in the City. With fifteen years of experience in the publishing industry, she has collaborated as an editor with hundreds of authors and artists to make their book ideas a beautiful reality.
Jodie Hulden is a San Diego-based photographer/artist whose contemplative photography focuses on intimate and personal landscapes. She has a degree in art from San Diego State University where she majored in textiles and fiber arts. She discovered her passion for photography in the late 1970’s when she began learning the craft of film and darkroom work. She transitioned to digital photography in 2001. Jodie has studied with George DeWolfe, Carlan Tapp, Michael Frye, Brett Erickson and Susan Burnstine. She recently completed a month-long artist-in-residency at Zion National Park in 2017. Her work has won numerous awards and has been exhibited nationally. In 2016 she was featured in Black+White Photography Magazine and in 2017 she was honored to be in a Foto Relevance commentary.
The “Left Behind” portfolio is different than any other photography I have done. It came as a result of two workshops in 2015 and 2016 that I participated in with landscape photographer, Michael Frye, to photograph the interiors of the derelict buildings still standing in Bodie, California. Bodie is an abandoned gold-rush era town located east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The town’s heyday was during the latter part of the 19th century, but as the mining opportunities evaporated, the miners and other citizens had to slowly abandon their life there. The buildings and rooms are mostly empty except for loose fragments and artifacts that still grace the dusty interiors . These tableaus tell an incomplete tale.
After working with the images, they took me deeper and deeper into the feelings they evoked in me and in others. They seemed to go beyond the simple documentation of a place in history. They are a testimony to the transience and inevitable change that we all instinctively know and struggle with in our lives. The most common reaction is usually a quiet wonder – “Why were these things left behind?” Another response is the recognition that these people, who lived such a hard-scrabble life in such a desolate place, were no different than human beings today, in that we all seek to surround ourselves and the corners of our lives with objects that are meant to give us support, comfort, ease and beauty in our daily lives.
The photographs also speak to the strength of the human spirit in times of hardship and loss, of humanity’s ability to continue on amidst the uncertainties of life. Even though these people lived over a century ago, their wrenching choice to leave behind a familiar place or a cherished dream is no different from that of many people around the globe today who are forced to make the same decision.
I have considered myself to be primarily a black and white photographer until the opportunity came along to photograph these rooms. I found that a desaturated color palette was a visceral testimony to the old, faded and gritty interiors that still exist in Bodie.
In general I regard my photography as “visual haiku” because of its poetic and contemplative quality. I have been greatly influenced by Japanese and Chinese poetry as well as the paintings and woodcuts of Japanese and Chinese landscape artists. So it is no surprise that those aesthetics permeate the photography that I create. My experience has been that when beauty crosses my path, whether grand or humble, thought and mentation disappear for an instant and a quiet stillness descends. In this way the experience of beauty for me is like a meditation, no matter how brief the encounter. Making photographs is my way to pay homage to those moments, when life offers me a priceless gift of beauty. Such moments seem to open my awareness to an innate inner silence that I believe we all share and my hope is that my photographs evoke that in the viewer.
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