Jenna Echakowitz aims to break through the mundane and capture fleeting moments that rupture the ordinary. The photographer explains that Instagram has helped her hone her craft and discoverthat photography is a way for people to connect and share ideas – it’s not just a mode of self-expression.
Here she shares some basic pointers on how the formal elements of composition together with practice has helped her create compelling images.
What made you get into photography?
I’ve always had an interest in taking photographs, from as early on as 10 or 11 years old. I would say that my grandfather really ignited my passion for it, and urged me to take it further. He was the one who gave me my first DSLR camera – it was a passion we both shared.
How has Instagram changed your relationship with the medium?
Instagram has changed my relationship with photography in a lot of ways. It’s pushed me to be more creative, to stay one step ahead of current trends, and has helped define my personal style. It has also helped me realize photography as more than a medium of self-expression. It’s a way for people to connect, and to share ideas. It has taught me to be more open to criticism – both positive and negative.
What are the qualities of an alluring photograph?
To me, an alluring photograph is one that tells a strong story. Strong storytelling elements come in many forms – interesting locations, subject matter with a lot of character (whether it be a person, animal, or object), and compelling use of light, to name just a few examples. The photographs I find most interesting are the ones that leave me with more questions than answers – where is that place? What happened there? Who is that person? Why do they look like they do?
Your subject matter is varied. What compels you to capture an object, landscape or person?
My aim is to capture things that are different; things that break through the drab veil that smothers our day-to-day existence. I feel compelled to photograph certain things when they catch my attention, and to catch my attention, they need to be out of the ordinary. So, essentially, what compels me to capture something is its uniqueness in that moment and often, something very fleeting.
What role does composition play in your work?
I have an interesting relationship with composition. I wouldn’t say that it plays a major role in my work, but it is a contributing factor. Sometimes, I consciously use the rule of thirds and similar compositional techniques to add to the impact of the image I am taking. Other times, I throw the rules out the window completely and place my subject matter at centre stage. To me, the best rules are ones that can be interpreted in many different ways. Composition is one of those rules. I just like to have fun with it.
When it comes to framing, whats your relationship between spontaneity and planning?
Most of my work is caught in the moment. Sometimes, a certain manner of framing will catch my eye – either shooting through something unexpected, or using surrounding elements to draw attention to my main subject – and that, for me, is what makes the photograph interesting. I would definitely say that my work leans heavily towards spontaneity. I am often moving too quickly to plan every shot. I like the organic feeling that spontaneity lends to an image, nothing too staged, or too forced. There is something charming and genuine about not knowing what you’ll end up with until you start shooting.
Do you have any pointers when it comes to creating strong images through composition?
Composition is something that starts to feel instinctive after a while. The more you shoot, the more you train your mind and your eye to seek out interesting compositional elements. That being said, I would say that the best pointers I can give to creating better images through composition is to experiment. There are a few key rules that help, like not chopping your subject off at any of their joints, and always leaving space for a subject to move into within the frame, but other than that, I have found that the best way to teach yourself what works and what doesn’t is by shooting all the time. Experience breeds confidence, and the more confident you are in your work, the better at it you’ll be.