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Sep 12, 2018

Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Popperl

Jennifer Popperl describes herself as an urbex photographer. Her mission has always been to find beauty in the broken, abandon, and replaced. Through her photography Jennifer seeks to document her own personal experiences, capture scenes and events as she sees them and share with others the beauty and diversity of the world. According to Jennifer, photography is a form of communication and storytelling that is so powerful because photographs will outlive us - not much in our world is that permanent and that important.

Her latest series is titled Stages of Grief, which originally started as a series of phrases and images strung together to help process her feeling of abandonment and emptiness after being re-leased from an abusive relationship. Jennifer never intended to share this collection with any-one because it was very personal. However, those who were close to her confided and confessed to her through this work, which made her realize this was more than just her story. Jennifer hopes that her catharsis can be theirs as well.

BM: Tell me about your latest collection – Stages of Grief.

JP: I was coming out of a difficult situation that left me feeling heartbroken, lost, and disappointed. At that moment in my life I wasn’t equipped to handle that level of sadness, and it lead me down a bad path. One night while researching “How to get over a loss,” I came across the 5 stages of grief (Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and fell in love with the idea of breaking down those stages even further to apply to my situation. This collection has evolved so much over the course of a year and a half. It initially started out of necessity for survival and to remind myself that I existed and that I mattered. A series of words and images strung together to address the man that broke my heart. Each stage I wrote or photographed was an attempt to piece myself back together. A wise woman once told me: “You can only lie on the floor and cry for so long until you have to get up.” This collection of images and words are the result of me putting one hand on the ground and pushing myself up and taking a step toward healing. Now that I sit back and look at it all (hanging on my wall), it makes me think of one of my favorite quotes by Frida Kahlo: “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

BM: What makes your art so unique?

JP: I have a profound appreciation for the unappreciated, and I think my body of work reflects that. This perspective has allowed me to produce images that are not a part of the status quo. I’m constantly trying to find beauty in the things that most people pass by without a second glance or take for granted. The Stages of Grief collection was an important transition for me as an artist since it gave me the opportunity to merge more than one medium – marrying, writing, photography, film, and a book. I think it helped me evolve past being a photographer and made me more of a mixed media artist.

BM: What inspires your work?

JP: Love. The having it and not having it and I don’t just mean romantically either. I’m forever on the quest for self love and acceptance. Initially, I did not recognize that the more I gravitated towards Urbex photography the better I started to understand the correlation between my subject matter and myself. These places once thrived with life. They were cared for, loved for, and thought of in high regard. Then, for reasons not always known, they're forgotten, left behind, replaced, and left for someone else to fix or discard. We can all relate to that feeling of abandonment. Although, I sway back and forth between subject matters (structures and people) the underline theme never really changes - finding beauty in the broken.

BM: How did you develop an interest in photography?

JP: I took photography in high school and completely fell in love with it. I let it go for a few years to focus on writing, which was my first love at the time. In my mid-twenties I developed anxiety and panic attacks. I was looking for a release, a solution, an escape. Art, photography in particular, became that for me. A lot of people think that when you go through something difficult you need to go to therapy, medicate or go out with friends and drink it out. But, sometimes it’s an emotion that you must touch on that only your art allows you to do. For me, it was always more than an interest - it’s a way of life.

BM: What equipment do you prefer to use?

JP: Honestly, whatever is at my reach (iPhone included lol). I don’t think a camera is what makes a good photographer or a good image (Although I know it can help). Sometimes I feel forced to say that I use this really fancy camera to impress people, but the reality is that I don’t. I'm still in love with my Fuji point and shoot, Canon 7d, my Sony OX, the Holga, and my dad’s old Minolta X-370.

BM: Did you receive any formal training or does it come natural to you?

JP: Both. I was doing photography for a few years before I decided to go to art school to be-come a more versed and technical photographer, but I don’t think having that formal training has played a huge role. To be honest, I think that the best parts of my work come from every-thing they taught me not to do in school. To make a long story short, I do think you either have it or you don’t and no amount of schooling can ever teach you that.

BM: How do you, as a photographer, make sure that the object, person, or landscape you want to shoot looks the way you want it to?

JP: Everything usually starts with a concept, but after that there isn’t much planning. Honestly, I’ve come to discover that happy accidents work best for me. No matter how hard I try, I can’t force the process.

BM: From your point of view, what makes a good picture?

JP: Art is subjective but, for me, if an image can move me or make me feel something then I know it’s a success.

BM: What has been one of your favorite portraits so far?

JP: Although the below photograph is not considered a portrait, it is by far one of my favorite images I’ve ever captured. It’s amazing how the human form can convey so much by doing so little. The hand, its gesture really carries the sadness of missing someone.

BM: Is there one piece that you can’t bear to part with?

JP: Everything I’ve done! They’re all an extension of me, of my hurt, my happiness, and my realizations. I show my work, sell it, but they never leave me.

BM: What has being an artist taught you?

JP: It has taught me that I have a voice and that it matters. Even if just one person is listening. Truthfully, it took a while for me to accept the term “artist” and myself in the same sentence. Once I let that go (the stigma of the word), I realized that there is nothing more beautiful than being one. It’s both a blessing and a curse to feel things so deeply. It’s a burden and a great responsibility that I feel proud to undertake. The work you and I create can and will outlive us. Not much in our world is that permanent and that important.

BM: How have you benefited from being a part of the RAW community?

JP: First, I just want to start off by saying what an honor it has been to be part of this community. They found me after my first show and everything great that happened afterwards was be-cause of them. They help local and unknown artists get one step closer to achieving their dreams. That exposure was a great stepping stone for me. I went on to freelance for a magazine, I covered big art events, and even photographed members of the Los Angeles Lakers. I highly recommend any new, or established artist, to join the RAW community.

BM: How do you feel art, fashion, and music influence each other?

JP: I think art, fashion, and music overlap. At some point, they all seem to bleed into each other and become one. I can’t speak on other people’s work but for me, personally, all three have played a huge role in my work. I’m inspired by music and different eras of fashion and art. You can’t really have one without the other.

BM: Is your art currently on display anywhere?

JP: I made the decision to limit how many shows I participated in this year. All in an effort to focus my energy on my first solo exhibit. I've been working very closely with Stacy Lynn from Art Ambassador Chick to make this dream come true. I would invite everyone to follow me on Instagram for more updates on the solo exhibit and upcoming shows (@EyeWatchPhoto).

BM: Where can people purchase your work?

JP: I recently re-opened my Etsy store where people can find merchandise made from my original photography. For more information please feel free to visit on

Interview by Nikki Neil


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