Jane Alynn was born in 1944 in Portland, Oregon, and currently lives and works in Anacortes, Washington. She began photographing seriously in 1982, studying the work of masters and taking workshops with gifted teachers. In addition to her psychotherapy practice, she led creative vision workshops in Washington, Canada, and in the Southwest. In 1999, then living in the Skagit Valley, she retired to devote full time to making art. In 2002 she received an M.F.A. in poetry, published in the next eight years two books of poetry, and then turned her poetic impulse back to making photographs. Her photographs are exhibited regularly and are collected in the New Mexico History Museum, Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in Western Washington University. Among her awards, she was selected in 2014 as a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass, and in 2013 she was recognized with a Women in Photography award by the Larson Gallery in Yakima, WA.
For me, making photographs is first and foremost about seeing, encountering the world with my whole being, with softened gaze and senses heightened. I want to look beyond labels of things and respond with creative vision.
My approach to photography is grounded in the Zen arts—in the simplicity of black and white; in the acceptance of imperfection, in what’s poetic and natural, expressed with the simplest of means; in the necessity and sacredness of nature. The natural world then—its light and shadow, beauty and mystery, delicacy and tenacity, life and decay—provides constant inspiration and comprises much of my work. But recently, I have been drawn to landscapes in transition and the traces left behind. These images are meant as metaphor for our ephemeral existence, reminders that what we think is fixed is bound to disappear.
Also a poet, my gaze, and here I invoke the words of photographer Rebecca Norris Webb, is most drawn to images that are suggestive, elusive, and ultimately, mysterious. I am fascinated by dream states, memory, and the metaphysical. My work is strongly influenced by Edward Steichen, Minor White, and other early 20th century pictorial photographers, with their subtle tonal and tactile aspects and impressionistic soft focus, often strikingly ambiguous, painterly and poetic, whose expressive aims were to convey a mood of dreaminess to stimulate the imagination.
To embody these qualities in my work I fit my camera with a zone plate, a non-lens optical device that diffracts light, softening the image and creating a glow or “halo” that infuses forms with a glint of the numinous. Used with high-grain film it introduces ambiguity and nudges the boundaries of abstraction, helping to shift perception toward a sensual experience and tempt the imagination to see beyond the literal. These images also permit me to express a sense of the fragile, fleeting, ethereal.
I love the mystery and dark beauty these lensless images convey visually. And I love that I’m often surprised the prints reveal something that was not visible in the viewfinder.