Lockdown was, for many, a time of creative inspiration, a time to branch out and discover new aesthetics, approaches and outlets. Jenna Gang (@jennagang), a New York based still life photographer and director, was no exception to this rule - her series Oil and Water is a personal exploration of line, shape and colour, and on a larger scale, an investigation into life under lockdown.
Gang, who specialises in bright, bold and energetic imagery in her commercial work needed a creative outlet in the midst of New York’s March 2020 lockdown, and turned to readily available household materials. Transforming her commercial imagery into a personal, household project helped Gang to simplify and refine her aesthetic and approach to photography - “I found that the practice of moving oil around in water has helped me deconstruct my aesthetic to just lines and shapes.”
Not to be taken lightly is the therapeutic nature of this project - as this project was personally driven, it became a way to relax and switch off from exterior circumstances. The beauty of this project lies within its simplicity, and hides no secrets or metaphors - it simply is an exploration of two naturally occurring forces, and the ways in which they can be manipulated and shaped to form beautiful imagery.
Oil and water are two naturally repulsive forces as well, which makes this project all the more interesting - the substances are unpredictable, and out of the control of the photographer. All she can control is the lighting and the colours, and allowing the substances to move at will, almost an unwitting allusion to the nature of the pandemic itself, and the way we all cope with life under lockdown. Like oil and water, we live within an unpredictable proximity to an uncontrollable force - the disease and each individual are oil and water to each other, living as two repulsive forces within a carefully structured set.
Lighting is critical to all of Gang’s work, but especially oil and water. Such simple materials belie a complexity of lighting necessary to facilitate beautiful images being produced from everyday substances. The crisp lighting with sharp shadows ensures the viewer's eye is captured within an instant, drawn to the shapes, shadows and bright highlights of each bubble and line - “having a sharp shadow helps define products and makes the work feel like it’s jumping off the page.”
Each photograph is beautifully abstract in its composition and aesthetic. The lighting combined with careful cropping of the shapes help to enhance the abstract nature of the images, allowing the mind to drift to ideas of bodies of water, landscapes, or even the human body itself - all within one image of oil mixed with water.
A lot of Gang’s photography features products she owns and uses frequently, as she greatly believes in portraying a product and it’s uniqueness from a consumers standpoint - "As a customer, I want the product to be sold to me by someone who also uses the product, which wasn’t the case for a very long time.”
Jenna Gang is a commercial still life photographer and director based in New York City. She specialises in bright, energetic imagery that jumps off the screen. She loves to photograph cosmetics, food, beverages and fashion products for commercial clients that sometimes move. She loves creating images and videos for awesome clients with a little bit of kookiness.