Smile Politely

Camera of the heart

I don’t have anything to add that would make the raw material any better. An introduction is sometimes a waste of space, and Jodi Adams has a lot of valuable things to say, so, let’s get to it.

Smile Politely: What is the story of your artistic beginning?

Jodi Adams: Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a camera, documenting life events, friends, family road trips, summer camp. My junior year of high school was the first time I stepped foot into a darkroom. I could spend hours there, creating.  There was something so magical about the entire process. I took as many classes as were offered and eventually joined the high school yearbook committee. I became the photo editor my senior year.

It was just assumed that I would continue along that trajectory, into something creative and artistic, but I doubted my ability. I was intimidated by the whole art scene, and I just didn’t think I had it in me. I didn’t think I was good enough. Instead, I talked myself into a more traditional path. Ten years later, I owned a house and was making good money, but it was soul-less work and I was empty inside. I knew I had traded something important for this ‘safer’ path. It was at that point that I was inspired to take some darkroom classes at Parkland College with Peggy Shaw and Craig McMonigal.

It felt like home again; the smell of the chemicals, the quiet coolness of the darkroom, the magic of it all, this creative process. One of my images, Sanctuary, was selected for a Purchase Award. On opening night, I can clearly recall going into the gallery with my friends and seeing my photograph hanging on the wall. That was the turning point. I sold my house, quit my job, and moved back to Chicago to get my degree in photography at Columbia College.

The path that had scared me once before was still terrifying, but nothing is worse than selling yourself short, living out a life that is not authentic, and being fully aware of it.

So, in a sense, I had 2 starts. When I start having regrets, or wishing I would have started back when I was 18 like everyone else, I have to remind myself that those 10 years were invaluable. They made me who I am. I think I had to take the hard road to appreciate where I am now. They say all artists have to suffer for their art one way or another. I just went about it in a very different way.

SP: “Nothing is worse than selling yourself short, living out a life that is not authentic, and being fully aware of it.” Preach!

Suffering is, indeed, inspiring and we have to exorcise those emotion demons, one way or another.

What are your favorite subjects to capture? Or is that like choosing a favorite child?

Adams: It sounds so cliche to say that I enjoy photographing nature, but I do. I respect it. I am most inspired to grab a camera and go out into the thick of it when things get challenging. When there is bad weather, that’s when things get interesting. Give me a misty, foggy, dreary day and I’ll show you how it transforms a landscape. There’s something so precious about the temporary-ness of it all. Capturing a moment in nature that will only last a moment is like being in on the secret of the universe. My photo guru would often say that, as photographers, we are the eyes of the world. We are visual servants. It is my responsibility to share these visual treasures with the world.

It all relates back to our inner landscape. How everything is temporary. The storms of our lives pass. You can choose how you want to ride them out; with your hair whipping in the wind, exultant in the experience of something greater than yourself or running for cover and hiding under the bed. If you continue to hide from your inner and outer reality, then you haven’t truly lived.

SP: What is your most recent work all about?

Adams: This latest project is all about capturing the physical form in nature. The end result is an outer expression of an inner landscape, our affinity, our connection to earth, fire, water, air; all of the elements that we are, in fact, made of. In the end, it all comes back to nature.

SP: So tell us more about the Indi Go exhibit. What can we expect?

Adams: [The] Indi Go gallery is such a great space. I’m excited to show my work here. This will be the first public showing of my “Art of Intentions” project and I am interested in receiving feedback and the public response. I’ve exhibited other work for years, and I know what works and what doesn’t, but this project is in its infancy. I am using this first look as a way to get a feel for how well the project translates visually.

Expect large and small scale prints printed both traditionally and infused on metal. Intentions are woven through the visual tapestry to further inform the experience. Visitors are encouraged to leave their own intention behind to become a part of the project for future exhibitions.

SP: Is that a symbolic leaving behind or a literal/material one? (I want to be very clear so our readers don’t try to staple vision boards to your nature scenes.)

Adams: Ahhh… good question. I applaud anyone for making vision boards, but preferably not on top of my art.

People will be encouraged/invited to leave behind intentions in a designated area. It will all be very clear when entering the gallery space.

SP: Sounds like a therapeutic experience!

Are there photos in your artistic history that stay with you? Or do they flow and dissipate over time?

Adams: There are photos that stay with me. Some are visual markers of pivotal moments in my life, and others are just moments. I’m nostalgic, almost to a fault. I think I just threw out dried flowers from a high school boyfriend last year. It was a big deal. I probably took photos before tossing them in the compost.

Photos are memories of things past. Within a single frame, they hold the smell, taste, touch, and emotion of a moment in time. It’s a powerful thing.

SP: A memory, yes. I do believe, however, that some things can’t be captured on film or in photo. The essence of the moment can’t quite be contained, even though there is something very strong and beautiful in the image. Thoughts?

Adams: When I photograph something, the memory of the moment stays with me. It’s an event, an expedition. That’s why I enjoy photographing nature. Each time I go out, it’s an adventure into the wild unknown. Those images contain my memories, and you’re right, the true fullness of the moment cannot be translated through film.

My photo guru would often use the term “Camera of the Heart,” when you capture the image through the lens of your heart, instead of a camera. Like the first time I climbed this particularly challenging mountain in Alaska in search of a glacier. When I finally hit the peak and took in the grandeur, it was beyond words. Though I had my camera, none of the photographs did justice to that moment.

One might relate to this when bearing witness to a magnificent sunset, or the first time one sees their newborn child, or looking into the eyes of someone you love in a shared moment of intimacy. These moments are taken with the camera of the heart, and a visual snapshot is just a container for those emotions, those memories.

There have been moments when I feel as if the universe has lifted the veil for just a moment. When I click the shutter at just the right moment, it feels like all of the puzzle pieces have fallen into place. Time has no meaning, and I am fully present. Some call this “being in the zone.” Often, it is these images that speak to people. This is also what happens with yoga, when breath and moment is all that there is, all that there needs to be. All the rest of it -the worry, the doubt, the regret, the constant chatter of the mind- all that slips away. In those moments, the veil is lifted. We are in the zone of life.

This is ultimately my intention with the Art of Intention, to capture a visual representation of these moments. When I am fully present, and the person I am photographing is as well, when the universe lifts its veil, when all of it comes together for just a moment, all it takes is a click of the shutter and I see.

SP: That sounds wonderful.

Adams: I will also be hosting a yoga/intention setting practice on Wednesday, April 30th. The experience will be very similar to New Year resolution rituals that I lead. This involves letting go of the past, admitting to what isn’t working, and releasing it, thereby making space for a future of one’s own creation.

NYE was ages ago and we’ve all evolved since then. It’s so limiting to hold ourselves to old promises that no longer serve. We can take this time to fine-tune our intentions and transform into the best versions of ourselves. Spring is a great time to cleanse the body and the mind; a physical and spiritual version of spring cleaning.

Here’s a sample of some guiding questions that I have used in the past:

Through the lens of your heart ask these questions:
How do you want to feel in every part of your life?
Are the actions you are taking now in line with your goals?

It’s all about living a full, authentic life. This is the power of an intention.


Indi Go Artist Co-op exhibits Jodi Adams’s work from April 25th through May 4th with an opening reception on Saturday, April 26th. There will be a musician, Daniel Bachman, on Friday, April 25th. Go and take in some intentions. Leave some as well.

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