Meet the local artist who is showcasing the Coast’s backyard through childhood inspirations
IMAGINE having the ability to go back in time and see the world through children’s eyes. Eudlo artist Bonnie Jenkins can and she is sharing her unique visions via a video projection piece called The Secret Garden at the Maroochy
Music and Visual Arts Festival on Saturday, August 26.
We caught up with the humble photographer and visual artist in the lead-up to MMVAF to unveil some of the mysteries behind The Secret Garden as well as the woman behind the lens.
You say The Secret Garden “recalls your childhood fascinations with your natural surrounds”. When you get behind the lens, do you feel like you can see the world through children’s eyes?
The camera allows me to see with fresh eyes. I try to shake my familiarity blindness off and see things as though I am seeing them for the first time, trying to not assume or glaze over out of habit. As we become familiar with the world around us we tend to lose some of the fascination in our surroundings.
What dreams did you have as a little girl?
I think I wanted to be in Lord of the Rings (laughs). I really loved everything fantastical. As I got older I wanted to be a musician and then when I realised that wasn’t for me I thought I could at least photograph music, this was one of the reasons I took up photography. While I moved onto other genres of photography, I started with a focus on shooting live music.
How do you think growing up on the Coast hinterland influenced your appreciation and views on the environment?
Growing up on acreage meant I had a big natural playground. I used to spend all day in the rainforest and garden surrounding my home, and when I went to school, I would come home and go out into the garden straight away. I started to create patterns from different leaves and seeds when I was very young, this practice has continued as can be seen in some of my Secret Garden images and my Sunshine Coast University Hospital commission. My ‘happy place’ is definitely in nature and I am so thankful to have been brought up to appreciate it.
You’ve studied and lived in the UK, plus travelled the globe for work… but what makes the Sunshine Coast environment so special?
While I have a serious case of wanderlust, I always come back to the Sunshine Coast and say “geez we are lucky to live here”. The Sunshine Coast has such a great climate and natural beauty. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a great network of friends and creatives who regularly inspire me. When I graduated, a lot of people in the creative industry moved to Sydney or Melbourne to continue their practice, but with social media etc, it’s now no longer necessary to be in a major city to pursue and succeed in the creative industry. Having said that, in order to support this industry, festivals like MMVAF are crucial in fostering this industry and encouraging new collaborations and projects on the Sunshine Coast.
What was your reaction when you were asked to join the MMVAF line-up?
I was thrilled, as I wanted more opportunities to incorporate my video projections with music after participating in Animating Spaces, and Dangerous Song. I am also excited by the idea of showcasing my work to a different demographic such as the MMVAF audience. I love the fact that the festival showcases visual arts alongside music.
Do you believe the country needs more festivals like MMVAF highlighting more artists and showcasing their work?
Yes, it’s great to have the visual arts alongside the music as its helps heighten all the senses and strengthens the experience. The Sunshine Coast has a lot of micro communities so its great to have something like this festival that can bring all these communities together, we need a creative hub on the Sunshine Coast.
In today’s digital age, how important is preserving photography prints to you?
The ‘art’ of photography has been improved by digital in some aspects such as making it more accessible, but it has changed people’s perception of photography. Unfortunately I believe people no longer look at a photograph with the wonder of “how has that been captured”; instead post processing is often assumed. While photography has always been able to be manipulated we always used to believe what we saw, now we question this a lot more. For me I was drawn to photography for its ability to expose the wonder around us by freezing and slowing time, depth of field and so forth, drawing our attention to things just outside our peripheral vision. While this wonder is still there for me, as I get to witness it in the process of taking the photos, I often have to explain how images have been taken in order for the viewer to believe it has been created in camera as opposed to manipulated in post processing.
As far as prints go, the tactile experience of prints will always hold appeal, when we see something in print I feel it can hold our attention a little longer than when viewing an image on a screen.
What challenges and/or surprises have you stumbled across over your career as a photographer and visual artist?
I find the social media element hard to keep up with but I also find it fun. It has taken me sometime to get to a client base and branding/style that I am really happy with.
Why do you believe art is important for human beings? What benefits does it provide?
Art is one of the ways we document life, throughout history this has remained strong and served as a great reference of times past and present. Art also has the ability to create emotion, making us question the world around us. As any creative person will concur, when you don’t express your creativity you can often feel a bit empty, it’s very important that creative expression be encouraged for mental health. Art brings happiness, develops and inspires people.
We are super excited to see The Secret Garden at the MMVAF August 26. Can you please tell us a little more about The Secret Garden, how it came about and where you got your inspiration from?
The Sunshine Coast has a lot of micro communities so its great to have something like this festival that can bring all these communities together.
I will be creating a short video, which will be projected. It will
feature abstract footage of spiders and their webs. It is part of my continuing Secret Garden series.
The Secret Garden recalls my childhood fascinations with my natural surrounds, where my imagination in the fantastical and our multi-faceted environment ran wild. To convey this vision, I photograph in my garden, breaking down the familiarity veil and
re-inciting my imagination within my everyday surrounds. We often get so excited by the new and exotic, that we forget to
appreciate the beauty right in front of us. I draw inspiration from the peripheral visions of the everyday and the combination of nature and the lens. Photography represents reality yet simultaneously has the ability to unsettle this visual ‘reality’. Collaboration with nature is vital to my work,
so the fact most effects are created in-camera is intrinsic to the work. It’s all about appreciating the very real environment we
live in and the magic of the optical instrument at capturing these elements in a unique but very real way. The spider series began after deciding to take notice of the common web at my front step, which, with the aid of a macro
lens, angles and sunlight, revealed its rainbow and reflective qualities. From this moment I have found the intricate details,
temporal and colourful qualities of spider webs to be an endless source of inspiration.
Art brings happiness, develops and inspires people.
A collection of shots by Bonnie Jenkins show her ability to adjust from photographing nature to fashion and weddings.
A La Robe styled shoot. Hair: Leaf Hair Studio Dunedin. Makeup: Rebecca Cameron Makeup Artistry.
Styled shoot for Heavenly Blooms on Brooklyn Bridge, New York City. HMUA: Dunia Ghabour. Dress Suzanne Harward.
Bonnie captures magic on a recent trip to Iceland.
Photographer and visual artist, Bonnie Jenkins, joins the 2017 MMVAF line-up with her video projection piece, The Secret Garden.
Bonnie capturing the romance at Robyn and Whitney’s wedding.
The Secret Garden collection will appear at the MMVAF on Saturday, August 26.