H. Jennings Sheffield, assistant professor of art, photography in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, was recently named an “emerging artist” by Musée Magazine, an international photography publication. Her work, Tethered, appeared in the magazine’s November 2015 issue as one of 55 emerging artists alongside 39 established master photographers including Rineke Dijkstra, Lorna Simpson, Candida Hofer, The Guerilla Girls and Tina Barney.
“The idea that these are some of the top contemporary artists is really exciting,” Sheffield says. “The other artists in the issue are some of the photographers who I teach to students in my classes, so I was thrilled to have my work appear with theirs.”
It is significant that Tethered appears in a special issue of Musée that showcases female photographers. The master artists featured in the magazine provide role models for young female photographers, something Sheffield says was in short supply early in her career.
“I came up in photography when it was a male-dominated field,” she says. “I didn’t have anyone to show me how to have a family, be an artist and teach students. When I went to photography conferences as a student, it was all men. Now when I take students to those same meetings, there are lots more women.”
Tethered is an exploration of the complexities of modern life drawn from Sheffield’s own experience balancing her roles as an artist, teacher, wife, mother and daughter.
“There was a time when it was possible to separate our roles to discrete times of day,” she says. “We went to work in the morning, then spent time with families in the evenings and on weekends. Now, technology has created a tethering effect where our work and family lives become intermingled and confused.”
Sheffield created the images by blending together photographs she took over the course of four months as she performed some of the many roles in her own life. She used software to combine images taken at the same time of day, creating a single image that represents a two-hour block of time.
Viewed at full size, the vertical striping in the images creates a lenticular effect that makes different elements stand out depending on the angle and distance of the observer. The effect underscores Sheffield’s message and reinforces the limitations of trying to represent the complications and connections of modern life using traditional photographic methods.
“I wanted to capture real moments that happen over time,” she explains. “We’re all very tethered and we can’t separate our roles, and I don’t feel that a single image can capture all of those layers.”