Homegrown: 2011 Holiday Arts Tour

Now that the tour is right around the corner Homegrown will be a daily post highlighting our Holiday Arts Tour artists. NCLAC would like to celebrate the artists living in our own backyard whether they were raised here, relocated, or just like to visit enough to call Ruston home. This years Holiday Arts Tour will be November 18, 19, & 20th. Watch here for more information and tour locations. Today's post is Amy James of Baton Rouge.


Amy James is a local photographer who primarily shoots black and white portraits in the "traditional" way, using silver & film. Although trained as a painter, she was drawn to the darkroom upon learning it provided as much of a challenge to work with, as the empty canvas. The mystery that film photography provides is why she doesn't desire to switch over into digital. "There is still nothing quite as fascinating as the anticipation of developing both the negatives and the paper in the darkness, while waiting to see if you captured the shot . . . It's just magic!" says James.

She studied at LSU under teachers such as Michael Crespo, and Robert Hausey . . . with Thomas Neff, her photography professor and mentor, being her greatest influence. James shows in many venues and galleries across the South with permanent exhibits displayed in Baton Rouge, Ruston, Birmingham and dallas. Her writings and photographs have been published regionally in magazines such as Country Roads and Delta Style, and nationally in Veranda and Ladies Home Journal. James is both an Artist and Board Member at Baton Rouge Gallery, where she is currently serving as the Artist Liaison.

James prefers to shoot primarily portraiture using natural light to illuminate her subjects. Her portraits are often introspective . . . They seem to tell their own stories where truth and beauty connect. Her photographs have been described as being both haunting and soulful, a description she finds fitting . . . for it allows the images to remain with the viewer long after they are left behind. James shoots most of her artistic work on or around the quiet solitude of lovely Lake D'arbonne, which is located in North Louisiana. She currently resides in Baton Rouge where she lives with her two sons and five dogs.


Being a black and white photographer that shoots traditionally, using silver & film, I am finding that my way of creating images is rapidly becoming obsolete. Oddly enough, this truth seems to make me feel all the more certain and passionate about sticking with the darkroom in order to create. I print all my work by hand, one image at a time . . . No two photographs will ever be or look "exactly" the same. This bit of knowledge just makes creating the finished product even more intriguing for me. Perhaps this is because I was trained as a painter and although the "craft" of creating the image can be tedious and/or labor intensive, the rewards can be as fascinating as capturing them. I shoot primarily portraiture and set my subjects against various environments and landscapes using only natural light to illuminate them. I feel that natural lighting is the best tool to lend itself to creating a mood withing the image. Lighting often makes the subject and its environment more connected, on some level. Many of my photographs are seen or meant to be viewed as narrative . . . some of which can be seen as autobiographical, while others simply tell of someone else's story or experience. I want there to be some element in them to allow you to want to know more . . . even it it's a question or bit of uncertainty that brings you beyond the lens. Some describe my work as being haunting or soulful in nature, I find this to be true or accurate at times. I show my work in various venues and galleries across the South, from Alabama to Texas, and have permanent exhibits displayed from Dallas to Baton Rouge, as well as many a family hallway. Together they are shared and compared secrets, memories, stories, and documentation . . . images in a world where fantasy and truth collide while crossing over to meet reality.


NCLAC: Do you think everyone is or can be creative?

James: Well actually, I don't think everyone is or can be creative unless they believe it themselves. I feel that without the burning desire to express creatively, they will more than likely "stuff" the impulse, or extinguish that part of who they are. Sometimes others in our lives or circumstances halt this profess for us, as children or even as adults with negative feedback, or fear of it.

NCLAC: So, what sets artists apart?

James: The desire, need or drive to express yourself creatively through any type of medium while actually following through and doing so in sharing your creative expression with others.

NCLAC: What inspires you, influences and/or drives you as an artist?

James: Well, mainly I would have to say that my relationships and life experiences are what inspire and influence me as an artist . . . whether is was giving birth and becoming a parent, helping a loved one fighting a disease or illness, living through a near decade battle of addiction with a family member along with a partner, simultaneously, losing someone I loved to death . . . or even in leaving a long term relationship behind. Also I find as I grow older my work has become more spiritual, a way to find or seek God in and through creative expression, both visually and in my writing.

NCLAC: How does creating art make you feel?

James: Oh wow, different feelings at different times . . . but mainly just purely contentment. I just love the finished product when hours have been spent tweaking and laboring in order to get the image "just so" . . . even in my writing, it's the shaving down process, or the sculpting of the language. Honestly - experiencing love is the only thing that can compare to the feeling of joy that creating art brings to me. So I would say it is pretty high up on my priority list. I don't think a single day goes by where I don't create some type of artful expression, even if only for myself.

NCLAC: Can you tell us something quirky and interesting about you that sets you apart?

James: I seem to have an electrical charge that "shorts out" or makes electrical appliances or hay-wire, when I am around them. It has happened with every vehicle I have owned, and has even happened to my friends' cars that I have borrowed - horns randomly honking, locks locking and unlocking, and the gas gauge quits within weeks of ownership . . . also happens at times with - computers, microwaves, toaster ovens and radios . . . out in public--gym equipment or machines, cash registers, security systems in stores. The worst was when a mammogram machine completely shut down during an exam. Thank God it was in the "up" position - yikes! My only explanation for this is that I have metal parts (a 13 inch steel rod in my back) and I was once electrocuted as a child. Who knows . . . ? It's a mystery.

NCLAC is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.  In addition funding for the Holiday Arts Tour is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and administered by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.