We’re lucky enough to work with an ever-growing group of collaborators at Glasshouse, and photographer Jessica Maccormick has to be one of our most loyal. Whether she’s exploring Ethiopia armed with her camera or capturing the home of some of our favourite female business owners, Jess always does it with an unrivaled eye and beautiful results. As a trained anthropologist, her photographs often focus on interesting individuals in some of the most unique corners of the world - think everywhere from Asia, Africa and America to the quaintest British countryside.
New Zealand born and London-based, Jess likes hanging out in flora-filled gardens as much as she likes intrepid adventures. Saying that, she has just come back from a huge road trip through California which is why we thought it only right to catch up with Jess and publish her breathtaking photo series from the trip. Here we talk nature, bats and blueberry pancakes…
Tell us about your most recent trip to LA - what did you get up to there?
I embarked on a 1500 mile solo road trip from LA through Death Valley, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and then back down the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway back to LA. I was very newly pregnant at the time, and I felt that this might be the last time in some while that I’d be (almost) on my own. I spent a lot of time talking to him/her!
The starscape over Death Valley. It’s a ‘Gold Tier Dark Sky’ National Park for stargazing, and I’ve never encountered anything like it. Vast, vast skies and silent desert. The feeling was immense. Almost too much to bear. Accommodation-wise, my perennial favourite is Deetjen’s Inn in Big Sur. It specialises in sea mist, redwoods and the best blueberry pancakes you can get your hands on (besides my girlfriend Anna’s pancakes in Lake Tahoe). It features the most beautiful wooden cabins from the 1920s. No door locks, creaky floors, and cold fresh water from the tap. I climbed the hill behind the cabins and spent an afternoon watching helicopters refill their water loads to fight the California forest fires that were still burning at the time.
You’ve lived in lots of different places! How has this influenced your photographs?
I carry into each place the set of aesthetic practices and values I’m holding at the time, and while these may change it’s less to do with where I am, but rather what particular lenses I’m seeing the world through. Occasionally subjects can entirely upend that - which is wonderful.
What do you like shooting the most - people or places? And why!
I find each informs the other - place and person are so often intertwined. That’s what I find so interesting - how each touch upon the other.
We’re big on nature here at Glasshouse and love how you capture it. What is it about plants and greenery that makes you want to photograph it?
I’m channelling my parents and my grandparents. You could call it some sort of ancestral voodoo? Gardens, plants have always been strongly present in my life and I’ve been rediscovering this as I move through my adult life. Also as a city dweller, I’m always seeking out ways to green my life. I also have this thing where I see the most amazing characters in the plants - especially trees - I photograph. Maybe it’s an imagination run riot but, I’ve come to think of them as my ‘plant portraits’.
What do you do to unwind?
Netflix. Television has gotten so good. It has been cinema all my life, but that’s slightly stepped aside while this renaissance in TV has happened. Ha! Besides that, I like to survey bats. I volunteer for the London Bat Club, which always cracks my friends up. It’s just been an extraordinary way for me to see London open up in whole new way - I’ve had access to places off limits to most people at dusk, and armed with a bat detector means the night skies are alive in a way you can’t experience without one. I’m also a BIG fan of country walks. The best thing you can buy is the Time Out guide to country walks near London. They’re all brilliant, all offer some lovely quirky pub or tearoom to stop in for lunch. Audiobooks are also a big part of my life.
Where’s next on your travel hit list?
My husband has just come back from a job in Iran and is desperately trying to get us go there for a holiday. This year we’re having family Christmas in the Peloponnese - Greece is one of our favourite places.
You’re originally from New Zealand - do you miss it? What do you like most about it?
The North Island’s idyllic east coast beaches and the volcanic landscape of my home city. Back yards and Pohutakawa trees. The smell of freshly mown grass and hot footpaths under bare feet. I miss my family very much. I’ve always felt that London is the centre of civilisation - well I did - up until the rest of the country voted for Brexit. Now I think we all feel a little bit lost.
How has you work as an anthropologist fed into your photography/your style?
It’s taught me to seek the rewards of spending time with people and a great love of the seemingly mundane. The small details I find as poignant and as telling as the grand narratives that shape our lives.
View more of Jessica’s work here
All images: Jessica Maccormick