At Table (2004-2019) | documents everyday spaces of expression and connection – dining rooms, kitchens, restaurants, bars and coffee tables. The series uses the messy contingency of plates and bottles and condiments to foreground human relationships performing for my lens, which navigates from a perspective that is local in depth but global in breadth. In locations including the USA, Mexico, Canada, China, Serbia and the UK, I have collected thousands of moments that capture friends, family and erstwhile strangers sharing time around food and drink in spaces where I am also an active participant.
My “tablescapes” offer subtle moments of drama and humor in which gestures, expressions and objects combine to perform as cultural artifacts and personal memories. I see the table as a space that can often transcend cultural barriers to become a place for authentic interaction. While the surface qualities that connect the photographs are largely formal – bold colors, exaggerated facial expressions, a consistent focal length - the series arose from the notion and need to forge diverse relationships outside the familial. For an only child, these photographs have come to represent an extended family that defies traditional definition.
On a broader level, the work offers a unique visual anthropology of everyday moments shared by a range of cultures, while also addressing how photographs may function in the realm of public culture as imperfect personal memories or shared histories. Ultimately, this series aims to connect, rather than solely critique, aspects of the human condition that collide and converge in a familiar, everyday place with an often untapped political potential – the table.
As an artist and educator, my work within the community often uses food culture as a means to address harder questions around social inequity. At Table presents a first-person narrative that uses the photograph as a fairly traditional, though purposefully performative, document. However, the images have been placed in the service of larger cultural conversations through exhibitions, community events, and educational activities.
My experiences in these discrete locations around the globe have resulted from my own privilege to move freely and access sustenance widely. I present spaces that fall within a fairly narrow socio-economic margin of neither extreme wealth nor destitution, while realizing this represents just a small portion of a global society where hunger is a very real issue.
My own photographed experiences, in all of their awkward beauty or chaotic authenticity, have all resulted from the hospitable acts of friends, family members, loved ones and mere acquaintances. I offer them as a small archive of the potential for radical hospitality, active togetherness, and the kindness of strangers to help alter the landscape of our polarized political climate. I offer them with the blatantly naïve but stubbornly fervent faith that sitting down together to share food and drink can change hearts, minds and worlds. www.glennajennings.com