Inner Journey; The Photography Of Joyce Tenneson

Joyce Tenneson's photographs are thought-provoking and deeply moving. Her portraits provide insight into the soul and spirit of her subjects. Perhaps this is why Tenneson has enjoyed such a long and successful career.

"I started photographing in my 20s--I feel I have lived at least four lifetimes! My work has evolved as I have, and looking back on it makes me feel like I am reading a personal diary. Jung said, `What is most personal is the most universal.' I have always believed if an artist works from their center, the work will speak to many people. In the end, we are all more alike than we are different.

Sunflower from the book Intimacy.
All Photos © 2007, Joyce Tenneson, All Rights Reserved

"In my 20s and early 30s, I was compelled to do self-portraits. Those images came effortlessly. I didn't have to discipline myself to go out and do the work. It flowed from my own sense of moving forward as well as a desire to be authentic and true to my own inner voice. I believe if photographers really go deep within themselves they will be working with material that touches on the universal.

"When I photographed Maya Angelou I asked her what she felt was important in life and she answered, 'The journey. If you're not on the journey, you're not alive.' This is what photography is about for me--recording the journey and providing a light on the path for others."

When Tenneson was 18 she was hired by Polaroid to model. She remembers sitting in their studio wearing primary colors so that the technicians could test the new SX-70 film. She fell in love with photography while working for Polaroid--they gave her a camera and all the free film she could use. She has been photographing ever since!

Self-portrait 2006.

Today Tenneson is still working full steam. Her work has graced the covers of Time, Life, and Newsweek among numerous other magazines. In addition, she has published 13 books on her own work. Her latest, Joyce Tenneson: A Life in Photography, published by Bulfinch Press, will be out in Spring, 2008.

All of Tenneson's images tell a tale and touch a chord that is quickly recognizable. Though life has not always been easy, Tenneson will tell you that one must not let negative events discourage us. She always tries to create beauty, even in times of personal hardship and difficulty.

Being famous or wealthy was never Tenneson's goal. "I have never needed to be a part of a particular movement in photography," she says. "I admire all photographers who attempt to create work from their own heart and spirit. It's not easy, and sometimes the journey is lonely. Perhaps that is why I have become so interested in teaching now. I never had role models myself, I wish I had! I love being a catalyst for other people's transformation. That is what gives life meaning."

Maine studio.

For 20 years Tenneson lived in New York full-time, but she now spends half her time in a studio overlooking the water in Maine. New York was part of her journey and she readily tells you that she had lost contact many times with her heart and her soul while living in the competitive environment of New York.