In Unearthing, photographer Mitch Jenkins' sensationally spectral collaboration with comic book giant Alan Moore, the artist madly careens (as Kirkus found) from the poignant to the bizarre, in an inspired quest to capture the almost ethereal life of another fascinating compatriot named Steve Moore. When Kirkus caught up with him, Jenkins was deep in post-production on the latest installment of a multi-part film narrative (again created with Alan Moore) called Show Pieces. Jenkins was gnevertheless all too happy to talk about his provocative work, as well as his long and fruitful partnership with the father of the Watchmen. Here, Jenkins provides a glimpse into the often stark, but powerful worlds he and Moore have been able to conjure up, as if by magic, over the years.
What was the most challenging part of creating Unearthing?
The reinvention of my photographic style. This from the outset was always going to be the most difficult. Having created a distinctive commercial style over the years, to then have to find a new visual voice was a challenge. Also the design of Unearthing, we spent several years trying to create the perfect way to display both my images and Alan's text.
Why do you think you and Alan worked together so well (do you work together well)?
I have Alan's complete trust, and vice versa. Although we are chalk and cheese as artists, I feel that this is part of what makes our relationship work so well. That, and having known each other for some 30 years.
Was there any inkling at the time that your creative partnership would endure for as long as it has?
I don't think either of us thought we would one day be producing so much art together. I was a young photographer commissioned by Q magazine to photograph the rising star comic book writer Alan Moore for the very first issue. We struck up a friendship and I remember hanging out with Alan in those early years, as he would recall what he had just written for each episode of The Watchmen, neither of us knowing that this would change everything in the genre (that said, I suspect he did). I think it is my portrait of him that is on the back of all the original early editions of Watchmen.
Is there a unifying theme or point of view that connects all the images that you create?
Only in an instinctive way, my main focus is to create work that feels right. I try not to analyze things too much. Alan is much better equipped intellectually than me to do this with his work than I am. Again, that is why we work so well together.
How much different do you suppose is the marriage of words and pictures in comics, from with the marriage of words and pictures in Unearthing?
Having never worked in comics I do not know. The marriage of words and images within Unearthing, without wanting to repeat myself, was a truly instinctive process. I read and re-read the book over a period of a few weeks; after this I started to visualize paragraphs and specific words within the text. Over the next few months I created a shot list. When the shot list was in a good state, I then started the very long process of creating the images we see today. From initial reading to shooting, the last frame was three years. I then sat with my designers and started the equally long and somewhat frustrating journey of designing the book, again this took the best part of three years.
When you and Alan are working together on projects, are you trying to capture elements of his texts in photos, or are you going wherever the prose leads you?
With Unearthing and our latest film project, it is a case of me bringing to life his words visually.
Has the Unearthing experience changed the way you approach photography?
Without a doubt it has. I now have a much greater desire and understanding on how to visualize the written word through images.