Using the camera as a tool of metaphor and personal discovery, Russek reveals our human frailties and beautiful vulnerabilities, even as she celebrates our life force.
in Photography: New Mexico
Seed sprouts, shoot reaches, flower blossoms, and the plant relishes all the fullness of life. But soon, its petals drop, its stalk withers, and the plant returns to the earth.
The life cycle, with all its promise and poignancy, is the subject of Janet Russek’s long-term project The Seed Within. Using only natural light, Russek photographs forms alluding to the fullness of pregnancy – ripe squashes, peaches, pears. Egg yolks and ginseng roots hang suspended within vessels of liquids as beings in a womb. Some images hint at decay, suggesting later stages of a woman’s development such as menopause and old age.
More recently, Russek has moved into figurative work in two series on nude pregnant women and dolls. She photographs the women at close range so that bellies and breasts become abstracted, yet suffused with a divine glow, capturing her belief that “pregnancy is about hope, faith, and love.” The portraits of dolls, however – pale figures suspended in a black void – explore the darker aspects of parenting and of human vulnerability.
She worked with photographer Eliot Porter as his assistant from 1980 until the time of his death in 1990, curating his exhibitions and working on many of his publications. In 1980, Russek and her husband, David Scheinbaum, founded Scheinbaum and Russek, Ltd., private photography dealers.
Russek and Scheinbaum have collaborated on two books, Ghost Ranch: Land of Light, and Images in the Heavens, Patterns on the Earth: The I Ching, which won the American Association of Museums award for design in 2005. Russek was a founding member of the New Mexico Council on Photography, and she has served on the boards of the Marion Center for Photographic Arts and the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. Russek’s work is included in the permanent collections of the New Mexico Museum (Santa Fe), the Bibliotecque Nationale (Paris), and the High Museum of Art (Atlanta).
The Tenuous Stem (Radius Books, 2013)
Ghost Ranch: Land of Light (Balcony Press, 1997)
Images in the Heavens, Patterns on the Earth: The I Ching (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2005)