Hansell: global connection through photography

SHARON - For Sharon resident and photographer Jenny Hansell, art has been a lifelong love that was integral to her childhood.

"My mom is an artist and I grew up in a house where art was learned from an early age," Hansell said in an interview on a snowy Monday afternoon. "I considered myself an artist as a kid."

At the age of 15, Hansell was introduced to photography when she was given an old Argos C3 camera as a gift before she departed for a trip to Europe.

"I was hooked," she said with a laugh.

Eventually, she moved on to a Minolta that was passed down from her mother, and she further pursued ther interest by taking photography classes while attending Yale as an American Studies major.

"I was very interested in composition and light, and photography really drew me in because it made me look harder at things and try to see more. I try to have fresh eye with everything I look at."

Much like Bill Fontana, who has created sound sculptures using such everyday noises as traffic and cathedral bells, Hansell found inspiration daily in her surroundings while working for an art organization that helped homeless children in New York City.

"I was amazed by the sights and sounds of the city," said Hansell, the mother of two girls with husband Fred Baumgarten. "I was always taken with how bored some of the faces of the other passengers were. I would sketch in my pad everyday on my bus trips home and I was never bored. Nothing is boring if you have enough curiosity."

Following her departure from the city a decade ago, Hansell spent some time living on the Audubon Miles Wildlife Sanctuary on West Cornwall Road, where she says she snapped occasional photos but never used them for anything. She cites a trip to Paris two years ago with her oldest daughter as the catalyst for her renewed fervor for photography.

"While preparing for our trip my daughter and I were looking for information about Paris. We stumbled across a blog called a Photo a Day about Paris, so every day we would look at the new posting and talk about her upcoming vacation," said Hansell, who is the director of the northeast Community Center in Millerton. "When it was over I found that I missed the experience, so I visited the blog and found that other people were doing it too. I figured if L.A., New York and Barcelona could do it then Connecticut could too."

Hansell jumped into the burgeoning blog scene, which at the time consisted of about 30 Photo a Day blogs and now has jumped to about 300. She found that the structure of having to post a photo daily gave her an artistic discipline she admits was absent prior to that.

"I might not have made time for a photo everyday without the imposed structure," she said with a grin. "My eyes and my skills have developed more as a result and I have come to really appreciate where I live now that I seek out things to represent Sharon to the rest of the world."

Visitors come to the site from Sharon and from the global community, she said.

She credits her work with enabling her to get to know more people here whose properties have appeared in her posted work.

"I’m always afraid that they’ll be mad," she said. "But so far no one has been; in most cases people offer me more information."

Hansell cited the global contacts she has made from her blog as a thrill, saying that their interest is a great inspiration to keep the blog going.

Hansell has taken January off from her blogging to prepare for an upcoming exhibit of photos, "The Sharon Landscape," that will open on Saturday Feb. 2, with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m., and run until March 28. The show will be at the Sharon Historical Society.

On Sunday, March 2, Hansell will give an illustrated talk about her photos and her experience as a photoblogger.

For more information call the Sharon Historical Society at 860-364-5688 or visit sharonhistoricalsociety@yahoo.com.

"The Sharon Landscape," photos by Jenny Hansell, will be at the Sharon Historical Society from Feb. 2 to March 28. To see more of Hansell’s work, visit sharonctdailyphoto.blogspot.com.



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