Conversation with the Gallery Director

We sat down with our Gallery Director, Christine Alward, to discuss her personal journey with photography and her experience cataloging Jacquelyn Anderson’s portfolio. Our Resident Artist Program welcomes a new artist quarterly to develop original artwork in conversation with Jackie’s photography.  

CAROLINE KROLICKI: When did you realize you had a passion for photography?  

CHRISTINE ALWARD: I think I realized that I had a passion for photography in high school when I took a film photography course as an elective. After college, I worked in hospitality and went down this road where I would get a job and hate it, then quit. I got back into photography as a hobby. I had no idea what the path forward to a career in photography would look like. 

KROLICKI: Right, it’s scary to take that leap from a hobby to a career. 

ALWARD: Yeah, I was going to meet-ups in Sacramento with groups of photographers, and I ended up getting a job as a production manager. The interesting thing about photography is that you can lead with your heart and your eye and not have to know the technical stuff to create cool images. Sometimes I think that’s even the more challenging part. 

KROLICKI: Ah, because that can’t be taught necessarily. 

ALWARD: Because it can’t be taught. I feel like I did it backward. I learned how to see through my camera first, then I learned the technical stuff. I had that foundation in film, so I knew the rules of composition, but going from film to digital when I came back to photography was a different process. 

KROLICKI: Yeah, that’s a completely different world. 

ALWARD: So, I quit my job, took a leap, and was able to work under someone who taught me a lot. Then I used that opportunity to push myself forward.  

KROLICKI: And here you are! 

ALWARD: And here I am. 

KROLICKI: Would you say film photography is like the ballet of photography? Is it a very foundational way to start to know the basics, or are they just two completely different beasts? 

ALWARD: I think the great thing about film photography and learning that way is that it makes you slow down and look at what you’re shooting. They call it ‘spray and pray’ in the digital film world, where you take 50 pictures and just hope one of them turns out okay. You don’t get that in film. So, I do think it’s foundational in the way that it slows a photographer down so that they’re more intentional. 

KROLICKI: How did you get introduced to the Anderson family? Did a mutual connection recommend you, or was it luck? 

ALWARD: Maren Conrad [the Jacquelyn CEO] brought me in. After Jackie passed away, Maren had been looking through Jackie’s physical artwork- her paintings and drawings. When it came time for her to go through the photography, she just didn’t have that background. So, she called me and asked me to help them. The first thing they did was just make sense of what she had. Tubs and tubs of gear and cameras. Then, after I met Jim [Anderson], it was this desire to flush out what was in Jackie’s portfolio. They entrusted me with sitting down at her computer with Jim and going through that whole process. 

KROLICKI: Wow, her life’s work. That’s really special. How would you describe Jackie’s photography?  

ALWARD: Her work is clean and timeless, not dated by weird trends or techniques of a certain time. I think she has a really cool aesthetic. She started in the arts in the 70s doing graphic design, but she had a camera with her her whole life. From what I can tell, she really started taking it more seriously as an art form later in her life instead of just a way to document memories or capture travel. She was looking for her next way to express herself. 

KROLICKI: Is her work similar to your own? 

ALWARD: There are things about us both being self-taught that led us both to follow a similar path. Stylistically, I don’t know that we are similar, but I think the ‘thing’ we were looking for was similar. Jackie and Jim traveled the world and visited all the National Parks. She was really getting into landscape stuff, which I love. That’s a common thread in both of our portfolios.  

KROLICKI: What impact did your work in conversation with hers have on you as an artist and as a person? 

ALWARD: It’s interesting because working with her taught me that me and my work are not as important as I thought they were.  She laughs.  

KROLICKI: It was humbling! 

ALWARD: To strive to be an artist, there’s a certain level of ego that you have to have because you’re saying, “I’ve made this thing. I’m putting it out into the world. I think it deserves to be seen.” I had to let go of my ego that wanted to create and share my own work and do it for someone else instead. I learned that being a part of something bigger and helping the artist community on a larger scale is much more important. More than anything, she helped me with my career change.  

KROLICKI: What do you hope the Resident Artist Program’s impact will be on the Sacramento community and the artists themselves? 

ALWARD: I really hope that the Resident Artist Program allows artists to try something new. Jackie had the means to create and explore whatever medium her heart desired. Other artists don’t necessarily have that ability. The whole point of the program is that artists create a new body of work, and I hope that ignites curiosity outside of their comfort zone.

Resident Artist Program