Jennifer Smutek is a Dundalk local whose passion for art started as a child.
“My favorite toy as a child was a pretend polaroid camera; and, by the time I was 8, I knew I wanted to be a professional photographer,” Jennifer said. Her father, Mike, purchased her toy camera and then a real camera for her to learn on.
Her childhood passion led her to seriously pursue the craft in high school and later at the Community College of Baltimore County. She established a photography business in 2007 that focused primarily on portraits. The pandemic shifted the way she viewed photography and as the world outside changed and shifted, so did Jennifer’s perspective on the way her lens could capture a moment or evoke an emotion.
Like so many of us, Jennifer spent more time alone than she was used to. She used the quiet moments of the pandemic to wander Dundalk. Her photographs evoke a sense of place and time that are simultaneously iconic and fleeting.
“I love going out in all types of weather and light and seeing what the earth is doing today. The weather often influences my mood and the light inspires how I will capture a particular subject,” Jennifer said. “What might make a striking image today, will make a completely different image tomorrow, or even 30 seconds from now.”
Jennifer’s photography is an artistic quest. The right lighting and the time of day all factor into capturing the moment, but the moments she captures aren’t always what the viewer may think of as glamorous. She once did an entire series on the trash she encountered on her walks.
“I find myself working with reflections or isolating subjects in little slivers of light. I enjoy photographing my subjects in ways that might make the viewer pause,” Jennifer said. “I do very little editing on my images, so the challenge is all in the photography. Some of those pieces are included in this gallery. If the viewer has to stop and think about what they are seeing, then that’s the perfect photo to me.”
Jennifer’s exhibit will be photos she’s taken around Dundalk. Locations include Merritt Park, Stansbury Park, Dundalk Shopping Center, and many amazing gardens throughout Old Dundalk.
“I am so appreciative of my neighbors in Dundalk, for the beautiful gardens that run along the sidewalk. So much of this exhibit could not be possible without our wonderful community!” Jennifer said.
It’s not just her neighbors and the community that impact her work.
“I feel like I wouldn’t be the person and artist I am today, without so much love, support, and encouragement from the people in my life. Along the way, a few people kept encouraging me to pick up my camera & I am incredibly appreciative of those people- My father Mike, Pastor Joe & Barb Skillman, Carla Crisp, Howard Wong, Brea, my husband Jimmy, and my son Simon.” Jennifer said. “I think these people knew I was an artist before I did, and there probably wouldn’t be any work to show without their influence.”
You can view her artwork during Potluck Collaborative’s store hours or talk to the artist on Wednesday, October 5th and Wednesday, October 19 (6pm-8pm). The Gallery will close Wednesday, October 26. A small reception will be held between 6:30pm and 8pm.