Jennifer Juniper Stratford

Jennifer Juniper Stratford is a wholly unique Los Angeles-based multidimensional artist working in the fields of experimental video and still photography. She’s had a particularly busy couple of months, Directing the high profile music videos for noted musician/artist Gerard Way (ex-frontman of My Chemical Romance) as well as a project for The Museum of Contemporary Art’s Step & Repeat program (w/ Geneva Jacuzzi). We had a chance to sit down with Jennifer at her Telefantasy Studios media lab (amidst piles of vintage video equipment and artifacts) and ask a few questions about her early days and inspirations.

Where did you grow up and how did you first get interested in film/photography?

I grew up in the heyday of cable television and was obsessed as far back as I can remember. Some of my best memories are of me and my sister running home from school to catch Gumby. My mother was a movie buff and totally encouraged the obsession. On weekends, she allowed me to stay up as late as wanted watching the Z Channel. In those days they played a wild variety of art house films, B-movies, and experimental animation.  I also watched a ton of public access. By the time I was in High School I knew there was more than mainstream Hollywood and knew I wanted to be an image maker that did something totally new and different.

What draws you so passionately to early video techniques?
Since I grew up poor I was never able to own a VCR or a camera even though they were on my Christmas list every year. It wasn’t until I stole a Super 8 camera from my school in Junior High that I was able to start making movies. Even with that I had to babysit to get the money for the film and productions were always delayed because of the costs.  In part I like early video techniques because nothing can restrict my access to it. Most of the equipment I use now I rescued from a junkyard or got on the super cheap. But also, I have a deep connection with these techniques and love being hands on and being able to control electronics in real time.  With this I am able to be fully immersed in the video while I am making it. Rendering never suited me and I think analog simply speaks my language.

I know you attended Art Center. Did you find your studies there beneficial?
Art Center was great because I studied photography in the film days.  I learned how to master lighting, film development, and darkroom techniques. The only thing was that when I graduated there was no home for me in commercial photography. I had much more of an artistic slant and interests which made it difficult for me to land big advertising campaigns. I had to forge my own path. However, I continued to take photographs and never lost my love of photography.

What films have influenced you the most?

Buckaroo Banzai and the Adventures Across the 8th Dimension because it was the first example of what I call “multidimensional art” which is an invented art form that ignores all the demarcations of the individual arts and celebrates the universal art spirit. Meaning Buckaroo and his friends could do it all – conduct brain surgery, drive a race car driver, be a comic book super hero, and a rock star all at once with the singular goal of uniting all the dimensions of space. The second would be Shock Treatment – the equal (not a sequel) to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The production design is so impeccable that I could love it for that alone but I’m in awe of it’s creative depiction of the future of television and the impact advertising and fame can have on even the most average person.

What’s your all time favorite music video?

It’s hard to say, but I love Ashes To Ashes by David Bowie because it is the perfect combination of performance, early video effects, set design, and clever cuts between scenarios. But I also love just about every italo-disco music video ever made because they were so low budget they had to rely on innovation and with that I  have seen some of the most creative ideas come to life.

Do you have any coveted pieces of equipment that you would like to add to your arsenal?

I have been building my media lab for almost 10 years now and have acquired just about everything I have ever dreamed of owning. All I need now are great projects and people who believe in what I do. Maybe a little more space would be nice.

Check out some of Jennifer’s video work in this YouTube playlist:

Photos: Devin Sarno

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