I look for moments that are un-mistakenly human, those universal emotions we can all relate with. I am interested in that which is easily felt but so very difficult to portray: the aliveness of the human spirit. I observe life unfolding and use the camera to collect those rare glimpses of human grace that can be seen with the naked eye.

The emotional component found in my work probably derives from my personal history. I was raised by my grandmother around chickens, parrots, and a wood-burning stove. Growing up in this enchanted environment carved a deeply connective, soft spot in my heart. I have been drawn to the photography medium from the time my grandma gifted me my first camera at age ten. A small black box that could record life! That bright-eyed child wanted little else in life. More film please!

My first portrait subject was my dog Hunter, an obvious choice. He was the spark of my life. His white face and black ears were impressed on all the frames of my first roll of film. Six years later I found myself studying photography in California. Darkroom work felt like alchemy as the photography hook pulled stronger at me. My mentor was Andy DeLucia, a kind man whose camera had seen the hardships of the Vietnam War. His accounts of documenting the conflict were unforgettable, but it was Andy’s quiet images of the Hopi people of North America that squeezed my heart. And it was Andy who introduced me to the photographs of a visual storyteller whose work would forever influence mine: W. Eugene Smith.

Self-portrait with my 85-year-old grandma
2016, photo by Janine Mapurunga

My grandma’s backyard
2015, photo by Janine Mapurunga

Janine during a wedding shoot
2014, photo by Allison Lal

The bodies of work of many photographers who came before me are undeniable inspirations for the images I create today. I am drawn to the American Documentary Photography Tradition (W. Eugene Smith, Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson, and Richard Avedon), Classic African Portraiture (Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé, and Samuel Fosso), what I deem Magical Realism in Photography (Diane Arbus, Graciela Iturbide, and Tiago Santana), the “decisive moment” tradition of Street Photography spearheaded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the playfully unexpected Portraiture of Duane Michals.

My heart is set on creating photographs that tell stories from a compelling, intimate point of view, whether the setting is a farm in rural Brazil or a specialized shoe manufacturer in downtown LA. Clients who work with me can expect the same candid demeanor whether I am in the studio or enjoying the smells coming from my grandma’s kitchen.

Looking forward to your story,

Janine