Emory Report
October 6, 2008
Volume 61, Number 7



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October 6
, 2008
New professor advocates for ‘necessity of the arts’

BY Mary Catherine Johnson

Jason Francisco, an acclaimed photographer, writer and book artist, has joined Emory’s Visual Arts Program as associate professor of photography. An exhibition of his photographs, “A Concern with History (2003),” will be on view at the Visual Arts Building from Oct. 16 – Dec. 18, with a free opening reception on Thursday, Oct. 16 from 5-7 p.m. Francisco recently shared his insights on photography with Visual Arts’ Mary Catherine Johnson for Emory Report.

Emory Report: Why did you become a photographer?
Jason Francisco
: The truth is I’m still ‘becoming’ a photographer. I suspect that if I ‘were’ a photographer it would mean I would be finished with photography. To arrive constantly at the beginnings that happen through experience — this is my life in photography. It’s also rather akin to something that I think Seamus Heaney said: “I wrote a few lines of verse and suddenly it was a life.”

ER: What were some of the igniting events in your life that sparked your interest in photography?
Francisco: In college an opportunity to photograph a homeless man was pivotal for me: before that, photography had been a private activity — and in one conversation on one afternoon I realized that it could lead me into the world, that it could connect me. Years later I read an interview with Diane Arbus, in which she spoke of the empowerment that a camera can give to a photographer — the feeling that with a camera you can “stand down the king’s armies.”

ER: What has been your experience with Emory thus far?

Francisco: I had been in a previous academic environment with a narrow conception of art, focused on what I considered shallow-minded commercialism, often anti-intellectual. I wanted to be a part of a significantly more engaged community — a first-tier intellectual community that values creative work as a labor of ideas as much as a purely aesthetic undertaking. The longer I’m here, the more delighted I am with my choice.

ER: What is your vision for the arts at Emory?

Francisco: I believe that Emory is a place where invention in the arts is possible and the will is there to make it happen. I am eager to join the other arts supporters on campus to advocate for the necessity of the arts here. I think it’s our task to educate our community about the rigorousness of the arts and about what a life’s work looks like for an artist.