By Talbert Toole
Growing up in Poplarville, Mississippi, Jamie Aelavanthara did not realize her surroundings of wildlife would lead her down a path she eventually turned into a career.
Aelavanthara attended the Mississippi School for Math and Science at the age of 16, which would be her first time leaving home, she said.
MSMS is known to be centered around math and science courses, however, Aelavanthara found her passion for photography as a hobby while attending the school.
“I took a camera with me [to MSMS],” she said. “I just started taking photos all of the time. I didn’t really know it was an art form.”
After graduating from the prestigious math and science school, Aelavanthara made her way to the Ole Miss campus where she pursued a bachelor of fine arts degree (BFA) in graphic design.
She decided to switch her art emphasis to imaging arts, specifically photography, after completing her first photography class and realizing photos are where her passion truly developed.
“Even though I didn’t know if I could pursue [photography] as a career option, I just knew it was what I loved to do,” she said.
Aelavanthara graduated in 2011 and continued her education in the fine arts at Louisiana Tech University where she obtained her masters of fine arts in photography.
She currently resides in Tampa, Florida, as a faculty member for the University of Tampa in Photography & Foundations. However, Aelavanthara has made her way back to Ole Miss where her work is now installed in the University of Mississippi Museum—located at the intersection of University Ave & S 5th St.
The collection, Where the Roots Rise, is a group of tea-stained cyanotypes—a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Cyanotypes differ from traditional photo developments, which are typically set in silver.
Aelavanthara said the process is simple, although it does require a chemical that is iron based. The chemical can actually be painted onto a variety of surfaces, such as watercolor paper, she said.
The development process uses UV (ultraviolet) light, which is found in the sunlight, so it allows Aelavanthara to process her pieces outside.
Where the Roots Rise derives from the reminder that the gap between nature and people is smaller than humans acknowledge. “Decay runs rampant; seasons change; nature lies in wait to stake its claim,” the exhibit reads.
“[The theme] relates to how I grew up in Poplarville… rural Mississippi,” she said. “For me, it was really rewarding in this magical experience of being close to nature.”
In many of her pieces, Aelavanthara uses bones, like a deer skeleton, which she said she found driving down backroads in Mississippi.
Her piece, “Bone Dress” was sculpted from several different bones, including the deer skeleton pieces. She said when she began to organize the bones she suddenly realized it resembled a dress.
“I didn’t set out to make that photo,” Aelavanthara said. “I was trying to make a bone yard.”
As she crouched down behind the pile of bones, she took a test shot and it happened to line up perfectly like a dress, she said.
“It was a serendipitous moment,” she said.
Now that Aelavanthara has returned to the place where her photography took form, she said having her work displayed in the University Museum has been a great experience.
Aelavanthara’s exhibit, Where the Roots Rise, is on display until Dec. 1.
For more information on Jamie Aelavanthara, visit her website.