The Village: An interview with Deanna Templeton
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Obscura DAO
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March 8th, 2022

By Gregory Eddi Jones

THE VILLAGE #41 MARIACHI SITTING BY NO SIGN by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #41 MARIACHI SITTING BY NO SIGN by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

Obscura Journal Contributor Gregory Eddi Jones recently interviewed photographer Deanna Templeton in advance of her Obscura Curated Commission drop, The Village. They discuss Deanna’s background in photography, her long term approach to documenting an endangered place from her childhood, and using the camera as a portkey to her family history and childhood memories.

GEJ: To begin, Deanna, can you offer a brief background of your career in photography for those who aren’t yet familiar with your work?

DT: So, I started taking photographs in 1998. I started off with a point and shoot camera that I was using to document trips I was going on with my husband Ed. Back in the day I was able to travel a lot on his skateboarding tours. Sometime after, Ed thought I had an eye for photography, so on one of my birthdays he bought me a Canon AE-1 camera. Since then, I pretty much don't leave the house without a camera around my neck. Ed also gave me my first break in that he curated an art show in LA for a gallery he worked with and he included me in the show.

THE VILLAGE #6 GIRL ON DOLPHIN RIDE by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #6 GIRL ON DOLPHIN RIDE by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: Let’s dig into The Village, which you produced for the Obscura Commission. Can you talk about how the idea for this project came about?

DT: This project started in 2002. A year after my mother passed away, a few years after my father passed. What I remember was one day I was thinking about my parents and feeling a little bit lonely, a little empty and decided to go for a drive. So I decided to drive out to my grandmother's house in San Pedro, which is about a 45 minute drive from where I live. I just wanted to reminisce, to re-explore the surroundings where I would go when I was a child. The liquor store I would walk to to get a Lipton Ice Tea and a bag of Frito’s, to the bakery where I swore all the cookies didn’t have sugar in them, and then I drove over to Ports O’Call Village. As soon as I started to walk around I came across a stage with some Mariachis playing and it just hit me, I felt like I was home, I was with family. Over the next five years, whenever I could, I started going out there on the weekends. Getting reacquainted with the village and the locals. To shoot everything I wanted to remember.

THE VILLAGE #5 MARIACHI BAND PERFORMS by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #5 MARIACHI BAND PERFORMS by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: I love the notion of using photography to shoot what you want to remember. Oftentimes the camera acts as a buffer between the photographer and the photographed, but perhaps in your case it becomes a portkey to your family history and childhood memories?

DT: In this case it totally did. But actually a lot of what I shoot is to get to know the person, at least as much as the person I’m making the portrait of wants to share. When I’m out on the street shooting it’s the opposite, I just want to move around as if I was invisible, hopefully causing no disturbances. But yes, this series was about connection, filling the void I felt after my parents passing. I felt like I have some of the photo albums from my youth with my family but it’s incomplete, at least what I remember, so I was trying to fill in the blanks.

THE VILLAGE #8 MAN WITH CAMERA WOMAN SELLING TRINKETS by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #8 MAN WITH CAMERA WOMAN SELLING TRINKETS by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: The commission came with a fairly tight timetable for completion, and I’m curious to hear how the challenges of time constraints factored into how you approached  completing this work.

DT: As this project started in 2002 through 2007, around 2017 I decided to check back in to see what has changed, who was still around. I found out that there were plans for tearing everything down and basically rebuilding a new outdoor mall and event center there. Over the last couple of months when I was offered this commission, I started to photograph what was left of the village where all these photos once took place. I have to say with all my past projects/photo series I don’t think I could shoot a whole project in a few months and have it complete. Even now, the last two buildings that are left are slated to be torn down later this year which then I plan on going out there again. To get one last shot. What this commission has done though was to inspire me to finish a project I started so long ago.

THE VILLAGE #33 VIEW OF HARBOR HOUSE by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #33 VIEW OF HARBOR HOUSE by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: Of all the portraits in this collection, are there any that hold a particularly special significance to you?

DT: There is one in particular, it’s a portrait of a saxophone player named Nacho. He was super kind to me, we tried through broken english and my very limited Spanish to communicate. I loved his facial expressions when he would play. Growing up I never gave trying to learn Spanish a real chance. My father was Mexican and my mother was not, but my father never spoke Spanish in our home, I think not to alienate my mom. So when my dad would take me to my grandmother's house he always translated for us. My grandmother never spoke english. Everyone else in my family on my dad's side who lived in the US always spoke Spanish in the home and English when they went to school or hung out with friends. I think my brother and I were the only ones who weren't raised this way in our family. If I only knew then what I know now I would’ve begged my dad to teach me Spanish.

THE VILLAGE #9 PORTRAIT OF NACHO by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #9 PORTRAIT OF NACHO by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: I know you’re still working on finalizing the images as of this writing, but how does it feel now to have a project like this behind you. Do you feel a sense of completion and, perhaps, closure?

DT: I haven’t really dealt with the feelings yet. I guess with two last buildings still standing there it doesn’t feel like it's completed yet. Though to be honest, walking around there these last couple of months did feel very foreign to me. I just kept imaging what once stood on the now cleared grounds. Almost like this series is coming full circle, not that of closure but once again searching for memories. Ok, I guess that is closure, a forced closure, if I want it or not.

THE VILLAGE #1 EMPTY LOT by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #1 EMPTY LOT by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: Have you taken time yet to think about what it will mean to release this project as NFTs?

DT: Honestly, no. What I have thought about is how this grant was given to me to help finish this project. I mean everything happened so quickly and out of nowhere, one minute I receive an DM from a friend asking if it was ok to give out my email and then the next minute I’m on the phone being offered a grant to create or finish any project that I would like. Just that they were fans of my photography and wanted to offer me this. Especially considering my work for this was all shot analog and in black and white to boot. Such a funny mixture of the old with the new. Here’s another side note, I don’t own a cellphone. I have an iPad that my husband set up so I can look at some social media sites. But for the most part I’m still an email and landline type of girl.

THE VILLAGE #29 TEEN GIRLS ON A PAYPHONE by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #29 TEEN GIRLS ON A PAYPHONE by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: Oh wow, well I must say welcome to the bold new world that is Web3! I think it’s really interesting to see analog work find its way to the blockchain. I agree, the mixing of old and new has an interesting feeling to it. It’s interesting how images can travel from place to place, context to context. Have you begun to think about digging deeper into the NFT world, or are you going to stick to your analog guns?

DT: For right now I’m sticking to my analog guns, though I have been thinking about getting a digital camera. Baby steps. I’m usually late to the party.

THE VILLAGE #23 GIRL JUMPING WITH DOLPHIN BALLOON by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #23 GIRL JUMPING WITH DOLPHIN BALLOON by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

GEJ: Finally, can you talk about any other projects or news coming up in the near future? Anything you are excited to share?

DT: Ed and I have a future project that we are looking forward to publishing. Photographs showing our different takes on the same subject. A his and her point of view. And then I’ve been slowly going through my archives from the last 25 years trying to see what visual stories unpublished are in there to share.

THE VILLAGE #50 TATTERED FLAG by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission
THE VILLAGE #50 TATTERED FLAG by Deanna Templeton, Obscura Curated Commission

To view the full collection of Deanna Templeton’s, Obscura Curated Commission, visit:

Deanna Templeton Instagram:

Deanna’s work at Gallery Fifty One:

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