Ever since I began promoting the launch of my debut poetry collection, I’ve been receiving compliments for the beautiful book cover photography and I thought it was high time I introduced the woman behind the photo: Jana Heimanis.
Jana is an inveterate globe-trotter, taking photos wherever she goes; when she posted pics from a trip to Iceland, I saw the image above and something clicked.
I’ve talked before about what makes a good book cover and, as I started to think about what the cover of my own book should be, asked other writers about their thoughts on this part of the publishing process. Yvonne Cullen, poet and creative writing teacher extraordinaire, gave me a beautiful benchmark for what a book cover should do:
“The key in my mind… is a sense that image plus book equal more than the sum of their parts. The reader has to go somewhere, imaginatively… ideally, right into the emotional landscape of the book, to join image and title together.”
For me, Jana’s image does just that – capturing the sense of loss at the heart of the collection but also reminding us that in the bleakest of moments, there is the potential for great beauty. Although taken in Iceland, people keep recognising parts of Ireland in it and I love that it has a universal quality that speaks to everyone.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, I met Jana through mutual friends, from working at the same architectural practice in Dublin (but at different times) and I’ve always loved her spirit of adventure.
So I asked her to tell us a little bit more about herself – work, travel, photography and, of course, poetry.
Jana, tell us a little bit about your background:
I trained as an Australian architect at the University of Sydney, and the University of Newcastle (the one in Australia). Worked in Sydney for several years in small architecture firms on local jobs and large firms on foreign jobs. Found my way to Dublin, spent three months architecturally drafting, then was recruited by a dear friend, met fashion designer, John Rocha, and began a working collaboration that has lasted ten years.
How did you start taking photographs?
It probably started with holidays in Australia, bookended by (mostly long) road trips – the world framed by the back-seat window. Photography is most certainly a part of travel for me. I travel solo a lot, both for work and for curiosity’s sake. Taking photos is a bit like having a traveling companion, like pointing out the new things, funny things, beautiful and different things ‘hey, check that out’.
Also my training and work, being about detail and beautiful things, has a huge influence on what catches my eye – I like to put composition, texture, colour, and a story in the frame.
What do you love about photography?
I am a bit of a point and shooter, I like the simplicity of it. I have a good digital camera, with a nice lens and a zippy zoom, and some other features I’m not that au fait with. I love that I can use that simple tool to collect images that work. I love that it can be accidental, that moment, or place. I love creating a composition that satisfies, is possibly beautiful, is balanced, hints at a conversation, tells a story without words.
What’s your favourite place from your travels?
This year I had a number of wonderful road/train trips. Iceland was spectacular, icy and remote and just awesome – your photo is from the very North of the country, a farm that found itself sunk lower than the water table after one of the frequent earthquakes that happen when there are volcanoes around. Here in Australia, I took the smaller roads from Sydney to Melbourne and back via the Great Ocean Road. Other favourite places – Kyoto (temples, the buses, kimonos along the river at dusk), Istanbul (mosques, snakes in jars, markets, carpets, sensory overload), Leon, Sevilla, Cork, Berlin… sure, I find discovering a new city to be very exciting.
You must have have some good travel stories…
So many, and I’m not a good teller of stories… Some snippets? Sharing a stranger’s sandwich on a train in Poland because he wasn’t convinced my plain bread roll was ‘lunch’; rowing a boat in the Arctic circle off the coast of Norway; hitch-hiking to avoid rambling bulls in Latvia….can we say that my pictures tell better stories? Instagram has a few of my latest tales…
I know you’re also a reader of poetry – any Aussie favourites we should check out?
Banjo Patterson – a classic. Responsible for Waltzing Matilda, but I like him for Been there Before, and Clancy of the Overflow. Gwen Harwood and Paul Kelly – ok, he’s a songwriter and musician, but I reckon he’s a poet.
Discover more of Jana Heimanis’ beautiful travel photography on Instagram or at her forthcoming web-site: www.jana.net.au.
All photographs © Jana Heimanis.