CMA Stories

A look at intern Jack Adam’s award winning photography

Through CMA’s teen internship program, New York City high school students work side-by-side with the museum’s team of Teaching Artists, learning how to lead workshops, classes, and camps. Many of the interns attend arts-focused high schools and have their own artistic practices. CMA intern Jack Adam has been with CMA since the summer of 2016. When he isn’t assisting the Fine Arts Department, Jack can usually be found traveling around Brooklyn and Manhattan with a camera in hand. Jack’s artwork has earned him nineteen Scholastic Art Awards, including a gold key for his photograph of a skateboarder napping in Tompkins Square Park, which is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Memorial Day weekend.

While he’s had a lifelong passion for art, Jack picked up digital photography in middle school and has been developing his practice ever since. His work explores intimacy and urban life, as well as their intersection. Read on for more about how Jack’s work landed at the Met, how he captures the world around him with his camera, and what his plans are after high school.


"Tompkins Square Park" by Jack Adam, Recipient of the Scholastic Gold Key Award

1. What is your earliest memory of making art, and when did you realize you loved art?
My earliest memory of making art is some time in late elementary school. I had no special interest in art, but my mom loved everything that I brought home from school, and she still has some small paintings on cardboard that I made hanging in her room. The art room always felt like the most comfortable room in the school. I realized I loved art some time in junior high school. I’m so lucky to have gone to an an art-focused middle school with a darkroom. It’s a unique privilege to be able to say, “Back in my day, we didn’t have Photoshop! If we wanted to burn or dodge our photos we had to cut cardboard!”— given that I was born in the late ‘90s. My teacher, Amy Flatow, is one of the best art teachers I’ve ever had, and she always challenged me to think about my photos and my process as a photographer. I grew the most during those three years.

2. Tell us about your artistic practice.
I usually make photographs alone, or with one other person, but only if they’re modeling for me. I even prefer to be alone while working in Photoshop, though I do appreciate the camaraderie that can be found in darkrooms. I need to feel a hands-on connection to the image-making process, so I often find myself working outside, or in an environment that I can change and work with. I have vivid, quick dreams and I often pull inspiration from those flickering images. I also sketch people on the subway because it helps me to stay observant. I think my brain never shuts off and I’ve learned to love this because it means that I’m always working through what I’m going to create next.

3. What does it mean to you to be recognized for a scholastic art award?
Scholastic gave me my first award in eighth grade, and being invited to present that work was extremely validating and motivating. I remember the keynote speaker, Andres Serrano, talking about his piece Piss Christ and I, hanging onto every word, knew that maybe one day I could be like him, up on that stage with an audience full of children leaning forward in awe.

4. Describe the photograph that is now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and how you captured it.
The photograph is an 11x11in. darkroom print on fiber paper. It’s one of nine images from a series shot on 120mm (medium format) film. The images are an attempt at capturing intimacy, and I took them over the course of two days, traveling alone by skateboard and by foot. It was a frantic, yet relaxed couple of outings and I made a point of disconnecting myself from the world while working, even as I explored public spaces. I shot them while participating in Summer High School at NYU Tisch, where I was dorming at Weinstein, just north of Washington Square. I was shocked by how different it is to live in the village instead of Brooklyn, where I grew up, and it was easy to feel alone even while living in the center of it all, surrounded nonetheless by other young artists. I wanted to explore what it looked like to find intimacy in an urban space, whether this be between two people, one person and the public space, or within the natural world itself.


From Jack's "Doll House" series

5. What are your plans for the future?
I’m equally terrified and excited for the future! I’m in the process of visiting the schools I’ve been accepted to, so I’ll be seeing Yale University and The University of Chicago this coming month. I hope to study art in an academic environment, but I’m pretty open to also studying an application of math, or something in the social sciences. I’m as undecided as they come.

6. Do you have any advice for other young artists that are working on developing a portfolio of work?
I think the best thing an artist can do is to send out their work. Art is meant to be seen, to be displayed, and to be shared. However, there’s definitely a time to make art for no one but yourself. In terms of creating work, I think experimenting with creating larger, cohesive thematic bodies of work is a really good skill. Explore an idea by writing about it, and see where that takes you. My largest and most complete series, Doll House, began when I returned home from NYU and would walk around at night with my tripod, looking at light at night. This brought me to photograph homes at night, and then to put people in these homes, creating narratives. It doesn’t always happen all at once. You should always stay curious and never ask for permission. Also, if your mom hates your art, then it’s probably really good stuff.

Jack’s photograph Tompkins Square Park is on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education until May 29, 2017. His print Charlton Street, made with archival images from Google Maps, is currently on view in CMA’s Fine Arts Studio.

His work will also be in a group show titled “TAG: Do You Mind” at Chashama Gallery at 325 W Broadway from April 7 – 12, 2017.

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