I’m Jenna Mulhall-Brereton, a photographer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the US. Born in Ireland to an Irish father and an American mother, I have lived in the US since I was an infant.
I was captivated by documentary photography from a very young age but didn’t seriously pick up a camera until my mid-20s. Photography has been a big part of my life these past 25 years.
I love street photography above all else. It takes a lot of imperfect frames to get an image worth keeping, but when everything comes together it’s nothing short of magical. Speaking of magic, I’ve never lost my love of the darkroom, and although I shoot digital projects as well, I cherish being able to work in film from time to time.
I have been trying to push myself to better see the photographs around me, close to home. I must admit that has never been an easy exercise for me, but COVID did force the issue and I produced a project completely within the confines of my home over 2020 and 2021. In typical years, I try to get out to festivals and celebrations, anywhere people are coming together for ritual or celebration, and to wait for a photograph to happen. The images I’m sharing here are from a long-term film-based project that I began in 2011 focused on celebrations in various small communities in Mexico.
Although I THINK about photography every day, I don’t shoot quite as often as I’d like. My home-based project in 2020 and 2021 was an exception, as that gave me the opportunity to shoot every day, since I didn’t have to plan to be somewhere at a certain time—I could just stay alert to what unfolded as I went through my day. I recently purchased a Leica Q2 so I can always have a lightweight camera in my bag at the ready.
Over the door in my studio, I have hung a quote by Mary Ellen Mark, who was a mentor and inspiration to me. It says “Photograph the world as it is. Nothing is more interesting than reality.” I have always been drawn to and moved by photographs that capture real moments, and most often, ordinary moments, as, for me, the best among them have clearly shown me something about what it means to be human—or a living, sentient being. I’m grateful when a photograph captures a fleeting moment that reminds me just how fascinating the world is—and the myriad lives within it. I believe this is why I have never been interested in self-portraiture or any project that is solely focused on my own life; photography is a means of being open to experiences outside myself.