Behind the Pretty Pictures

A local landscape photographer captivates the South Bay with a new gallery in Redondo Beach.

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    Alina Orozco

Nestled between eateries and boutique shops on South Catalina Avenue is the newly opened fine art gallery GalleryJS. It’s hard to miss this addition to the Riviera Village. The bright space showcases Jill Sanders’ photography (hence the JS moniker), while the mesmerizing images displayed have the power to stop folks dead in their tracks and transport them to the seemingly magical snapshots of landscapes. 

Foot traffic jams aside, Jill swears there aren’t any tricks here. No impressive acrobatics, climbing maneuvers or aerial stunts were performed when capturing the enchanting landscapes peppered on the left side of the gallery. (The right side belongs to another talented artist, Joshua Serafin.) Instead Jill wants you to know all this beauty is accessible to you, if you would just get out of your car.

In actuality the process is much more thorough than simply leaving your vehicle and tracking a few miles into the wild. Jill pays attention to things ordinary people may take for granted. Light, weather, seasons and most importantly the artists’ own emotions play a large role in the terrain Jill chooses to photograph. 

The preparation is serious, with several apps that track weather patterns, surf forecasts, sunset and sunrises. Beyond venturing out under the perfect weather conditions to create the composition, it’s finding the soul of the moment that is most significant to her. Each time Jill hauls the camera equipment to a pre-designated spot, it isn’t a job but rather a spiritual journey.

The greatest compliment to me is not when people say it’s a pretty picture, but when they feel something.”

Perhaps it was her unconventional upbringing. Jill was raised by three elderly great aunts and her maternal grandparents after her mother was afflicted with MS and became wheelchair bound. This, compounded by an anxiety disorder and a battle with a brain tumor in her 20s, created a lifelong urge to explore the world, cherish each moment and make everyday an adventure. 

“I was determined to try and do everything that I could,” explains Jill. Picking up a camera at an early age was a natural transition to sharing the beauty beyond the doorstep, and one that has helped Jill overcome the great adversity she was faced with so early in life. 

“I am in a meditative place,” she reflects, admitting that her best images are captured when she is alone. “I’m emotional, and I allow myself to feel everything. I am the one living person standing here, and it’s truly a gift.” 

It isn’t the ideal weather conditions or expert composition—although both are flawlessly executed—that mesmerize people but the transformative experience and the emotions felt when gazing at the landscapes Jill has captured. Whether a colossal wave at the Wedge, a moment of solitude under the Pier or a snapshot of the magical greenery along the trails in Oregon, what resonates isn’t simply a pretty photograph but the combustion of emotions one feels looking at nature. 

“The greatest compliment to me is not when people say it’s a pretty picture, but when they feel something,” says Jill. Judging from the flurry of people who stop and stare, she has accomplished just that.