Brea Souders and our little superstitions

By frankie

June 23, 2008

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Category: Art, documentary, Interviews, Photographers, Portrait, Visual Candies

Comments Off on Brea Souders and our little superstitions

At a moment in time where everything moves very fast it’s nice to lay back and take the time to look at what surrounds us. Brea Souders’ work “Time Between” lets us do just that. Through photography, she explores the theme of superstitions, challenging us to face our deepest fears and desires. Time Between is a work full of poetry and humanity but is also a set of pictures where colors and natural light are perfectly mastered . Brea tells Visual Candies more about her work, her inspiration and her passion for photography.


Can you shortly introduce yourself ?

My name is Brea Souders. I live in New York City and have been involved with photography in one way or another for several years.

When did you start photography?

My interest in photography began during high school, but I was disillusioned with the way it was taught in class. The instructor seemed more interested in using photography as an element in mixed media and had us do things like cut up various photographs and then weave them together to create a collage. I come from a big family of painters, and so I already had ideas about photography not being able to stand up on it’s own as an art form and it took me a good while to get over those outdated notions and embrace the straight
photograph. I studied photography in college also, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I really felt comfortable pursuing pure photography and began to explore all the reasons that I was drawn to taking pictures in the first place.

Do you think it’s important to have good technical skills to be a good photographer?

For the most part, yes. Having a good amount of technical skill can open up a lot of doors. It means that there are many more possibilities in terms of what you are capable of creating and having that knowledge works hand in hand with brainstorming new projects. That said, I’m not really a gearhead and only use a couple of cameras and a relatively simple set of lights, if I use lights at all. For now, I’ve found what works for me, but that was after learning what tools are at my disposal and then choosing the best approach to match the work I’m interested in making. There is a trove of amazing work being made out there using only
the barest of materials, but I think it benefits an artist to know the full realm of possibilities within a medium.

How would you describe your work and how do you choose the subject you work on?

That’s a hard question to answer. I think that usually ideas will percolate for a while and a series of
coincidences will bring those ideas even more to the forefront of my mind. At some point, it becomes too
tempting and I decide to dive in.

Can you tell us more about your project Time Between?

Time Between is still a work in progress. It’s an exploration of superstitions that I’ve been collecting for
the past year or so. I’ve been fascinated with superstitions since childhood. I remember being about 3 or
4, and learning about cause and effect, and making up my own superstitions to correlate with events that were taking place around me that I didn’t like or couldn’t control. I think that seeps into our lives as adults and we adopt little superstitions or good luck charms in the face of an uncontrollable world. There are so many interesting superstitions and they exist in practically every part of the world, despite scientific disapproval. I think it’s really fascinating. Time Between is my attempt to gather up some of the superstitions I’ve collected and present them together to show the scope of our imaginings and reveal certain themes that occur in our fears and desires. I’m intentionally not revealing the superstition that relates to each photograph in hopes that it will inspire the viewer to create their own stories and make their own correlations.

What are you trying to capture through photography?

I try not to go into a project at first thinking about exactly what I want to capture because it’s really hard to
predict where it will go and it’s more of an ongoing exploration of something. It usually begins with a
curiosity about a subject and then I explore it with my camera. Eventually it either grows into something bigger or it fizzles out. For me, photography is a way to learn more about the world and it provides an arena where I can gather my observations into one place.

To the viewer of your work what feeling or impression would you like leave?

I don’t think I have a lot of control over the way my work will impact a viewer because everything is filtered through the individual’s previous experiences, but my hope is that they will walk away asking new questions and thinking about what I’ve presented in a new way.

You do some editorial works, do you have the same freedom then when you shoot your own work?

I think that usually, or at least in the best scenarios, an art director will hire you because they like your personal work and want that to translate into an editorial assignment. So, while the project you’re shooting isn’t something you thought of on your own, there is some freedom to photograph it in your own unique way. Of course there are some instructions and it’s not as free as doing it for yourself, but there is room for a photographer’s voice to come through in an editorial spread. Sometimes it can even lead to new ideas or personal projects for a photographer, which really is a best-case scenario.

One of your editorials include some beautiful shots of Scarlett Johansson, how did you get involved in this shoot?

A friend of mine produced her recent record of Tom Waits covers and he asked me to help out with some of the artwork for the record. It was a great experience and there was a lot of room for creativity, so I feel very lucky to have been a part of it.

What is the main difference shooting a celebrity used to photography and the people you shoot for your own project? How do you get people to be at ease in front of the camera?

It’s a very different experience to photograph someone that is not used to being in front of a camera. It’s a slower process and in some ways the results can be more exciting and unexpected because there is no set formula going in. I usually talk to the person I want to photograph for a while first, and because I shoot with a waist-level camera, there is no barrier between my face and theirs. I think that’s important because it makes them feel more connected and comfortable than if I had a camera in front of my eyes, obstructing their ability to look back at me. The slowness of the camera and the focusing also means that they don’t
know exactly when I’ll trigger the shutter, and I try to capture them just as they’re letting go of the initial
awkwardness. I’m interested in the period between tension and relaxation, where they’re just beginning to feel comfortable with the camera. Usually what I see in them throughout the process is a reflection of what I’m feeling also.

What materials (camera and light) do you use?

I usually shoot with a Hasselblad medium format camera. I’ve always loved square format photography and the slowness and simplicity of the camera really works for the kind of pictures I’m interested in making. As for light sources, I almost always prefer to use the sun as my light source. Chasing the light forces me to pay attention to my surroundings and the subtle changes that happen from minute to minute. There is something about it that seems to both freeze time and accelerate it at once. And late afternoon sun has an unbelievable ability to transform even the ugliest things into something completely beautiful. I love to wait for the sun and watch the metamorphosis.

What are your main inspirations?

All the usual things. The human condition, the great outdoors, and maybe even boredom. A myriad of little things that I see every day inspire me, but I think they are all related to the first three things I’ve mentioned.

What do you look for in other photographers work?

An original voice always gets me. Or a story that I have never seen anywhere else.

If you could invite 3 photographers or artists to a dinner who would it be and why?

David Bowie, Walt Whitman, and Francesca Woodman (if the later 2 were still alive). Although, I’d probably be so nervous that I wouldn’t attend the dinner!

Any young photographers or Flickr members whose work you really like and that you would like us to discover

I’ve been looking at Will Steacy’s work a lot lately. He’s a really young (prolific) photographer and he also writes on a blog. I think his work is just great and it always inspires me. I also love what Amy Elkins is doing with her “Wallflowers” series of men against floral backdrops. Actually, she has a lot of work on her website and it’s all very genuine and unique. Colin Blakely makes great modern black and white prints, and I check in on his website a lot to see what’s new. I get a kick out of his long, descriptive titles. They add this whole new layer to his photos. Really, there are so many great young photographers out there, it’s hard to list just a few!

Brea Thak You.

Interview by Frankie.


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