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[Photography] Interview with Brittany Fields

[KELP JOURNAL] Brittany Fields, you are a self-taught photographer. Tell me what that means, and how you got to this point in your career?

[BRITTANY FIELDS] Self-taught photographer, to me, means that I initially picked up a camera in service of trying to properly document my artwork for my website and portfolio and didn’t necessarily have the intention of being a “photographer,” and still hesitate when people say that I am one. I also didn’t have regular access to a printshop, which is my preferred medium. So, photography became a way to stay creative that didn’t require a studio or studio space, per say. I enjoyed taking pictures, but everyone takes pictures now—things like Instagram—and you know, the cameras on your iPhones are really powerful. But I was like, “Well, I love doing this. I love spending time here, so why don’t I actually document what I’m experiencing, things I love and beautiful places, moments, and memories to make it more meaningful.” I disclaim self-taught in the sense where I’m fiddling around with the different functions on the camera, and I probably couldn’t explain it in a very “educated way.” I know there is a language around photography that exists—like aperture, or like F-stops—but couldn’t properly teach it. Not sure how to use light monitors meters or stuff like that, but I like golden hour, those two times a day where the lighting is like very kind, warm, and glowy and perfect for shooting. Then enough knowledge to edit a bit after if needed. It is all intuitive. Doing what feels right, looking for what I like, and knowing what I want to happen visually, but still using online research to answer questions.

When it comes to “this point in my art career,” I feel like I’m still very much in the early stages and got here through a lot of trial and error and not being able afraid to explore different mediums or techniques. It is very much knowing a little bit a lot a lot of things, marrying my understanding of who I want to be as an artist and what I want to get from the work. It’s about me being receptive creatively. Going to a lot of art shows, YouTube videos, artist talks, art classes. Making “bad art.” Stepping away from my art and just trying to soak up everything that I like and strive for visually. All of that consumption and trial error has finally led me to this point in my career.

[KJ] Each of these photos is so delicate, like a fragile teacup and just as symbolic. Where were they taken? What inspired you to take the shot?

[BF] Thank you. Yes, you have to be delicate with moments like that, especially with nature. Back when I was still living in LA, I would regularly take my bike to Venice Beach and hang out in that area and the Santa Monica Pier. It was like a mini culture of people who would photograph people there. But on the way to the beach, there’s this little area; I think it’s called the Venice Canals. It is funny, I remember the day with the butterflies really vividly because it was a bit hot. I was kinda sweaty, gross from biking down, and I had to sit and wait for awhile! The butterflies were drawn to this particular batch of flowers. The memory is funny because since it was such a nice day in LA, people were actually walking the canal. The butterflies would finally stop and I could get close, then a tour group would walk past and they would scare off the butterflies. So, it was a constant waiting game for them to come back and relax and flex their wings. So, a long day with a nice little memory. I was super happy with the result, even though I was in the spot for a few hours. I was inspired to take that shot because I was playing around with macro photography at the time. Giving myself little assignments to practice . Iwas also trying to do doing little-to-no editing in my photos. It was right place, right time for the day through the canal and giving myself the grace to say, “Don’t give up, wait for them to come back. They will and you will get a good shot.”

[KJ] You are a multi-faceted artist working not only in photography but also drawing and print making as well as writing. I always like to ask artists such as yourself, how do you pick forms or projects? Do any of the forms influence each other?

[BF] Ha, thanks again! Thats a good question. Some of the work or projects are very much just meant for a particular medium, but they do speak to each other. Intentionally and unintentionally they very much influence each other. For example, a lot of my fine artworks are inspired by things I hear, like words, phrases, music, or things I read. As I try to move into a freelance space, this is actually one of the harder things. Choosing which project to focus on over the form because there are so many ideas for projects that pop up. It’s a matter of finishing. It is very organic in that I’ll be working on story, and it’ll bring up something in me visually that I’m like, “Oh, that could be a great drawing,” and I’ll sketch that thumbnail, wanna work on fleshing out that idea so I don’t lose its energy. But I also have this lingering part of a manuscript sitting right in front of me. Or something I’ve heard or read gives me a title for a drawing or print I’m spending time with and the drawing has a story behind it that wants to be written. It can be very chaotic if I’m not in a focused flow space with the piece. I think photography is the one medium that is very much its own entity like once it’s done, it’s done. That’s probably because it’s so immediate and because photographing things in service of a fine artwork is very different than the way that I photograph the world. Also, photography has its own space conceptually because the visual elements that I would need or want to photograph for my fine art are in places that I would like to travel to and experience myself.

[KJ] I notice that you like to capture “sound” using the visual medium of photography. What does that entail?

[BF] It’s like trying to be a quite witness to beautiful or unassuming moments. I think of the saying: “If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?” The sound is just the absence of a witness. In the absence, we are more ourselves or are living our best of that moment. So, when I think of catching the sound, it is like trying to be a witness to those moments where we are most free, most relaxed, most yourself, most vulnerable. Seeking to capture those moments when we connect but not in a performed way. It’s kinda of invasive in a way, and I try to keep that in mind. But being someone who is very introverted, it is a way for me to connected with people or show reverence to a place. Also, just love taking the time to observe the character of a place.

I hope in revealing that vulnerability that it will show my subject in the best light, or them really enjoying themselves, or connected to the moment. These particular pictures show reverence. Nature is very much an unassuming thing where it exists regardless of human interaction, and it always tries to be its best self. Regardless of subject matter, it is very much a sit and wait and spend time and see to capture the beautiful essence of a person’s being or their soul without taking it away from them. A kind of sharing of the intangible or the sound, I guess.

[KJ] Normally, we would end the interview here, but I noticed that you have an MA in art management from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. What an accomplishment! So, I selfishly have a couple more questions. Do you have any tips for our writers and artists? What are the worst things that artists do that get them in trouble?

[BF] Oh gosh, Thank you. That program went by so quickly and was nested in Claremont Graduate University’s Drucker School of Management. It was wild, and things I’ve learned, remembered, and forgotten pop up occasionally in my professional practice, but to your question: Tips? I’m like a baby when it comes to writing in that I’m, right now, just trying to get the words out and on paper and make them coherent. BUT I feel like art in general is about getting in trouble and then working your way out of it. Art is inherently problem solving. I feel like if you aren’t getting in some kind of trouble with producing your art or sharing the work, then what are you making. I think that is the shiny version of the worst thing, to not try. Don't be afraid to actually make the work and don't be afraid to make that work you like. I always think about that quote by Ira Glass about beginners and the gap with creativity and taste. It is something I used to encourage myself. I think he’s talking about writing specifically, but I personal think it just applies to anyone creatively. If you stop working, or become too conscious of who is looking at you in your gap or what you are making in the gap or others approval in the gap, you will be too preoccupied with them and will quit as he says or just wildly stunt your creative growth and progress and end up making work you don’t love or aren’t passionate about, in my opinion.

I looked it up. So, the end of quote is, “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions... It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” There is this whole other podcast or TED Talk or something about the value of being a beginner, but that’s a whole other thing. So, the worst thing... To not try and give up on your creative self. []

Brittany Fields grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri, where her passion for the arts was born. Her academic pursuits led her to Atlanta and New York, respectively, where she received her BA at Spelman College in 2011 and MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2013. In her desires to be versed in all aspects of the art world, she continued her studies at Claremont Graduate University for a MA in arts management as a part of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, now the Center for Business and Management of the Arts Program in 2017. Well versed in the visual and administrative aspects of the visual arts world, Fields has found herself on both ends of the art arena. She has served students in their quest for art education in admissions at Otis College as well as the production of professional artists editions at Gemini G.E.L. In service of her own creativity, Fields has attended residencies at Taller Portobello in Panama and the Eric Fischl Artist-in-Residence Teaching program in Colora, Maryland. She has also been a recipient of the Richard Kubaik Memorial Curatorial Award from the New York Academy of Art. As a self-taught photographer, her work photo-based work focuses on observations of others, who we are and how we present. With a Street Art Photography approach, her photographs are nested in the idea: If a tree falls and no one sees does it make a sound? Fields aims to capture the “sound.” The photos focused on quiet, celebratory, beautiful, and fleeting moments in communal and public and spaces. With the help of only natural light, she celebrates and captures the place, space, and essence of the people. Her fine art focuses on escapism, world and identity creation, and self-exploration while looking to spirituality, creation myths, and fables and folk tales. Her preferred mediums are drawing and printmaking but experimentation with installation and materiality are important growing aspects of her work. Fields is also an aspiring children’s book author/illustrator. She currently lives and works in Augusta, Georgia.


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