Interview #78: Rosie Brock
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Rosie Brock: I first became interested in photography when I was about fifteen years old. I would take these really over the top “glamour” headshots of myself, my sister, and my friends with the intention of posting them on social media. Eventually, I began to become more interested in photography as a means to visually articulate a narrative.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
RB: I’m currently a sophomore at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where I’m pursuing a BFA in Photography & Video.
CUS: How does studying art at a postsecondary institution have an affect on your work?
RB: I’m very grateful and fortunate to be attending art school. In the past two years I feel as though my work has really transformed and improved. I’ve gained so much valuable insight about my photographs through critiques and speaking with some of my closest friends. While I do live in Manhattan, I actually hardly ever shoot there. I’m interested in the American South, so I either return to Virginia, or travel around in order to shoot.
CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.
RB: Usually I either have a very specific idea, or at other times, I’ll just be in the car and see something that sparks my interest. When I have a very clear preconceived vision of an image I want to take, I’ll sketch it out, plan the location and subject, and basically replicate what’s inside my mind. If it’s more of a spontaneous response to a situation (which I’ve been tending to do more), I’ll just grab my camera and begin shooting.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
RB: Two glazed donuts from Dunkin' Donuts and a smoothie.
CUS: Who are the individuals in your photographs?
RB: They’re my family members; the most reoccurring character is my younger sister, Lily, who I’ve been photographing since I was fifteen.
CUS: What makes a good image?
RB: I feel like a good image is such a subjective concept... but to me, a notably “good” picture typically either reminds me of some vague memory or feeling and has an interesting quality of light. I’m most interested at images that hint at a larger unlying narrative.
CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from? What is the motivation behind your image-making?
RB: I draw a lot of inspiration from my childhood, spent in Gulf Coast Florida and around the South, visiting family or on road trips. Memories of vaguely strange, but culturally “normal” happenings or locations. Also, literature and film play an enormous factor in influencing me. My motivation behind imagemaking is creating my own visual narrative, which synthesizes all the perhaps seemingly unrelated thoughts/inspirations I have.
CUS: Tell us about the locations in your photographs.
RB: The images in this ongoing body of work were all created in either Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee or South Carolina. While the portraits tend to be at/around my parents home in Virginia, the environmental vignettes are typically atmospheres I observed out of the car window and then stopped to photograph.
CUS: What can you tell us about your project "Bone, Flesh, Memory"?
RB: I was born and raised around the South, so my childhood memories and experiences highly influence my interest in regionally specific cultural norms. I’m very interested in atmospheres, be it psychological or physical, that straddle the line between recognizable and uncanny. Over the past academic year, I’ve been traveling between New York and areas of the South in order to create this series, which is ongoing and I plan to really dedicate much more time to it this upcoming summer.
CUS: Do you believe that the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography; photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…)
RB: Everyone can technically be a photographer, but not everyone can be an original or compelling one. Mass amounts of images being uploaded don’t really bother me… I think it’s just a contemporary reality, one which has both pros and cons. As for film vs. digital, I’m partial to film since it’s what I shoot with and most of the work I’m drawn to is also film.
CUS: How do you differentiate “art” photography and “nonart” photography?
RB: I wouldn’t say that I always necessarily differentiate the two automatically, since there can be space for overlap or subjectivity. But ultimately, I think mainly for me, “art” photography tends to be more formally executed and has a conceptual backing of some sort.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?
RB: I think the intertwinement of internet culture and photography is really interesting, I will say I have mixed feelings about it overall. On one hand it’s really amazing that people who otherwise might not be represented now might have a greater chance for accessibility/visibility. And then on the other hand, I feel like Instagram can sort of drive a superficial appreciation of photography, like how many likes equates to how valuable the image is. But that being said, I post my work on Instagram fairly frequently, as sort of a self-promotional thing. Maybe it’s just important to identity and differentiate how different spheres function differently, for example the feedback you might get on Instagram can be really great/validating, but it’s a separate conversation that what might be offered in a formal critique.
CUS: Your favorite photographer?
RB: I have two at the moment: Lara Shipley and Maude Schuyler Clay.
CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
RB: Hmm… I feel like there’s too many inspiring people for me to only choose one.
CUS: Your dream equipment?
RB: Hasselblad 500 with unlimited rolls of Portra 400.
CUS: Your dream location to shoot?
RB: It’s a tie between the Louisiana Bayou, Badlands of South Dakota, and New Mexico.
CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
RB: Definitely accessibility to the locations I want to shoot at. Since I’m New York based and a full time student, I’m very limited as to when I’m able to travel and actually create new work, which can feel really disheartening and stressful at times.
CUS: What was the last thing you dreamt about?
RB: Actually last night I had this wild dream that my dad, sister, and I were in some sort of semiapocalyptic swamp area of the Louisiana bayou and were being chased. It was sort of terrifying but also beautiful, I have this specific memory of a shot of the sky at sunset and it was this hyperreal pink.
CUS: What are some of your favorite books and films?
RB: My favorite book is ‘Light in August’ by William Faulkner, I read it during the spring a few years ago. As for favorite films, I have quite a few but the tops are Buffalo 66, Natural Born Killers, Badlands, Stand By Me etc... I’m so a really huge fan of true crime documentaries/TV shows, one standout is the Paradise Lost trilogy.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?
RB: Probably Dolly Parton during the 1970’s because she’s amazing.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow photographers?
RB: Really try to cultivate your inspirations… stay engaged with what makes you excited. Also never be embarrassed or ashamed for putting yourself out there even if it doesn’t work out right away.
CUS: What are your plans for the spring?
RB: Right now I’m actually on my spring break from school and am about to go on a roadtrip to Nashville, Tennessee for a few days with my boyfriend.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming exhibitions or publications?
RB: My roommate, Maggie Dunlap, is curating a show at a gallery space in Oxford, Mississippi which I’ll have six photographs featured in.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Shaun Lucas, asks: What is your favorite beer?
RB: I’m not too beersavvy, but I do like Stella Artois.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
RB: Best photo-related advice someone ever gave you?