Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Conversation with Brea Souders

Once you see a Brea Souders image it will stay with you and linger. Her work functions on many levels and you can feel the care that she takes in creating each image. We are greatly pleased to present a conversation with this talented artist today.

©Brea Souders

Nymphoto: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Brea Souders: I was born and raised in Frederick, Maryland and studied photography at the University of Maryland Baltimore County before moving to New York City in 2005. I grew up as an only child in a house surrounded by woods, and I always had plenty of time to myself to daydream and breathe in my surroundings. My mom is a painter and my dad a physicist, and they have both influenced me in many ways. I was interested in psychology for most of my life growing up and started out in college as a psychology major, but quickly learned that I was not so interested in rigid text book theories, but instead in the vast potential and diversity of the human mind. I began to look to people who were pushing those boundaries rather than defining them. It was at this time that my interest in art became my primary interest. I wanted a better way to understand and engage life, and photography provided a perfect outlet.

©Brea Souders

NP: How did you discover photography?

BS: There were several little used cameras that were given to me in childhood – a polaroid, a 110, and point and shoot 35mm’s – I remember being vaguely interested in them and snapping photos in the woods, of people’s hands, or of my two cats. But unfortunately, I can’t claim to be one of the romantics that fell in love with photography instantly. It’s been a slow process, with spurts of growth and a lot of confusion in between. I’ve experimented a lot with the medium and feel I am just now finding my voice. When I was 17, I discovered a book of surrealist photographs by Man Ray in my mom’s bookcase. This book shocked me and sparked an enormous interest in the medium. That same year I began to take photography classes and fell in love with antiquarian and alternative processes. Artists like Dan Estabrook and Susan Fenton were major influences at that time (and still are). It took years for me to appreciate color photography, but after I graduated from college I saw some photographs by Bernard Faucon and thought the color was just astonishing. I’ve been hooked on color ever since, and study it everywhere I go.

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

BS: All kinds of things – the changes of seasons, shifts in light, bicycling at a fast clip, overhearing snippets of conversations when I’m out having coffee somewhere. All the usual things like that. The fabric and flower districts in New York are new places of inspiration – I like to cruise the aisles and imagine ways to use the various gems I discover. I always like to have a lot of books on hand, although unfortunately I rarely finish them. I’ve been reading a lot of dream journals for a current project and have found that to be really invigorating. Jack Kerouac’s Book of Dreams is an especially exciting read! Of course, learning about anything new is always inspiring, and I’m influenced by people who are determined to live in an expanded world and people with unusual beliefs. I’m also inspired by the discoveries of strange new organisms and any discoveries in space. And maybe most of all, I find a great meal with friends to be very inspiring. Good things usually come out of conversations had over a delicious feast!

©Brea Souders

NP: How do your projects come about?

BS: I carry a sketchbook with me most of the time and try to write down things that inspire me regularly. I usually have a few seeds of ideas spinning around for a while, and when one idea grows out of control, I decide to devote more time and energy towards seeing it to fruition. I’m learning to dive into projects more quickly. Most of my work relies on a lot of research and I have a tendency to get hung up in that stage. It comes to a point where I feel almost paralyzed and don’t know where to begin with the actual production. So I’m forcing myself to produce work earlier on, side by side with the research. It results in more photos that end up getting scrapped, but I think overall it benefits the work and is a better balance of planning and intuition.

©Brea Souders

NP: What's next?

BS: I’m currently working on a project called Islands & Streams that examines the recorded dreams of scientists, philosophers, writers and other luminaries from whom I’ve drawn creative inspiration. I’m isolating fragments from their dreams, creating them in my studio or outdoors, and then photographing them. The final photographs will be sequenced together to create a new narrative.

NP: Thank you!

To see more of Brea's work, please visit:

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