Striving to create dichotomies between the sensual and the horrific, the beautiful and the destructive, Brooklyn-based photographer Alison Brady explores issues related to madness and alienation as they exist in contemporary culture. In order to depict these emotions, Brady constructs a staged imagery with inanimate objects to illustrate the inner workings of the unconscious on a metaphorical level. Her series “What should remain secret” blends the familiar with the unknown. Through grotesque exaggerations – antique furniture and vintage fabrics juxtaposed with unnaturally twisted body forms – she investigates elements of eroticism, twisted humor and horror, resulting in a body of work comprised of deeply emotional and disturbing images. Her photography has been featured in the New York Times, NY Arts Magazine, in Elton John’s collection and the West Collection, to mention just a few, while Saatchi Gallery has profiled her as an emerging artist of the week in 2007. To learn more about Alison Brady, check out the interview below and visit her website www.alisonbrady.com. For similar works on identity exploration also see Romina Ressia, Patty Carroll and Metra-Jeanson.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
I am a Brooklyn-based artist whose primary medium is photography, creating works about the female experience that has been referred to as compelling, funny, and often disturbing.
Are there any personalities that have contributed to your successful career path?
The only thing that comes to mind, when I was at SVA for grad school, an important person there (we will leave names out of this) gave me this piece of advice “ make the work and everything else will fall into place”.
I considered this, and choose to ignore it, and I am glad I did. No one will “discover” you. Sure anything is possible. But I decided quickly I should take a more pro-active route with my career. You are the only one that will get your work out there, sure many people will help along the way, but when it comes right down to it, the artist must be her own self-promoter and manager.
What made you want to become a photographer?
I was given a point and shoot camera when I was little. And then later in life I began using the camera as a way of documenting absurd performances pieces between my friends and I. I did a lot of sculpture during this period of time and I would incorporate it with in the images but I remember feeling like that medium had limitations and liking the immediate quality of photography.
What was your favourite project and why?
A video collaboration I did a few years back with a friend of mine, Sarah Knobel. The installation piece was called “Over Again”
Being an artist is often lonely work, which is why I love collaborating with others.
I can be driven and controlling so I was extremely worried when we first took this project on. When participants don’t see eye-to-eye or share the same values, the creative process can be a nightmare, and the final product a confused jumble of influences and ideas. But the partnership for this video was perfect. It was nice bouncing ideas off a fellow artist I respected, I like not knowing exactly how the project would turn out, it was a little scary but also fun.
How do you define creativity?
Expressing unusual thoughts or ideas in any medium that is both interesting and stimulating. Creativity can be found in anything.
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
People will often tell you what they would do if they were you – “You should…..”. “What if you try” instead of talking about the work at hand. For example, I went to school with a lot of documentary photographers so they were always telling me I should do projects like, documenting behind-the-scenes of a B-horror movie set. The suggestion makes sense coming from them. But it’s not something I was interested in doing. My art is more about creating my own tableaus as opposed to capturing a moment that exists in real life. Following someone else’s ideas will get you nowhere. The more you come to depend on the perceptions and opinions of others, the less of yourself you’ll be able to put into your own work. Maintain an eternal compass of your own.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in?
Never let anyone treat you like a yellow starburst. You are a pink starburst.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as a photographer?
Like many artists I assumed somewhat naively that everyone is automatically going to “get it” – to get my work and comprehend it on the exact level I intended it to be perceived.
I learned how to articulate the meaning behind my work, and the thoughts and ideas that informed it. Moreover, I learned how to defend my work and – when necessary -how to detach myself from it all together.
Detachment can be helpful when dealing with criticism, but also with praise. You can’t live and die by what other people think of your work. And when you buy into the praise too much, it means you’ll also buy into the criticism of your work, even when it comes from a non-constructive place.