In support of our exhibition Adrift, we’re asking our exhibiting artists four questions to help you get to know a bit about them and their work.
Laura Braun is a German born, London based photographer and maker of photographic books. She completed her MA in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths College in 2005. Her work has been exhibited in the UK, Germany and Spain. In recent years she has been commissioned by The Photographers’ Gallery, London for a part of her long term project “Trade” as well as for the gallery’s “The World in London” project to coincide with the London Olympics 2012. In 2011 Laura set up the small publishing platform Paper Tigers Books for limited edition artists’ books and multiples in order to publish her own work as well as that of collaborators and friends. (bio from forthcoming Gasket and The Velvet Cell publication)
What can a photo do that other representations can’t? What is it that made you choose photography over other media as a way of communicating?
What other representations are there? Paintings? Text? Music?
I guess photography remains closer to the source, there is less interpretation, at least initially. For a photograph of something to be made, the object needs to exist. I can only photograph a tree if it is there. I do not need there to be a tree to paint one or to write about it or put it into music in some way, I only need to have seen one in the past to do that. This connection to the source, however problematic it also is, to me is what makes photography interesting. However I never consciously chose photography because of this conceptual difference to other art forms. I fell into photography and fell in love with it, not least because of the processes and the equipment it involves.
What’s the first thing you remember photographing and why did you choose it as your subject?
I really, really don’t remember. When I started photographing I was a teenager, about 12 years old. My grown up eldest brother was already a photographer so I had the advantage of learning from him, borrowing his equipment and darkroom and assisting him on a few jobs. I had been handed down my mother’s camera, an Olympus OM1 with a 50mm lens if I remember correctly. I took it with me on holidays and on little photo trips around the city by myself. I photographed all sorts of things, initially in black and white only. I was interested in the formal qualities of pictures, in textures and structures and in communicating moods and atmospheres. The story or scene that a single picture could suggest was one of the things that got me hooked.
How does your photographic process work, where do you start? Is it with a theory or idea, or is it driven by aesthetics or a desire to use a certain technique or piece of equipment?
I usually start with a subject or a question, however that can be more or less vaguely defined. I guess it isn’t much more than a curiosity about something initially with an idea of what my take on it might be. When I start a project I am open to what the subject might suggest or what I might find along the way to inform the outcome.
For instance when I started “ The Weather” the project that will be exhibited in the exhibition in October, I knew I would be in Portugal for a few months, I had been there before and I had many Portuguese friends whom I had talked to a lot about the country. So I had an idea, in this case, mainly of the mood I wanted to capture. My Portuguese especially in the beginning was limited and for me the openness of the project was a challenge. Therefore although I initially had wanted to include people, I didn’t continue with that for very long. I felt I wouldn’t be able to do their stories justice and that shifted the project to be more clearly about landscape.
Other projects with more clearly defined subjects, like my recent long term project “Trade”, have been much more about simply collecting.
Have you found photography to be an effective research tool? Has it uncovered ideas which have changed the path of your thinking?
In terms of field research, insofar as it provides me with a reason or an excuse to go to places and speak to people, yes photography is an effective research tool for me. In my case it is primarily photography but I think other forms of recording can provide something to look back on and analyse in much the same way as photography does. Interviewing, note taking, video recording and ambient sound recording are all equally interesting and all of these together, even if not intended for a final outcome, will provide the most complete and I think the most fruitful research.
Of course reading, i.e. secondary research is also very important and again photography has given me a reason to do this. It has given me a context within which to read, understand and make use of the information and ideas I absorb; – which I believe is vital for any kind of research.
Maybe the habit of forming what I encounter in the world into some kind of argument or coherent project, which I have learned at least partly from photography, has shaped the way I process information. However photography per se has no monopoly on “uncovering ideas and changing the path of my thinking”, anything can do that.
You can see more of Laura’s work and writing here