Project

Letting Things Flow: Reality and Fantasy in the Work of Brooke DiDonato

After earning her bachelor’s degree in photojournalism, Brooke DiDonato changed her approach to photography and created a series of surrealist portraits.

Brooke DiDonato, 24 years old

Photographer from New York. Studied photojournalism in Kent State University, performed work for The New Yorker and Clutersun. Favorite book — “Beneath the Roses” by Gregory Crewdson. Inspired by the works of Alex Prager, Ilona Schwarzer and Rene Magritte.

Idea

I began my work on the Drift project in 2011, when I was an intern as a photojournalist at the Lexington Herald-Leader. I spent the whole summer preparing reports for the news. I liked the subject, but glancing at my portfolio, I understood that something was missing.

I asked myself: how about the stories that exist only in our imaginations? How can that which can’t be seen with our eyes be captured? In the search for answers to these questions, my camera helped me. I began to create images that are on the edge of reality and fantasy, touching upon the themes of vulnerability, unprotectedness and self-destruction. I don’t know if I will ever be able to truly finish the work on this project.

I try to take photos that will evoke in the viewer a feeling of сonnectedness, forming a certain link between them and what’s reflected in the photographs. I want to place in the viewer in the center of a story that has a beginning and an end. Of course, every person finds in their story their own particular meaning.


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Instruments

I left classic photojournalism in the last several years, but the goal of my work remains the same as it was in my sophomore year of university: I want to create stories that change perceptions of the world. That’s precisely what photojournalism taught me. Such photographs as Napalm Girl by the Pulitzer Prize laureate Nick Ut with time make us reconsider our views of life.

I use a few cameras: a Nikon SLR and a Sony compact. In May, I had an exhibit in Brooklyn of photos I took with the Sony RX1 — of an excellent quality. I always carry that camera with me, while I use the Nikon for work in the studio.

When I had just moved to New York, I literally convinced myself that I couldn’t shoot until I clearly formed an idea. But that didn’t work and new works didn’t emerge in my portfolio. Then I began to make myself shoot without any planning beforehand, letting everything flow on its own in some sense. That helped me reconcile with the fact that mistakes are an important part of the creative path. I don’t fear them anymore.

One of my recent photographs, Next Door, I shot when I visited my father in Ohio. I looked for an interesting place for a shoot and noticed a shadow beautifully falling on his house. I thought about how that photo could be done for a few more moments. In ten minutes, I was already hanging from a window in a polka dot dress, doing a self-portrait.


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A photographer’s work

I promote my works through social networks. It seems to me that’s one of the best ways to present myself. Next year, I plan to take a pause because I want to create a series of new photos and publish them in a separate book or prepare an exhibit. Social networks are a powerful instrument for contemporary photographers, but the more content surfaces, the more difficult it is to draw an audience’s attention to your work.

Working with The New Yorker was something fantastic for me, I couldn’t believe it for a long time. Several years ago, I created a list of my dream clients and The New Yorker was one of them. Most of the time, I work independently so working with photo editors and publishers helped me look at my tasks as a photographer in a new way.

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