Interview: Alison Brady, Quick Words on Photography
by Keesean Moore
Amusement and disgust intermingle in her work with the cumulative effect something like a handcrafted Theater of Cruelty, put on in a suburban backyard, by a girl who most of the kids aren’t allowed to play with.
Alison Brady’s photography is unique for its ability to both make you laugh hysterically and completely gross you out. Her new self-titled book “Alison Brady” (CAMI Publishing, 2011) has been praised for its surrealist takes on women and domesticity.
After an incredibly successful career that has led her to the Prague Biennial, the Galeria Massimo Audiello, Hous Projects, and the BAM Next Wave Festival, she remains hungry and grounded. Brady recently sat down with our Associate Fashion Editor, Keesean Moore, at her studio in Bushwick to discuss her upcoming music video projects for ground-breaking artists, favorite horror films, and her constant quest for a distinguished and original form of expression.
Keesean: Your work artistically combines hilarious, repulsive elements with a classically trained eye for composition. How do you keep a sense of humor about the creative process?
Alison: I’m a big fan of horror movies. My favorite would have to be The Tenant by Roman Polanski. Based on a surrealist novel by Roland Topo, it’s about a hyper self-conscious character and follows his descent into paranoia and madness yet somehow still has humorous moments throughout. I seek to create a similar balance of disquietude and wryness in my work. I often weave twisted humor and a horror movie aesthetic into the work I do that deals with neuroses, anxiety, and displacement.
I’m especially appreciative of low-budget B-horror movies in which the director is able to take many more risks than a well-funded commercial film could afford to take. The special effects in B movies is often low tech and sloppy and I enjoy being able to see the hand that makes the film compared to the slick over produced quality of more costly films (and often I find the results hilarious).
Keesean: Are you finding it difficult to balance your vision and maintain artistic integrity as you become busier, and gain more exposure?
Alison: While making the work my responsibility lies with the execution of the idea, however it is not important for the audience to completely understand the concept within. I invite the audience into bringing his or her own experience to the viewing process.
I seek to evoke that sense of familiarity through the use of these homely middle class signifiers, such as wallpaper and recognizably domestic spaces. Constructing artificial scenarios that appear vaguely recognizable, and thereby produce numerous associations.
Keesean: Do you have reoccurring themes or conflicts that can be found in your work?
Alison: My images allude to the cryptic mental re-scrambling through which our traumatic events resurface, something like a peek into the subject’s psyche. Each staged tableaux intends to prod at obscure discomforts in the viewer—the idea of violation, of trauma, of those lucid moments whose unreality is escalated to a sort of super-reality.
My work depicts moments outside the realm of time therefore beyond life and death.
Much is unknown and unanswered, the image is static no before or after.
I find a lot of inspiration in the work of the surrealists, the meeting of two random elements coming together to create a whole new relevance. The use of simple props such as fishing wire, bed sheets, salami serving to illustrate the inner workings of the unconscious.
Keesean: After all the exhibitions and galleries you were featured in, can you describe the different feeling of accomplishment when you had your self-titled book published?
Alison: Not really I like to keep grounded.
Keesean: Do you have any projects on your plate now?
Alison: Yes! I am working on a new portrait series as well as music videos.
Keesean: What prompted the shift to video?
Alison: I use photography as a tool, and was always planning to expand to other mediums in the future. I think my work would translate well in video, the subjects are placed into awkward or bizarre set pieces and coerced into visually compelling poses. Video could add action and movement.
Keesean: Do you have any advice for emerging artists and other seriously considering a career in photography?
Alison: The only piece of advice I have would be, when it comes to your work, stick to your guns. The more you come to depend on the perceptions and opinions of others, the less of yourself you will be able to put into your work. It is important to maintain an eternal compass of your own.