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Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and what it is you do.

I’m an Artist-Photographer – artist being the most important part. Photographic processes are my hammer and chisel, as I approach the world and use visual language to understand and reinterpret being. My bodies of work vary from work about intersection of life and death, classical portraiture and nudes using the wet plate collodion process, and using the physicality of the photographic object in a new and unconventional way. I am based strongly in the craft and alchemy of the process. I believe that the hands-on aspects of working in the darkroom and using film or large format gives the artist a real sense of creation over their work. That being said, I live in Pawtucket and work at my studio in Central Falls in an old mill above a loading dock, where I can blast vinyl symphonies while making prints in the red warm confines of my womb like-darkroom.

What draws you to the human form?

Besides it being beautiful, no one view of the nude is the same; in art, as in life, there are no certainties. No blacks and whites, only shades of grey. Writing about the nude is a difficult endeavor. It has been approached in the past by so many different visions and politics that one thing is certain—there is no one revelation, there is no naked truth. The nude’s importance is paramount as a symbol of purity, humanity and sexuality. The body is the vessel that carries us through the world. It is one of the purest forms of nature. The nude affects the way we see and interpret the rest of the world. It is something that goes unnoticed in our lives, but all of humanity, even the puritanical, confronts it on a daily basis. Photography as a medium has no rules or limits. Its politics apply to whoever is making the image; it is vision, it is light and it is sight. The body is like an instrument; it can make an image of pure beauty, with quiet and deep symphonic tones. The body can be loud, sharp & startling! It can be worn, tired and matured. It can be innocent and obscene. It can be tender, sweet and seductive. It’s emotional.

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Your work seems very personal and therapeutic. When do you feel a project is ‘complete’; is it when the images fit together visually, or when you feel that the work has served its purpose for you emotionally?

For me work very much so is therapeutic and meditative act. It’s something I am very much so not in control of, I feel possessed and it possess me. Projects to me never seem complete, its something we grow out of, or are enchanted by the idea of something new that then absorbs our time. At a certain point when the desire and need to make the work disappears generally the emotional need to make the work goes with it.

You seem fascinated by the physical aspects of photography. Do you use this tactile way of working for any other forms of craft?

I love baking bread, it something nourishing that you make with your hands. Like working in the darkroom baking and cooking is chemical and alchemical.

You work with a mixture of different processes and photographic formats. How do you decide which way to approach a subject?

Well the photographic medium is just like any tool; certain processes or workflows lend themselves to subject matter over others. I work in very different workflows for different projects because the project calls for it.

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Which is your favourite alternative process to work with?

By far my favourite process is Collodion, which is a photo process developed in the 19th century and has seen a revival as of late as digital technology drive us farther and farther from the tangible photographic object. This reversion to the physical is a result of the majority of images we take in being merely windows on our screens; pixels and fleeting. The need for something valuable as our moments are to us translates in the medium; fragile glass and precious silver

Your more conventional photographs have a strong style. Which photographers do you feel have influenced you visually?

As far as photographers go, I feel the influence has been far more emotional than aesthetic. Reading Weston’s Daybooks along with writing from Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams has been one of the largest influences on my artistic practice. Their writing conveys not only their deep passion for photography but also a sensibility and understanding behind the intentions for making work.

Tell us about the best image you have made.

“Best” is a difficult word to apply to art. “Best” is quantifiable applying to how one thing stacks up against another, a function or excelling over others. Art’s function is fluid and emotional, it serves the purposes like lines in a poem or a symphony. Every piece serves a different emotional function or poetic pose. They are their own. They achieve different emotional goals, all of which are valuable.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently in the process of opening an Art Museum in the City of Central Falls. The project is just getting its wings and we hope to launch in 3-4 months and begin forming a collection. The museum will be primarily photography based and we already have an amazing line up of jurors and curators for 2015/2016. As well as a partnership with the Providence Public Library’s special collection; working on a book project and gallery exhibition of prints from turn of the century glass plates in their extensive collection. ​

What difficulties have you had to overcome on your creative journey?

Trying not to make work for an audience: I feel like so many people are influenced by the trends in contemporary photography and adopt an aesthetic and try and fit in one way or another into their work, without really finding their own voice in the medium. Once you shed yourself of this notion of having to fit in and began making art for yourself, it takes on a much more personal impact – and that honesty conveys itself far greater to the viewer in my opinion. That, and believing in yourself: it’s a constant battle. Why are we doing this? Why are we making this? Is it worth it? Is it valuable? Artists all have ups and downs. It’s a roller coaster, knowing this and trying to move forward every day is something I believe most artists face through out their lives, and try to overcome.

What is the most important thing that photography has taught you about yourself?

That I have a purpose. That there is meaning to my life. That I can add some beauty to the world and that beauty can live on beyond me. It’s my life… When I was teaching photography at Central Falls High School, on the first day of class I handed out get to know you worksheets with questions like; have you ever done photography before? What are you passionate about? And the last question was, if you could have any superpower what would it be. The students went around the room, some wanted to fly, others wanted a money machine, when it came around to my turn looking at my blank sheet I remembered, when I was a child I wanted my super power to be able to stop time. I realise that dream is now what I do as an adult.

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See more of Brett’s work at bretthenriksonphotography.com