Bree Lamb - A House, A Home
Bree Lamb (b. 1984) is an artist, educator and editor based in New Mexico. She received her MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico in 2015. Bree is a Beaumont Newhall/Van Deren Coke Fellow and is represented by Gallery 19 in Chicago. She is the Managing Editor of Fraction Magazine, Project Manager at Fraction Editions and Part-Time Faculty at New Mexico State University. Bree has previously worked for Wildenstein & Company, Fovea Exhibitions, and photo technique Magazine.
Check out Bree's Website to see full portfolio
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am originally from York, Pennsylvania. I graduated from Penn State in 2007 with my BFA, and I worked in the Hudson Valley and New York City before moving to New Mexico in 2009. In 2015, I received my MFA from the University of New Mexico (UNM). During my time at UNM, I met David Bram and began working for Fraction Magazine. I am currently the Managing Editor for Fraction Magazine, Project Manager for Fraction Editions, and part-time faculty at New Mexico State University.
How did you choose photography as a medium, career and art form?
The importance of photography in my life developed slowly and subconsciously for a long time. I started borrowing my mom’s point and shoot camera regularly around 8th or 9th grade. I was really interested in documenting my time with family and friends, but solely for posterity – I had no knowledge of or concern for exposure and composition. Throughout high school, I was shooting a bit obsessively, much to the annoyance of my friends; and at a certain point my parents restricted me to developing one roll of film a week. This was in the late 90s and early 2000s when One Hour Photo was really popular. I used to drop off the film at CVS and eagerly wait to pick up the prints. It was a very exciting time in my life, but I did not identify as a photographer or an artist.
Ceramics was my first love, and I took every class offered in high school in addition to independent studies and a teaching assistantship. I also really loved painting and printmaking, but I didn’t take a course in photography until college. Once I learned more about the history of the medium and contemporary photographers, I started to focus on my own craft, composition, and concept. By the end of college, I was totally engrossed in the world of photography, and I focused on developing my own aesthetic and gaining as much practical and professional experience as possible.
After college, I was fortunate to have an internship at Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon, New York. Fovea is a non-profit photojournalism gallery that shows socially, culturally, and politically relevant work from some of the most incredible photojournalists in the world. Each photographer shown chooses a non-profit organization that proceeds from sales of work are donated to. This internship was greatly formative for me. Not only were the founders, Stephanie Heimann and Sabine Meyer, great mentors; they were inspirational in their work ethic, their inclusive attitudes, and their dedication to Fovea’s humanitarian mission. My view of the role of photography expanded greatly, and I began to see that there was an endless number of ways to build a career with my passion for photography - not just as an artist, but even more so as an advocate for the arts.
Well first I have to ask - where did this fascination with color come from?
The images that I made with my point and shoot during high school were on color film. When I first started making photographs in a formal setting, I was shooting 35mm black and white film and 4x5 black and white film. The darkroom experience was as magical for me as it is for anyone who’s ever worked in the darkroom, but my images weren’t compelling. I was a terrible printer, for starters, and I couldn’t find a connection between process and content. When I bought my first digital camera, all of the sudden my observations were back in color, and I felt that I could better communicate my ideas by emphasizing color as an important element in the work.
You mention that in your work 'A House, A Home' that you choose objects that are of the American Home. Can you tell us what the American home has that is both so important but also so specific to American families?
I reference the American home, and American domesticity specifically, because that’s what I’m familiar with. I don’t want to make assumptions about the domestic trends of other countries, and even as I’m making this work, I’m very aware that “American domesticity” looks and feels very different to each of us based upon individual upbringing, culture, economics, and politics. The project is looking through the very specific lens of my experience as a middle class American woman in my thirties, and the sort of cultural and social expectations that I observe. I try to highlight issues of convenience, indulgence, excess, and convention that I experience and that I hope can be relatable to others in some capacity.
Your work in some way celebrate the Banal , the objects that some people see as mundane or even unimportant. Why are you shining a light on these objects? What have you learned about the American culture from collecting these objects and studying them?
I like to think of myself as living relatively minimally – I’ve always loved getting rid of things and pairing down my collections. It’s not until I move that this nice little idea that I have of myself is totally shattered. I own so much stuff. Some of it has personal or practical significance, some of it doesn’t. The weight of these everyday objects is unnoticeable at times, and at others it feels very heavy. I think that, in American culture at least, there is this impulse to purchase - to have the latest or the hippest or the sleekest “things.” I’m absolutely guilty of this myself, and I don’t necessarily look at it as a negative impulse, but it’s one that I personally need to pay attention to more. I want to find more gratitude in myself for my opportunities, my health, my relationships, my “things.”
I choose ubiquitous objects that are easily recognizable in an American context, to try to share my experiences in hopes that others can relate to them and, if I’m lucky, maybe they will reflect on their own experiences. The core of the work is human and optimistic, although there are definitely difficult questions that I’m asking myself and others about consumption, convenience, distribution of wealth, and environmental impact. I’m also interested in challenging certain stereotypes of femininity and masculinity, gender performance, and accepted social narratives. I choose different objects for different reasons, but the heart of the work is to offer an interpretation of shared experiences that make us human.
Do you have a specific object/photo that is your favorite?
I’m currently very interested in multiples. The majority of the first images that I began making were single objects, but I think that something different happens conceptually when you start to see multiple objects communicating or playing off of each other in a single frame. My current favorite is probably “32nd Resolution,” the image of the Happy New Year cocktail napkins. It’s personally significant for me, and I hope it can convey the idea of making resolutions– trying to be a better person, stumbling, failing, and trying again.
In your project VOLLEY you use an interesting echnique - photographing the photograph from the screen which allows the moire patterns to become a part of the new visual composition. Can you tell us how you came across this type of process? What does it represent?
Volley came about very organically. I was making high-res copy-stand photographs of snapshots from my family’s photo albums. I never intended on making work based on it, but when I was doing my post-processing workflow of spotting and color-correcting, I had an interesting observation. At the time I was looking at photos from when I was about 3 or 4 years old. I didn’t remember the events but I recognized familiar locations and people. As soon as I “corrected” the color – getting rid of the inherent color casts of the specific film and drug-store processing of the late 1980s – my connection to the image and the event disappeared. I realized that a large part of how I remember my childhood is through these photographs, and that this wacky color palette is fundamental to my interpretation of this time in my life.
For each image, I digitally sampled about 7-10 prominent colors, filled my computer screen one color field at a time, and photographed the screen. Because the pixels on my camera’s sensor don’t line up with the pixels on my computer’s monitor, the resulting images have prominent moire patterns. I layered the resulting 7-10 images on top of the original photograph, played with opacity and blends, and dodged and burned areas to achieve the desired look for the final image. I wanted to bring in the aspect of the screen to talk about how most of our photo albums have transitioned from physical objects to image files on phones or hard drives. By obscuring the content of the underlying snapshot, I hope to address the inherent disconnect between experience, representation, and memory.
You are working in Fraction Magazine to create a fantastic platform for photographers. We live in a time of numerous platforms, magazine, and blogs dedicated in photography - just like us here at Float - How do you think it is helping artist?
I think that outlets like loa and ractio, amongst many awesome platforms, help greatly in giving exposure to emerging artists. They can help to broaden one’s audience, and they are also important in connecting and motivating artists, and expanding our collective knowledge of individual and shared experience around the world.
What was your biggest success as an artist? And what was your biggest failure in your opinion?
Artists make work because we are compelled to make work, and having the time and the means to do so is a really wonderful privilege. It’s even more special when we can exchange viewpoints and ideas with the outside world and share an appreciation for aesthetic experience.
I feel very grateful for every opportunity that I have to show my work, or anytime someone responds to a piece of mine. I count my successes when I make something that I find value in and someone else can find value in it as well. As far as failures, I make so much terrible work all of the time! I’m constantly failing, but these failures make the successes, large or small, that much more meaningful.
What do you think the hardest part of being an artist in today's art scene is? Any advice for fellow artist ?
It can feel a bit daunting at times to make work, not only because of the prevalence of compelling contemporary artists, but also when evaluating if I actually have something relevant to say. I doubt myself regularly, especially when I look at the plethora of fascinating and socially relevant work that’s being made right now. It can be hard to find your place, but I think that it’s important to support each other’s vision and practice, rather than contributing adversarial energy.