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Monday, April 29, 2019

Brooke DiDonato

From her "As Usual" series, Brooke DiDonato blurs the line between the conscious and the sub-conscious mind.
DiDonato seldom titles individual
photos but instead titles her themes.
This images is from her "Take What
You Need" series.
When people think about Surrealism, on those very rare occasions when they do think about this type of art (without pulling out a dictionary), the focus is usually on painting. The mind pulls up images of Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Freda Kahlo, Joan Miro, and a few others depending upon ones familiarity with such art. The more erudite might visualize images by Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, and possibly Kay Sage. And if and when we think of Surrealist photographers, the list pretty much begins and ends with Man Ray/ That is, without a doubt, a good beginning, though I'm rather fond of the work of Kyle Thompson (American), Ronen Goldman (Israeli), Oleg Oprisco, (Ukrainian) and Brook DiDonato, born and raised in good old Ohio, USA.
If the name Brooke DiDonato or that of any of the other surrealist photographers doesn't exactly "ring a bell," don't feel bad, Surrealist photography is not what you'd call typical dinner conversation. And even though most artists have a kind of vague idea of Surrealism, regardless of the media, many would be hard-pressed to define it. Surrealism was an artistic, intellectual, and literary movement led by the French poet, AndrĂ© Breton from 1924 through World War II. Thus, Surrealism was a literary style before it became visual. The Surrealists sought to overthrow the oppressive rules of modern society by demolishing its backbone of rational thought. To do so, they attempted to tap into the “superior reality” of the subconscious mind. I'm not sure of Breton's precise words defining Surrealism (I don't speak French, in any case). But DiDonato's work employs several definitions of Surrealism, not the least of which is the juxtaposition of common, everyday objects (top photo) in an illogical display not unlike Dali's irrational dream paintings.
Her couch and floral prints, but not her face, occur quite often in Brooke's work.
The image above if from the artist's "A House is Not a Home" series.
Originally from Ohio but now based in New York, She told her mom at about the age of eleven that she wanted to be an artist. Her mother told her that artists don't make much money until they're dead. (She was right, of course.) Thus Brooke trained as a journalist and soon discovered that telling stories visually was where she felt most comfortable. However, an internship working for a newspaper during her junior year in college quickly turned her off photojournalism. She did, however, enjoy being behind a camera and much like a much younger Cindy Sherman, began shooting self-portraits, no longer restrained by the objectivity of truth-telling. From that came the idea of hiding faces, a feature permeating her early work. Self-portraiture was ideal for experimentation but not so great if you didn’t want to look at your own face. In hiding the face, Brooke found that without an expression to focus on, viewers needed to fill in that blanks and create their own story behind the work.

Cactus green, DiDonato's favorite color.
One of Di Donato's most famous photos.
You may find yourself in sympathy for DiDonato's models, many of her images being almost painful to look at. DiDonato’s photographs are neither soothing nor up-lifting, as there’s always something a little out of kilter, some minor inconsistency or dream-like bizarreness that subtly brings out the uncanny from the banal. Exploring nar-ratives about vulnerability, instability and self-destruction. Brrooke's images challenge hu-man perception. Rather than asking viewers to distinguish between fact and fiction, she urges them to instead merge them into a story of personal reflection. DiDonato often poses bodies in twisting forms (right), skew-ing the viewer’s perception of where one body ends and the next begins. She also combines subjects and scenes in surreal ways that question the division between human anatomy and science, (below) or presenting a stream of bountiful flowers spil-ling generously out of an open spout.
A transfusion of nature into human nature.
When you look at Brooke’s photos, you tend to notice a sense of the whimsical in them. Even better, Brooke does these images without a lot of Photoshop. Although she doesn't necessarily reject Photoshop she simply finds it a lot more fun to try to make things happen in the camera. She insists doing so teaches a whole different way of working. It’s a testament to her work that she originally started in photojournalism and then decided that she wanted to get into the more commercial and surreal side in order to be more expressive. Even though Brooke loves living and working in New York, planning photo shoots is quite complicated because a permit is required to shoot virtually anywhere. Brooke notes that, "There is an aspect of performance to this type of photography I really enjoy,” She adds, “I’m not creating these backdrops; I’m simply using them as a stage."
Obviously not New York.
I wonder if she does Christmas cards?

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