Meet one of our featured photographers, Brandon Dare, whose work explores the unique emotions conjured by home
Brandon Dare is currently preparing to enter his final undergraduate year at the University of South Wales, where he studies documentary photography, and he will soon be embarking on his first photography project away from home. Brandon’s previous work has always explored the emotional connections of home, first in Worcestershire, and now Cardiff. Citing Alec Soth as his biggest inspiration, Brandon believes that photography rooted in a sense of belonging is often the most unique. Perhaps this is, in part, due to his introduction to photography, which was ignited by his older brother’s obsession with film. So far, Brandon’s projects have explored a range of different themes, one entrenched in the politics of his surrounding, post-industrial landscape, another following a youth bike gang, but all have strived to provoke a certain emotion.
As Brandon goes into his final major degree project, shot in unfamiliar territory, he explains the struggle of retaining the emotional aspects and personal narratives that drive his work. We spoke to Brandon about what entices him to shoot in familiar settings, and about the challenges of heading into the unknown.
How did you get into photography and how has your background influenced your approach?
I got into photography when I was around 15 years old, after my older brother developed an interest in film photography. He encouraged me to buy an old 80s Canon compact from a charity shop. I didn’t realise at the time how much it would take over my life. At 18, after years spent learning about photography in my own time, I went to university to study it.
I still shoot on film – but now less for likes on instagram and more for the rendering of colours and contemplative stillness that working with film lends to the images you create. I still try to find projects that do the things that made me love photography in the first place; being out in the world, with people, appreciating what it all looks and feels like.
Can you tell me about your key concerns as a photographer?
At the heart of my work is feeling. I want my photographs to connect with people on some emotional level and to create an emotional response. Just as I felt something that led me to press the shutter to create an image, I want someone to feel something when looking at that image.
I am still trying to figure out exactly what my key concerns are. My last three projects have been wide-ranging in subject matter; from a youth bike gang, to the post-industrial society of South Wales, through to the blending of fact and fiction to tell the story of boy’s disappearance. Whilst these three topics seem very different, what connects them all is the way in which I use the strengths of the still image to provoke emotion and tell stories.
I care a lot about the environment, politics and inequality, but right now people, their stories, and the emotions contained within them are what I am most interested in.
Would you say it’s important for you to shoot in your home environment? Why?
I think there is a lot of emotion to be found in your home environment in one way or another; through the people there, or shared memories of either sad or happy times that can be attributed to that physical environment.
That’s not to say it’s important for everyone – not one way of making images is better or more important than any other way. I think it is important to remember though, that you don’t have to leave your home and go somewhere exotic to make meaningful work.
Who/what has influenced you in your approach?
Alec Soth was without a doubt one of my earliest and biggest influences. I still hugely admire his work, his approach, and his outlook on photography and life. Without seeing the work of Alec Soth when I was 16, it would have taken me a lot longer to realise that it’s okay to just wander around with a camera in the world of ‘serious photography’.
More recently, I have been inspired by Aaron Schumann’s SLANT and Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood, to create work that interweaves fact and fiction using photography. I have just finished a body of work called Beacon, using this premise to tell the story of a mysterious disappearance of boy in the Brecon Beacons in south Wales many years ago.
Do you have any advice for photographers who are thinking about making work in familiar surroundings?
Making work in familiar surroundings is something that is very unique to whoever is making the work. My only advice would be to trust your gut and photograph what you want – and then to listen to people who are far more qualified than you are to give advice.
Have you entered any awards before? Do you find the process of entering awards constructive in and of itself?
I haven’t entered any awards before, but I can say that the process is hugely constructive in helping you as a photographer. It helps you to think deeply about your practice and what kind of photographer you want to become.
Any situation that forces you to sit down, strip everything back, and really consider why you make photographs and what you want them to do, is highly beneficial.
What are your plans moving forwards?
I am just about to go into the third and final year of my undergraduate degree in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales. For our final major project, we are encouraged to make work outside of the United Kingdom.
I feel that I make the best work when I emotionally connect to my subject, and finding a project that is not in my familiar surroundings, that I know I will have a connection to, seems like a bit of challenge. My plan moving forwards is to create a project based outside of the UK, but that still maintains a certain personal, emotive quality to it. I have a few ideas that connect some of my family history to current events, which I believe will allow me to create the type of project I’m interested in, but these are early days.
Enter OpenWalls, your invitation to Arles.