Digitalab Featured Photographer: Nancy Breslin
At Digitalab, we appreciate the power of photography, whether it’s personal or professional. We asked Nancy Breslin for one of her images and posed a couple of questions to find out exactly what it is she loves about photography and what she’d say to any enthusiastic photographer hoping to make a career out of their passion
Tell us a bit about this image and why you chose it to be featured.
This image is from my series “A Pinhole Diary of Eating Out,” which has been going on since 2003 and consists of over 2000 images. My camera is made by Zero Image and shoots 6×6 negatives. I typically use T-Max 400 film since I am mostly working indoors under artificial light. This particular shot was taken on April 11, 2013 at the Betjeman Arms Pub at St. Pancras Station, London. It is a 40 second exposure of my daughter, who is at Uni in the US but was studying for a term at Kings College last spring, and my husband and I saw her for the first time in four months when we met at this pub.
The series of restaurant meals follows me everywhere, so many have been taken in Delaware, USA (where I lived until recently moving to Washington, DC), but I have lots from our travels, which frequently include England since my husband is British. A “pinhole diary” is an odd sort of documentation, since the long exposures freeze things I didn’t likely notice (like the columns and ceiling fixtures in this shot) yet blur the people I am with. Thus, like memory, pinhole photos distort what actually happened.
Which styles of photography most interest/inspire you?
As to inspiration, I have always been drawn to the Pictorialists, such as Gertrude Käsebier and Clarence White. Their soft-focus and use of hand manipulation (in the case of gum printing) yielded a dreaminess not unlike what I often see in pinhole photography. I also like narrative work, such as the quirky images by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison (also monochrome and “soft”) and the strange family scenarios of Julie Blackmon.
I am also inspired by the community of alternative photographers, and over the years have learned many new processes, ranging from cyanotype on fabric to video, in an attempt to get some creative problem solved. Some approaches I will experiment with and drop, while others (such as working with pinhole and toy cameras) become important tools.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
I have several bits of advice for aspiring photographers. One is to always be open to new ideas and techniques. Another is to take every opportunity to look at photography in galleries and museums (which can introduce you to those new ideas and techniques).
And finally, always have one or more cameras with you. Around town I carry my pinhole camera and cellphone (for stills and video), as well as a light meter and mini-tripod. When I travel I’ll add a Diana and my Nikon V1. With those four cameras, which don’t weigh me down, I feel well prepared.