LINDA BROWNLEE, Unfolding the hidden beauty of the raw

LINDA BROWNLEE, Unfolding the hidden beauty of the raw

Linda Brownlee is an award winning photographer and filmmaker renowned for her documentary approach. She works with the most prestigious newspapers and magazines, has published several books and her photographs have been exhibited at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

Intrigued by the romance of the raw, Linda Brownlee finds  inspiration in the unexpected beauty of details that are often overlooked. Unfolding moments of intimacy with a spontaneous sincerity her images are delicate, lose and airy with an elegant glow.

Anahita’s Eye presents her long-term project “i Zii”, a tender portrayal of a family in the Sicilian village of Gangi.

You’ve studied art and design after graduating from a communication degree at Dublin City University. What made you decide to become a photographer?

Photography was one of the modules in the art & design course, and I fell for for it that year, photographing anything and everything.

I loved it! I didn’t know any Irish photographers at that time and didn’t know how to begin to make a career out of it. It was simply a passion I decided to follow and see where it went.

I was very non committal about the whole thing, it just felt like a hobby. I was probably three or four years into things before I acknowledged to myself that I was actually pretty serious about it as a career.

And if not photographer, what would you have been? 

An equine vet, an actress, a sculptor, a lawyer… I wanted to do and be everything.

In your photos you focus on the real and intimate nature of people and their relationship to the environment they inhabit.
What is really important for you when you shoot a portrait ?

For me, it’s about capturing an energy and a mood, something that reflects the exchange, however fleeting that is.

So to capture this energy, how much do you direct your subjects? Or do you prefer to stay quite spontaneous?

My focus is always on creating a super relaxed atmosphere, working out the chemistry and finding some chat.

I try to keep direction to a minimum, preferring things to naturally unfold. I seem to get something a little more interesting, perhaps more intimate that way.

You’ve showed these moments of intimacy in several documentaries for Nowness: The series « Limber Notes », featuring performers of all ages and backgrounds with one thing in common, their love for dance. Or « In the Arena »  about the famous British model Edie Campbell revealing her passion for horse riding. 

Would you like to direct more documentaries?

Yes, I’d love to do more directing. I find it really exciting and satisfying.

I love the challenge of working with all the elements.  I studied radio with my communications degree and appreciate the awesome power of sound. Being interested in people’s characters, stories and creating a mood, it makes for a fairly natural transition.

I think there’s a big documentary film in me somewhere, I just need to find the time.

Any person or subject in particular that you dream of treating in this big future documentary portraiture project?

Not right now, but when I discover who it is, I’m sure I’ll find the time to do it.

As an award winning photographer renowned for your documentary approach, you also work for fashion.

What is so interesting for you in fashion photography?

I love working with beautiful clothes, collaborating with stylists, and I’m interested in casting. Its feels like a really nice place to play, experiment and push myself in different ways.

And whose style do you admire?

I don’t know if I would use admire, but I really enjoy Yayoi Kusama’s style.

Any photo in particular that inspires your artistic vision?

Definitely not.

I think my artistic vision is inspired by a mish mash of all sorts, films, paintings, the work of various photographers… And big long walks when I run out of ideas.

A part from being a photographer and director you’re also a mother of two small kids. Did motherhood change your creativity?

It has certainly made me more focused in what I give my creative energy to.
Being a mother halves your time, so you cut out doing the stuff that you actually probably should have said no to anyway. It gives you a certain clarity I guess.

What comes to your mind when you think of Iran?

Hashem Shakeri’s photo series on climate change and its consequences in Iran.

All photos: Linda Brownlee
From her self-published book “I Zii”, EightyOne Books, 2016
Text: Anahita Vessier

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NOAVI, The ultimate Kunst of Wanderlust

NOAVI, The ultimate Kunst of Wander Lust

My first encounter with Noavi was through her photos and I was immediately seduced by her vision, the sincerity and spontaneity in her work. Being born and raised in LA, with Yemeni Polish roots she’s a beautiful mix of both cultures with an incredible energy and boundless curiosity.

Being fascinated by Bedouin culture she travels from Abu Dhabi to the Arctic to study the Sami culture, from the breathtaking heights of Yemen to Luxour and down the Nile to the Nubian area always with her camera and her Moleskine notebook in her bag, constantly capturing her unique wondrous travel experiences all over the world.

You travel a lot to Middle Eastern countries, how did you manage to take photos as a woman in those mainly Islamic, male dominated countries?

In general it’s harder as a woman or a man to take photos of women in Islamic countries because they are very closed off to being open to the camera. Taking photos of men is much easier. It’s such a conservative culture, it takes so much more work to create a comfortable space to take pictures of women in Arab countries.

How do you make people who you don’t know feel comfortable in front of the camera?

Non-verbal communication is the most important thing.

“There’s so much that can be communicated without words, with your eyes, with a smile.”

It’s the most valuable tool to gage the sense of comfort of people that you’re working with. That’s why I often take photos of old people or children who are the most keen on non-verbal communication. Children because it’s so recent that they’ve acquired language, and old people because they’re old enough that you don’t always need words to communicate.

Being raised in a multicultural background, is it an inspiration in your work?

I feel it’s such a privilege and richness to grow in such a multicultural environment that it’s even more of an obligation.

From the beginning my parents gave me the desire to travel and to discover other countries and cultures. They were always backpacking, never travelling the fancy hotel kind of way. Me and my sister, we were always the babies in the backpack.

Is there an artists who inspires you?

I am very inspired by literature. There is something very imaginative where you can break the bounds of reality.
There is the author Lawrence Durrell who has lived in Alexandria. He was British and wrote the series of books called The Alexandria Quartet. The first novel of the four is called Justine and for me it’s the most beautiful piece of writing. I’ve never read a book so many times. It’s the book that I’ve used to travel with all the time.

Do you have objects that you always take with you on your travels?

I always have Moleskine notebooks with me. I’m on my 28th now. I’m constantly writing, sticking things into my notebooks like tickets, flowers, a paper cut out of newspaper, etc. It helps with moments in time. You can remember a day but you can easily forget intricate details which made the day so special and unique.

What do you think of when you hear about Iran?

From a language perspective I find Farsi the most poetic language. In general I associate poetry with Iran…And another place I want to go.

All photos by Noavi
Text: Anahita Vessier

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ROXANA FAZELI, Portray of Iran

ROXANA FAZELI, Portray of Iran

Roxana Fazeli is a talented Iranian photographer who lives in Tehran. She observes in her pictures the multi-facets of culture and society in Iran. Here a selection of photos that she has taken on several journeys travelling with Iranian tribes (Qashquaïs, Turkmans, Kurds) who have preserved their traditions and old way of living.

After a Bachelor degree in photography at Azad University of Tehran, Roxana has been working since then as a freelance documentary photographer. She’s working for Iranian and foreign newspapers and magazines.

Throughout her travel with the tribes Roxana met simple but generous people, farmers, shepherds who welcomed her in their house.

Iranians no matter which level of society they belong to are known for their excellence of hospitality.

All photos by Roxana Fazeli
Text: Anahita Vessier

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