Interview: Danielle Brown / by Colin Czerwinski

We had the pleasure speaking with London based photographer, Danielle Brown, this past week. She's somebody that we've been following extensively for the past year or so now. Her work consists of subjects that she comes across from daily walks - passively absorbing the natural processes of phenomena that the mind habitually has an appetition for. Continue reading below for the interview:  

Q: Tell us a bit more about yourself, Dani. 

A: I was born and raised in Brighton, a city by the sea on the South East coast of England. Brighton is England’s most popular seaside resort and a hugely liberal and bohemian place to grow up. In contrast to this, I was actually brought up in a strict Christian household. I wouldn’t say there are any influences from my family in respect to photography our family history is a mix of Romany gypsies and musical theater performers. 

I got into photography when I moved to London in 2007. The first photography exhibition I attended was the surrealist Lee Miller at the V&A and I was obsessed. It got me interested in other surrealist photographers and artists like Man Ray, Duchamp and Ernst. I regularly attended galleries and exhibitions with my friends, who at that time were all very creative; illustrators, jewelers, musicians etc. I was the one with the 9-5 office job.

I started yet another office job in June 2014 after having been unemployed for 6 months. I was relieved to be earning money again, but as the months went by my brain felt like it was melting from lack of stimulation. I started to feel constantly anxious, lethargic and braindead, becoming more and more depressed. I would walk to and from work headphones in, head down, not looking or listening to what was around me. Then, one frosty morning in January 2015, I stepped outside. The sky was awash with purples, pinks and dotted with various crisscrossing contrails from early morning flights disappearing off to far-flung places. I felt overwhelmed and tearful at how utterly beautiful it was. As I continued on to Bethnal Green Underground Station I started to see and notice things that I would normally overlook. Little things unveiling themselves. Like how the light and shadows cover the concrete, or reflections in windows and paint marks on textured walls. I just started taking pictures of everything that caught my eye. Thereafter my commute quickly turned into a quotidian recording of what I what I was seeing around me. A daily visual diary of finding beauty in the mundane.

Q: I remember you mentioning to me that you recently got into shooting more 35mm film. Why the transition? Also, do you prefer the quality of 35mm film over digital? 

A: I was using an iPhone 5 only, which is fine when I’m just snapping stuff to and from work but I wanted to shoot properly and the quality just wasn’t good enough. I desperately wanted a decent digital camera but they are pretty expensive and I didn’t and still don’t have the cash for it. A friend of mine was dabbling in film and really enjoying the results so he encouraged me to purchase a film camera. I scoured eBay and found an Olympus OM10 with various accessories for 30 quid and although it was listed for parts as it hadn’t been tested I thought I would take the risk. I know people love film because of the anticipation and excitement but I am an impatient person by nature and the anticipation followed by two films of weird unidentifiable shadows and shapes was painful. Upon collection of the third film I proceeded to throw a childlike strop in the middle of shop floor when the lady advised me that the film was simply “blank”. I was furious and vowed to throw out the Om10 as soon as I got home convinced it wasn’t working. I sent a ranting message to my friend Adam and he basically told me to get over it and give it one more go and so I did. It is still hit and miss but I’ve realized that it’s mainly down to me and not the camera which was clearly always the case! Since then I have had so many happy accidents with film; the light leaks, double exposures and overexposures have looked beautiful and you cannot achieve that with digital. Also that soft velvety matt finish to the image cannot be beaten. The only downside to film is the constant cost of processing.

Q: You took a trip to NYC not too long ago. Tell us some stories about it! What did you like / dislike about it? Did you get any inspiration out of it for your photography? 

A:  Ahhh New York... There are too many stories from the 5 days that I was there. Everyday something weird would happen; we came in contact with some lovely people and also some crazy people but your judgment can be a bit off after happy hour/s so that led to some interesting situations including a near kidnapping! I wandered around NY without any real plans or direction which meant I came across so many things to photograph that I probably wouldn’t have seen if I had jam packed all the attractions into the 5 days.

I didn’t really hate anything about NY. It was August so the heat was a bit much but apart from that I loved the feel of it - just walking about you can feel this atmosphere and it feels exciting like anything could happen at any minute. But, maybe that’s tourist in me. 

The buildings and fixtures cast so many fantastic shadows and the light in NY was stunning. I literally wanted to stop every 2 minutes to take a picture of something. I was inspired to try street photography! But I chickened out. I can see why people get so many good portrait shots as NY is full of huge characters going about their daily lives.

Q: In what way has the use of social media motivated you to immerse yourself into your craft of photography? Is it for the good?

A: The only form of social media I use is Instagram. The support and feedback has kept me massively motivated, it’s wonderful how people support and encourage each other to try different things. 

I think Instagram is an amazing tool whether it’s for amateur photographers just using their phones and budget cameras or professional’s as it puts you in contact with so many people and for me it has lead to unexpected good thing like features, collaborations and paid work!

The only issue with it for me but like any form of social media is that it can also make people feel insecure especially when you are browsing all these amazing images and of course at some point you will start comparing. But that’s human nature and I don’t think that will ever change. But overall yes I think it’s for the good.

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Q: What sort of elements do you look for in your photographs?

A: I am always drawn to light/shadow combinations, evening light just before sunset is always magical. I also realized this week that overall a lot of my photos contain the colour blue?! I definitely prefer a more minimal outcome and try to stay away from anything too busy as for me in general the simpler the image the more impact it has, obviously there are exceptions.

As previously mentioned, I mostly try and capture everyday items than most people will come across and can relate to. Oh, and I have also started taking pictures of objects through textured windows/glass which I think looks pretty cool.

Q: Who have you been listening to musically as of late?

A: Allan Kingdom, Mick Jenkins, Joey Purp, Blood Orange, ScHoolboy Q, Isiah Rashad, A$AP, Young Thug, Kanye, Danny Brown… I listen to a lot of rap/hip hop.

To view more of Danielle's work, visit her website at http://www.thequotidian.co.uk, and her Instagram, @xdani_brownx.