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Brooke DiDonato: As Usual

Work / Photography

Brooke DiDonato’s surreal portraits leave the viewer to fill in the gaps

If you’ve never had the desire to disappear into the background then you’re either a very confident person or a verbally continent one. But for those of us wallflowers with our feet permanently in our mouths, photographer Brooke DiDonato’s As Usual series will have a particular resonance. Mixing the everyday with a touch of the fantastical, Brooke’s photographs capture surreal moments when people are obscured, subsumed or lost in the environments around them. “There is an aspect of performance to this type of photography I really enjoy,” Brooke tells It’s Nice That. “I’m not creating these backdrops; I’m simply using them as a stage.”

Originally from Ohio but now based in New York, Brooke trained as a journalist and soon discovered that telling stories visually was where she felt most comfortable. Although an internship turned her off photojournalism, Brooke enjoyed being behind the camera and began shooting self-portraits, no longer restrained by the objectivity of truth-telling. It was here that the idea of hiding faces first came about; self-portraiture was ideal for experimentation but not so great if you didn’t want to look at your own face. Instead she found that without an expression to focus on, viewers needed to fill in that blanks and create their own story behind the work.

Brooke often chooses to use post-war suburban architecture with a touch of the kitsch as a background to her disorientating scenarios. In these already off-kilter locations, her subjects allude view, hiding their vulnerability behind trees, furniture and literal smokescreens or dissolving into the floor or walls in totally impossible ways. Whereas previous series A House is Not a Home presented notions of femininity and picked a part the outworn diagnosis of hysteria (or womb madness), her latest collection As Usual sees a preoccupation with outdoor spaces, from algae-filled lagoons and sand dunes to cornfields and cactus fields. “As Usual was created in a similar way,” explains Brooke, “only this time with a focus on how these locations can inform the characters in the photographs. Although they vary in approach, both bodies of work reference the subconscious mind as well as the strangeness hiding behind the ordinary.”

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Brooke DiDonato: As Usual