“Photography made sense to me,” says Danna Singer, an American photographer who first picked up a camera at the age of 16. After being kicked out of school and sent to an alternate form of education for at-risk youth, Danna attended a vocational school a year after and enrolled in a photography programme – “I was eager to graduate and a traditional class setting was proving to be an epic failure.”
Having counterbalanced the traditional system of schooling with photography, Danna was able to find that sweet spot of creativity and begin her longstanding love affair with her camera. “I found solace in creating compositions,” she says. “It was a place where I could organise my thoughts, make arrangements within the frame and create order out of the chaos in the world.”
A few years later at the age of 34, Danna decided to receive a formal education at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York – spurred by the desire to broaden her understanding of the practice. During her studies, while she wasn’t waiting tables to get by, she received her BFA in 2010 and succeeded to create two bodies of work – “both of which are focused on my children, our relationship to each other and our daily lives as they grew into adulthood.”
Continuing her studies, she received an MFA from Yale University and ergo began her current series, If It Rained an Ocean. “When I first started working on If It Rained an Ocean I had no intention of it being a series,” says Danna. “I was in grad school and needed to make work for my critique, and so I returned to my hometown of Toms River, New Jersey, and began making pictures.” Promptly realising that she was striking some “nerve” within herself found importance with what she was capturing, she continued. “The images revealed the story of a working class community that was struggling. It looks at the cyclical nature of poverty, addiction, teen pregnancy, abuse, lack of access to healthcare and what it feels like to live in a place where there are few opportunities.”
Moving between a snapshot documentary style and one that’s more staged, the series is an honest yet varied one. When finding her subjects, Danna turns to her environment and those around her. Most recently, she began I’ll Be Here in the Morning – a project that sparked while in a motel in New Jersey during 2017. “I made a picture of two girls I met by the pool and became interested in the social and economic demographic who are populating these places, and so I started travelling and making work in motels across America,” she says. Having travelled to Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Florida, her next venture will take her to the West – continuing to build on her impressive portfolio and portal into a world that otherwise goes overlooked.
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.