Monday, June 9, 2008

Interview with Rosemarie Brown

One thing I absolutely love is horse photography. With their large, innocent eyes, horses seem to be one of the most endearing animals to photograph. It was this feature that attracted me to Rosemarie Brown's Etsy shop. Of course, there are many other beautiful photographs that Rosemarie has taken. This week's interview features her photography.

Jen: Your shop has many still life portraits. Tell me more about why you choose the subjects you do.

Rosemarie: Last year I participated in a “Picture Safari” sponsored by a local gallery. On one of the days, my niece, who was visiting and is also passionate about photography, accompanied me. We wandered through a historic brick mansion that had seen better days and the surrounding working ranch land, orchards, and gardens, taking photos, petting the animals, laughing and chatting. At one point, as I was shooting a close up of the exquisite color and texture of the walnut shell mulch the owners had used in their rose garden, my niece asked me a similar question: “How do you decide what to photograph?” I didn’t have a good answer for her and I don’t have a good answer for you! Something catches my eye – light, a shadow, a line, a curve, a color, an incongruity – something – and my heart beats faster. I don’t consciously choose a subject. The few times I have tried to search out and photograph something in particular, I have failed. I photograph what speaks to me and what touches my soul in some way. Every photo is personal. Every photo has meaning. Every photo is more than just the subject. At least to me.

Jen: The animals you photograph always seem to convey a story. Are there any stories you would like to share, or talk about the way you photograph your animal subjects?

Rosemarie: The animals…at every show and exhibit I have done, the animal photographs are by far the ones that are responded to most powerfully. I have one photo – “Louie” – of a white cat peering through a screen. I have had more people ask me where I have taken that photo, questioning if it is their cat! I agree with you, every one of my animal photographs conveys a story. But the story is not mine, it is theirs. I am just the conduit, the channel, the tool. The animals who allow me to photograph them have something to say. What that message is…only the person responding to the photograph really knows.

Animals are such a powerful and beneficent presence on this planet – so often misunderstood, so often taken for granted, so often mistreated. For me, they have been and are my daily salvation and connection to Life. It is a long story how it came about but around eight years ago I reconnected with my ability to communicate with animals. It is not a gift. I am nothing special. I truly believe communicating with animals is something everyone can do. There are many reasons why they don’t, but everyone can. At one time I practiced as an animal communicator. Although I no longer perform that role, my photography quite often incorporates and sometimes requires that level of communication. I see an animal, the question is immediate, “May I photograph you?” If it is yes, I just shoot and shoot and shoot – whatever draws my eye. Sometimes there will not be one usable photograph. Those times the message is for me alone. Just having spent time with that animal has healed something in me, reminded me, reconnected me. Usually there will be one photo that is far and above superior to the rest. That is the one with the message. That is the one I print. That is the one I share.

Jen: Is photography your "day" job or something you do on the side?

Rosemarie: Prior to the birth of my daughter, photography was my chosen profession. I am educated as an architectural engineer and while the work was interesting and easy for me, I quickly learned engineering did not feed my soul. In addition, about 15 years ago I became very ill and went through a loooooong recovery. The result is that I am not able to hold a regular 40-hour-a week job. While searching for something I could “do with my life,” something I could manage physically, and hopefully had a passion for, I had a pet-sitting business, practiced animal communication, practiced Reiki, was the office assistant for the leader in the animal communication field, and did a few other things. I have always had a camera but never considered being a photographer until, on a whim, I participated in an all-photography show. Watching other people respond to my photos was and continues to be an incredibly satisfying and profound experience for me. From that show forward, I have devoted my energy to creating and sharing and hopefully selling my photographs.

These days, my “day” job is essentially caring for my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, my cats, our home, and my daughter’s father – in that order! Photography takes a distant back seat to all the other responsibilities in my life. I rarely have the opportunity to just go out and shoot when I feel like it. And the times with the best light – morning and evening – are occupied by my daughter. I still consider myself a photographer, but these days, my photography is predominantly of things that are around me when I happen to have my camera with me and a minute or two to shoot. And then it is usually months before I have the time to process and print what I photograph. My style of photography has always been spontaneous and utilized natural light. I have never orchestrated a photograph or arranged my subjects. Lately, because of time constraints and because of the incredible photographers on Etsy who inspire me, I have been considering trying still life photography. The whole idea of setting up a photograph and lighting is alien to the way I have always operated. It will be a challenge.

Jen: How did you discover Etsy?

Rosemarie: I belong to a local mother’s club that has a Yahoo board. One day last autumn, a mom was looking for baby’s soft-soled shoes and someone suggested she try Etsy. I had never heard of Etsy but I LOVE to shop and checked it out. I thought I had discovered Heaven on Earth. What a unique and incredible concept to have an international marketplace where any artist or artisan could sell their wares! I signed up immediately and started shopping. I love art and am an avid collector and when my purchases started arriving at my door, I quickly realized I had better start making some more money to feed my new Etsy addiction!

When I signed up with Etsy, I never considered being a seller. Prior to the birth of my daughter, I sold my photos primarily through art shows, exhibits, and galleries. Since her birth, I don’t have the time to do so. Plus, we moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a rural area in Northern California where the opportunities to display and sell art and photography are very limited. When I started really looking at the photography on Etsy, I thought this might be my answer. I opened my shop at the end of January. Time has shown, while Etsy is an amazing place and community, selling there is not as easy as I had thought. It requires an incredible amount of time for marketing and promotion that unfortunately I don’t have. Still, I love Etsy. It is my first and favorite choice for all my shopping. And maintaining a shop there is so easy, I expect I will always be a part of it.

Jen: What is your favorite feature of Etsy?

Rosemarie: How could I choose just one! I truly love Etsy. The website is so beautifully designed it is a pleasure to visit it. There aren’t any flashing lights or gaudy color schemes. There is a simplicity and cleanness about the site that I find very attractive. You can go into any shop and discover the personality of the artist and their creations without having to figure out how everything works because it is the same in every shop. I admit I rarely use most of the features on Etsy. I pop into the forums occasionally but rarely participate. The few times I have, I have had my heart and ego crushed. So I generally stay away! I love the treasuries though it is impossible to go through every one. I have found some incredible artists and shops through the treasuries. Generally I just search for what I am interested in. I have been shopping there for a while and have quite an extensive favorites list! I live very quietly and while I use the Internet often, I am not really all that Internet savvy. I have learned so much about business online and discovered sites and assistance all through Etsy that I would probably never have discovered on my own. Etsy is an incredible marketplace and wonderful community. It has become a very important and dear part of my life.

To see more of Rosemarie's work, visit her Etsy shop:

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