by Patrick Ilagan . February 12th, 2015
In order to create these gorgeous images of people set in familiar landscapes. Fine art photographer Rhi (Rhiannon Brunett) takes in inspiration from the classic artists, folklore, mythology, dreams, as well as unexpected places. We had a pleasure of interviewing her and I for one cannot stress how excited I am to share this interview with you lovely folks.
Patrick: Hello, Rhi! Please tell us a little bit of yourself?
Rhi: Hello! I live in a lovely little place called Tacoma, Washington and I am going to school for a Bachelors of Art with only a year more to go. I have a husband, a house full of animals, and a wonderful group of friends.
P: Do you still remember your first creative memory?
R: I started creating really young, so I don’t remember a specific creative memory but I do remember that I would always have these colorful, vivid dreams (and I still do). When I created art it would always reflect what I was dreaming about at night rather than what was happening in real life.
P: What do you do when you are not doing photography?
R: When I am not doing photography I am trying to keep up with school demands mostly but I also have a strong love for cooking, craft cocktails, and gardening. I love to play video games, have wild nights with my favorite group of lady friends, and lazy days wrapped up on the couch with my husband reading books.
P: How do you deal with creative block?
R: I wait. Patience and cultivating newness is key to a creative block. Instead of forcing it, I put photography aside for a while to explore other things. Go on a trip, meet new people, try out a new art form. I know that it’s time to return when I start to feel excited about photography again. When the images start to come back to my mind.
P: How did you get started in photography?
R: I owe it to my mother, who took me into a dark room at a young age. Since that day the process and mystery of photography has never let go of my imagination. I saved up for my first camera and have been building up my skills ever since.
P: As a fine art photographer, do you think formal education is important in photography?
R: As a fine art photographer a formal education is not necessary but it could be tremendously beneficial. Part of the title of “fine art photographer” is “fine art” so anything one can learn about art is important. The education doesn’t need to be formal per se. The Internet is a vast resource of free information and classes. I choose to go to school because everything I learn can be applied to photography some how even if it doesn’t directly pertain to it. Formal education is just the way I learn best.
P: Your images are gorgeous! We’d love to hear a brief run through on how you do your shoot from start to finish.
R: Thank you so much! It all starts with an idea that won’t leave me alone. I have ideas all the time but only some of them actually make it to creation. When I have spent some time fantasizing about the character, the location, texture, concept, clothes, and makeup, I make a rough sketch and take little notes about everything listed. Once the plan is concrete I go about gathering the props, wardrobe, and scout out locations. Once all that is in place, I move on to contacting models and a beauty team to schedule a day that is good for us all, which can be challenging when you have to coordinate so many schedules. We all get together and spend a day creating and shooting. I then delve into the process of culling and making some very hard decisions on what 10 photos to keep for the story. I like to take my time editing and most times the photos need to go through an incubation period where I don’t look at them at all for a week or more. I shoot in camera RAW exclusively so I make overall adjustments in RAW then move on to Photoshop where I do all the fine details like dodge and burn, texture overlays and fine-tuning color.
P: What are the most common obstacles you encounter when doing/planning a shoot?
R: Some of the obstacles I have experienced are team members being hours late or not showing up at all. Costume malfunction, location fail, bad attitudes, low energy, weather conditions, hunger, transportation issues, and makeup issues.
P: How do you go around them?
R: I get around them by being as prepared as I possibly can and by having a good attitude no matter what. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the reason for all of your hard work is to have fun! Because you love doing it. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a moment when everything is falling apart to breathe deeply and remember that it’s not that big of a deal. Even if the shoot fails you come back and try another day. The most important thing to keep in mind is to still have a good attitude toward your team and keep the energy positive.
P: What do you think is the most important lesson you learned from these obstacles?
R: I learned to be elastic, let things go, be humble, and remember that life is organic. You can put schedules in place and expect things to start on time and go smoothly but you have to expect that you only have so much control.
P: Do you always make the costumes for your shoot?
R: No, not always. I only started to make my own costumes when I couldn’t find sufficient wardrobe. In a last minute fit of necessity, I went and bought some fabric and began to drape on my dress form. To my surprise, it worked out. I have an inventory of vintage clothes that I use most often, most of them left to me by my great grandmother. Other than that I use local vintage stores or designers.
P: We saw on your Instagram that you made this gorgeous headdress. How long did it take you to do that?
R: It didn’t take that long actually. About 4 full days of working on it 8 hours a day. It was my very first headdress, and it was so much fun that I plan on making more in the future
P: Where do you draw inspiration to create such photographs?
R: I draw inspiration from my dreams, mythology, folklore, classic artists, and sometimes just small passing ideas. One time I was going into a rock show and the doorman marked my wrist with a red X. It unexpectedly inspired me so much that I made an entire production from it. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. I think inspiration is everywhere all the time. It’s when we are open to it that matters.
P: Are there artists or artworks close to your heart and have continually inspired you to pursue the craft?
R: Oh yes, absolutely. It was when I saw Brooke Shaden’s work that I became inspired to create my own. Kristy Mitchell, A.M.Lorek, and Zhang Jingna are amongst my other top favorites.
P: You mentioned that you took some time deciding what photography niche to do. What made you go for fine art photography?
R: When I first started photography all I wanted to do was dress people up. I wanted to transform them into an idea rather than a person. When my photography skills got better, I started taking photos of things like weddings, babies, and seniors to make money. I did that for about a year before deciding that that type of photography wasn’t what I enjoyed about the art. I was always trying to find time for “personal work.” Finally I decided that it was silly trying to fit myself into this photography niche I didn’t belong in and put all my effort into making fine art. I have been much happier and fulfilled ever since. It was trial and error. Lots of second-guessing myself and being pulled in by the lure of money but finally I returned to my original intent.
P: As a fine art photographer, what are the constraints or challenges that you constantly face?
R: Sometimes my ideas get incredibly expensive and I have to compromise some of the elements because I don’t have enough money, time, or resources to make it happen. And a good portion of the time I come up with concepts that I have no clue how to execute.
P: What’s your advice to those who would like to be fine art photographers?
R: Refine. Less is more. Come up with a tight plan before shooting. Keep going despite your failures and learn as much as you can about the craft and art. Be open to inspiration everywhere, even in the most mundane places, you never know where it will find you.
P: What are your plans in the future? Will you do a series work? Any exhibitions in the horizon?
R: I have a big project in the conceptual phases called “Soiled Doves” a project about how the quest for beauty can destroy those who seek it and those who have it. It will end up in a gallery exhibition here in Tacoma, which will also act as a fundraiser for victims of human trafficking. This is a ways off yet, however, I’m thinking summer 2016.
Do not forget to check out Rhi’s portfolio for more inspiration! Did our post inspired you? Let us know at the comments below!
Patrick Jude Ilagan is a graphic designer/photographer hailing from the vast jungles of urban Manila. Always on the look out for visually appealing stuff he scours the internet and the bustling city in search of inspiration. His tools for mass creation is a Canon 500D along with a wide array of lights and lenses plus a 4 year old (but still fighting) laptop. Check out his work on Tumblr.
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