Institute: You are an artist as well as a photographer. How easy do you find it to make the transition?
Brenda: I found there wasn’t much of a transition at all as I consider photography another medium of art. Like hand-crafted works, no two people can produce the same thing in the exact same way, and photography is similar. Each photographer has their own vision and that’s where the act of creating art comes in; the ability to translate your vision to an audience using a muse who acts as your canvas.
Institute: Who influenced you in your early years, how about now?
Brenda: Because I came into my crafts rather late in life, I can say that my influences have been comprised of all the people, places and things I’ve experienced which I tucked away somewhere in the recesses of my memories that I’m now able to employ creatively. I’ve traveled extensively, almost 30 countries now (unrelated to photography projects, but just for myself), and the sights, sounds, and colors of India or the reflective Lake Langano of Ethiopia which sparkles like gold at sunset all play into my inspiration both then and now.
Institute: You are from Washington, now living in Serbia. Why the move?
Brenda: I’ve just been in Serbia for a little under a year with my husband, but we have been abroad, and specifically in the Balkans, for several years now, and the short answer is that living in this region offers us (both creatives; my husband is a writer) a freedom we weren’t able to fully attain living in the States at the time. Having said that, we will most likely be moving back at some point in the near future, and I will miss the warmth, hospitality, and beautiful people of this region.
Institute: Being a female photographer/artist. What are your views on the ‘Times Up’ movement?
Brenda: The first thing is I think it’s premature to call it a movement. It is a moment; one that I hope can be catapulted into a movement, the latter being something that is long-lasting and requires sacrifice. Just like with all other movements that have been successful, it requires not just people standing up and shouting “enough!” it requires dedication over pontificating. It requires demands, and it requires an acknowledged that there are many women all over the globe who have been fighting on the front lines and saying time’s up for many years but whose voices haven’t been heard. And those women need to lead just as much, if not more, than household names. Collectiveness and inclusivity will make this moment a movement.
Institute: Can you tell us more about your collaboration with visually impaired women?
Brenda: At the moment, this still stands as a goal of mine. I have been privileged to shoot beautiful people with disabilities (mental and physical), but none with the visual impairment I have (retinitis pigmentosa) or one as severe as mine. I would absolutely love to work with another visually impaired photographer and gain insight into their approach and vision.
Institute: Can you tell us the story behind your latest Institute magazine editorial ‘Insomnia’?
Brenda: This was a dream shoot because I was able to work with someone whose own as a designer and creative director I greatly admire, and when two creatives come together it’s a dream come true. While usually, you have a team of creatives on set, we just seemed to click on another level and the project just formed organically during the shoot.
Institute: How hard do you push yourself?
Brenda: Harder than anyone else ever could!
Institute: Do you have a favorite city?
Brenda: Paris. My husband and I got married there, and it is cherished because of that. Outside of that, I don’t rate cities because they all have offered something meaningful to my life, even if I’ve had undesirable experiences there.
Institute: Location or Studio?
Brenda: Location shooting is my roots, but studio shooting offers a “gold standard” level of aesthetics that sometimes can’t be achieved on location. But I’ll stick with the location!
Institute: What are some of the greatest fears you think photographers face?
Not being acknowledged.
Institute: How do you keep yourself occupied in-between projects?
I write, play with my adorable kitten, Lilly, and watch Youtube documentaries or tutorials!
Institute: What are you working on at the moment?
One of the most exciting projects to date. It is going to be channeling goddess energy, and will be the first time I’ve collaborated with another woman of color here in Belgrade so I am beyond excited! You definitely have to stay tuned for this one!