Portrait of an Artist: Bridget Lanigan

Uncle Fred in Santa Monica / Bridget Lanigan / Digital C-print, 2010 / Collection of the artist

Q: Where are you from, and where do you live now?

A: I was born in Coram, New York; I currently reside in Rhinebeck, New York.

Q: What medium(s) do you work with?

A: I primarily work in photography but have also used video for specific projects.

Q: Tell us about your technique/creative process.

A: I photograph a majority of my work with a medium-format camera. I then scan the film to convert the image to a digital file and work on the photograph in Photoshop. The final image is made into a digital chromogenic print.

My portraits are based on the environment and on objects people surround themselves with every day. I consider these works to go beyond a documentary style and lend themselves to fiction. The images are taken from reality, yet are directed and constructed. I enjoy garish colors, kitschy objects, and elevating everyday situations to a moment worthy of viewing.

Q: What is your background (education, career, etc.), and how does it contribute to your art?

A: I have a BFA in photography from the State University of New York at New Paltz and an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. I have worked for commercial and fine art photographers, shooting and editing.

During my studies at SUNY New Paltz, I learned how to refine my photographic skills and explored various concepts and techniques in photography. At SFAI, I was able to continue working and evolve conceptual aspects in my work in an inspiring and unusual environment. I expanded upon my work in portraiture within a school that provided the space and instruction to find my own niche as an artist.

My various careers in the commercial and fine arts realm have further assisted in refining my technical skills and in helping me to develop an awareness of the various business aspects of art and photography.

Q: How did you learn about the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition?

A: I learned about the competition through an artist/friend who had applied to the competition in the past.

Q: Tell us about the piece you submitted to the competition.

A: The portrait I submitted is of my Uncle Fred on Santa Monica Beach in Los Angeles. He has lived in this particular area for several years. I met up with him one evening for dinner and asked if I could take his picture the following morning.

We met outside of his apartment, and he showed up in a suit with sneakers, which is not unusual for him. The beach was nearby, and I decided it would be the most typical background for a picture in Santa Monica. Yet I knew Uncle Fred’s clothing was distinctive and would set him aside from the other beachgoers.

Having him pose on the ground also added an uncanny element to the image, considering the garments he was wearing that day. I strove to position him similar to a supermodel. I think he deserves to be in the ranks of the best.

Q: Tell us about your larger body of work.

A: My larger body of work is based on portraiture of everyday people in their environments. The images are somewhat documentary in style, yet they are also directed in relation to their presentation and position. My photographs exist as a collaboration between the subject and me. I arrive to the shoot with a loose idea; however, I allow for happenstance with the evolution of the final image.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I am currently working on a series of images of nude models. For the current work, the environment remains consistent and monochromatic. (I am shooting the models in the same setting, which consists of a white wall and tile floor.) In these images, the pose is more forced than in prior portraits. In short, I seek to capture the models doing their job and nothing more. They really are “standing in front of the camera.” I believe the nude to be a clichéd topic in art and was curious to see if I could add any other ideas to the conversation.

Q: How has your work changed over time?

A: I think my early work has a dose of humor that my recent work is without. Perhaps I’ve grown a little darker as I get older. Does that happen to everyone?

Q: Tell us about a seminal experience you’ve had as an artist.

A: Randomly finding the book Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort by Peter Galassi in the SUNY New Paltz library.

Q: Who is your favorite artist?

A: The artist who I have always admired and aspired to would be Rineke Dijkstra. Her portraits, whether photography or video, constantly astound me in that they show people in a way that reveals a uniqueness in their identity, yet also communicates a universal nature.

Q: If you could work with any artist (past or present) who would it be?

A: In this day and age it is difficult to choose only one person, considering the amount of extraordinarily talented artists in the world. One would assume I would choose my favorite artist listed above; however, I’ll try not to do the expected. I would love to work with Werner Herzog. He never denies his ideas, and he believes in them wholeheartedly. I wouldn’t even mind simply fetching him a coffee, or whatever he drinks.

Q: What is your favorite artwork?

A: I have more than one favorite, but I adore The World Won’t Listen by Phil Collins.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Banal acts that happen everyday and my daydreams.

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