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October - Brigitte Carnochan.

When she was seven, Brigitte Carnochan emigrated from Germany to the United States, where she fell in love with ballet and the idea of being a dancer. Instead of making dance a career, however, she became an English teacher at high school and later at university. When her early interest in photography at last culminated in the decision to make a career as a photographer, her life-long interest in dance and gardens also coalesced in her principal subject matter: the formal beauty of bodies and flowers. Brigitte has exhibited her work in the US and recently in Riga, Latvia and in Valparaiso, Chile.

As a child, Brigitte Carnochan dreamed of a career as a ballet dancer. Instead, she became a High School English teacher and eventually the Associate Director of the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University outside San Francisco. Photography is her third career. “Everything fell into place when I took a course in darkroom techniques. The first time I saw an image appear on the paper, I was hooked.”

Brigitte developed her interest in photography by taking part in different workshops, among other things. She chose two areas to focus on: hand painted flowers and bodies, and documentary photography. Inspired by her photography teacher and mentor Steve Kiser, Brigitte realized early on the importance of being able to produce a perfect black and white print.

“Black and white photography is my great passion and it forms the basis for my work. I use black and white film to capture the form and then I paint the images, as my imagination sees fit. The advantage of painting the images myself is that I can interpret them in my own way. My flowers are not, therefore, botanical studies, just as my images of bodies are not individual portraits. Everything is based on my own interpretation of color, lines, poses, and shadows. When I photograph both flowers and bodies, which I sometimes view as blending one into the other, with the dancer becoming a flower and a flower a dancer, beauty is the common denominator.”

 Brigitte doesn’t just work on her own projects. She also works on assignment, even if it’s on a smaller scale. Her primary client, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, is an organization that works with healthcare and education for children in developing countries. Brigitte has recently been on a two-week assignment for them in Pakistan, taking photos for their marketing and annual report. In addition to Pakistan, Brigitte has also photographed in Tanzania, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Cuba. “It is a privilege to take photos of people that live under such different circumstances than my own. With the camera I get to know new people in a way that wouldn't be possible just walking around,” states Brigitte.

Brigitte works with small, medium, and large format images. The gear she uses most is a Hasselblad 503CW with a Zeiss Makro-Planar 120 mm lens, sometimes with lens converters and extensions. She also has a Hasselblad FlexBody that she uses more and more to replace her Sinar 4x5 camera. Brigitte is also looking forward to owning a Hasselblad H1. “The H1, with its auto focus function, is well suited for my eyes, which aren’t getting any younger, and even more for my spontaneous way of shooting when I am out on documentary assignments.”

Brigitte is currently involved with several new projects. One is once again about bodies and here she is experimenting with double exposures and movement in the images. “The results look promising, but it is always a balancing act to do new work while also replacing the work that sells in the galleries-especially since my gallery work is so labor intensive.” she says.

She also mixes new images with images from her family photo album and pieces them together in the darkroom into a collage. There they form a sort of photographic autobiography with personal stories behind every image. “I was born in Worms am Rhein in Germany during the Second World War and came to the USA in 1947 with my mother and my American stepfather. I was six at the time. I didn’t meet my German father until I was thirty-five years old. So this project is partly about combining my unknown past with the past that I know so that my life will become more whole in some way.”

Brigitte is also working with an exhibition entitled Girlhood - The world before them, which deals with girls around the world approximately 8 and 13 years of age. Throughout her career, she has held numerous exhibitions. During the summer and fall of 2004, a collection of her hand painted images will be shown at the Albuquerque Museum of Art in New Mexico.

More information about Brigitte Carnochan at her website.

Kerstin Fiedler