For our exhibition Know South / No South, APG's Esther Griffin is talking with the participating artists about their inspiration from the South. Next up is Rosie Brock. As a young artist, Brock has already participated in several group exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles, among others. She studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and was the student winner of the PDN Photo Annual Award 2018 and the Brian Weil Memorial Award 2018. Brock was chosen by juror Richard McCabe as one of seven artists to be included in Know South / No South.
You just graduated and earned a BFA in Photography & Video, congratulations. What drove you to photography in the first place?
Thank you so much! I’d always been artistically inclined as a kid and then as a young teenager I became interested in photography in large part due to the burgeoning influence of social media, which at that time was pretty much limited to Facebook. I wanted to document myself and my friends at that stage of life as a visual diary of sorts, but also in order to broadcast myself to an online audience. At first to me, photographs functioned as evidence of “Hey, I exist - this is me, I made this thing.”
You draw inspiration from your childhood in the south. What was that childhood like?
I’m really nostalgic about my childhood. I was born in Charleston, South Carolina and grew up in Gulf Coast Florida. My younger sister and I attended a small private Christian school walking distance from our home. Florida is a place where the only true season is marked by hurricanes, the humidity hardly ever leaves the air, and strip malls are as ubiquitous as the beaches. Growing up, I spent a lot of time smelling like chlorine or saltwater, catching sea jellies on the sandbars behind my friend’s yards, and eating at weekly church dinners. I also spent a decent amount of my childhood in a town in rural southern Georgia called Richland, which is where my Mom’s side of the family is from. In the summers we’d go there for family reunions. The reunions entailed a southern buffet (fried chicken, banana pudding, collards, etc), stops at a boiled peanut stand, visiting the local graveyard, and hanging out with my cousins. My family moved to Virginia when I was a young teenager, which is of course much further north and has a totally different culture and topography. Perhaps as a result of moving away, my memories of my Southern childhood are very visceral and folkloric.
Are there any specific places, events, subject, etc. about the south that have your special interest?
Family stories, family photographs, and the history/folklore of towns or states I have ties to. If I wasn’t from the South and didn’t have an ancestral background there, I seriously doubt I would be making the kind of photographs I do now.
Do you consider yourself a documentary-maker or a storyteller?
I’d consider myself to be both -- I’m definitely heavily inspired by both the photographic lineage of documentary photography, along with the Southern Gothic literary tradition. My work deals with returning to a cultural space from my past and the subsequent convergence of the contemporary reality with my own remembering of it from years ago.
Are there any new projects coming up?
I’m currently trying to get back in the saddle after graduating and moving out of New York City. About a month ago I finally bought my own camera and a light-meter so now I can get out there and start shooting. It terms of an actual project idea, I have a few I’m thinking about at the moment -- all of which are regionally specific, so figuring out how to get to the right place for enough time is the first step.
Who do you collect yourself? Who is on your wall?
I’m fortunate enough to have a framed Maude Schuyler Clay photograph which was graciously gifted to me two summers ago. I also have some beautiful work from my former thesis classmates.