My name is Rosie Brock, I’m a photographer focused on the American South. I was born in Charleston, South Carolina and raised in both Gulf Coast Florida and Virginia, my work is heavily influenced by my childhood. I first started taking pictures I was around fifteen, mainly to post on social media which at that time was limited to Facebook. I would take glamour shots of myself and my friends in my basement, using floodlights from Home Depot. The first pictures I shot were technically decent, especially for a total beginner but it wasn't until about a year later when I became interested in photography as an art form. I began photographing my younger sister Lily and I think that’s when I really became committed to photography as a potential career path.
What draws you to the people you photograph?
I'm drawn to subjects who remind me of people I knew or observed growing up. Maybe it's the way the light is hitting the side of their face or the length of their hair or a specific article of clothing they're wearing - some minute detail or characteristic will attract me to a specific person. Once I see someone I’m intrigued by, I just have to take a photograph of them, it's like an actual need. There's nothing that makes me more frustrated than when I miss an opportunity to photograph someone I really feel compelled to photograph. I have no idea what life would be like if I didn't respond to the world around me the way I do (ie feeling compelled to make photographs), I think it makes life bearable - to be able to find some kind of profound beauty in a woman sitting on a Midway bench on a humid July afternoon.
Can you talk about your interest in photographing the South, what about it inspires you?
My interest in the South dates back to childhood. As a kid I was really interested in observing and writing about the cultures and regions I grew up around. I spent ages three to thirteen in St. Petersburg, Florida (outside of Tampa) so Gulf Coastal culture was my first point of reference. Gulf Coastal culture is an amalgamation of more mainline Southern culture but then punctuated with certain purely Floridian eccentricities - it’s sort of hard to characterize in a few sentences, I think Lauren Groff’s new book “Florida,” does the most incredible job explaining that area of the South. I also have a relationship to Georgia since that’s where my mother/her family is from. My experiences in Georgia led me to have a lifelong interest in the culture and history of the Deep South. I have a very visceral, emotional reaction to being in the South. I find it be the most transfixing and haunting region.
How do you want to impact people with your photographs?
While I’m cognizant of the fact that I am working within a well established American documentary genre and tradition often associated with educative purposes (ie. FSA photographs), my images aren’t intended to function didactically. I think that might well change in the near future if my work becomes more overtly political or journalistic, but in respect to this series - I’m not trying to teach anyone anything with my pictures, rather the motivation for this project was mainly to help me better understand my own feelings/relationship to this region.
I don’t feel like there’s a pedagogic underpinning to the work since it’s so steeped in my own subjectivity. If I was going to make images with a clear take-away, I think my feelings would need to be less complicated. What I do hope to do through these specific photographs is to convey a very strong sense of place and culture as I experienced it.
Can you share with us why you choose to shoot film, how does it enhance, inspire or inform your practice?
In my own experience, I’ve found that shooting film forces me to slow down and be more selective and thoughtful about the pictures I shoot since I have a limited amount of exposures. It also allows me to be in the moment with the subject since there isn’t the option to check my results instantly.
Is there a specific encounter you’ve had with someone in front of your lens that has changed the way you approach your photography?
Before I ever started photographing strangers, I shot my sister for about six years, all the time. I learned a lot about interacting and directing someone through working with her. The same basic principles of respect and gratitude apply to photographing anyone, whether it’s someone I know well or a total stranger I’m meeting for two minutes. Aside from that, I’d say that every encounter helps me to improve my practice. I’m a very shy person so approaching strangers causes me a decent amount of anxiety. The more frequently I’m approaching people, the more comfortable I become with it.
What are you working on next?
This summer I continued to photograph county fairs, all in Virginia. I have a few different ideas for a new project but I have yet to begin, since each concept is regionally specific. A goal of mine is to do a series on Florida.
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