Graduate Student Profile: Leah Edelman-Brier

Light Work‘s lab and community spaces serve as a home base for many graduate and undergraduate students at Syracuse University. With this series of blog installments, we wanted to showcase the work of a few of these recent graduates who have actively used our spaces in the creation of their thesis projects.

Today, as the last installment of this series, we interview Leah Edelman-Brier, whose work you can find here.

LW: Where did you grow up? How does that affect your work?

I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, the biggest city in the smallest state. I have a lot of pride towards where I’m from but I don’t really feel like it has affected my work. The concept of place doesn’t have a role in my work, so it doesn’t matter that I’m from New England.

LW: What are you focusing on in your current work?

My main interest is the body and using it to disrupt concepts of ideal beauty with the grotesque. I have been photographing my mother and sister pretty extensively throughout the years and focus on how they interact and how their bodies are similar, yet different. There’s a fear in there, about becoming your mother, which is pivotal to my work.

LW: What do you consider a successful photograph?

That’s tricky because there is no right answer. I think it boils down to how satisfied you are with it. I don’t believe in perfection so for me a successful photograph needs to move me in some way, and be in focus.

LW: Talk about the title of your thesis show…

The title of my thesis work, Body Becoming, is referential of my main interest in the work, the body, and how it fluctuates physically and metaphorically.

LW: What artists are you looking at right now?

Currently I am really into Ahndraya Parlato, Jen Davis, Susan Worsham, and Alessandra Sanguinetti, which is funny because all of them have done a residency at Light Work. They all have strong voices and their photographs can throw a good punch. That’s something I like. I’m also revisiting Emmet Gowin’s work. His retrospective book came out this past year and it’s simply beautiful.

LW: How has your work shifted in your time at SU?

SU has been a great learning experience. There’s been a lot of fending for myself, good conversations, and skill improvement. I have watched my work grow and develop stylistically and in its content. When I began graduate school I had a very literal outlook. My photograph were solely of the documentary vein and I considered them to be truthful and explanatory. My practice has since evolved as I work more figuratively. I have learned to leave my images open to interpretation rather than the rigidity I demonstrated in my previous practice.

LW: How did you find Light Work?

When I moved to Syracuse and came on campus for the first time, another photo grad was nice enough to give me a little tour. He showed me around Shaffer and walked me over to Light Work and basically said, this is where you’ll print. After that it was love at first site.

LW: What resources or artists have you connected to there?

John Mannion is a god send. I love that man and everything he has taught me. I am a better and smarter photographer because of him. Light Work has given me many opportunities to work with their artist in residence, which has given me insight into the world of the artist assistant and tested my flexibility and ability to follow directions in the best possible way. Printing in the lab is so easy and simple. The space is conducive to working and the free coffee makes working even better.

LW: Graduate School creates a space both for education and for artmaking. How have both of those spaces informed each other?

I don’t think my work would have evolved the way it did without my education pushing it forward. A lot of realizations, ideas, and changes have come out of critiques and conversations about art or life or some artist you hate to love. Everything influences art.

LW: What are your plans after graduating?

I am headed to Minneapolis with no concrete plans insight. I have personal reasons bringing me out that way and I hope to find a job as an artist assistant or at a printing lab. I heard Big Al’s is kind of cool. Graduating in general is a confusing time because you want it so badly, you want to get out and be free and then you realize that when you’re out, the safety net is gone and your access to facilities falls away and suddenly you want it all back. So we’ll see what happens. Maybe you’ll catch me at Light Work again, on more official terms. I’m open to anything.