Brittainy Lauback is a lens-based artist teaching and working in Athens. She lives in Winterville with Django, her Australian shepherd-labrador mix. She currently has work at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Hathaway Gallery.
The Red & Black sat down with Lauback to discuss her creative process, being an artist in Athens and how she got here.
The Red & Black: You went to University of New Mexico for your BFA. Why’d you go there from your hometown, Columbus, Ohio?
Brittainy Lauback: Well, I got into the Chicago Art Institute and this little nothing college called Santa Fe and my reasoning at that time was, “I’ve been to Chicago before and I’ve never been to New Mexico, so how about I go to New Mexico?”
R&B: There’s a big art scene in Santa Fe, right?
BL: There is, but it wasn’t anything like I expected at all. It was primarily made up of coyotes and white people making Native American art –– it was pretty bad. The landscape was amazing, though, and I made some really good friends there. But I decided after a year there to transfer to University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
R&B: And did you like that better?
BL: A lot better. There was a hokiness around art in Santa Fe that I didn’t like, so I moved to Albuquerque, really not even knowing the history of the program and its photography roots. Beaumont Newhall started the program there, and they have this huge print collection. There were two art historians there for photography specifically, so without even knowing it I fell into this great photo program that I really love a lot.
R&B: How did you know that you wanted to go to school for photography?
BL: So I tried to go to this art high school, and you had to try out. I had to audition [for theatre], and then my backup for that was photography, because that’s what my two best friends were doing — I didn’t even care about it. And it turns out, I did not get into the theater program, but I got into the photography program. So I started doing it and I loved it. I loved all the kids in photography — we had so much freedom to shoot what we wanted, we had a 50-acre campus and we had just a pass. So I really loved that whole scene. And I guess that’s what it really comes down to, sometimes — where your people are.
R&B: Why did you choose the University of Georgia?
BL: I got into Columbia College, which is another school I really wanted to go to in Chicago, and part of me kind of regrets not going there. But they didn’t give me any money, so I didn’t go. So I applied again the next year and I got in here and they gave me money, so I came here. I came to visit here, too, and when I came here I was taken to the Go Bar.
R&B: So Go Bar convinced you to move here?
BL: Pretty much. It was Go Bar that sold me. We sang karaoke, and it was the best karaoke selection I’d ever seen in my life. I was like, “This town must be good.”
R&B: How do you make a living as a photographer?
BL: I piece it together [with] a million different things. I teach at UGA. I’m an assistant to Mark Steinmetz, who’s a photographer in town. Him and Irina — his wife — have a photo workshop called The Humid. I work with them on that as well. Recently, I also do some commercial work. I’ve been working with Character Built doing interior photographs for them.
R&B: You have work in “Til the Lights Go Out” at the Hathaway Gallery in Atlanta. When it’s over, they’re going to demolish the building with the art still inside and take a video, right?
BL: Yeah. It’s a cool idea, totally. The curator of that show, Scott Ingram, asked Ridley [Howard] to organize Athens artists and Ridley got like every Athens artist. So I’m in that right now.
R&B: What’s your creative process?
BL: The meaning and where I’m going with all of it kind of comes out afterwards. And whenever I try to set up a project with an idea in the beginning, it never works out … The real idea will emerge after I work.
R&B: What are some of your inspirations?
BL: I get super tired of the stereotypical beauties. I like something different — something outside of the norm. Different body types, older people. Everything that’s just outside of what society deems beautiful…
R&B: So you place ads on Facebook and Craigslist looking for strangers to photograph. Do you notice a pattern in the kinds of people who respond to those?
BL: A lot of the women are trying to gain some kind of confidence from it — I guess that would be a pattern. And a lot of the men I think there’s some — especially when I was meeting up in hotel rooms there was some … fetish things happening too.
R&B: What makes an ideal subject?
BL: I’m all over the place in terms of shooting. I have a big love of portraits, but I love landscapes, too. I used to be totally anti-landscape but for whatever reason I love them now. Maybe if I had a favorite subject, maybe it would be a naked man.
BL: I’m always interested in the power that I have over the subject when I photograph them. It’s always there, I can’t get away from it. But there’s also something in me that really likes that.
R&B: Do you like being photographed?
BL: Not particularly, but I feel like it’s important for me to be photographed because of that relationship of power. If anyone ever asks me to photograph, I will always do it.
R&B: Do you call yourself an artist or a photographer?
BL: That’s a really good question. I like to call myself an artist over being a photographer. Because photographers are nerds. I don’t know. I guess on my business card it says “photographer.” Lens-based work is pretty much all the work that I do at this point, so I guess I am a photographer. But I like not being limited to “photographer” as a term.
R&B: You’re the coordinator for The Humid, a photography space that opened in October. What is the ultimate goal of the space?
BL: They’re trying to bring in more photographers to Athens to help out the local art scene and make Athens more of an art destination.
R&B: You teach photography and graphic design at the Dodd. Do you like it?
BL: I love teaching. I have a really good time with it. I’m just a cheerleader for the arts and for people to be wild and creative. I kind of feel like a lot of the students today have been brought up on standardized testing and don’t know how to let go and be creative and tap into their own psyche, because they’ve been told what to do forever.