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Judy Brown
Elliott 

Photographer
USA

Judy Brown Photography

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

“Following a career as Professor of Physics at Wellesley College and Research Scientist at the  MIT Media Lab, I combined my long-time passions for animals and photography.  I am particularly interested in form, texture, and lighting in images.  I am attracted to subjects for their simplicity and beauty of form.

My “Elliott” portfolio, of a spirited pony in his stall, has been given a number of solo shows,  including two exhibitions in the Griffin Museum satellite galleries, and at an MIT Architecture Department Tele-exhibit.   Selections from my “Antique Skin” and  “Elliott” portfolios, as well as other pieces, have been selected for over a dozen juried exhibitions including  “The Horse: A Juried Exhibit” at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY, the “Member’s Show” at the Texas Photographic Society, and “The Contemporary Nude” at the SE Center for Photography.

Most recently, I have spent much of my time photographing the animals on a nearby farm in South Natick, MA,  consummating a childhood passion for farms and animals while growing up in rural Texas.

In the last decade, I have taken several courses in the Certificate Program at RRhode Island School of Design,  and in the New England School of Photography’s evening program. I have also taken several studio art courses in drawing and design at Wellesley College.   Workshops have included “Equine Photography in Southern France” with Tony Stromberg, “A Certain Alchemy” with Keith Carter at Maine Media, and “Atelier 26” with Meg Birnbaum at the Griffin Museum of Photography” 

Partial Video Transcript

Judy: “I was in a horse phase at that time, so I took pictures of horses! That started ten years of taking pictures of horses. I started taking riding lessons, usually, after my lesson, I would go around the barn, and take pictures of the horses, and in particular, this one house who had a great personality!

So, I would spend around 45 minutes to an hour with Elliot, maybe once a week. He was in this stall, with light coming in the window above him, great opportunity for natural lighting, and interesting lighting.”

Prof Lieu: “This piece to me has such a different atmosphere to it. I think part of it is that in some pieces, it was quite obvious that is was a horse, with recognizable features, I could say ‘Oh that is like a horse’s mane’. In this piece, if I didn’t know, if I wasn’t told it was a horse- I don’t know if I would recognize that. So I am curious, is that an intentional approach? Or was this an accident?”

Judy: “This image was in a competition once, and the judge, at first, did not know what it was, and thought that maybe it was a rock.”

Prof Lieu: “Do you think he was saying that in a negative way? Or was he appreciating that it looked like something completely different than a horse?”

Judy: “I think it was in a negative way.”

Prof Lieu: “Well that is interesting! For me, it was the opposite! I liked that it didn’t look a lot like a horse, and I guess what I am excited about, is that it is a piece that makes me really curious. I don’t know right away what it is. When I have an image like that which does reveal itself so obviously, I am actually less interested. There is less for me to interpret, less for me to think about, and what I think is most interesting about this piece is that the texture of the surface is so varied.

The lower left hand corner is much more in focus, and so we see every little tiny hair that has a light on it, but than things get very bony in the middle- like I can feel the stiffness under that surface. But then down here, it almost feels jolatiness to me- like there is a total shift of surface.

This definitely has a touch of colour, was that intentional as well? Or was that another happy accident?”

Judy: “More a happy accident! They are all actually, not black and white- but this horse was white; most of the background I blacked.”

Prof Lieu: “Oh okay, so did you adjust it in Photoshop?”

Judy: “Yeah.”

Prof Lieu: “Oh okay, to get more contrast!”

Judy: “Yes, they are all highly Photoshopped, I call it the Charlie Rose effect.”

Prof Lieu: “Why is it the Charlie Rose effect?”

Judy: “It’s a black background, you know, with the subject in front of it.”

Prof Lieu: “You are right! He actually does do that! Do you feel that this is drastically different from the original photo? Or is it a minor adjustment?”

Judy: “What I was working on the most was this rear part. This was kind of blown out, so, I cloned some in, so that it looks like it is just the horizon rather than a big blob of nothing. Photographers fear blown out areas, I don’t know if you know that.”

Prof Lieu: “Oh, yes, yes yes! I fear that when I am photographing my own artwork, because I don’t want to lose the subtlety of the whites, obviously. But, I love this surface!”

Judy: “Yeah, I did a great job on that. I modestly must admit”

Prof Lieu: “Yes! You definitely did! There are moments where it is incredibly crystal clear and in focus, and other parts where it is a little bit blurry, the subtlety, it is not a very wide range. What I really see in your photograph is this subtlety, that is very apparent when you take the time to appreciate it.

Judy: “This pony was moving around like lightening, and I was taking pictures as fast as I could get something where I could get an exposure.”

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2 responses on "Judy Brown"

  1. The combination of warm and cool lighting here is adding to the wonderful mystery and ambiguity of the piece. The subtle hints of color are actually some of my favorite moments in this image, and makes me wonder how you could experiment with that more. Playing around with how natural lighting and artificial lighting, like sunlight and a fluorescent bulb in a barn, work together could be the first step in trying this out. Or perhaps that’s how you achieved the look in this piece!

    I also started to think about colored bulbs and gels, as well as playing around with the hues in photoshop ( a program you clearly have skill in!). The way unnatural colors and the texture of the horse’s hair work together may unlock something really interesting! Imagine having a slight pinkish or green light falling on the horse. It could create an even more curious atmosphere. You could also push the colors as far or as little as you want, but playing around could be great for exploration!

    As someone who grew up around horses, this is such a rich and exciting subject matter! Horses are such wonderful beings with such interesting bodies and personalities! I can’t wait to see where you go next!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Clara about the subtlety and ambiguity of this image! The lighting is especially rich… There’s such a wide range of colors within the horse’s hair, in addition to the variety of textures already mentioned. Looking at this piece feels like glimpsing another planet through a telescope — There’s so much to explore, visually!

    I almost wish you had cropped in even tighter, forcing us to focus more completely on that shifting “geography.” There’s something about the musculature of the horse that’s really compelling, especially when you obscure its other, more identifiable features. I would love to see more photos of the same subject matter, taken from different angles… Perhaps this would be worth revisiting in a future series? You could challenge yourself to capture as many different kinds of “terrain” as possible!

    I also want to applaud your expert use of Photoshop, here. You achieved the desired effect without detracting from the “naturalism” of the photo or pulling any of our attention away from the textures that are so much the focus of the composition. A digital touch-up that feels very analog… I was surprised to hear that you made that edit! Great job.

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