We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Cattelle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
This question comes up constantly. As an artist, I can be very sensitive to the environment around me. As the environment changes so do my feelings, including my feelings towards my work and my mission. At some points, I am moving ahead with full force and lots of confidence. Then there are periods of time where I feel unsure about everything. I want to pack it all up and move on with my life. But underneath it all there is one constant and consistent message. The message is KEEP GOING! At the end of the day, I have no choice in the matter. No matter what’s going on in the world or in my personal life, whether it be a pandemic, loss, or any number of things that can impede progress, I have to keep going. If I don’t it will eat me alive and I will live with regret. I don’t want to live with regret so I find a way. I have learned over the years that there is always a way.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m self-described as a black and white fine art photographer but I think over the years I have adopted more of an artist title, an artist who creates black and white photo based art. And in that description, I think I set myself apart from many other “photographers” in a way. I don’t like getting stuck and repeating myself. I’ll get bored and lose interest. To avoid that tragedy I am constantly exploring, not only ways to take photographs and subject matters but ways to present photography as well. I love photographing landscapes and architecture, and people on my digital camera, those are my roots, but I also shoot in film, then I take the negatives and cut them up and make mashups with old movies for example. I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with polaroids, working on a rather dark series that reflects the general mood of the cult classic film Gummo. Beyond the camera, I present my work on old TVs, view masters, and projectors. I’ve explored what I call photo-based mixed media pieces. I’m constantly evolving, changing, exploring, and most importantly breaking rules. I just keep going no matter what. I’m probably best to know for my BARE USA project, a project that explored natural beauty in contrast with man made decay. In short, I photographed one nude art model in one abandoned location in each of the 50 United States. It was a pretty monumental feat, especially since I started with nothing. But what I’m most proud of is my work for Caron Treatment Centers. I created a portrait series based on the gratitude people had for their recovery from drugs and alcohol. I interviewed each participant and based on the interview we took a creative portrait that emulated the spirit of their gratitude. Being 10 years sober myself it was a project that was close to my heart. The series hangs in their detox center and continues to have an impact on people just arriving for treatment feeling hopeless. I like to think that once in a while this project provides them with a source of inspiration. The best part is I have a plaque on the wall of the facility I once showed up at when I was at my bottom. I feel like that’s an ultimate comeback story. I’ve gotten to where I am today by stubbornness, hustle a little bit of luck, and a lot of love. It’s hard to say if it’s been hard or easy. Yes, there have been challenges. But I’ve been too focused on enjoying the ride. I think things become difficult when I worried, worried about the future, or regret the past. When I stay in the moment it seems pretty easy. I want the world to know there is beauty everywhere. It’s a strange thing for me to say, if you look at my work a lot of it seems kind of dark. I suppose that’s because I’m always searching in the darkness. The beauty in the rainbow is too obvious, I want to find the beauty in the dirt. It’s there, sometimes you just have to look really close. As far as my story is concerned, you know, I think I was probably destined to die of an overdose in a strange room somewhere, but I found help and a community and followed the footsteps of those who went before me. After I did that I learned I could do whatever I wanted to, and that life is not a guarantee. I decided that I didn’t want to live in fear. I decided that if I wasn’t happy I was going to change. I decided if I wanted to do something I was going to do it. There’s no reason why that can’t apply to everyone.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Under normal circumstances, I’d probably start off in Miami and check out the Street art in Wynwood, maybe bring them to a museum or two. There is a lot of great art and restaurants in the area and I could explore it a bit more myself. It always seems to be changing. I’d bring them back up to my part of south Florida and show them around Atlantic avenue. We would definitely cruise down a1a, it’s such a peaceful drive. I’d also be sure to take them to the beach.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
If I had to give just one person a shout out it would be to Leigh Norwood also known as Mr. Norwood. He was my high school photography teacher at Bangor Highschool in Bangor Maine. He gave me the freedom to explore many aspects of photography and encouraged my strange ideas and unorthodox methods. He would always sign my hall passes so that I could spend every ounce of extra free time in the darkroom. He gave me good guidance and never approached my ideas with negativity. He never seemed to judge. It was a tough time in my life, and looking back at it photography was was an escape, and he helped provide the sanctuary I needed. I don’t even know if Mr. Norwood remembers me or if he has any idea of the influence he’s had over my life, but Mr. Norwood if your listening, thank you! On a more local, recent, and collective level, I have to give a shout-out to my South Florida art community. Without them, I may have never found this path. I’ve met so many amazing and wonderful people along the way. To name a few Kat Janis, Craig McInnis, Scott Jefferies, Rolando Chang Barrero, Ethan Dangerwing, Eric Perna, Nicole Persley, Rebecca Loveless, the list could go on and on.