April 26, 2020
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
Photography by Abbie Briggs
Interview by Melanie Meggs
Abbie Briggs has been struggling with mental health issues for most of her life, but when she got her first digital camera a few years ago, she found an unexpected source of solace. Through self-portraiture, Abbie has found her own healing creative outlet and come to terms with the struggles of her past. Photography has had a positive impact on Abbie's mental health, providing her with a means of self-expression and allowing her to explore her identity in a unique and meaningful way, enabling her to find a sense of peace and purpose. Join us as we explore Abbie’s journey in her pursuit of healing through the power of photography.
“Evolve or die.”
A simple reminder for me to keep moving and never stop growing. I also like it because it reminds me of Lily Tomlin...and Lily Tomlin always makes me happy. I first saw the phrase on a shirt she was wearing in a portrait by Norman Seeff.
IN CONVERSATION WITH ABBIE BRIGGS
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Abbie, please tell us when you started getting interested in photography?
ABBIE BRIGGS: Even though I've only honored it more recently, I've been drawn to photography since I was little. Reflecting back I can see that it was something always trying to grab hold of me but I just never let it. So life went on and I hit some hard times and fell into a pretty deep depression. I was basically treading water until about the end of 2017 when a DSLR fell into my lap and I started getting to know it. Finally answering the call that had been trying to get my attention my whole life really helped in pulling me out of the darkness. I haven't looked back since.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
AB: Nature, poetry, music, other artists and photographers.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?
AB: I'm a big fan of Julia Margaret Cameron and the way she brought stories and poems to life in her portraits. I also adore the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Both in their own right as artists but especially with what they created together. Anna Gaskell - especially her Turns Gravity series - gives me life every time I revisit. And I have to mention Bob Dylan and Patti Smith even though they aren't known for their photography. Their influence has played a big role in making me who I am and that makes my art what it is. So, yeah, credit where credit's due and all that.
TPL: Has your style of photographing changed since you first started?
AB: Absolutely. It takes time to find your style, I think. I also believe it's something that can keep evolving. Growth is good.
TPL: Where is your favourite place to photograph?
AB: My little home studio. It's my safe space for creating self portraits. But also anywhere out in nature -- the woods, botanical gardens or the wildflower garden that grows at a local park.
Finally answering the call that had been trying to get my attention my whole life really helped in pulling me out of the darkness. I haven't looked back since.
TPL: Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
AB: I am definitely not a "gear person". Personally, I'm most fulfilled by challenging myself to get creative with what I've got. When I was first starting I was blinded by the promise of new equipment but realized that giving into that wasn't necessarily helping me create anything I loved. My focus was on what I thought I needed to do it better. So I decided to simplify. I chose just one of my lenses (nifty fifty was the winner) and shot with that exclusively for about a year. During that year I focused more on studying different genres and other photographers. It really opened me up creatively. It helped me find direction for the art I wanted to create. I do have a couple other lenses that I create with, as well as some filters and stuff for when I just need to mix it up a bit (because that's good for creativity too) but these days I'm only drawn to something new when I'm feeling sufficiently ready to grow my portrait setup in some way.
TPL: What characteristics do you think you need to become a good photographer? What’s your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
AB: I think being a good observer, having a good eye goes a long way. Keeping an open mind and a willingness to keep learning have definitely helped me grow as an artist. If you're into self portraiture I'd say authenticity is key. Stay true to yourself, trust yourself. Think through your ideas and get in touch with your emotions. Then tell your story.
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
AB: I've always loved creating but it's usually just for myself. Collage is something I've dabbled in for years and I play with paint once in a while. Nothing professional though.
TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
AB: I've got some bigger ideas brewing. That's all I'll say for now.
TPL: "If I wasn't photographing I like to be...
AB: I love to be outside but I always have my camera when I'm outside so… reading, writing, baking, or watching something nerdy or true crime related."
Photography has been transformative for Abbie. She has discovered a newfound sense of self and meaning through self-portraiture. This creative outlet has become a necessity for her well-being and has allowed her to express her feelings. We are so inspired by Abbie’s story, and we invite you to join her on her journey. Please connect and follow Abbie through her Instagram to learn more about her creative process and to view her work.