Connecting Worlds Through Her Art: Meet Photographer Brianna Dowd

Brianna Dowd is a North Carolina based artist whose background is in fine art photography and graphic design. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Bachelors of Fine Art degree.

Brianna Dowd

Wanting to share her passion with others, Brianna co-taught Cyanotype technique to various groups and through major institutions such as The North Carolina Museum of Art. A life-long learner, Brianna is continuing her studies, as she currently pursues her Masters of Fine Art at the Savannah College of Art & Design.

Coinciding with her studies, Brianna also founded Butterfly Visuals, LLC, in 2020, a media company focussed on working with creative and goal-oriented individuals in the areas of photography, graphic design, website design, promotional design, branding materials, and social media content.

By Al Gord

Brianna, it is a pleasure having the chance to interview you. Many artists gravitate towards drawing or painting, as that is the medium they were exposed to as children. How did you get involved with photography and what was it about this creative form that you enjoy?

I, like most children, started with drawing and painting, and they are both still art forms I enjoy. My involvement with photography came through my parents who were in business together as wedding photographers. I always loved going with them and watching them work with their clients, and about age nine I asked – more like begged – them if I could help. From then on, I have been in love with photography.

Having a background in both graphic design and photography, do you feel that your graphic design background adds a unique dimension or perspective to your photographic style?

I definitely feel that having a graphic design background adds to my photographic style, as there are endless possibilities that come with design. In my experience I have learned and seen how specific choices in design can take a photograph to the next level referring to how it is visually presented, but also how it is interpreted and received by viewers. For me, having a design background gives a photo an extra “edge”.

It is common to see artwork created to provide visual enjoyment for the viewer. While your work is aesthetically pleasing, you provide the viewer with more than just an eye-catching experience. I can see where that extra “edge” comes into your work. Do you feel that as an artist you have a certain responsibility to produce work with deeper meaning or is that just more of a personal choice – something that motivates you to create?

I feel that we owe it to ourselves to make work that is both significant to us, but can also reach others in a larger context if possible. Art, just like music, is something I truly believe has the power to not only be meaningful to the person creating it, but to those who experience it as well. I would not say it is a responsibility or a requirement to make work with a deeper meaning, but it does open doors to dialogue, awareness, understanding, and so much more. You would be surprised as to how many people can look at a work and they are able to relate to it, and may even feel led to share their own stories. Motivation can come from any and everywhere, and that in itself is a beautiful thing.

Your Mother Pearl portfolio is what first caught my eye. It is very reminiscent of collage work and the story behind the series is beautiful. Can you tell us more about the works in this collection that I know is personally significant to you?

Mother Pearl is a series that visually presents what I imagine could have been the relationship between my paternal grandmother and I, had she not transitioned long before I was born. While I have never met her, I have always felt strongly connected, and the images in this work convey that. These images are presented as works of collage to show the desperation and determination to bring two very different worlds together, placing me in my late grandmother’s world and her in mine.

Brianna, that is incredibly touching and powerful. Equally as powerful is your BLM collection. I am curious about the process used to create these images, as they are far from your traditional photographic work.

Thank you so much! To create the final images, I used portrait images taken by myself of my models who were gracious enough to work with me. I overlaid their portraits strategically with imagery from a number of protests as well as the faces of a few names who the world has come to know due to losing them to unjust killings involving the police. This included victims such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

My reason for using women of colour as a “canvas” if you will, was a way of expressing the thoughts I have around what my experience has been growing up as a woman of colour, but also seeing and hearing the stories of others in history. We as women not only carry life, but we bear the burden of it as well- women of colour for years and years have had to be strong and resilient, even with all of the injustice in this world and seeing our men and children being taken, we are expected to show unwavering strength and keep going – and we always do, because that is who we are.

Til’ Justice

For anyone who views your portfolio, you have a wide range of themes. How do you decide on a focus and is there a single idea, which underpins all of your work?

I honestly focus on storytelling, which I would say is the base for all of my work. Whatever it is I feel I have to say, or would like to express, I do so through photography, and it is a huge outlet for me. I do pull inspiration from things that I see, especially when it comes to topics around the world, events, and societal concerns, but I would say even with that in mind, with the work I make, it tells a story worth figuring out and interpreting.

This is my personal take but I feel that we all have a role to play in being the voice for others. I think what you are doing is fantastic. Maybe this is not a fair question. With all of the unique and amazing portfolios to your credit, do you have a single work, which is your personal favourite?

If I had to choose a single work that is my personal favourite, I would say my thesis work, Mother Pearl, would be it. While all of the work I have done is of personal significance, this series has been one that has truly pushed me in regards to creativity and presentation, and it truly means that more that this work honours my family.

I love the tie-in to your family. That must be extra special for them. You created a site, Butterfly Visuals. What was the impetus for developing this site and what is the significance of the butterfly reference?

Butterfly Visuals, LLC is my company that was launched in August of 2020, and it provides quality services in areas of photography, graphic design, website design, promotional design, etc. The butterfly represents creativity, endless potential, evolution, and other things that are both a part of life and change, whether that be in regards to a business idea, a concept, a brand….anything really! Butterfly Visuals, LLC serves those in the areas needed to help push the vision of others forward.

I know that you are currently working on your Masters in Fine Arts. What has that experience been like for you and what is the focus of your thesis?

Working towards obtaining my MFA has been an unforgettable experience. While it requires much work, balance, and dedication to the craft, I can honestly say that I have made some of the most memorable work and connections on this journey, with both professors and classmates. I have also learned so much about myself as an artist and how to push past my comfort zone when it comes to making work.

When I first started the biggest thing holding me back was getting out of my own head and taking risks. Would you be willing to tell us more about you getting out of your comfort zone as an artist?

Specifically referring to my latest body of work, Mother Pearl, advice from two of my professors at SCAD helped me break out of my comfort zone or “usual” way of working. One professor told me to consider the story I was telling, and to keep in mind that no one could tell this specific story the way that I could. He advised me to consider creative ways to portray my desperation to connect with my grandmother in ways I had not done before- beyond the use of overlaid text on imagery-think and work outside the box.

Another professor led me to think about making my work visually interesting, but less seamless, and mentioned the topic of collage. I literally internalized our conversation, went with my emotions, and pushed myself to visually portray what it is I felt inside. With collage, nothing is pieced together perfectly; there are tears, rips, and some images tend to look as if they were forcefully put together. This is exactly what I wanted to portray, as the relationship I long for can never exist naturally, and is being put together in my own imagination.

Mother Pearl (Untitled X)

After the MFA, what do you see as your next step in your journey as an artist?

After graduation and receiving my MFA, I would love to have other opportunities to exhibit work. I would even love to take part in residencies and artist talks. I think it is important to continue creating even after graduation, whether that be furthering my current series, or developing new bodies of work. Either way, the journey must continue!

I know that I am excited to see what is next for you! In closing, you are still new to the world of art. What do you say to aspiring artists, especially those who want to get into photography, knowing that this art form can be quite technical and knowing that equipment can be costly?

To all aspiring artists, I say stay true to who you are. While there are millions of artists in this world, there is only one you, and what you have to offer is of importance. With photography, I would say that processes are very technical, but worth diving into. If you are interested in learning, I recommend possibly shadowing other photographers, online tutorials are always an option, and really just learning your camera through experimentation and practice. Equipment of course is something we all know can be expensive, but I honestly say, in the long run, the investment is worth it. Think of it as investing in yourself and your passion. This in no way means go out and buy the most expensive camera (lol), but there are starter cameras to consider first, or think of those who may be around you to loan you a camera, show you how to use it, etc. Connections are key in the world of art! We truly do need each other!

Brianna, not only is this fantastic advice but I love your closing thought. I know that I have made so many incredible connections in the art world and it is something of which I am truly grateful. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us.

To learn more about Brianna, you can find her work on Facebook, Instagram and through her Website.

2 Responses

  1. Michael Dowd

    I am very proud of you that is an amazing accomplishment! I know that you will do Great things in the future, and I will be looking forward to seeing them, God willing!???


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.