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Rhode Island boasts many established artists, but part of the excitement of the state’s art scene is the growing number of emerging young talents here. Rhode Island is not only home for Kannetha Brown, but also the subject of her current photographic work. Brown was already making a name for herself while still in art school, and promises to have an exciting career ahead of her.
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Based in Providence, Brown is a Cambodian-American artist commuting to Boston to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. While still in the process of completing her BFA, she has already won awards and seen her stunning photos featured in venues like Elle, Rolling Stone, In Style and The Guardian. These credits would be impressive for a mid-career artist, but they’re especially notable for an emerging talent.
While Brown’s editorial work is commendable, some of her most compelling images are sensitive portraits, captured using technology dating back to the dawn of photography. She belongs to a new generation of artists exploring large format photography. This is a historical technique that requires both time and attention. For Brown, the importance of using it in her practice is multifaceted.
When asked why she chose this as her profession, she says: “Large format film photography, especially 8×10, is a medium that allows for a very unique relationship between the photographer and his subject. Aside from not having any electronics, these cameras are so large that they must sit on a tripod and the subject must remain still once the photographer has set their focus. For many contemporary color photographers, the large format is linked to the history of photography and exploitation. This can be reclaimed through the slow, honest and collaborative process these cameras can foster.”
Brown’s current project, entitled The Americans, focuses on Rhode Island. In a series of stunning photographs, Brown explores the stories of Asian Americans in the state. Her portraits are sensitive, well-crafted, and most importantly, vehicles for community stories that highlight and center the Asian-American experience.
Regarding her relationship with her subjects, Brown explains: “The majority of my subjects are people I already know, such as friends, family or mutuals. A small part of my project is reaching out to people I haven’t met before. I enjoy nurturing a relationship with who I am photographing, strangers or friends, and I ask them to further connect by photographing their friends and family so I can visualize what the bonds are like in the community here in Rhode Island . There is a lot of overlap in relationships here that we can all relate to in such a small state.”
For Brown, her work on her current project has also led her to a deeper appreciation of home and community both inside and outside of Providence. Rhode Island’s small size proved to be a great advantage for her work on The Americans, and unexpected ties strengthened her project.
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She says: “Good storytellers recognize that you can’t know beforehand how a story is going to unfold, it’s something you have to discover as you create it. The Americans is one of those special projects because it’s constantly evolving with my connection to my homeland and the people I’ve met here. I see a love for the city of Providence that is so unique because of the size of the state. The common connections we have here brought me to this project and my desire to see each other. I know where this project will take me, it will be special, not just for me but for many people.”
When you hear Brown talk about her work and methods, you’ll find an emerging talent who is not only interested in technology or craft, but also in using the art form of photography to transform the way people see each other see and how she herself sees the world.
As for what’s next for her, Brown says, “I’m still contemplating my future paths, but I have a really strong passion for the intersections of art, education and social work. I plan to work on The Americans and other personal and commissioned projects that will help connect my interests.”
The future is looking very bright for Brown, who is one of the most promising young artists in the state. No matter where her path takes her, it’s clear that she will continue to create poignant and deeply beautiful photographs that serve to highlight and connect communities in Rhode Island and beyond.
Learn more about Kannetha Brown on her website at www.kannethabrown.com or follow her photographic work on Instagram at @kannethaa.
Michael Rose is a multi-talented art professional from southern New England. Since 2014 he has been the gallery manager of the historic Providence Art Club, one of the oldest arts organizations in the country. Through his current freelance work, he advises collectors and artists, assesses, teaches, and conducts curatorial projects.
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