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Odette England ( Odette England uses photography, performance, writing, and the archive to explore themes of autobiography, gender, and ritual.England is an Artist-in-Residence at Amherst College in Massachusetts. She is also a resident artist of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program in New York. Her work has shown in more than 100 solo, two-person, and group exhibitions worldwide. England has regularly received funding through competitive grants and fellowships. These include the CENTER $5,000 Project Launch Award (2012); two grants – $4,865 and $2,315 – from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2018-2019); and the Anonymous Was a Woman $1,500 Grant (2020), among others. She has received fellowships to attend residencies in Australia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Spain, and the United States including the invitation-only Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency working with Guggenheim Fellow, Jennifer Garza-Cuen. Radius Books will publish their first collaborative photographic monograph Past Paper // Present Marks including essays by Susan Bright, David Campany, and Nicholas Muellner. England’s first edited volume Keeper of the Hearth was published by Schilt Publishing in March 2020, with a foreword by Charlotte Cotton. The book is part of England’s Winter Garden Photograph project. England received a four-year fully-funded Research Training Program Scholarship to complete her PhD at the Australian National University in 2018. She also has an MFA in Photography with Honors from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MA in Communication, Culture and Language from the University of South Australia. England is a permanent US resident and lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island and New York City. Her work is represented in the US (east coast only) by Klompching Gallery.


LACP Interviews Odette England

LACP asks Odette England ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography.

LACP: What kind of photographer are you?

Odette England : My photographic work focuses on home, autobiography, land, and gender. My parent’s former dairy farm and the snapshots made by my extended family serve as raw materials and inspiration for my work. I often manipulate my negatives and prints by hand, interfering with their surfaces. I use expired film, broken cameras, and tainted chemistry. I like disrupting the surface of photographs. Many of the images I create are unique.

LACP: How long have you been shooting?

OE: I made my first photograph when I was nine years old, using mom’s Kodak Instamatic. But I remember from the age of about four watching dad make images of his calves with his Polaroid SX-70 every year during calving season. That was how I started to learn photography: by observing how he behaved and performed with this strange, wonderful mechanical device that made odd sounds and spat out pieces of glossy paper that smelled funny. I’ve made photographs ever since.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

OE: I studied painting, photography, communication culture, and statistics, among other subjects, at colleges and universities in Australia, the UK, and the USA. But ‘learning’ photography happens as much through everyday informal interactions and conversations as it did in a classroom. Some of the most valuable training comes through experimentation, listening, storytelling, being physical with tools, being defiant with materials, saying yes, upending preciousness. Giving in to wishes and desires about what to photograph and when, challenging photographic norms. Treating the camera as a space of vast possibility, promise, and joy. I can’t imagine not training; it’s ongoing. I read, write, and watch voraciously, and not just art and photography-related materials. My eyes and mind can be honed and sharpened in almost any setting.

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

OE: Photography for me is many things: a reason, a question, a distraction, a connection, a frustration, a lover, an escape. It’s just one part of life I’m devoted to.

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

OE: Not yet!

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

OE: I’ve made many choices and compromises; I’ve prioritized photography over other activities, and I’ve abandoned things I like in exchange for what I love. Provided that I’m never sacrificing who I am, my values, or endangering the health and wellbeing of others, I’m content. I don’t miss whatever I’ve forfeited along the way.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

OE: So many things: friendship, knowledge, spirit, discipline, self-expression. How to look at things differently. I’ve met some of the most exciting and impressionable people through photography.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

OE: I’m teaching a course called ‘Playing with Pictures’, which focuses on collage, the archive, collecting, and appropriation related to contemporary photography.

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

OE: Have you ever seen someone’s face when they’ve made a ‘something’ – be it a photograph, sculpture, poem – that does exactly the thing they want it to, but also surprises and delights them, and sparks new ideas? That moment of discovery, among many other such moments. You’re surrounded by passion, imagination, and intelligence. You get to celebrate milestones with others. You get to nourish curiosity and creativity. Making art is a critical way in which we can contribute to building just, resilient, and inclusive societies.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

OE: Be fearless, inquisitive, skeptical, collaborative, and generous. Be open to ideas from any and all angles. Learn rules, break them, then establish your own rules. Be genuine and authentic. Listen to your voice and the voices of others. Make and value community.