Not only does photographer Brittany Cossette have to worry about exposure in terms of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, but also, as a senior in fine arts she’s building exposure for her photos themselves.
Cossette’s photo titled “Something I Need” was recently accepted into an international juried show, “Faces,” which will be presented by the Darkroom Gallery in Essex Junction, Vt., at the end of this year. “Something I Need” was one of over 800 entries submitted to the show, and Cossette is one of 59 artists selected for inclusion.
The photo was taken for an assignment as part of a studio lighting class as a way to explore how different lighting can invoke different emotions, feelings or attitudes in a photograph, Cossette explained. She decided to use her now-boyfriend as her model and wanted the lighting to invoke an “aggressive” look, emphasizing a scar on her subject’s forehead.
“I loved that photo from the start so I knew I wanted to find a portrait show that I could get it into,” Cossette said. She is a member of callforentry.org, an online network of public art projects, artist fellowships and juried visual-arts competitions that allows artists to easily explore exhibitions across the country that are looking for entries.
Cossette entered four or five photos into the exhibit and after a little over a week she received notification from the exhibit’s juror, Elizabeth Avedon, that “Something I Need” was accepted. Cossette has had work featured in online galleries as well as being part of shows on campus, but “Faces” will be the first physical gallery showing outside of school that Cossette will have an accepted photo displayed.
“I feel like this happening my senior year, it’s like a launching point for me and it’s gaining momentum for me after I leave school that this is what I need to keep doing,” Cossette said. “I just have to keep getting my work out there and letting people see it.”
Growing up, Cossette always knew she wanted to be an artist and became interested in fashion design in high school. Moving away to California to pursue a career in fashion design was too intimidating upon high school graduation, so Cossette began to look into other ways she could get involved in the fashion industry, which brought her to photography.
She started out with a more commercial approach to her photography, but through her schooling has been inspired to stay more on the fine arts side and just make art to sell it, not necessarily commercial work.
“I like to push the boundaries of the medium I’m working with,” she said, calling her work “experimental.” For a landscape photography assignment, Cossette decided that rather than going outside she would bring foliage into the darkroom, lay it on a flatbed scanner and create a silhouette.
Cossette credits MSUM’s art department with helping her become the artist and person she is today. “Every single person in this art department is so, so valuable, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “I’ve had such a well-rounded education, and I know for a fact if I didn’t come to school I wouldn’t be making anything like this. It’s not just about the art… they just make you into such a well-rounded person.”
Cossette plans on attending graduate school to receive her master’s in fine arts. The only question is when. She has the option to stay at MSUM for another year after graduation to complete the certificate program, which is an “intensive one year study in one medium.” She is also debating taking a year off in order to build a strong body of work to help her get accepted into a top graduate school.
After spending a month in New York City as a part of the “New York Art Experience” last summer, Cossette has been looking into the School of Visual Arts in New York. “As an artist it’s kind of hard to imagine surviving in this area of the country and making a real living on it, but I’ve always been shy of the idea of going to a bigger city because I grew up in a town of, like, 2,000 people, and I’m scared, and it’s just really intimidating,” she said.
However, after being immersed in the big city for a month, she was able to get a feel for what life therewould be like.
“I got to know the hustle and bustle and it really gave me confidence that I could live there and survive there… It was really inspiring and encouraging that making a living off art isn’t a completely absurd or a crazy idea,” she said.
“Faces” opens Thursday with an artist reception Jan. 5.
BY ALISON SMITH