Feathers, Lashes, and Courtney Brooke Hall

by jennine on November 24, 2008

If you think Courtney Brooke Hall‘s work looks familiar, that’s because it probably is. She’s the latest darling of internet fashion photography, her clients include Bona Drag, Mama Stone, Lulie Vintage, and she also has photographed one of my favorite bands, Bat for Lashes. Her photos are rich with style and romance… and when I interviewed her, I was pleased to find her to be inspiring not just with her imagery, but with her willingness to share her inspiration.

The Coveted: Can you tell us what you’re obsessing on these days?
Courtney Brooke: So much.  Firstly now that it’s freezing out, sitting almost inside our fireplace with the dogs and cats, reading a ton of Joseph Campbell, eating pumpernickel toast with raspberry jam. On the stereo there has been a lot of Grails, Pink Floyd, Henry Mancini’s Touch of Evil soundtrack, and I can never get enough of Steely Dan. I am hooked on the photo spreads in Vogue Italy.  Feathers!! put them on everything and anything. I am like a cat, I need feathers!!  I am also hooked on bottom lashes, painting them or sticking them on. As far as visual stimulation, I have been wanting to do nothing but watch Jean Rollin vampire films, Twin Peaks, and the Superman Movies.

TC: How did you get into photography? Are you self taught, or did you get the full photo education?
CB: I think [photography] was a cross between a giant accident and the need to have what I thought was an easy medium for my outlandish ideas. I was never very good at my art classes whether it was sculpture or drawing, I always thought I was sub-par, and could not efficiently get out  the ideas floating around in my head. I had found, yes found, an old canon AE-1 when I was in high school and signed myself up for some photo classes. The teacher I had was amazing and she pointed me in the direction of non-traditional artists that, being 16 at the time, totally blew my mind. The Starn Brothers, Sally Mann, Veruschka… and she was this crazy hippie throw back who herself was into making installation art. I was inspired by her and just started going from there. I found myself taking ideas from literature and folklore, my record collection, the bird sanctuary near my house, and the old family photos in my parents basement from the 20′s-70′s. I did the college thing for a little while but never actually focused in photography. I mostly wanted to keep my addiction to photos and growth as an artist to myself.

TC: Do you prefer digital or film?
Digital is a lot of fun and, well it’s cheap. People always argue that one is better than the other, I personally think they both have a place. I will always love film though. I think if you learn how to use film first, understand what photography is all about and how it works, and spend time in a dark room you will be that much better at digital. I shoot digital with a film approach.

TC: Your photos have a distinct 70′s feel to them, is there a story behind this? Like growing up in a commune?  Or your mom was a huge Stevie Nicks fan?

CB: I think I am far more interested in the 70′s than my parents ever were. Being able to look back in time objectively allows us to hunt down the positive aspects of time periods. The 70′s do appeal to me, but more as a reference point to now. I am very into the 70′s aesthetic, but now is a really interesting time to take the positive things from the past and refine them into something even more amazing. The area I live in is still very rural and has really been shaped by communes and the sort of youthful reinvention of the 60s and 70s, so its a great place for me to stay inspired.

TC: I see you have worked with Mama Stone Vintage and Bona Drag… where are some other places we can catch your work?
CB: Yeah I have, they are both wonderful ladies too, I might add. I also worked with Lullie Vintage, South Paradiso Leather, Daughter of the Sun, RODEL LA, and I have done work with some bands too, like Witch, Greg Weeks and Language of Stone Records, Ilya Monosov, EX Reverie, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Feathers, Bat for Lashes… the list goes on and on. I love working for trades and artists I respect. I love good vintage pieces too, so that’s made working with some of the vintage places a lot of fun too.

TC: Who’s your favorite photographer and why?
CB: This is a hard question for me, I don’t find myself being drawn to one photographer over another. I have favorite artists more than photographers. I love Mucha, Arthur Rackham, Waterhouse, Frank Frazetta, I also love the photos in old Playboys, but there are so many photographers that took part in that I can’t pick them out really. It’s really about appreciating certain things whether it be art or nature, and using a camera as a tool to demonstrate that appreciation.

TC: Can you give any tips to any aspiring photographers who might be reading this?
CB: Well first decide if you want to be an artist or a photographer, there is a big difference. Know what you love, it’s important to have passions about things, lots of things. Take a color theory class. Read lots of good books. Most importantly study the things that you love and figure out why and then incorporate them into your work, not just what photographers you like, but everything. Be just as inspired by your dinner as you are by art.

TC: What are you doing tonight?
CB: Going out with my man Chris, and our friends Robin and Dave, and if I am lucky their over sized-pooch Cyril. Getting some yummy vegan treats and trying not to freeze.

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Ashe Mischief November 24, 2008 at 6:34 am

Her quote about choosing whether you want to be an artist or a photographer is so well put and oft forgotten. It was almost surprising to read, but I couldn’t help but not my head in agreement..

jennine November 24, 2008 at 6:37 am

oh i agree whole heartedly on that too… as i often like art photography, in my own life i feel like i’m just documenting… i’d like to branch out… it’s just not realistic at this time… hopefully soon!

Chic Looks November 24, 2008 at 6:53 am

she seems really nice, there’s a vintage feel to her pictures which i think is just beautiful

Mina Widding November 24, 2008 at 7:47 am

Beautiful pictures, thank you for letting her be known to me :)

susie_bubble November 24, 2008 at 7:57 am

Fantastic work and interview….

Lindsey November 24, 2008 at 8:13 am

She is amazing, very inspirational and well spoken. A true talent.

Miss Glitzy November 24, 2008 at 9:59 am

Great work and interesting interview. Thanks a lot.

Market Publique November 24, 2008 at 9:59 am

Oh wow! What amazing work! I loved the Lullie Vintage shoot she did with all the balloons. Amazing!

Grace November 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

Awesome interview. She has such a mod look. She is totally channelling the likes of Twiggy, Peggy Moffat and Jean Shrimpton.

thealchemist November 24, 2008 at 10:27 am

oh my! thanks for this interview, i love her work so much…

jennine November 24, 2008 at 11:55 am

Oh lovely I’m glad you all love the interview! She really is a great talent…

alixrose November 24, 2008 at 5:18 pm

i LOVE her photography. I almost feel like I have opened an old 70′s magazine and these were the wonderful pictures inside.

The umbrella one and the heart one.. perfection.

Sandra November 24, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Although Mama Stone’s vintage choices are not my preferred style, I always admired the photography. It’s nice to put a name with the work. Great interview!

Songy November 26, 2008 at 1:12 am

because it’s not just art or technique.. I’m always fascinated by photograf interviews.

letslivefast November 26, 2008 at 4:29 pm

wow this is such a great post.
the photographs are just beautiful!

MizzJ November 27, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Beautiful photos! She seems like a very interesting, down-to-earth person.

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