Interview with Brandon Thibodeaux: Critical Mass 2013 Solo Exhibition Winner

Brandon Thibodeaux, Choo Choo and His Bible, Alligator, MS 2012

Today, we’re pleased to share an interview with another of the 2013 Critical Mass Solo Exhibition Award winners, Brandon Thibodeaux. Brandon was awarded an exhibition in January 2015 at the Griffin Museum of Photography. We thought it would be nice to talk to each of these wonderful artists about their work and process. We always enjoy hearing the stories behind the work. Photolucida’s Laura Valenti Jelen posed the questions, and Brandon was gracious enough to share candid thoughts about his life as a photographer. To see more of Brandon’s stunning images, please visit his website.

A solo exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery is one of the awards for Critical Mass 2014.
Registration for Critical Mass is open until July 16th. Don’t miss it!

LVJ: How did you get started with photography? Tell us a little bit about your photo background and how you came to fall in love with the medium.

BT: I discovered photography in college after spending my teenage years battling cancer. I was fumbling in school then. I knew I wanted to live and learn and explore the world but I just couldn’t find my voice.

Photography introduced me to all walks of life and allowed me to interpret my experiences in a tangible way. With time the relationship between my curiosities about life and this chosen medium grew stronger and I eventually graduated with a degree in photojournalism and international development. Today I freelance as an editorial and commercial photographer in Dallas, TX.

LVJ: Tell us about your subject. What drew you to create a body of work about the Delta?

BT: For the past five years I’ve photographed a number of small communities in the Mississippi Delta. I’ve grown close to a few families out there and it’s their lives and the world around them that I photograph. The Delta is not short on photographic projects, some document its poverty others may focus on its blues music, but I wanted to show the dignity and tenderness that I was experiencing in the lives of folks. Those relationships are what keep me going back. Their stories of trials and triumph have captivated me.

LVJ: Being an artist isn’t always easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered on your creative path?

BT: I don’t know if I can call myself an artist. Ninety percent of what I do is for hire but I think the challenge I face is the same regardless. The main challenge is staying true to myself and having confidence in what it is that I do, how I choose to interpret the world. As a working photographer it is easy to look around and see your counterparts getting good assignments, making more money, and wish you were doing the same. The hard part is reminding yourself that the only way to make good work is by doing your work.

LVJ: How did winning the solo exhibition impact your career?

BT: My relationship with Photolucida has been invaluable as an emerging photographer. Between Critical Mass and the portfolio review I’ve managed to get my work in front of key people, make enduring personal relationships, and become a part of what I feel like is a large family. It’s the support of that family that has encouraged and steered me as I navigate my career.

LVJ: What drives you to create? What are you most passionate about with photography?

BT: For me photography is about building relationships and telling stories. My personal work has always had a sprinkling of self discovery mixed within documentary pursuits. I think that’s why I’m so enticed by portraiture, and long form narratives that allow me the time to develop intimate relationships with the people I’m photographing. I tend to leave behind as much as I take away.

LVJ: What are you working on now? 

BT: I just won the New Orleans Photo Alliance’s Michael P. Smith grant this month. That financial support allowed me to return to Mississippi recently to fill in some holes in my project. I’m reviewing that work now and am in the beginning stages of editing the book proposal to send out to potential publishers. Fingers crossed someone out there will actually open the envelop.

LVJ: What’s another interest of yours, outside of photography (something we might be surprised to learn about you)? 

BT: I like to bake pies. My last pie was a ginger pear pie and I make my own crust. Here’s a good tartine recipe I found the other day. I also love karaoke. My songs are, Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness, and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. I pretty much bring down the house.

LVJ: Love it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Brandon! 

[Check out Brandon’s karaoke skills, in action!]

Brandon Thibodeaux, Maw Maw’s New Braids, Duncan, MS 2009
Brandon Thibodeaux, Christmas Angel, Mound Bayou, MS 2010 
Brandon Thibodeaux, ‘Mississippi 662’, Duncan, MS 2012