In 1992 my love of New Mexico drew me to Taos, where I now reside. As a documentary photographer, I am drawn to portraying places, people and things we are apt to ignore as empty, old, or broken, in order to re-open our eyes to their beauty and the impact of natural and man-made forces. I have done photographic studies of the high desert plains decimated by the dust storms of the 1930s; landscapes that have been ravaged by fire, drought and insects; the surgical scars on a woman undergoing breast cancer treatment; and the changing appearance of a man dying of AIDS. My images pay homage to all the atrocities that leave us uncomprehending, vulnerable, and irretrievably sad, and to the beauty, truth and encouragement of the irrepressible persistence of nature. They express culture, story and cause, which become icons of a place remembered or imagined. My diverse body of work, ranging from portrait to documentary, and natural landscape to urban scenes, provides an enduring testament to the transformative processes of our world.
My video work has focused on documenting and preserving cultural traditions and the stories that gather around places. The first documentary, The New Neighbor, explored the memories and artifacts of Dennis Hopper’s years in Taos, the cultural conflicts that occurred during the “hippie invasion” of the 1970s, and the cross-fertilization that resulted. The second video documentary presented a visual and oral history of Black Mountain College, an experimental school in North Carolina that gathered artists and intellectuals escaping Nazism and fostered important cultural and artistic developments in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. After many other short videos, in 2016 I completed a feature length documentary about the artist Agnes Martin, one of the most important artists of the 20th century. She was a beloved resident of Taos and contributor to our community.
The series We Bury our Own documents the return to home funerals and burials by family and friends. Living in Taos, many of us are transplants from other communities around the country and have formed our own sense of “family” and belonging. It is through this belonging that new and old rituals come together to form new traditions.
Drawn to visual art from an early age, Kathleen Brennan (b. 1955) began photographing seriously at the age of 15. In 1973, she moved to Albuquerque where she completed a degree in photography from University of New Mexico. In the past decade she has completed residencies at Grand Canyon National Park (2013, 2014 & 2015) and Bandelier National Monument (2017, 2018), all centered around fire and drought’s impact to the communities and nature’s reaction and adaptation to these changes. Brennan has lived in the high desert of New Mexico for over 40 years and witnesses these changes in the place she calls home.