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One of my former Duke students wrote to me that, before seeing my work, “It had never occurred to [him] that contemporary photography could be used as a tool of inquiry into the past.” Perhaps my work could be better defined as fitting into a new field of visual public history. I live to fully immerse myself in the exploration of the use of photography “as a tool of inquiry into the past.”
My original training centered on the history of musical instruments through the ages, in particular the technical and social history of the cello in Britain. I did the bulk of my doctoral research traveling around Britain by bike and train, all the while lugging camera equipment, notebooks, and camping gear. By day I’d be in libraries, museums, or historic sites, and by night I’d be in my little tent writing up my notes. I became obsessed with this sort of on-the-ground, academic and visual history detective work.
Even today I still look to my mentors from Oxford for inspiration – Dr. Helene La Rue and Mr. Jeremy Montagu – two of the finest brains I have ever encountered. Dr. La Rue was very concerned with context in her social history work. Mr. Montagu is still concerned with minute details easily overlooked but which reveal a tremendous amount of information. Perhaps you will see some of these influences in the work you see here in my online gallery.
DR. BRENDA SCOTT is an art photographer based in Durham, NC. She has been making photographs since elementary school. Also trained as a cellist and organologist (one who specializes in the history and development of musical instruments), she worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum for just over 10 years before becoming a freelance photographer.
Her "Stagville: Black & White" exhibit was shown at the NC Museum of History, a Smithsonian affiliate, for 11 months. Afterward, the exhibit was exhibited at the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, NC, through December of 2015. In January 2016 it became part of the permanent holdings of the Southern Historical Collections at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Currently, she has another exhibit at the West Library in Asheville through the end of December: “The Mountains are Calling: At Home in Western North Carolina (c.1790-1830). This exhibit will be in Raleigh at the Capitol Building, January through May. She is working on an exhibit to be shown at the Brunswick Town state historic site and the Museum of the Cape Fear called, "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean"; a photographic exploration of connections between the Piedmont region of North Carolina and Scotland, using as its starting point the legendary Flora MacDonald. Scott received an Alice Horsman Scholarship from Somerville College, Oxford, to assist with this project.
Scott earned her doctorate at the University of Oxford (Somerville College) and holds degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University.
I am a photographer because I cannot imagine spending my life doing anything else.
Photography has always been a part of my life. My parents introduced the art to me, even taking me to meet Ansel Adams when I was a child. However, until recently, it did not strike me that photography could be my profession.
Now I want to work as a photographer until I can no longer work at anything. Originally I studied music, and my greatest cello teacher taught me that there are at least five ways to play every musical phrase. His words echo in my mind as I work with my camera, guiding me to look at scenes in many ways.
Visual exploration is my adventure. I get lost in visual experience and feel as if I am a part of something much larger than myself – as if stories merely flow through me. This is the magical moment when I am both created and creator.
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I use all archivally graded inks and papers for my limited editions and choose my favorite paper for each image. The life of your print will depend on how it is displayed or stored. The combinations of inks and papers I use are rated to last between >218 and >250 years if displayed under glass with a UV filter, depending on the paper. Prints displayed with out the filter are rated between >95 and >200 years, depending on the paper. Prints displayed without any glass at all are rated between >58 and >70 years, depending on the paper and lighting conditions. Please feel free to ask about your individual print if you have any questions.
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