Natalie Brasington Reserves Time at The Hallmark Hotel
February 5, 2014
Natalie Brasington is an accomplished advertising and editorial portrait photographer based in New York City and LA, who loves her job and loves collaborating with talent, clients and crew. She is based in New York City and LA but works wherever the work takes her. She has an impressive client list with ads shot for Comedy Central, ads promoting comedy specials that air on Showtime, album covers, and her photography appears in such prestigious publications as Rolling Stone, Entrepreneur, Inc., Sierra Magazine, Time Out New York, Arthritis Today, USA Today, LA Weekly, Details, and Cosmopolitan.com, among others.
Recently while working on an assignment of producing and co-directing a music video for The Grahams. with her photographer-director husband David Johnson, she found a more personal project she wanted to explore. One of the locations the couple used in the music video was the Hallmark Hotel just on the north side of Nashville, Tennessee. The majority of the hotel customers are long-stay residents, living at the hotel for weeks or months at a time.
In addition to her assignments, Brasington works regularly on personal projects and likes to choose subjects where there is something thematic about a group of people such as a hobby, location, or circumstance but photographs everyone with respect to each person as a unique individual. “My goal is to understand a person or group of people beyond their initial appearance and hope that my experience of meeting them comes through in the image,” says Brasington.
The Hallmark Hotel is an old-style motel where many families and individuals find themselves staying for weeks or months at a time due to varying circumstances. Once Brasington started talking to residents, she knew she had to come back and photograph them. Eight weeks after the music video shoot, she returned to Nashville to shoot portraits of the families and kids.
This was not meant to be a study on poverty. The project is not a series of a “type” of people, it a portrait series of diverse individuals who all have something in common- a desire for upward mobility. “I personally feel like poverty is sometimes portrayed and understood in absolutes. We attribute certain qualities and attitudes to an entire socioeconomic group of very diverse families and individuals based on our clichéd idea of ‘those people’. It’s not usually with malicious intent- it’s simply easier to understand anyone when we force them into a mold,” explains Brasington. Regardless of circumstance, everyone is an individual with unique desires and aspirations. “It was interesting, sometimes heart breaking, but there were also many hopeful moments photographing and talking with the families,” she says.
As with all her personal projects, Brasington works to understand a person or group of people beyond any initial appearance. Her imagery cuts to the heart and shatters all the usual stereotyping. With her Canon 1DS Mark III camera and ProFoto D1 Air monolights, Brasington went back to the Hallmark Hotel.
Gaining access and trust are always issues when showing up somewhere as an unannounced stranger with a camera, so Brasington likes to bring her professional portfolio on her ipad with her when shooting personal work. “I want to show the subjects how I plan to photograph them and provide evidence that I have no intention of exploiting or embarrassing anyone,” she says. She showed her portraits and her Crash-A-Rama personal project to the hotel residents to explain herself, and show that she wanted to create interesting and strong portraits of them. She also is very happy to show her subjects the back of the camera and gets mailing addresses to send prints after the shoot.
The Hallmark Hotel project is part of a growing body of work. Brasington will pick herself up and travel to different cities to work on portrait projects. She gets to meet new people, see all kinds of lifestyles and landscapes that energize and inspire her to new creative heights.
Back home in New York City, she is also a proud board member of non-profit Art Start. Art Start is an award-winning organization that uses the arts to transform the lives of at-risk youth. She is now in the process of collaborating with other board members and Art Start staff to create a conceptual portrait project that will focus on the hopes and aspirations of homeless youth living working with Art Start. The Art Start Project will involve dozens of other photographers, stylists and retouchers all coming together to support homeless youth.
Both the personal and the commercial continue to overlap and influence her commercial assignments. The Hallmark Hotel images are part of her “documentary” gallery on PhotoServe.com. You can also see more of her Americana, documentary, entertainment and music work at her site.