Creative Conversations: Brady Fontenot + Dora Budor & Maja Cule
Creative Conversations is an ongoing series that explores design, art and advertising through interviews between Young Guns and other people working in creative fields. Today we hear from photographer Brady Fontenot (YGX) and design/art team D+M (Dora Budor and Maja Cule, YG7).
Their discussion was originally published in the YGX Annual. Stay tuned for more info on the YG11 Call for Entries, opening May 1.
Brady Fontenot: I feel like you guys have created your own little universe in your own way. Each project that you do is like its own different little world.
Dora Budor + Maja Cule: You must think we are crazy!
Brady: No, not at all! I just find your work to be very interesting because it is really different from what I do.
D+M: We started working together back in Croatia during our second year of college where we were both studying design. We saw that we had similar interests so we thought about developing something together. There was this competition to develop a visual identity for an organization. We lost the competition, but we felt that we worked well together. We started working for a lot of cultural institutions, a lot of theaters, galleries, film centers and programs. The design briefs for these were very, very open, so we had a lot of space to experiment. It was really exciting to do these projects. Then we decided to move to New York. When we got here we realized that the scene was completely different. We learned that what we were doing was not really considered design here, but more like art. Basically we couldn’t get a job as designers. [laughs]
Brady: I’m also very interested in how you select your palettes, and your use of color.
D+M: Actually I find that color comes second for us. Back in Croatia, most of the work was printed in black and white. Grey is such a dominant color in Europe. When we travel back there, it’s almost as if the world becomes washed out and desaturated. After we moved to New York we really started to experiment with color. Although it hasn’t been our intention, I find that a lot of our recent work has made use of shades of green.
Brady: Do you often collaborate with other people, or do you work on every step of your project yourselves?
D+M: We really enjoy working with various photographers, musicians and other creatives. It’s great to collaborate with others who are very professional in what they are doing.
So, tell us more about your work. What has been your favorite project in the past year or so?
Brady: I shot two stories for ESPN this year, and one was shot in Milwaukee. ‘Favorite’ might not be the right word, because it was a very heavy story about a WNBA player who was murdered by her ex-girlfriend. I flew to Milwaukee and photographed her family.
D+M: That must’ve been a dramatic experience.
Brady: It was pretty intense. It felt weird because here you are, a stranger in their house during a very emotional time. But they were so open and inviting. It’s weird because these are people I never would’ve met otherwise, and now their story is a part of my life.
D+M: Have you ever been in a situation where you had your camera, but you were reluctant to use it because it felt inappropriate or exploitative?
“I could never be the kind of person who is up in someone’s face with my camera when something bad is going down.”
Brady: Those moments definitely arise, but I could never be the kind of person who is up in someone’s face with my camera when something bad is going down. Not to pass judgment on those who can, but for me it wouldn’t be right. A couple of months ago, there was this jazz musician who had passed away. And here in New Orleans, they always do those ‘second lines’, a full parade through the city with dancing and brass bands following the coffin on a horse-drawn hearse. Photographers are always there shooting these things, and I was there among them. All of a sudden, one of the mourners collapses backwards in grief, and in seconds, there was this young photographer on top of her shooting away. Now I am willing to bet the photographer got some amazing photos, but I just couldn’t be comfortable doing something like that.
D+M: What is the photography and design scene like in New Orleans?
Brady: It’s quite small, but I think it has gotten a lot better in the last few years. If you are a design student just coming out of school, you might want to start your career somewhere else.
Now you guys, your work has a nice little sense of humor underlining it, which I like. You don’t seem to take things too seriously.
D+M: We find that humor is the best self-defense weapon! It’s also a great, refined way of filtering out aggression and other negative feelings, turning them into something better.
Brady: So if the humor comes from aggression, where does the aggression come from?
D+M: I feel like we are just generally very excited about the things we work on. Recently we did a project in Berlin, working with six mixed martial arts fighters. We did this performance with them where they were acting like action movie heroes and interpreting famous action movie scenes. They were basically fighting on a stage for four or five minutes in front of a green screen, with a camera shooting the whole show. Simultaneously there was a projector superimposing actual action movie scenes onto the background. The end result was sort of like filming and screening a movie at the same time.