“Buried in the Back Yard” by Dawndra Budd
by Anna Mroczkowski
photos by Dawndra Budd
Dawndra Budd is a Seattle-based photographer. She loves the dark, strange and unusual as much as she loves capturing the firefly spirited lights behind the eyes of children and animals. Her photos often are deeply narrative, especially with a whiskey (broken heart, shotgun, horse head or stuffed rooster in tow) to help ease your version of the story out of the dense back-lit fog of Dawndra’s raw creativity. She has a real knack for creating beautiful harmonies out of misfit components. Her propensity to tango with complicated or paradoxical themes especially with her female characters is compelling and only getting more potent.A
“If I could make a self-portrait that wasn’t of myself, this is how I feel today.”
Why do you take photographs?
I am constantly compelled to. I used to think of it as a diary of sorts. I love all kinds of photography, digital, iPone, film. It’s just fun! I feel like it’s both an escape from reality and also a huge reality check. I would rather be taking photos than anything else.
When did you first get into photography?
Not until I was in college at age 19. I took a class every quarter at Central, then switched over to Evergreen where there was an amazing photo program. I worked in the darkroom as a job and on my personal stuff. I taught a summer black and white class after I graduated, then worked in a darkroom in Aspen.
I did a lot of skateboarding photography and got published doing that more than anything I’ve done in the last few years. I never put the camera down after graduating, but I didn’t get really serious until the last 7 years.
I have taken 3 or 4 classes at PCNW
on Capital hill, it’s a lovely school. Learning in photography is never-ending. I also love Creative Live
, free online courses available for purchase if you miss it:)
I consider myself self-taught though in a way, because when digital came around, I had to slowly teach myself Photoshop and reshape myself into the digital world before you tube and the amazing online availability for education there is today.
What is it about photography that you connect with as an artistic medium?
I like that I can document things in a real or a surreal way. I like that it can be used as an artistic outlet, and also as a means to make people really happy. That is why I also enjoy family photos, and especially working with kids. They change so fast, so its really important to document.
Then there are projects like Homeless in Seattle where photography is used as a tool to show people beauty and truly help people.
Pappa Joey. His dog got stolen in the middle of the night right before we met him. And he had a stroke. He loves West Seattle. Loves playing guitar and singing even with his left hand not working as well after his stroke. Despite his hard times, he said to Melissa and I …..”People dont want to hear you bitch. Always leave a kind word.”
“First time I met Harriet and Virginia. Nicklesville.”
“Duncun. Loves to talk and is very smart.”
“Jeffry Hill. About to graduate from the Bread of Life Mission. Amazing guy to chat with.”
“Abraham. Amazing dude. First lived in Seattle 2,000 years ago. He realized this when he got here from Somalia. He also is residing at the Bread of life and fancies himself the security guard on the block.”
“If you see this guy in Pioneer Square, his name is Al. Hes an artist from Alabama. Say hello!”
What’s your secret to being such a cool lady?!
Ha ha! I guess I just like people, so I’m easy to get along with. And I have learned that I am who I am, so I’m not afraid to put myself out there with my art. Well, in most cases :) I like to have a good time. Try to fill every day with something cool. My dog is definitely cool.
Dawndra’s dog Bruce is defintely cool
Last year you went through a difficult loss. Did photography help you get through it?
Yes, loosing my cousin is extremely difficult still. I won’t know now. I saw it quite a while later when I lost my mom. I could see it in my work. I was in a class a few months after she passed away, (nobody in my class knew me or what had happened) and in a critique someone said, “I feel like these photos are all of your mother somehow. They are extremely sad.” I lost it. One thing is for sure, it makes me more prolific somehow. I can’t just sit around and cry, I need an outlet.
Lisa Coronado is one of your muses, what are some reasons why you like working with her so much?
I met Lisa Coronado around 10 years ago and we got a long right away. She had an adorable pregnant belly. She is incredibly easy to get along with, and she and I work great together and have fun while were doing it. She is always down to get creative. She is a doll. I would love to publish a book of just HER someday.
How do you use editing tools to shape your art?
I love working in Photoshop. Lighting a few candles, and listening to music. I couldn’t be happier. I usually have the idea in my head before the shoot, but anything can change during it. A few months back, I had an actress in my chair for a head shot. I had just bought this little antique chair that was inspiring me. So I asked her if she wanted to go off the road for a few photos. She was super excited.
Very off the cuff. ha ha. Thanks Lauryn Hochberg!
How would you describe your style of photography?
I guess I describe my style as dark and maybe surreal. I always make up a little story in my head about what is happening or has happened to my subject. I think most people have some beauty and some darkness, some toughness inside them, and I aim to find it. I love that combination.
Do you have any favorite photographers?
Rex Hohlbein! Homeless in Seattle! His personal work (besides the very amazing homeless in Seattle) is beautiful!
I love the classics, Diane Arbus is amazing! She kills me! Looking at the books next to my now, Imogen Cunningham, WeeGee, Annie Leibovitz, Loretta Lux, Nowadays there are a trillion great artists! I am loving Alain Laboile lately, Jennifer Hudson, Brook Shaden, Joey L. I could go on and on!
What’s your dream job?
Follow a circus to photograph all of the animals and people as well as all of the little towns and things I see along the way. But in the 40s.
Who is your dream subject to shoot?
I just keep picturing Ryan Gosling. Go back to that question. Ha ha.
Any upcoming shows?
I’ll be hanging at Circa in West Seattle in February
We ask everyone: Looking back at your younger self, what piece of advice would you give her?
To my younger self I would say, PICK UP THIS AWESOME CAMERA girl!
AFA has been fortunate enough to rope Dawndra into a few of our projects. These are some highlights over the last couple years. For more info on how to collaborate with Dawndra or book a session, or to view more photographs, head over to her website or Facebook.
Mike Illvester & Adra Boo of Fly Moon Royalty
Musical duo, Fly Moon Royalty
Portrait of AFA co-founders Anna & Lisa
Beat & Visual Maker, Chocolate Chuck
Beat & Visual Maker, Chocolate Chuck
Promo shot fot the film “Revelation”
From the set of the film “Revelation”