After 4 years in Spain, I've recently relocated to the Boulder area of Colorado. Originally from St. Louis and Springfield, most of my adult years have been spent in California, first in San Francisco and then Los Angeles. 

I graduated with a BFA in Theater, Performance & Lighting Design, with a minor in Creative Writing. I also attended many art classes, as well, including photography, using my boyfriend's (now my husband's) Pentax 35mm film camera from the 70s.

After graduation, I put photography aside to work as a professional actor for several years,  in television, independent film projects, commercials and musical theater. During this time, I became proficient with Photoshop, worked on web design and began to develop more intermediate skills for desktop publishing, which led to work as a freelance production artist and graphic designer.

Over the years, highlights include the 2003 American Graphic Designer award for my collaborative work on educational materials for print and screen, work with Apple epubs, and DVD menu design for various New Line and BBC productions. Some of my favorite projects include the artwork for John's music albums, many which have been derived from my photo art, work on the Miss Marple DVD series, and Walking with Dinosaurs motion menu artwork.


I revived my interest in photography during road trips in California with John, who also had a keen interest in black and white photography since his college days. We built a darkroom and collected both new and vintage camera and lens kits to take on our local travels. As a result, I decided to return to school for photography and design. I completed most of the Associate Certificate program at Santa Monica College, finally able to work with large format cameras, color enlargers, studio equipment and to experiment with a variety of chemical and digital processes during my time there. Some of the series work I started during this period was accepted and exhibited in emerging artist group shows and an exhibit at the renowned Jazz Bakery in Culver City.


Over the years, I continued to work in film and theater on various projects, in a variety of roles on set and in pre-production. I served as Producer and Art Director for 2 seasons with the PALM SPRINGS PHOTO FESTIVAL in 2008 and 2009. I joined a shared studio space in downtown Los Angeles, and opened my portrait business not long after, catering to acting professionals and also working with a variety of business professionals and families, in-studio and on location.


In 2014, we moved to Valencia, Spain, for John to advance his studies in Music Technology and to focus full-time on all things audio and music. I left my business and went on hiatus to help us transition to living abroad with our cat family and to spend time assisting my mother, who was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer just as we were moving to a new continent. I chose to set the camera aside, taking only a few assignments for portraiture and design, and working as I could on travel or personal projects. I feel I've been away for a couple of years and am coming back, in some way, to see where new inspiration may take me.

thoughts on my art

While I am drawn to minimalism and abstraction, I also love to play with color and exploring composition. Concepts of identity and memory, as well as significance/insignificance - permanence/impermanence, seem to recur in my own refletions on my work.


Sometimes I feel compelled to capture moments that are really less about a moment in time and more about design and space - maybe space in time. While I focused entirely on capturing people and personalities to a specific purpose in my headshot business, my personal work tends toward objects, spaces, and framing to create a tension between reality and abstraction. I find that I avoid the presence of people and that when I do capture human subjects, I find ways to present them in context to the structures around them or to almost de-anthropomorphize. Looking back at what I shoot, I get a feeling of time-halted or being out of "time." I am drawn to objects and the intersections of things, or creating those intersections by flattening space, in many of my images; where there is a ghosting of humanity, where the hand of humans may be apparent, or even obvious, yet anonymous. Places and events merge as memory fails, reconstructing new memories. Or we are left with fragments of an imperfect recollection.


I enjoy working in both digital and film mediums. While I like the tension between abstract and discerning reality in the framing of my "accidental" photo works, I also enjoy working on complex constructions that rely heavily on photo manipulation and surreal presentations. Many of these images are in progress and I expect to have some ready for publication in the next year. I like the spontaneous work as much as I enjoy producing concept work. And I find that I need a variety of formats to work with in order to keep my mind engaged. I shoot with a variety of tools from digital SLRs, phone cameras, plastic cameras, pinholes occasionally, large and medium format film cameras and a vintage Yashica camera as well. However, given the limitations of my current residency, I rely mostly on my digital SLR, phone camera and a HOLGA for film, at the moment.


These are some of the themes that emerge for me as I review and share some of my libraries of images. I feel the need to organize and present as is usual yet I feel resistant to that process. I believe that some of my images cross series and relate to others...I don't want them to have to exist only in that one categorically defined space... One of my "anthology" ideas with string is to explore the idea of unending series as well as the collective, cumulative nature of artmaking, by asking photographers everywhere to use the same specs to discover their own entities to add to the anthology, as scientists add to catalogs of species.


I believe it may be that inspiration is as collectively created as it is individually done, especially given our extreme saturation of creative sensory material, which will only continue to accelerate with advancing technology. So much is absorbed by our subconscious, how much of what we can create is truly unique? Does it matter?We do not create in a vacuum. And so much of what photography does is to interpret or present people, animals, nature, or objects, and in so doing we are collaborators and would have few creations to show if others hadn't created before us, or chosen to put themselves in front of our lens.


I am also very interested in VR and AR and how this will change our experience with art and each other. 

© Melissa Kolaks Broaddus