Brandi and Deziree are photographic artists and best friends from Southern California, USA. They have almost 14 years of experience in shooting film, and they are currently working together on a project titled 'Women in Love'. They started their journey with film photography back in college when they decided to capture photos for their classes using analogue mediums.
Perhaps it is the title or the fact that more of us are withdrawing from a heteronormative society that led me to assume this project is about queer love between women. It turns out the project covers the subject of love that women have for one another, especially in friendships. A brief conversation with Fox made me realise that the topic of love in this project is expansive and non-exclusive.
"Art is interpreted differently by everyone, and if anyone feels like it's more than just friendship, then that's okay.”
Brandi and Deziree share the opinion that art is open for interpretation, and that is the very beauty of it.
As an artist myself, I understand the intimidation that comes with making art with another person. Your art consists of parts of yourself. Your art embodies your thoughts, your emotions, and your persona. Therefore, inviting another person to have a look at yourself deeper can be a daunting and vulnerable experience. Without trust and safety, this cannot be achieved.
Women in Love captures the authenticity of friendships that Fox and Boeldt have with each other, as well as with other women. Friendships that are safe spaces; friendships in which vulnerability is empowering.
In a society where the word intimacy is often associated with sex, Fox and Boeldt’s project shows how that very same emotion appears when it is shared between friends. The theme of intimacy can be observed in moments where their emotions are bleeding, as they hold onto each other, and in images where they are comfortable to exist naked in front of each other.
DB: We wanted to show this other side, this other spectrum of love that is available; that is not with just family or a lover or a partner, but with friendships.
One of the inspirations behind Women in Love is Brandi and Deziree’s late friend Nadia, whom they both cite as being their muse. Although the project was pursued briefly before Nadia’s passing, they decided to continue it to honour her memory. Therefore, allowing them both to process grief and heal. In other words, Women in Love became a ritual of release.
The way they introduced Nadia to me sent chills down my spine. They trusted me, welcomed me into their space with open arms, and drew me a portrait of their loved one with only memories. At that moment, I felt like a part of their art.
DB: We started this project by playing around with the idea [of the project], but we were never really committed. We weren’t determined to see it through. Any project we start, we never finish. But because she [Nadia] always encouraged us so much when she was alive, and she always wanted to push us to see how far we can go with something, she kept telling us that we can do great things if we just applied ourselves. She was such a good motivator that we decided after her passing that photographing in her honour made us feel good. It was cathartic and healing towards her passing.
BF: She as a friend was something else. When she met anyone (that she liked, of course), she would be like ‘oh you are so beautiful' ‘I love your hair; I like how its falling right here..’ She would really encourage basically anyone; she was a beautiful soul.
DB: She was an amazing artist herself. So, a lot of our inspiration comes from the energy that we felt with her. When we go out to photograph, she would be like “go in that river .. get wet .. it might be freezing, but do it! Do it for the art!”
Brandi Fox and Deziree Boeldt, along with their friends Chelsea Wiley and Cynthia Ramirez.
Growing up in a small town, Brandi and Deziree were not able to find many places that appealed to them as photoshoot locations. So they learned to adapt by using ‘small pockets of nature’ as backdrops. Brandi notes that it is hard for them both to not photograph in nature as it is a huge part of their creativeness. They draw inspiration from nature, despite its location. Whether it's behind a housing track or vegetation, they can find inspiration and make it work.
BF: We could honestly walk down the street and if there is a bush or something, we would be like ‘look at the beautiful bush, let’s take a picture there.’ We also get obsessed with these spots —we are obsessed with a spot right now, where we have gone a few times and are not sick of it. We try to find places that are more secluded.
DB: Its so much better when nature spots are secluded because then we could photograph nude and there’s less distraction so that we can really get in to it and we can let our guards down. We are not hyper aware of what’s going on around us. Instead, we are more aware of each other and the energy that we are sharing with each other.
The photograph that introduced me to project Women in Love
There is a silent language between you and art. It comes out through your eyes and your energy. Great pieces of art stimulate emotions deep within us that cannot be communicated through words. Some make you want to cry, some make you want to move, and some make you want to touch it with the gentlest motion, like caressing a cheek with your thumb.
One look at this picture and I was in a trance. In my mind, I had named it Shadow Work. For me, it represents a new life walking out of its past, shadow self. Everyone I have shared this photograph with has come up with their own and unique interpretations. Once again, adding to Brandi and Deziree’s view that interpretation is a sine qua non of art.
Ironically, this photograph was initially a disappointment to both artists. It had not turned out the way they had intended for it. Brandi and Deziree say that they sometimes set high expectations for what they create, and therefore, disappointment becomes a part of the process. Though, over-time, they have come to like it more.
BF: It symbolises the times where one of us is going through a really hard time but the other one is there for support and to hold the hand of the other person. So we were purposeful in the colours of what we were wearing and what that symbolised.
DB: We both have battled with depression and anxiety for a lot of our lives. We have been there for each other during those times and pulled ourselves out of this dark cloud that we were in mentally. So we wanted her [Brandi] to lead in the image. We wanted to make it about the light pulling the darkness away, so her leading me into light.