Brigid Lally

Brigid Lally

Photographer, Salty, Transplant

A lifelong photographer and surfer, Brigid Lally has felt irresistibly drawn to the ocean since pretty much day one – after all, her first word was “agua.” Though born and raised in NYC, Brigid fell in love with the quaint town of Saltaire, NY and traded coasts for sunny Ventura to follow her passion. She uses visual storytelling to convey the complex and age-old relationship between humans and the sea.

Current Project: “Salt Stains”

A series of film portraits depicting surfers ‘pre’ and ‘post’ surf. Each pairing is meant to represent the physical transformation of sea water on the human body over time. They are a visual translation of the feeling ocean salt leaves on our skin. Head to our blog for an interview with Brigid about the series.

This project is an interesting translation of the tactile to the visual, was there an incident that inspired it? If not, what motivated you to shoot this particular series? The project was inspired by happy accidents and was born out of the intersection of my love for photography and the ocean.

Despite my compliance to the digital age and its demands, I still gravitate towards the aesthetic and the process of film. Film has a level of undeniable authenticity. There is something refreshing in the time spent shooting film and not knowing entirely what you will get back. Each frame is a decisive moment not endless frames on automated settings. There is a large margin for error but there is also an opening invitation for beautiful accidents. I shoot most of my in water work with an underwater 35mm camera from the 1960’s called the nikonos. I love these cameras but I’ve had a few flood on me in the past. When the film is processed , the ocean water leaves interesting patterns on the physical frames. Many would consider the roll ruined but if anything I think the 'damage' adds to the process. I love how the salt stains call attention to the physicality of film. We often forget the tangible process of photography. I wanted to create a portrait series that somehow captured this idea. “Salt stains” became an attempt to translate the feeling salt leaves on our skin.

You focus in on personal moments of an individual’s experience, even (or especially) when they’re not alone. How do you get your subject in front of the camera to appear on film the way you want it?

I wanted my portraits to be an honest portrayal of my subjects and their relationship with the ocean by photographing them ‘pre’ and ‘post’ surf. The two portraits of each subject together are meant to represent the transformative happenings of time spent in the sea. Each person is photographed on film to which I later implement light leaks & salt staining. I wanted my photographic process to speak to the imagery. For each portrait session I would shoot one roll of portraits on medium format before and one roll after surfing. I would also swim out with my subjects in between ‘pre’ & ‘post’ surf portraits and shoot a roll of 35mm in the water so I too would be part of the process.

You incorporate what some would call creative “mistakes” into your work, like varying levels of exposure and salt water spots on the physical film, which enhances this project especially. How did you come upon this process?

Circling back to how the project was inspired - these “mistakes” I like to call “happy accidents” because this is the joy of film - you never fully know what you’re going to get - especially if you open the back of the camera mid roll or soak your film in salt water.

What surprised you the most during the course of shooting for this project? Is there a story behind a particular shot you’d especially like to share?

This project has opened me up to so many people and I am so thankful to them for letting me into their lives and allowing me to photograph them in this way. As a photographer, I want to translate this feeling we are not ready to give up when the wave dies out or it’s time to go home. I wanted this series to reflect the pleasure the sea affords us – the beauty and process.