Peek into the studio and process of Edie Bresler (Photography Finalist ’11), an MCC-funded photographer and faculty member in the Art and Music Department at Simmons College, as she prepares a public art project in Somerville, this December.
A large part of my practice involves being out in the world with my camera and digital sound recorder. I shoot mostly with a 4×5 view camera and a DSLR depending on the subject. Since all my printing is done digitally I work in the sunlight which is a nice change from the darkroom days. I usually listen to music or podcasts like Fresh Air and Radio Lab. The dress hanging on the wall has been part of every studio I’ve worked in for the last 25 years. The hand-sewn pouches contain personal keepsakes from past projects and places I’ve lived.
Lately I’ve become fascinated by small local shops that sell lottery tickets. These neighborhood convenience and liquor stores are fairly invisible to the wider public even though each year our communities grow more dependent on the small portion of direct local aid we receive from lottery profits. Combining information culled from the Massachusetts lottery website with google map, I locate shops across the state where a winning million dollar scratch ticket was sold. Dedicated players tell me it makes a store lucky. This store is in Somerville.
The fading blue twilight against the bright yellow interior mirrors this transformation. I seek to evoke a poignant connection to these shops and the economically challenged citizens across the Commonwealth who are unfairly relied upon to shore up budget shortfalls. This tiny shop is in Canton.
I arrive early and first introduce myself to the vendors. Then I spend time looking at the store and its surroundings. There’s nothing worse than an unexpected cloud front obscuring the twilight effect at the last moment. When that happens I spend time interviewing the players who are usually scratching their tickets in the parking lot. Here are a few excerpts:
After I received a grant from the Somerville Arts Council (a percentage of arts funding in MA comes from lottery proceeds), I decided to see how lottery sales impact a single city. I met and subsequently photographed the proprietors from a variety of neighborhood stores. Frank and Rafaella DiFonzo have been running Bill’s Food Shop for 54 years, making it the oldest family-run convenience store in Somerville.
Inêz and Antonio Andrade are the proprietors of Cross Street Market. Their shop offers home-made Portuguese and Brazilian meals daily.
On December 1st, I’m installing these photographs along with pertinent lottery graphs and charts in the Inside-Out storefront windows in Davis Square. I will then be in residence by the windows on specific days inviting the public to contribute their stories and thoughts about the lottery in surveys like the ones below. Incorporating hand-written responses into the installation helps foster a community dialogue about the lottery. This is especially relevant in light of the recent passage of the casino bill. Such an open-ended artwork will evolve week-by-week. I hope you will check the schedule and stop by to add your comments and read what others have to say.
Edie Bresler’s YOU SCRATCH MY BACK, I’LL SCRATCH YOURS will be installed in the Inside-Out storefront windows in Davis Square, Somerville, in the month of December.
All images courtesy of the artist.