Adrien Broom’s Bizarre World
When people think of Old Lyme, Connecticut, they often first think of Lyme Disease, unfortunately. If they’re a little more familiar with the town, they know it was the home of the Lyme Art Colony, where many prominent Impressionist painters lived and worked in the early 20th century. Old Lyme is still a vibrant place for artists, and from this fertile ground hails photographer Adrien Broom. With a father who is an architect design builder and a mother who manages an art gallery, it’s no wonder Broom is steeped in the arts.
Broom attended Northeastern University in Boston for 3D Animation. She built sets, sculpted scenes, and positioned cameras all inside computers. “You have a camera you situate where you want and look through the lens,” she says. “It’s a lot like photography in a certain way—at least like moving around a set. I think that’s why a lot of my work is really narrative.” During her final semester, she studied painting and drawing abroad in Florence, Italy.
After graduation, she moved to London to study art history at Christie’s, where she was exposed to centuries of art, which she claims also influences her photography. “I try to create a little bit of the painterly quality in my photos,” she says. “I think composition-wise and some of the subject matter I take from studying art history.” Opting for a one-year certificate program, she credits this study with helping her design sets and costume selection for her shoots, as well as the composition of her photos.
Broom then spent some time unhappily working in an ad agency. Knowing she loved photography more than anything in the world, she worked hard to make the leap. Her father advised her, “If you love something and you work hard at it, the money will follow.”
If you’re a music fan, there’s a chance you’ve seen Broom’s work. She began her photography career when Grace Potter and the Nocturnals began their musical career. Fortune has shined on them both, and they’ve progressed as substantial artists in parallel trajectories. Broom now claims the title of official photographer for the band. “They are definitely some of my closest friends,” Broom says. “They’re amazing, and they’re so fun to photograph because they’ve got so much energy and they’re all beautiful. They’re really fun to photograph.”
Broom has photographed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals onstage, on the road, and in the studio. She has created press photos and shot the cover of their self-titled 2010 album, their third. She still goes on the road to chronicle the band’s shows. Her latest project with the group is collaborating with Potter on a book of photographs covering their experiences together. “I’m super‑excited, because she’s letting me do a really arty side of it,” says Broom. “It’s not promo pics or anything. It’s going to be a little dark‑and‑dirty rock and roll.”
Broom attempts to not be influenced by any other rock photographers like Lynn Goldsmith or Annie Leibovitz. “I love that work,” she says. “I’m sure if I look back and look at my work, there’s similarities, but I try not to think of other imagery when I’m doing my own, especially with rock and roll. You just get so caught up in the moment.”
The other side of Broom’s photography is as deep as her rock and roll photos are spontaneous. “I love the narrative side of things,” she says, “making stories and telling stories, but I’ve always been drawn to the bizarre.” She likes the dichotomy of having complete control of her fine art photography and no control over her photographs of musicians. Her latest work is influenced by ancient Greek myths, which she reinterprets in her own visual versions. One photo from this series features a girl in a blue dress in a wooded area. It’s based on the story of Apollo and Daphne, with Zeus turning Daphne into a tree.
Also influenced by the symbolism of animals, Broom often gets her Connecticut farmer friends to lend her animals for shoots. “A year or two ago, I randomly stumbled into a taxidermy place. They lent me a fox,” she says, smartly. Many of these “story book” photographs will be exhibited at a show in Brooklyn this coming April.
Regarding her fine art photography, she points to Gregory Crewdson and Loretta Lux as shooters she greatly admires. Broom cites Crewdson’s books as being narrative, beautiful, and influential. She also loves the painter John Singer Sargent. “Gregory Crewdson and John Singer Sargent are as different as you can possibly get,” she says. “If my work could ever be a combination of those two, I could die a happy woman,” she laughs.
Now that she’s turned pro, she shoots the Canon EOS 5D Mark II as her main body. Her main lens is the Canon 16-24mm zoom. Self-admittedly not a huge gear enthusiast, Broom likes to surround herself with good assistants. “People don’t hire me for my technical skills,” she says, laughing.
Although she employs natural light and reflectors as much as possible, Broom reports she uses PocketWizard MiniTT1 units and FlexTT5 units to trigger fill flashes. “They work great,” she says. “What else can you say about something that always does what it’s supposed to?”
Regarding the influences of computer animation, virtual set design, literature, creative parents, and art history, Broom claims she’s always been drawn to “the bizarre.” Call it bizarre, fantastic, magical, unusual, or any other moniker, this confluence of influences on her fine art photography have made her work stand alone among scores of other young trend-following photographers. “I like to take the world we perceive and twist it a little bit,” she explains.
Judging from the steady artistic and technical progress charted in her relatively brief career, we look forward to more twisting in Adrien Broom’s bizarre world.
Written by Ron Egatz