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Dover photographer tells her story

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Bronwen Hazlett took a bold step into something she had never tried before. After a curving career path took her through the worlds of advertising, graphic design, commercial photography and full-time motherhood, she created a series of artworks that tells much of her life story.

“I wanted to do something different, and that’s the key,” Hazlett said. “So many of us are bored, or beaten down or jaded or just numb. You see the same images all the time. So, I wanted to create imagery that made people stop, pay attention, stay with it, learn something or just get an emotion.”

Some pieces from the Dover artist’s collection are featured in The Delaware Contemporary’s exhibition “Focal Points: Advancing the Aperture,” which celebrates contemporary female photographers on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Hazlett said women are at a disadvantage in the art world. “It’s getting better, but there are still men out there that think that women don’t have the capabilities to do the work that men do,” she said. “For many, many years men have been writing the narrative for women. We can write our own narrative.”

She said she was “stunned” when curator Kathrine Page gave her a call. “She invited me to be in the show, which [is] a huge deal,” Hazlett said. She explained that artists typically go through a type of audition where they submit their work to a juror who decides whether it will fit into the exhibit.

“You just have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing, finding where your work works and where it doesn’t. It’s tough,” she said.

Unlikely self-portraits

While raising her daughters, Hazlett did some freelance photography, but she eventually knew it was time for change. “I had been fighting to find something for myself,” she said.

She decided to pursue a career as a photography educator, earning her MFA in photography from Academy of Art University. While in school, she went back to using nontraditional printing processes, called alternative practices.

Van Dyke Brown and cyanotype are two of them. Like the names’ suggest, one gives photos a brown hue while the latter is blue.

“I remember asking my professor, ‘Is there any reason that you can’t paint these two chemistries together?’” she recalled. “So, I started painting them together, and I realized they were having all kinds of chemical reactions to each other.”

Since no one had really done this before and her professor confirmed there would be no explosive side effects, Hazlett did some experimenting. “I explain it as a language I’m learning to speak, visually, with these two chemistries.”

This is how she created her thesis work entitled “Midlife and the Alchemy of my Individuation,” a series of self-portraits that follow her through a philosophical transformation.

“It was really draining emotionally,” she said, explaining the process that made her confront dark or painful moments in her life. While she said she will likely focus more on landscapes in the future, she hopes this series will spark reflection among viewers. “I was hoping that people would glean some sort of related things that they’ve been through,” she said.

Showing her roots

Like her thesis work, Hazlett’s art often rises from her life experiences. Some of her work involves printing on canvas and layering images almost like a collage.

“I wanted to be able to express certain things about what I [saw] and felt, but for me it was stressful to have one picture that represented a lot. A lot was riding on one image,” she said.

Both her parents have a creative side, and they each had collage work shown in a Tokyo exhibition when her family lived in Japan.

“I fought the whole collage thing for a long time,” Hazlett said. “I just ended up gravitating back toward it, but in my own way.”

Since her father was in the Navy, Hazlett’s family moved around a lot, and she said she “never really [put] in deep roots anywhere.”

Her piece “Shallow roots,” in The Delaware Contemporary exhibition, speaks to that and includes lyrics from Alice Merton’s song “No Roots.”

Now calling Dover her home, many of her photographs include images of dilapidated houses or landscape scenes from the area.

To see the exhibition

  • WHAT: Focal Points: Women Advancing the Aperture - Group exhibition of contemporary female photographers
  • WHERE: DuPont II Gallery, The Delaware Contemporary, 200 South Madison Street, Wilmington
  • WHEN: Feb. 7 - April 25