Sanctuary, An Interview with Lynne Browne
MKJ: Lynne, let’s talk about process! I’ve known you as a photographer and graphic/digital artist all your life. How do you make your mandalas?
LMB: I was inspired by works I saw at an exhibition, and I noticed the artist made a mandala from a photo of a bare tree, so I started looking into how I could make my original photographs into mandalas. I have always had a fascination with kaleidoscopes, as well as collage and quilt making. Once I found a way to digitally create photographic mandalas, I was hooked. I found a free computer “action” online that I could install in Photoshop and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s a very calming, but addictive creative process.
The neat thing about the mandalas is that no two are alike. The process starts with a photograph, and then, when you run the computer action, there is a little sliver of a pie shape that overlays the image. I move the photo inside of the shape until I find something that I think will look good. I can make many mandalas from the same photograph. You really don’t know exactly what you will get until the software finishes the process.
MKJ: How do you decide on subjects for your photographs? What are your top three tips for a creating a good photograph? And finally, how do you decide which of your photographs to transform into mandalas?
LMB: I always seem to have a camera with or near me, and I am always looking for a photograph. I teach graduate level photography (as well as graphic design). My top three tips, especially for my students, include: look for the light/absence of light, look for an interesting composition, and be spontaneous. We can plan our photos, but I feel that having an open mind and seeing things as a child always makes for an interesting photograph. I certainly take a lot of photographs, and I do take a lot of different types of photos, but the ones I use for mandalas are usually from nature and have natural patterns.
Of course, I have made mandalas from images of man-made objects. However, these do tend to have repeating patterns that I find interesting as well. For instance, we have an old carousel at an amusement park near me. The roof is made up of wooden slats, and there are brightly painted bars holding the horses up. I’ve spent a lot of time looking up at this roof and taking photos of these lines and colors.
MKJ: The place near where you live in upstate New York is considered a “Sanctuary City,” with people from more than 40 countries settled there. Many refugees have relocated to this city, and you have photographed some of their celebrations, including the Burmese Karen New Year celebration featuring Don Dancer groups – and the Indian Hindu Holi, Festival of Colors. Can you tell us how this may have influenced your work?
LMB: Yes, again, the color and repeating patterns! Most of my mandalas are quite colorful. I love taking photos at events because it gives me the opportunity to interact with a variety of people of all ages and ethnicities. Meeting new people and making connections with them inspires me.
MKJ: You’ve told me that recently the software you were using to create these mandalas no longer functions on your computer. How is that going? What other creative projects are you involved in?
LMB: Yes, I think it happened during a computer upgrade. It is frustrating and a disappointment, but I recently figured out a work-around that takes a little longer, and involves some swearing, but I am happily back in business!
As far as creative projects, I am always into something, but one of my new favorites is simplifying the form and edges of my photos and really bumping up the color and saturation. This makes the photos look more like paintings, or WPA National Parks posters. I start with a quick snapshot as a base for these new images. I do a lot of manipulation to these images in multiple programs because I want to be able to be print them as large as possible.
About the Artist
Lynne Browne has been in the graphic design field for more than 35 years. She recently retired from her full-time position as web coordinator at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, NY, but continues to teach photography and graphic design in the Information Design and Technology Program there. An exhibit of her photos, “Portraits of Hope,” was featured at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in 2016 and is now on display at the Cayan Library at SUNY Poly, on long-term loan to the University. More of Lynne’s work can be viewed at: Lynne Browne – Flickr and Lynne Browne – Instagram.