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Nan Brown
Trailers Collected

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Nan Brown, Trailers Collected, 36, Split toned gelatin silver print, 2005/2011,
Edition 2/35, Signed verso.

Artist Statement
I have long loved trailers as objects. They are often alone in a landscape, ironic metal comments. From the side they are billboard-like and wonderfully two-dimensional. Their facades are of subtly beautiful tones and textures, this black and white photographer’s dream. The squares and rectangles of windows within the squares and rectangles of trailers, I trapped within the square camera format. The repetition of form causes people to look closely at each trailer for variation. Portrait-like, individual personalities are revealed.

The spark for the series included not only their visual charm but also the emotional impact of trailers as shelter. As a child, traveling across California, I was drawn, through my car window, to the otherness of the small, roadside communities or the dislocation of lone trailers. Now I see that trailers sort of wear themselves on their sleeves in comparison with other residences. Generally speaking, trailers have no setback from neighbors and passersbys, nor are they isolated within grounds. Living space extends outside their compact walls and particular license is taken with the exteriors, where residents often put a unique stamp on something mass-produced. They make ample creative use of their small canvas.

The images refer obliquely to culture. But trailers are so versatile and useful that the quality of that culture cannot easily be corralled, certainly not within a silly stereotype like trailer trash or even a category like poverty. Yes, they offer ubiquitous, inexpensive shelter, but they also serve those seeking simplicity, “freedom,” or a get-away, and even those just needing storage. For the most part a mobile home is just that, a home.

I have become deeply attached to the images as I have collected them. They are stand-ins for the gamut of spiritual states from valor to depression to depravity, conditions not the province of any given social class or group.

Artist Bio
Photographer Nan Brown (b.1952) spent her early years in steel mill towns perched on the San Francisco Bay where her father was a mill worker. Her Martha Graham-trained mother taught dance to children. Growing up, Nan participated in the community-hall dance recitals. Summer weeks were spent at the family mining claim in the northern Sierra, an area where Nan would later make her home.

In the 1970s, Nan studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. She taught herself Ansel Adams’ Zone System, and was especially influenced by his philosophy of craft. While largely self-instructed, she has studied with Mark Citret, John Sexton, and Peter Goin, as well as Ansel Adams. After moving to the northern Sierra in 1975, Nan pursued a fifteen-year career in studio photography. She began teaching photography at Feather River College in 1988 and exhibited extensively until 1998. Recently, following a ten-year, health-related hiatus, Nan has exhibited in San Francisco, Boston, Portland, and Santa Barbara. Her work is in the permanent collections of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Southwest Museum of Photography. It has been published in Center for Fine Art Photography’s Portfolio ShowCase: Volume 4; Fraction Magazine: Issue 23; Black and White Magazine where it received an Excellence Award; and this year, in The Photo Review 2012 Competition Issue, juried by Robert Mann.