In photography, capturing “real” people with “real” emotions and expressions can be a pipe dream. But not when you’re working with photographer and director Brett Nadal. With professional roots in documentary photography, and with his vision through ‘Belonging’, Brett not only connects with his talent, but cares about them and genuinely wants to get to know them as people. It’s this ability to connect that gets those real, in the moment, middle of a laugh, expressions that creatives love and desire in photography work.
Brett takes this commitment to creating a relationship with his talent to the next level with his project American Girls. Neighbors of ten years, they’ve had the opportunity to work together years earlier. As a past student of photojournalism, Brett learned to take the opportunity to revisit places, concepts and subjects.
Brett is at his most creative when capturing motion and stills through collaboration, while highlighting diversity, love and acceptance. We think this project highlights all that Brett strives to represent. Read on below to learn more about this project and to hear a moment that can only be categorized as truly authentic.
What did you learn on this project?
I learned from shooting this project to put value in having no real plan. Some shoots are just meant to be fun — you socialize, you laugh and you spend as much time chatting as you do working. Many photographers shoot naturally intimate work when they shoot neighbors, friends and family and I think it’s because it disables your ability to overthink and reconnects you with how your own personality influences the work you capture.
Memorable moment from this project?
We shot at sunrise near Lake Michigan (a beautiful area near Chicago) and I had just been talking about how many people from that particular area of Chicago tend to be grouchy. While I was shooting, I see through the camera an expression of shock come across all three of their faces. I didn’t realize that a local woman had walked behind me and flipped the finger to the back of my head as she passed. It stills makes me smile to think about it. Something about unshakably angry people strikes me as such perfect comedy. Some folks will never like to see strangers on their morning walk.
What do you want people to know about you and your work after seeing this project?
I’m often commissioned to shoot a project because people feel that my work looks like real life. However, I don’t think that nuance can be faked — I genuinely enjoy the time I spend with a subject and the authenticity that they subjects reciprocates is always (at least somewhat) genuine.
Follow Brett on Instagram for more visuals depicting what it means to see and be seen.