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ASU photography student captures evolving family relationships

Photography major, Briana Noonan, began set up of her "Split" exhibit Friday at the Step Gallery, which will open on Monday. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)
Photography major, Briana Noonan, began set up of her "Split" exhibit Friday at the Step Gallery, which will open on Monday. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)

Photography senior Briana Noonan begins setting up her "Split" exhibit, which will open Monday at the Tempe campus Step Gallery. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)

Photography senior Briana Noonan said she finds beauty and depth in the evolving relationships she has with her family with each frame she shoots.

Noonan will host a free week-long exhibition from noon to 5 p.m. at ASU’s Step Gallery on the Tempe campus.

Her work was chosen from a pool of applicants who work in various art mediums. She had to submit a proposal that included photos, an artist statement, an abstract and a letter of recommendation, among other things.

She said she is very excited for what will be her first individual show.

Noonan arrived at ASU her freshman year as an English major, but said she quickly realized that was not the right path for her.

She said her parents always deterred her from choosing a career simply based on making money.

"I kind of took a risk and decided to do photography," Noonan said, "I've been really happy since."

Lisa Fujii, Noonan’s mother, said in an email that Noonan had loved photography for many years.

“Her passion for photography blossomed when she was around 14 years old,” Fujii said, “She was so into it, she even converted our storage room in the garage into a dark room."

Noonan said she first began to experiment with photography after a family member gave her a 35mm camera.

Once in high school, she began to take some photography classes to learn more, but she found herself stuck when she arrived at ASU.

She said she couldn't seem to find the right inspiration for her photos.

That all changed after a visit home when she began to take pictures of her family.

While developing the photos with one of her photography professors, she realized she could take the concept further.

Noonan said photographing her family has helped her learn more about them.

"It's a new way of interacting with them,” she said. “You're slowing down and getting to know them in a different light.”

Noonan said she comes from a large family with complicated dynamics.

As a child, Noonan was constantly moving. After her parents divorced and remarried, her family grew on both ends.

"It's hard to find yourself when constantly moving," Noonan said. "This (time at ASU) is the longest I've been in one school."

While preparing photos for her exhibition, Noonan would take a while setting up her camera and talking to her family, making them feel comfortable in order for her photos to accurately portray the family dynamics.

Her father, Michael Noonan, said there are many deep, potent photos that depict his family and what they are about.

"It's hard to hold back the tears," he said.

Noonan said photographing her family helped her learn more about herself and how the photo affected her as an individual.

Her mother said these photos were a great way for Noonan to learn about their family.

"It's such a great way to explore people and interactions amongst each other," Fujii said.

Although Noonan enjoys photographing her family, she said she doesn't "feel stuck in family-oriented photography."

Noonan said she's not entirely sure of the direction her next collection of photos will take, but she's "more relaxed now, so (she's) having fun with it."


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