Laura Noel Photographs

This web site features six bodies of work that I have developed over the last few years: Love and Rockets, Smoke Break, Fiction, All's Fair and Withdrawn.  I have also included a selection of the installations and special projects I completed between 2011-2015. Each set of installation pictures is preceeded by an indiividual artist statement. A short statement about each photographic series is listed below.


My pictures concern the attitudes – defiance, enjoyment, resignation, and contentment – of those who continue to smoke cigarettes in the face of public disapproval. More importantly, these portraits reveal that for some smokers, cigarettes are a way to enter into a state of contemplation.
This introspective pause in a hectic world is more valuable to smokers than non-smokers would imagine.
A residue of glamour can also be seen in these photographs – the theatrical inhaling and exhaling, the sensual pleasure of watching smoke float and dissipate in the air, and the primal tie to fire. Though we may not approve of the act, we can understand the appeal of smoking, however false it may turn out to be.
The pull of addiction and self-image is strong, as evidenced by these images.
Since the anti-smoking movement began gaining momentum in the 1970’s, culminating in the current ban on public consumption, smokers have become social refugees banished to windy corners, cars, and private rooms. I am interested in exploring the idea that society has become so disenchanted with smokers, that we have tried to legislate them out of existence.
Of course, smoking is unhealthy and potentially fatal, but my images are not a defense of this dangerous practice, but instead a portrait of a diverse group of people united by a habit.


These photographs are like the first sentence of a short story, only the ending can never be certain.
I pair images together to enhance the stories I sense in the emotional landscape around me. I fracture the story into diptychs so the line where the two images meet becomes the seam between fact and fiction, reality and longing, the universal and the personal.
The major theme running through Fiction is the struggle to be an individual in an increasingly homogeneous society. I am fascinated by the strong emotions that emanate from people isolated on the streets and in social settings. Occasionally the presence of manmade objects is powerful enough that people become superfluous. 
My life is intertwined with the people and places I photograph. By focusing my camera on certain people, I am making them a part of my life. These people catch my attention, because their appearances and actions touch something in my past or confront some of my concerns. It seems natural that these images be diptychs joining my real life with the imagined lives of others.  


In my own minor assault on time and modernity, I created a series of photographs of books that have been withdrawn from libraries. Some of these books were rejected as no longer relevant to current culture, others were battered and some were the victim of popularity – too many copies and not enough room.
These books represent time and yet, are inevitably destroyed by its passing. The librarian’s “Withdrawn” stamp is like a silent slap across the face. A once loved volume is ostracized from the family home. However books have many lives and move from one home to another, carrying the marks of their former lives. As society completes its move to a digital world these small acts of personalization and artifacts of aging are harder to detect. No one has yet to inscribe a Kindle or E Reader to a beloved relative.


For me, photography is about trying to catch the world with a flimsy net.  I don’t know the answers.  I venture out with a camera and try to cull meaning – some odd bit of humor or rough beauty or sideways emotion – and print it out on paper.  I want to lend some permanence to the ephemera.  Time overwhelms me.  I take pictures.  All's Fair is an anti-project undertaking. I am simply embracing the beautiful strangeness of life however it finds me.   


The urge to love and the urge to either avoid or commit violence are two of the most powerful pulls in the human psyche.
I am interested in how people depict symbols of love and violence in the cultural landscape. The way we use these symbols in our homes, in commerce and in the public space says much about what is valued in America – power, strength, destiny, youth, and the importance of the frontier.
Hearts, lips, rockets, tanks, and missiles are used to represent adventure, romance, exploration, and even a higher power.  However, like a rocket, everything that leaves the atmosphere must eventually return to earth, either to find a home or to be lost on impact. 
Love and Rockets is also about this search for a metaphorical home and all the detours on the way there.