Developing stories: These Cape Cod artists are just beginning their journey
Caroline & Olivia Brodt
Triumph, tragedy and two very talented sisters
Some of Caroline Brodt’s earliest subjects were frogs: eyes peering above the surface of their watery domain, tadpoles bursting from the shallows, a leap from bank to pool. Despite this humble artistic genesis, Brodt’s rewards for her early photographic adventures have proven far more valuable than any golden bauble or fairy tale prince—especially in the past year, one punctuated by both triumph and tragedy.
Just as Brodt, a member of Barnstable High’s Class of 2018, has begun to receive critical acclaim for her work in regional and national competitions, she and her family have also suffered a tremendous loss: Olivia Brodt, Caroline’s oldest sister, passed away from cancer on April 2. She was 20 years old. Through this time of intense grief, the family takes some comfort in Caroline’s photos of Olivia, images that capture her vivacity, her joy and her battle, images to treasure and to tell the story of an incredible life cut far too short. “Olivia was my model,” Caroline says with both pride and sadness.
The sisters grew up in a home where art matters. Their parents, Brenda and Craig, met in art school and raised the young women to develop as athletes and artists. “We taught them to be critical of their work,” Brenda says. Indeed, Caroline credits much of her success to Olivia’s constructive feedback. “I’ll always have her telling me to improve, and helping me improve,” Caroline says, “but she always encouraged me to be well-rounded, too.”
Though Caroline had developed a reputation as a talented photographer around her school, she had yet to imagine her art as a profession. Olivia saw more in her sister, though, and pushed her to enroll in the program that would transform Caroline’s artistic identity. In July of 2016, while Olivia was fighting cancer, Caroline flew to New York City, where she attended a photography course at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. “It was really hard to leave her,” Caroline recalls, “but Olivia was one of the main people who encouraged me to go.” There, Caroline met other young artists and learned key technical aspects of her craft. “This has really changed everything,” she says. One of Caroline’s artistic highlights from her time in New York is her photo, “Distance,” which would win a silver medal at the national level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In total, eight of Caroline’s photos from the past year have garnered Scholastic awards.
In the fall of 2016, through the ArtWorks internship program, Caroline won the privilege of working with professional Cape Cod photographer Julia Cumes, who encouraged her to branch into storytelling. ArtWorks then offered Caroline a solo show at the Cape Cod Media Center. Her exhibit, featuring 18 of her photos, was on display in February and March of this year, and Caroline sold four photos.
While Caroline was working on her photography, Olivia, who was on a medical leave from Babson College, painted with Jamie Wolf at Chalkboard Studio in Barnstable as part of her therapy. (Wolf previously mentored Olivia through the ArtWorks program at Barnstable High School.) There, she used watercolors to recreate a photo Caroline had taken of her entitled “Battle Ahead,” bringing the art full-circle. Olivia’s story was supposed to have had a happy ending, but as Brenda says, things took a turn for the worse during the winter. The cancer, which the family had hoped was gone, reappeared, this time in Olivia’s spinal fluid. It was incurable.
Today, Caroline runs her own photography business taking senior portraits and headshots for musicians, and shooting images for family holiday cards. She’s also working with Cumes on an exhibit that will open in the fall, one that celebrates Olivia’s life while documenting her struggle with cancer. Fortunately for the Brodt family, Caroline was able to photograph Olivia extensively last fall, both on the Cape and on a vacation to Turks and Caicos. “It’s hard to look at and be critical of the work from this hard time,” Caroline says, “but I need to finish. I feel extremely motivated to carry on what she believed in, what we believed in.”
More of Caroline Brodt’s work can be seen at: carolinebrodt.wixsite.com/cbrodtphotography
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