2017 Uptown Art Fair Commemorative Artist – Minnesota Photographer Nicole Houff
Nicole Houff, an 18-year Uptown Minneapolis resident, has a self-proclaimed “mild obsession” with Barbie. She’s photographed the doll and cultural icon in more than 100 scenes, producing studio-quality prints that evoke whimsical, often satirical situations. Her collection hovers around 40 dolls and hundreds of outfits, accessories and props. To Houff, Barbie is a positive, strong and empowering figure and her work often catalyzes conversations about society, gender roles and equality. “When I photograph her, I view her as positive, strong, and totally in charge, and I try to depict her as such,” says Houff.
Influenced by imagery from the late ‘50s and‘60s, she often took photographs of cars, mannequins, and signage that reminded her of that era. Barbie was introduced into that mix, and by 2009 she was the primary focus of Houff’s photography. “I could perceive doing this for years, it won’t look exactly the same as what I’m doing right now, but it’s something I find a lot of inspiration and joy with, and I hope it brings people the same.”
Houff earned a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and a minor in Political Science from Macalester College. Years later, after seeing a Richard Avedon exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, she decided to dedicate her life to photography and attended the Minneapolis Community and Technical College. There she learned about the technical aspects of lighting, retouching, and digital photography and now currently sits on its Advisory Board.
Houff’s creative process includes creating sketches of her ideas before photographing the backdrop and assembling the final vignette which comprises the finished product. In regards to creating the 2017 Uptown Art Fair Commemorative Poster, she put thought into the combination of what Uptown meant to her personally and the iconic marquee of the Uptown Theatre.
“I love that Barbie is a conversation starter. People come up and talk to me at my booth about what she means in today’s culture,” said Houff. I’m honored to be this year’s Uptown Art Fair commemorative artist and look forward to having many more conversations with fair goers.”
She’s shown her prints at a variety of galleries, festivals and exhibits including the Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis Photo Center, Gamut Gallery, Intermedia Arts, Nash Gallery, Robbin Gallery, the Minnesota State Fair and the Twin Cities Pride Festival. You may have also seen a print or two of hers at Betty Danger’s Country Club in Northeast Minneapolis.