Laura Noel’s portraits show us the attitudes, including, defiance, enjoyment, need, resignation and contentment, of those who continue to smoke cigarettes in the face of a seismic shift in public opinion against smoking. Once a common practice that crossed class, race, age and income lines, smoking is now widely reviled in the United States. Noel is fascinated by the small rebellions and compulsions that propel people to continue smoking in such a socio-political climate. Smoke Break is a series of psychological portraits designed to reveal the continued allure of smoking and examine the role addiction plays.A residue of glamour can be seen in these images – the theatrical inhaling and exhaling, the sensual pleasure of watching smoke float and dissipate in the air and the primal lure of fire. More importantly, these images reveal that for some, smoking is a gateway to a state of contemplation. This introspective break in a busy world is more valuable than non-smokers would imagine. Smokers have become social refugees banished to windy corners, cars and private rooms, but they retreat to these places because smokers value the act of contemplation that smoking enables. The pull of addiction and self-image is strong as evidenced by these images.
Laura Noel is an Atlanta-based photographer and installation artist. Her work often addresses American cultural issues with an emphasis on how individuals navigate an increasingly homogeneous world. Recent projects include an extended portrait series called Smoke Break, about Americans who continue to smoke in the face of public bans and a shift in public tolerance for the act, and Withdrawn, a study of discarded library books and how technology has altered basic activities such as reading. Past projects have explored different facets of American individuality.
Noel received a BA in Public Policy Studies from Duke University in 1988 and a MFA in Photography with Distinction from the University of Georgia in 2009. Her prints been featured in exhibitions at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China, the Contemporary American Photography exhibition at the Internationale Fototage Festival in Mannheim, Germany, Gallery 24 in Berlin, United Photo Industries in New York City, The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia, Jackson Fine Art, Lumiere, Davis Orton Gallery in upstate New York, Gallery 1401 in Philadelphia, The Gregg Museum of Art and Design and many others. The George Eastman House, The Ogden Museum, MOCA GA and many other institutions and individuals have collected her photographs.
Her photographs have appeared on-line and in print in Photography Now, Photography Quarterly, PHOTONEWS (Germany), Slate Magazine’s Behold Photo Blog, CNN Photo Blog, Lens Culture, Planet, Art News Daily, The Humble Arts Foundation, F-Stop Magazine, One One Thousand, SouthXSoutheast, La Lettre de la Photographie, Consciencious, aCurator, Fraction Magazine and many others. In 2012, her work inaugurated Fall Line Press’ Free Fall series of quarterly magazines featuring the work of one photographer. Recently, Scotland’s Aglu Books published Withdrawn, her study on discarded library books.
Noel’s artist books are in the collections of the International Center of Photography library in New York, The Houston Museum of Fine Art, The Cleveland Art Institute, The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas and many private collections.
Recent installations include To-Do at the Spruill Gallery, The Enchanted Forest of Books on the Atlanta Beltline, Give/Swap/Receive at Emory University and Both Sides Now at WonderRoot Art Center.
Artist’s Website: lauranoel.com