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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brian DeMint: Deliberate Dissonance

A big fish in a small pond, Brian DeMint takes an unconventional approach to fashion photography in Small Town, USA

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It's suppertime when Brian DeMint returns from his 12-hour swing shift at a rural Missouri power plant—unless, of course, he's working the overnight. He usually grabs a slice of pizza and kisses his wife, but then he gets to work again. Unlike most folks in Joplin who work two jobs, DeMint doesn't moonlight as a fast-food worker or a security guard. His other job is fashion photographer.

Calling DeMint's photographic pursuits a "job" isn't quite right. It's his passion—the creative outlet that has been the focus of his existence since 2004. Calling him a fashion photographer doesn't seem quite right either, but no term fits better. He's occupying a creative space that isn't particularly well defined, and that's fine with him.

You see, fashion photographers tend to be commercial photographers working on assignment for magazines or ad agencies or fashion designers in exchange for money—often big money. DeMint, though, considers himself an artist. In fact, he has zero desire to turn his burning passion into a mere job lest it taint his artistic vision. So he works less at growing his business than he does refining his creativity and his photographic output.

"I don't consider myself a commercial photographer," he says. "I turn down nearly all assignments unless I'm given complete creative control. I loathe parameters and prefer my unconscious mind to take me where it likes—before conformity, logic or marketing kick in. I rarely, if ever, preplan a shoot. For me, the modus operandi is that the model shows up, and I get ideas on the fly and we shoot them. The ideas are influenced by all the visuals floating around in my brain at that moment.

"I'm a business-to-personal photographer hired by models and would-be models," DeMint adds. "Magazines occasionally pick up sets, and that's very beneficial. But accepting commissioned assignments, for me, is equivalent to putting on a straitjacket."

Don't mistake DeMint's photography for some glorified hobby. Creating images is the primary focus of his life. He pours as much heart, soul and sweat into his images as the biggest New York photographers—though he does it for much less money, for much smaller clients, in a much smaller town and maybe for much purer reasons.

"I would be more apt to call it an obsession," DeMint says. "All my spare time is engaged with something associated with fashion photography: shooting, editing, studying, experimenting. Even when I watch movies, I pay so much attention to the makeup, the attire and the cinematography that I'm often clueless about what's happening in the movie. It's not something that I'm looking to get rich from, even though we could definitely use the money. My biggest fear is turning into a 'glamour shots' type of scenario. Putting people through, like, an assembly line is a nauseating thought to me."


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