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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

This Article Features Photo Zoom

DeMint uses wild color combinations and juxtapositions in his work: "Color is a driving force behind the work. The base or key color is usually the model's outfit, and all my decisions on makeup, jewelry, accessories, backdrops and props are based off that key color. Of course, those decisions are also influenced by the other elements of design, texture, shape, line, etcetera. In the studio, I never shoot with gels, and as for in-camera adjustments, I may offset the white balance to get a golden or bluish hue to start with."
"I like seeing if my direction is working," he says. "If not, I can have my wife—my primary makeup artist and hairstylist, and an excellent craftsman—alter it before we waste time on mistakes in my styling ideas. It also gives me a chance to coach the model about the theme and come up with adjectives to think about when posing: angular, haughty, sultry, etc. Lastly, and this is big—the studio is completely non-intimidating, and it has a more intimate and creative painter-studio aesthetic to it versus the sterile setup I so often see. When the models feel at ease, it's a much more conducive setting for them to get into character. Posing, for me, is more like acting.

"For me, being a photographer often means I'm also a set designer, flower arranger, fashion consultant, jewelry maker," DeMint says. "My philosophy is if I don't have it, we try to make it. We're well versed in making useable objects from absolute garbage."

DeMint's hands-on approach is nowhere more evident than in the image of a model, Vera, as an ice princess. He constructed jewelry and accessories out of store-bought items he then pieced together. While he often paints backgrounds, in this case he used leftover snow flocking to create the backdrop on plywood.

"I bought a $5 pack of gem-cut plastic doodads," he says, "and constructed a necklace with a hot-glue gun, and that headpiece with a plastic trash bag, hot glue and the gems. We used feathers from a boa, torn in half, for the eyelashes. Then we shot it various ways with the theme being regal—thus, the head back. In Photoshop, I added some icy-looking textures and some fake snow with brushes. The result was boring, so I grabbed a stock image of a red wall and layered it on top of the stack using the 'soft light' layer method. It's not boring now! I'm not sure what we've got, but to me it's visually dynamic."

That this visual dynamo relies on Photoshop to add crucial finishing elements to his images is no surprise. DeMint loves working with layers and overlays to add texture and a tactile quality to his images, but aside from that, he says he doesn't do too much beyond color and contrast adjustments.

"I learned Photoshop by experimenting and doing tutorials online," he says. "I make very heavy use of color adjustments—hue, balance, saturation—using adjustment layers with layer masks. Photoshop is a big part of the work because it allows me to experiment with things that would take hours to try in a physical manner or which would otherwise be impossible. This is the digital age, why restrict yourself? I'm not concerned with reality for the most part. Fashion and beauty photography is that area between reality and illusion. For me, the original image is like a sketch one performs before moving on to the finished painting. It's the product, not the process."

Technicians get bogged down with process. Artists worry only about tools as a means to an end. DeMint definitely is the latter. Once a painter, all he has ever photographed is fashion and beauty, and that's all he has ever wanted to do. What he may lack in technical expertise or high-end equipment, he more than makes up for in creative vision and a robust knowledge of art. And, of course, there's his exceptional capability. The proof is in the product.


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