Thursday, June 14, 2007
David Allan Brandt - A Touch Of Subtlety
David Allan Brandt's imagery is grounded in reality, but takes a hard turn into artistic surrealism
If you're looking for a quick description of David Allan Brandt's work, his bio as listed on his agent's website sums it up perfectly: “David Allan Brandt's photographic images seem to float in the air. He has created a surreal series of romantic worldscapes combining people with urban structures.”
When Rolling Stone came out with its 25th anniversary documentary, it opened with a simple question: How do you fit 25 years of rock and roll into two hours? Answer: You jam. David Allan Brandt's career has done the same. He got off to a fast start in the fast lane. Before graduating from Art Center in California, he went from chief photographer at a local newspaper to being hired by EMI/Capitol Records to photograph album covers for David Bowie and the J. Geils Band, among others.
Brandt finished at Art Center with a roster of clients, cash in the bank and the goal to open his own studio in Los Angeles. With that kind of a start, then, you might wonder why, in the late '80s, Brandt decided to bail on doing creative work and focus on making photography simply a job—simply a job in that he'd only do enough commercial work to pay the bills.
What had happened to this rising star who got started in a way for which most aspiring pros would give their eyeteeth. It wasn't as if Brandt just didn't want to do it anymore. In a way, he had come to a point of stagnation. He was heralded as a creative talent, but at the same time, he felt that his “creativity” was just producing the same thing repeatedly.
Now, understand it's not like he gave up and decided to live a more ascetic lifestyle. In fact, Brandt had a family, and he wasn't satisfied with just getting by. So, what was the problem? Why would he not want to continue to challenge himself creatively? Why would he settle for doing “work?” After all, photography by definition is a creative field. He simply wasn't feeling inspired, so he stopped trying to be.
“I was at a point in my career where I was busy and making good money,” explains Brandt. “But I was bored creatively. My work was good from a technical standpoint, but it wasn't the kind of work that I envisioned for myself. So I made a conscious decision not to be creative anymore.”
Brandt's creative inspiration had always been to make extraordinary images out of ordinary subjects. Looking at his photographs from places like Cuba, you get a sense of that inspiration. Plain architecture and simple models are transformed into surreal images. The colors become otherworldly while the components of the composition remain recognizable. The images are rooted in the real world even though they look like nothing you'd ever actually see if you went to the location. The work evokes a level of thought beyond the obvious.
As Brandt says, “I like my work to either generate introspective thought or challenge the imagination to new heights. Even though my work is commercial, I see it as art. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make things seem more than what they are, and I'm pretty obsessive and uncompromising when it comes to that. I want my images to be so visually luminous that people look at them and say, Wow!”