Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Jeffrey Lamont Brown - Creating Something From Nothing
Jeffrey Lamont Brown never attended any photography school nor did he study with masters of the medium, but that hasn't stopped him from building a successful career
The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre described the state of authenticity as the ultimate consummation of freedom, as drawing your purpose for being out of nothingness and creating something free from the bonds that restrain you to your past. If this is the case, Sartre would describe Jeffrey Lamont Brown's career as a tour de force of authenticity. An engineer with no prior knowledge of the photography industry, Brown plunged into photography authentically, yearning to connect with people and portray their stories on film. Void of expectation, he opened an exciting and wide aperture to his future.
Raised on a Kansas farm, Brown knew professional photography to be merely shooting weddings and portraits. Years later, and thousands of miles away rock climbing in the South American Andes, his vision of what photography could be found a toehold. In the mountains of Ecuador, a passion for photography was set free.
“I had more fun photographing the locals than I did rock climbing,” recalls Brown. “I liked connecting with them. I kept thinking ‘How can this be a career?'”
That ability to connect with people drives Brown's passion to capture some of the magic in the lives and faces of his subjects.
Unaware of the harsh reception that greets aspiring photographers, Brown called on National Geographic's Rich Clarkson. Uncharacteristically, Clarkson met with Brown, who was eager to show his photographs of Ecuador. With mom in tow, the young photographer met with Clarkson at his office. Although he wasn't offered a job, Brown gained valuable insight on the rough-and-tumble photo industry and the steps he needed to take in order to be considered seriously in the world of photography.
Fueled by the new knowledge that he could make a living doing something he found enjoyable, Brown walked away from a hard-won engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines for an internship at a local newspaper as a photojournalist. He worked for Fort Collins' The Coloradoan under Michael Madrid, who now holds the title of senior photo editor at USA Today. Brown keeps in contact with his former employer to this day, shooting for him whenever his schedule permits. During his stint as a newspaper photographer, Brown nurtured his aptitude for capturing people on film in addition to traveling and honing his photographic talent. He was also given the opportunity to interface with the people and events that drew him to photography in the first place.