DPP Home Profiles Jeffrey Lamont Brown - Creating Something From Nothing

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 Extraordinary From The Ordinary

It's Brown's ability to connect and see the authenticity not only in his own work, but also in the people he's photographing that makes his work so enticing.

“It's the ability to capture something authentic—my B.S. radar goes off quickly,” Brown admits. “Human interaction and enjoying the people is the key to making them feel comfortable in front of the camera.”

The effect grabs the viewer. Whether a Nike advertisement or a photo documentary on the scourge of AIDS in India, it's Brown's knack for reaching beyond the obvious and capturing something transcendent that makes the images so appealing. Documentaries in Brown's early days as a photojournalist not only fed his creative appetite and allowed him to connect, but also set the groundwork for his advertising career.

The transition from photojournalism to advertising didn't come easy. After moving to San Diego, Brown struggled like many photographers to find advertising work. Armed with a full repertoire of documentary work, but not much advertising, he found himself struggling to make ends meet. His first advertising break came from Road Runner Sports. Much of sports advertising revolves around the larger-than-life image of sports figures, the modern-day superhero and the ability to find the champion within. Brown's ability to capture grandiose images was a natural fit for such a campaign. His inherent propensity to pull big skies, rich colors and grand images out of an otherwise ordinary photograph drew the attention of sporting companies. It continues to be one of his most recognizable qualities.

A Documentarian: Passion For People

Although Brown's advertising career commands the lion's share of his photographic efforts, his documentary work continues. Notwithstanding the substantially more lucrative appeal of advertising, Brown dedicates at least 20 percent of his time and resources to humanitarian and environmental documentaries. Spending any time at all talking with Brown about his documentary work reveals his boundless enthusiasm. He describes his documentary work as being fueled by passion, empathy and wanting to change the way people think about the world. When so many of us tend to shy away and pretend not to see the myriad of horrors that afflict our world, Brown frames his images to help us understand a little better and face the world head on. His photographs reveal the complex mix of life's beauty and pain. They reveal what's real that might be overlooked. They're images that don't sensationalize, that don't exaggerate. They tell a story through the lens of an unquenchable love for being with people. He admits that it's his desire to be with people and befriend them that pushes him to continue his work.

Brown's photojournalism past has left its imprint on his advertising style as well. While shooting out in the field, he gained no real studio experience. This remains true with his work today. His work is done entirely on location and with very little equipment. Brown uses natural light to shoot. He reserves the studio for catalog work only. Flipping though Brown's portfolio, you can't help but be moved by his delicate use of natural light, which deliciously bathes the subject. He often uses muted or softened light tones to underline the beauty of the true focus of the image. When he does opt for a more pinpointed, sharpened light source, it's to highlight and intensify the image's message, keeping it always appropriate and never exaggerated.

A Digital Minimalist

Brown's transition to digital led to a revamping of his shop in November 2003. “It [digital technology] helped articulate the vision I had in my head.”

With no real educational background in photography, he was able to experiment and explore new possibilities that weren't achievable with celluloid film. As a young photographer, he was never exposed to the darkroom and admits it was a drawback to what he could construct with his photography. “I didn't have any darkroom experience,” says Brown. “Everything was scanned and edited in Photoshop. I never had any experience printing with a master printer and learning all of the intricacies of that art.”

Photoshop allowed him to emulate the darkroom process without first having the technical skills required to work directly with film. However, he has never relied entirely on Photoshop to create his highly stylized photographs.


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