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
A self-described equipment minimalist, Brown's tools are simple. He carries with him a single case with a pair of camera bodies and a few lenses. He uses homemade reflectors to bring out the deep contrast ratio of his photographs. Brown now exclusively uses Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II cameras.
“I enjoy the freedom that camera gives me,” says Brown. “Shooting in exotic places throughout the world, I need a camera that gives me freedom of movement and maneuverability and allows me to get more involved with the locations. I can get these cameras dirty, salty and grimy and not worry about their structural integrity.” These are traits crucial for Brown's spontaneous style of shooting.
One constant that has remained from film to digital is Brown's low-tech, capture-in-the-raw style of shooting. Without the necessary darkroom experience, he tried to capture most darkroom techniques in the camera. He describes his work as being “the dodge and burn version of capture.” Much of his advertising work is high-energy, impulsive or off-the-cuff. The ability to shoot in the same manner is crucial.
“[Digital photography] enables us to bring a high production value to a very spontaneous situation,” Brown explains.
Brown also can see a downside to such instant gratification. He believes the heavy reliance on the immediate appearance of the image lends to a laziness in art direction and concepts. It's all too easy to rely heavily on what's seen after the image is shot, developing your project on the fly. Brown's approach is in complete contrast to such a method. Shooting 1,000 to 2,000 frames a day, digital photography allows him to accurately translate a carefully thought-out idea to print. He can see the direction of a shoot and make alterations as needed.
Digital photography also has inspired Brown to stretch his creativity and experiment far more than he was normally apt to do, something he attributes to his commercial success. It wasn't until he went beyond the paid jobs and started shooting and developing a large repertoire of images on his own that his advertising career really took off.
“I can't stress enough the importance of test shooting and developing a portfolio beyond the level of the paid commercial work,” says Brown. “I firmly believe, and I'm living proof, that people aren't going to hire a photographer based on past commercial work, but for the work one puts one's heart into on his or her own time.”
Adds Brown, “I think the path to success for a photographer—or any creative, for that matter—is to develop one's own point of view/style/look/feel with test/portfolio/self-assigned shoots. Lots of them. It's a hard process because you have to believe in yourself and be motivated to produce photo shoots. Once that style is well developed, market that work to creatives by Website, promo mailer, sourcebook, etc. I don't put anything in my book that doesn't advance my vision.
“I can't overly stress the importance of the struggle,” says Brown. “The jobs you shoot aren't what you want in your book. It's what you shoot and experiment with on your own time. Push yourself far beyond what you think you can do. All people care about is really amazing pictures.” And that's exactly what Brown delivers—passionate, well-designed, authentic pictures.
To see more of Jeffrey Lamont Brown's photography, visit www.jeffreybrown.com.
Page 3 of 3