Art Brewer SVA Show

Photographer/Artist Art Brewer is someone I’ve written about before, and someone I will surely write about again. I’m a big fan of cool people. I’m a big fan of good photography, and I’m a big fan of photographers who have poured their lives into creating an archive on one particular topic or subject. Art is all the above. Recently, I was able to stop by Art’s studio to check out a few of the images he is printing for a MASSIVE show at the School of Visual Arts in New York. This show will highlight over 150 individual pieces from Art’s collection on the history of modern surfing.

At 43 I finally feel like I found a subject I can work on the rest of my life. Starting now I’m way behind the game. Art has been covering modern surfing for over thirty-years and his archive is one of the greatest ever compiled. Years ago, when I worked for Kodak in Southern California, I realized there was an opportunity for me, and for the company, in working with the global collection of surfing photographers. Problem was I didn’t know a single surfing photographer. So, being a good corporate detective, I called around. “Talk to Art Brewer,” was the response I heard over and over again. Not only was Art open and receptive to learning what Kodak had to offer he also became my link to the entire surfing photography world.

What I love about Art’s archive is the range of work. Browsing the work you see every format imaginable from 35mm to 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, 4×5, point and shoot as well as an odd assortment of other formats and techniques. When you walk into Art’s studio you find yourself frozen and wanting to simply stand and look. Big prints and artwork adorn the walls, an incredible range of oil, ink and emulsion. And every time I go there is something new to feast my eyes upon.

And as you can see by the above images, Art is also a bookmaker. And like all things Brewer, Art publishes a range of books. From his Masters of Surf Photography monograph to his two-volume Blurb masterpiece on Bunker Spreckels you never know what he is going to come up with next. And if that’s not enough…he teaches as well, which you can see in the film below. I was going to write that Art is a great person for young photographers to study, but I’m going to amend that. Art is a good person for any photographer to study. There are certain people who are creatively restless. They are creative searchers, people who run the river of life and can’t wait to see what lives beyond the next bend. Art is one of those people.

To Live or Not to Live

There was a decision to be made. There was no right or wrong, just a choice. The assignment had changed. The deadline was no more. All the options were inside one Tenba bag, black, just sitting there. “What are we doing today?” I asked.
A 5D and four gig cards. A 1v and five rolls of 36. Left in my hands. The decision. My automatic response was 5D…to save money perhaps? A fast turnaround? Would I save time?
But wait. Was it? Is it? Would it be?
I grabbed the 1v and the first roll of 36. One lens. And then I shot. Three people, one big, two small. One hour. Five rolls.
I didn’t need twenty images of one scene because I got in it the first two. I’m supposed to be a photographer remember? 180 pictures. A lot, more than I need.
Getting in the car, pushing the start button and my mind hits autopilot. Download to the desktop, label folders, open Aperture…..but wait.
No need. I think I’ll make a salad instead, write a little bit, sit on the back porch and think. Film, job is already gone, shipped off. Now I have my life back. And now the mystery remains. The anticipation that so many find difficult to understand. Buzzing.

Hip Being Square

I’m posting this because I got an interesting comment regarding my explaining not doing black and white conversions from digital, and that I don’t shoot color and black and white the same way. It seems that some people took offense to that, but I have another example of something along these lines.
I shoot a lot of square images with a Hasselblad camera. Recently someone looked at my work and said, “Ya, I do square too.” “I just shoot my Canon 5D and crop it into a square.”
Now this struck me kinda funny.
First, when I shoot square, I think square, and compose that way. And, I’ve chosen a film specifically for the ingredients it provides, in that particular camera and that particular lens. The falloff on the Blad is very different than my 5D, so shooting with my 5D and cropping looks very different than my Hasselblad. Better? Maybe, depending on what you looking for in your images, but regardless, they are simply not the same.
If you want a square, why not shoot square?
I think sometimes we rely on the wizardry of the computer to try and give us things that we are fooling ourselves to think we have. And, how much time do you want to spend per image to “mimic” what you could have had by just using the right tool for the look?
Another example of this is the work I have done with Kodak Tmax 3200 film. Over the years I’ve seen one tech expert after another try and mimic this film on the computer. What each of these experiments proved to me was that none of these people had used the film or it had been so many years they had forgotten what it looked like because the end result always looks like a digital file made to look like Tmax.
What I’m wondering about is if the digital file is the final frontier, why are all these software companies spending so much developing actions that “simulate the look of film?”
Am I the only one that finds humor in this stuff? Please tell me no.
So, in honor of this lunacy, let’s honor the square for what it is. Square.