What’s your background and how did you get into photography?
I stumbled into photography, really; while I’ve always been interested in art & photography, I didn’t regularly take photos myself until probably 2004 or 2005. At that time, Flickr was a popular website for photographers and I spent a lot of time there and became pretty obsessed. The idea of translating a moment or a feeling into a photograph – that’s what I loved.
To make a long story short, I was actually a lawyer previously. And I was pursuing personal photography in my (very little) spare time. Eventually, I built up a small portfolio & some commissions; I was very unhappy & stressed as a lawyer, so I left behind my law career to pursue photography full-time. I’ve never looked back.
What drives you to create and how do you stay motivated?
I’m driven to create by many things, but mainly by encountering new ideas, new sights, new people & influences — the very personal act of discovery leads to a need for self-expression. I make sense of the world by making photographs, I guess. This is what motivates me.
Why is doing what you do important to you?
First, it gives me the opportunity to be expressive and to put a piece of myself out into the world. Second, it’s about exploration & connection: it allows me to meet different people, hear new ideas and see new places & things.
Walk us through your creating process.
I don’t have a set process, really. Every photo, shoot & project is different. It is always about noticing, though. And I try to allow my intuition to guide the creation. Sometimes I am curious about a particular thing (maybe an idea, or a person, or a place) so I set out to explore it and then the process is determined by what I find. Often, I have no aim or project in mind and I stumble upon something that excites me to take photographs and then I create from that impulse. And other times, I might be working on a commission or client project which leads to another series or project – a tangent, which I always like to explore.
What are your interests as a photographer?
Ah, this list is always changing. I don’t often know how to categorize my interests … whatever gets me excited or curious. The human mind is a curious thing, right? A few constants are light, design, the passage of time, the way people live …
Many of your pictures include interior design – is that a personal interest?
Yes. Interiors can be an expression of a person or place — I’m not very interested in interiors from a purely aesthetic point of view, though. It’s more about how people live and how a space fits into this human idea. I like shooting interiors when it feels like I’m taking a portrait of person (even if there is no human in the photograph). There is something personal – the “soul” in a particular space – that I am interested in capturing.
When shooting portraits, how do you make people comfortable in front of the lens?
It completely depends on the person I’m shooting and how we interact together. I tend to be a super friendly person, especially when taking portraits — so it’s often about talking to the subject a bit before & during the shoot. I also try to watch and observe people and see how they are most comfortable and then incorporate that into the way I shoot them. I think it’s about listening & having empathy. When I have the luxury of time, this is easier – everyone can relax a bit and have some fun. But other times, I have 10 minutes with a particular person so I just have to make something work – that’s always a challenge, but it can be fun, too.
What are your influences and how does it affect your work?
I’m influenced by anyone who tells me who he or she is through their work. A singular point of view influences me. And that can really be anyone — a photographer like Collier Schorr or Jamie Hawkesworth or Francois Halard, a novelist like Carson McCullers, a food writer like Nigel Slater, an artist like Matt Connors or Franz Erhard Walther, a designer like Jasper Morrison, or even a friend like Kyle Garner, Kellen Tucker, Christopher David Ryan, or Maria Vettese & Stephanie Congdon Barnes.
What’s your favourite place to travel for shooting?
I love to travel to the UK and to southern California to shoot. Both places inspire me for reasons that I don’t fully understand.
Is it hard to find harmony between personal projects and client work?
Sometimes it is very hard, yes. I do think that a majority of my personal and client work is pretty interrelated — I think it’s important to shoot the photos that I want to take no matter who I’m shooting for. And hopefully this means that a client is hiring me to shoot something that jives with my personal style.
Which camera is your favorite?
Whatever camera I have in my bag at the time! I think camera choice is overrated — it really doesn’t matter — but I probably like to shoot with my Pentax 67 the most.
Who are your favorite photographers?
Tell us something important you have learned.
It’s cool to care.
If you had to choose a different profession, what would it be?
Well, I’ve already had a different profession and I chose this one, so I’m gonna stick with it.
What are your future plans?
I’m hoping to make a few life/work changes in the near future. First, I’m moving to a shared photo studio this autumn in order to change up my routine in New York a bit. I’ll be working on a few book projects and a body of abstract personal work. And contacting some clients & magazines I’d like to work with (I’m not very good at marketing & promotion).
But no matter what, I’m gonna keep my eyes open & keep taking photos.
View all of Brian’s work.