Todays ‘Featured Artist’ is the fantastic Brian Wehrung who’s architectural photography of simple geometric lines and perfect composition capture the imagination with excitement and wonder. In this exclusive interview we find out how he does it.
Hi Brian, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I graduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland with a degree in Engineering. I moved to Boston and worked in high technology product development for the next 13 years. During that time I was shooting a lot of New England landscapes as well as some architecture, but mainly in a more documentary style.
So what about your photography journey, how did you find your style?
As a graduation gift I was given my first real camera, a Pentax ME Super. I moved to Silicon Valley to pursue the startup dream and eventually switched over from film to digital. Around 2007 I discussed various photo sharing sites and stared looking at the more artistic photos that were being posted. I started shooting in a more minimal style. In 2008 I moved to New Mexico, where the architecture is very simple, geometric, and colorful. These forms and colors drove me more and more toward a minimal style emphasizing color, line, and form. In 2010 I moved back to California and continued working with my architectural subjects. California is a very car centric culture, and once back I started shooting using automobiles as a subject as well.
So you have moved around quite a bit, where are you based now?
California. I split my time between San Diego and San Jose.
How would you describe your work in a few words?
Color, line, geometry, texture. These are the building blocks of many of the complex objects that we experience every day.
What interests you in this style?
When we look at, say a building, or an automobile, we are seeing a complex object constructed from these building blocks, and we experience that object within the context of its physical location and as a function of our own past experiences. We see the whole, but not the parts. We see a house, a grocery store, a truck or a sports car.
What I try to do with my photographs is break those mental connections with context and experience in order to see the parts instead of the whole.
By extracting out some of the details of the whole, and eliminating others, the complexity is reduced, the context is eliminated, and the basic forms are left. A grocery store reduces down to a set of colored rectangles, a sports car reduces down to a series of curved lines. Those ubiquitous, commonplace, and many times uninteresting objects, which often barely register on our consciousness, become unique, abstract, geometric puzzles. The parts become more than the whole. I call this process Extractive Reductionism.
How do you find the things to ‘Extract and Reduce’?
My subject matter requires that I go out and find it, I cannot shoot in a studio. For architectural subjects I find my subject matter by a couple of different methods. The first is essentially driving around, more or less at random, looking for interesting locations. This is not the most efficient method, and involves a lot of last second U-turns across multiple lanes of traffic. It is however, the way I found most of my subject matter. The other method that I use is “virtual scouting trips”. I will use Google to look at satellite images of locations I may be interested in, then switch over to street view when I have found a potentially interesting site.
So once you have found the object or location, what next?
I will plan a trip out to that location. Once at a location I tend to spend a lot of time walking around, shooting from various angles. This drives me toward primarily shooting handheld, a tripod would slow me down too much. On occasion I will return to a location a second time with a tripod.
So how many photos will you take to get that perfectly interesting image?
On a good day I will fill up a couple of memory cards, on a bad day not even one. I tend to shoot in Raw + Jpg mode, with bracketing so that I have three raw files for editing and small jpegs for reviewing and quick, experimental edits.
How do you choose ‘The One’?
Once I finish my shoot I will upload the images to my computer and make a first pass review of the jpegs. Of the images I like I will edit them to correct for lens issues, adjust perspective, and then optimize exposure, color, and saturation. Finally, I will do any cropping that I think the image warrents. I tend review the images I shot several times of the course of a week; sometimes it takes a few reviews to decide that an image has potential.
If I wanted to shoot this type of image what would your advice be?
Try to see things without their surrounding context. Don’t look at function, try to focus on form.
What is your favourite photo you have taken?
This is a tough question, as I tend to not have favorites (its so limiting). Be that as it may, I will say “The Walking Man”. This was a one of a series of photos I made while on a vacation back in Boston. I was wondering around in some areas that had been built up since I left, and found this T station that had a glass block window looking out onto the street. Every time someone walked by there was this great distorted image formed n the glass. I shot a series of those pictures, then cranked the saturation way up to get this wild looking, fun image.
What about selling your images, how do people find you?
I am currently working with a dealer, Langs De Wal, in New York City to sell my work, and we have sold a few images, so I am cautiously optomistic.
Finally, what equipment do you use?
The majority of my images are now shot with the following:
Tamron 28-105 f2.8 zoom
Canon 80-200mm f2.8 zoom
See more of Brians amazing work on his Flicker page where he goes under the name of ‘Booksin’.
All photos and words used with permission of Brian Wehrung.
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