Is photography a form of art? This has been an ongoing subject of vociferous debate ever since the medium was invented. In the case of Bryan de la Garza (or “Brain” as his skatepunk friends like to call him), the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Brain is a photographer/cinematographer who eschews digital media in favor of film.
Why choose an analog format in a digital world? The answers are complex. Working with film can be a daunting proposition. First and foremost, a roll of film — plus developing — isn’t cheap. And there are only so many exposures per roll. Each shot must be carefully considered, and if the camera is manual focus and exposure, it takes time to get all the settings correct. Every shot must count. But the results can be worth the effort.
The reason Brain can be called an artist is the way in which he uses the medium as a creative tool. Double exposures, street photography, film manipulation…these are all tools he puts to good use. As a photographer/artist, having a good eye is critical. These ain’t exactly angry cat photos processed via Instagram…
Brain was recently one of the featured artists at the All-School Exhibition at Southwest School of Art. In fact, “Gay Cowboys” won the Best of Photography award. Even more impressive is the fact that he is doing color enlargements and developing his own work in the darkroom. For those of you who’ve never tried it, I can tell you first hand that it’s nowhere near as simple as it may sound. Getting the right color balance on the enlargement, chemical temperatures, and developing times are all critical. Black and white is relatively straightforward, but doing color is complex and unforgiving.
Brain’s current primary avocation is Polaroid photography. The instant photo shares similarity to digital photography in that there is near-instant gratification. Press the shutter…and voila! 60 seconds later you have a print to share. With the older Polaroid “Land” cameras, it’s possible to give the photo to your subject. Keep the peel-away portion and use it as a negative image that can be taken home, scanned and reversed. Of course, there are only 10 photos per pack, so once again it’s important to get every shot right.
If you’re curious and would like to see more, Stonewall Gallery is hosting a show of Brain’s Polaroid work, opening this Sunday, September 1, with a reception from 6-9pm.
You can check out Brain’s other work, including his cimematography projects, at brainold.com.