The hidden talents of our fellow staff members were on display in the Gallery exhibit Alter Egos.
Scott Brackey, Public Services Specialist in Bookmobile, had photographs in the exhibit.
Why did you choose photography as a means of expression?
I struggle to recall when I took an interest in photography (this despite my being present for it). Other common artforms have childhood antecedents in crayons, finger painting, macaroni art, the recorder (who thought that was a good idea?).
Photography is comparatively esoteric. That I am not now talking about my work in, say, oils or pasta is telling: my school arts and crafts did not merit the prestige of the fridge.
One aspect of photography that fascinates me is the interplay between science and art and the historical context in which the medium developed. Photography was the result of applied physics and chemistry and promptly became an invaluable tool in natural history, archaeology, anthropology, etc.
Despite its technical trappings and academic applications, photography possesses a façade of veracity. There was a widespread belief in the nineteenth-century (today?) that photographs captured reality. A perception that this product of science imbued its utilization with scientific objectivity.
Spirit photography may be the most notable example of this misconception, with no less than Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of evolution, citing it as proof of the spirit realm. Pitfalls of photographic manipulation and staged photography aside, the medium’s role in science – and what the medium owes to technological advancements – makes photography unique within the arts.
I do not adhere to a particular art theory and find that even trying to define “art” is something of a snipe hunt. I do, however, contend that we do not always see past that façade of veracity and ultimately deny the photographer some degree of creative interpretation or vision.
A picture is not taken but created. There is a plethora of choices a photographer makes in the acquisition, development, and presentation of an image. This holds true even if she or he intends for an objective reproduction of a subject. A lens/camera is not a human eye and to achieve fidelity some level of manipulation is required. “The picture doesn’t do it justice” speaks to the gulf between what one sees (to say nothing of what one feels) and what a camera without a photographer will reveal. This is not to say that this divide can or should be bridged in all instances, but there is an art to that pursuit.
In practical, rather than academic, terms I enjoy geeking out over the technical gear and gadgetry – it’s just cool…and addictive. Seeing others with big cameras probably sparked my interest when I was younger.
I recall being overzealous with snapping pictures while on vacations. I was and still am a dorky kid. Documenting travel as a means of remembering those experiences/sharing it with others must have always had an appeal. Additionally, photography expands my ability to enjoy nature. My appreciation and sense of awe has only grown in the time I’ve pursued photography.
What’s your favorite art-making tool or material?
I’m terrible at favorites, but even if I wasn’t, there’s so many nifty tools and such that I’d still struggle to pick. To geek out a bit:
Lightroom/Photoshop – indispensable and necessary. Photographers who shoot digital generally do so in a RAW file format. Contrast this with, say, a cellphone, which “bakes in” color profiles, white balance, sharpening, lens correction, etc. and discards what it deems superfluous data. RAW formats preserve all data the sensor captures, allowing one to have creative/corrective control of the final image.
Wide angle lenses – We tend to think of these as mainly for fitting more of an scene into a shot (it’s in the name), but perhaps the true value of wide angle lenses is that they render objects farther apart and more distant than normal. This perspective adds depth and layers to an image, incorporating foreground interests with everything beyond it.
Telephoto lenses – Opposite effect (image foreground and background are compressed). If a wide angle allows me to enjoy a landscape, a tele allows me to experience wildlife. Filling the frame with a bird or other critter is incredibly rewarding and addictive.
Macro lenses and all the gadgetry involved – Macrophotography – generally insects – makes up the bulk of my work. I love discovering the beauty in the miniscule. It takes some specialized equipment and considerations to perform, but it’s great fun.
Lighting equipment for macro or portraiture – having control over lighting makes a world of difference. Fiddling around with getting that just right can be frustrating, but when it works out, shazam.
Astrophotography is something I’ve done a bit of. The sky’s the limit (heh) in terms of the equipment one can employ in capturing the cosmos. Spring lockdown forced me to make bad decisions (I take no responsibility) and I acquired some gadgets for doing this more seriously. Hopefully soon I can put it all to good use and smother some of the flames coming from my wallet. I could go on but I’ve already rambled enough.
If you had an unlimited budget, what’s the first thing you would buy for your art?
A dangerous question. I best not even consider it. I’d hate to give myself any ideas.
Thanks to Scott for sharing his thoughts on his creative process!