I have lived in California for most of my life. I discovered photography when I was in Junior college. A friend was taking a class and I casually wondered about taking pictures myself. The transformation from indifferent student to devoted photographer came quickly under the instruction of David Drake, my first photography mentor. His passion was infectious and I have nurtured this passion in myself ever since. Nearly 20 years after leaving college, I met two photographers who inspired me all over again, encouraging me to work even harder to achieve my own vision. Larry Wiese, and Larry Vogel, co-founders of the Photographer’s Exchange in Southern California, provided me with their companionship as fellow photographers, and who continue to be unstintingly generous in imparting their knowledge to others.

When I first became involved in photography, I found my interest gravitating toward the images of the traditional West Coast Photographers, chiefly the founding artists of Group f64. Currently in my career, I still remain devoted to their classic practice and vision. After experimenting for the first few years to find a suitable match of chemicals, film, and paper, I continued with that combination for the next 20 years. I was never one to chase the magic bullet. The advent of digital photography however has eclipsed the use of film as a photographic medium, and therefore affected the availability of much of the materials I have been accustomed to using. I find myself in the interesting position of experimenting all over again with the film and paper combinations still available in order to get the contrast and tonal range I most prefer.

I’ve had a career-long love of the process of shooting and developing images using large format cameras, and now shoot almost exclusively with a 4x5 and 8x10 view camera. Even though I have had some experience with digital photography, I find that I still love, and prefer, to visualize and capture an image on film, as well as develop and print it in the dark room. Gelatin silver prints remain my great love as far as my printing medium goes.

I have spent the last 30 years photographing the landscape and more recently the human form, in both the studio and outdoors. The image may be a simple portrait or a study in light and form, depending on the quality that first attracted me to the subject. Even though I mention light and form, I know, as far as the figure goes, that I look for some unique personal or spiritual aspect to their face, or their presence that I want to capture, and this ultimately determines my choice of model.

I envision continuing working in film, processing my images myself, for as long as the materials are available to me. Too much of my love of photography has to do with the traditional, chemistry based process, and I find it hard to describe myself as a photographer without including this component into that definition.


Joel  Brown

Fine Art Photography