Though Brian Park had always liked photography growing up, he actually wanted to major in film… at least at first. But when The University of Washington didn’t have a film program, he “settled” on photography. It was a second choice at the time, but a career that he’d end up becoming extremely passionate about.
“Obsession is kind of an overused word,” he explains, “but I wanted to learn more and more, I was learning as much as I could — beyond the darkroom with studio lighting and also, color film processing and printing.”
Soon, Park knew he’d found a career. He moved to New York after school and started out assisting fashion photographers. His early work traveling for shoots gave him a strong taste for travel photography. He would sneak off in his spare time to get as many photos as he could –inspiring him to take his own photography-based trips.
As his reputation grew, Park began to get his commissions and advertising work. His career took off from there. Now, he’s able to travel the world for a combination of personal passion projects and commercial ventures. Along the way, his diverse portfolio has continued to grow. He has an eye for landscape composition and his photos of nature have an architectural aspect that makes them unique in an image-driven world.
Shooting with a combination of cameras, Park makes sure to take the time on every trip to slow down and really take in the beauty of his surroundings. Then he uses film to capture the minute detail and undefinable “magic” of a spot. We spoke this week about his technique, craft, and passion for exploration.
You do so many different kinds of photography, what kind would you say you’re most passionate about?
I’ve been asking myself that question increasingly over the past year. And now I think I’m really passionate about my travel photography. It’s not something that I work in commercially the most, but the one that offers me the greatest reward in terms of personal experience. Both in real life and also photographically.
What was your most recent trip?
Well when you first contacted me, I was actually on a travel job. I was in Chili, there to shoot images of Patagonia. And I extended my stay so I could spend more time there, because in Patagonia you really need a lot of time. I went all the way up north to spend a few days in the desert called Atacama, and so I just came back from that. That was a great experience, it’s the driest desert in the world and I haven’t actually looked through all the images…I’m really looking forward to editing those photos.
When editing, do you delete as you go or do you spend time going through them after?
I typically like to carry at least two cameras with me, one digital and one film. And so, with digital, I do have a DSLR and I just shoot a ton of photographs and then I edit that after. And then with my film camera, I’m a little more selective. I really try and balance my manner of shooting with my DSLR with my film camera by just saying, hey you know, this is something that you really want to slow down and take a shot of it. Be willing to invest in processing or to just stop yourself and take it out and maybe set up the camera.
There’s something that is so magical and kind of nostalgic about having to wait for your images and see if anything turns up.
Most people shoot with DSLRs nowadays and I just feel like there’s a different visual, graphical feeling, like a different scientific visual translation interpretation with the DSLR. As opposed to say shooting with a view camera, like a 4×5. I think that you can see things and feel things differently depending on the camera.
With digital, I can shoot fast and worry about it later. Digital images are a more disposable situation. Like when you’re in a rush, you’re just shooting, shooting, shooting. Where as the opposite, extreme example is if I had my five-camera with me, I’d have to set up the tri pod and I’m forced to kind of sit down and be like, “okay this is what I want to shoot, this is how I want to frame it, this is what I want to frame.” It really forces you to slow down and there’s something to be said about that. Especially when it comes to landscape photography.
When shooting with a 4×5 camera, I personally have a tendency to shoot framed things very graphically. So if I’m captivated by a scene I usually try and get a process that’s going to look really good on a sheet because it’s going to reproduce really well and it’s going to blow up really well, all that.
What is one of the coolest landscapes you’ve taken photos of?
In terms of landscape one of my early trips that I did, (just entirely for myself — it wasn’t on commission or anything) was Morocco. And so there’s a picture of my camel guy and a couple of camels, technically they’re called dromadaire, and it’s a black and white photo in the desert. It’s just very stark and high contrast. And photographically, it’s still one my coolest shots.
How do you afford to go on these trips? Are they usually sponsored or do you save up money?
It’s been both. But, I’m not going to let whether I have a sponsor or commission stop me from traveling. I’ll go and travel on my own if I can save up enough money on the cheap. ‘Cause its inspiring, you know? I live in New York and it’s exciting to get out of the city to get new prospective and you know, and see life that’s out there, you know?
You can follow Brian on his website!