Shooting With Intention: Brian William Green
ELEPHANT GUN (EG): Rather than speak with you about one particular project, I want to talk with you about your manner of working and how you conceptualize projects and take them from start to finish. You have a background in academic fine-art photography, how has that affected your view towards publication and do you think academia is necessary to make a statement through a body of work?
BRIAN WILLIAM GREEN (BG): Well, I would hardly say it’s my background — since I’ve only spent a year at a university — but I think even that small amount of time has changed the way I look at publication and things in general. I think school or at least that type of environment is good because it makes you ask yourself things like, “what am I trying to say,” “how am I saying it,” “am I saying it?” and so on.
EG: You experiment with mediums and developing techniques frequently, what drives that desire to break conventional norms?
BG: I just use whatever I have on me at the time, unless the project I’m working on requires something specific.
EG: What role does social media play in your work?
BG: In the past year social media has helped a lot in my work, primarily Instagram. I like to connect with strangers, travel to them, and stay with them to build a sort of relationship with them while photographing other strangers in their town. I really dislike the discussions around photography in this age of social media in terms of things like Instagram, more emphasis is put on if it was was shot on film or digital etc, unless that is important to the work and brings something to the table I don’t think its a relevant part of the conversation.
“Travel is a big part of my work, but I don’t think it’s a necessity”
EG: How critical is travel in developing as an artist and exploring new narratives? Is that something that comes easier through living near a cluster of large metropolitan areas?
BG: Travel is a big part of my work, but I don’t think it’s a necessity. Travel gives you more exposure to other ways of thinking, especially when shooting photos on the street. Having access to public transit makes things easier, but there’s always a way to get around.
EG: The amount of work you put out is overwhelming. Any time we talk you are publishing something or starting a new project. How do you maintain a constant stream of projects in the works and how do you develop these concepts or narratives?
BG: Yeah, its a bit of a problem; sometimes I have to force myself to take a step back and relax every now and then, but even then most of my relaxation time ends up being looking at stuff on the computer which inevitably drives me to make something else.
“A lot of people spend way to much time thinking about cameras and tools when that’s all they are — tools”
EG: Who do you study? What about their body of work is appealing to you? It appears as though you are heavily influenced by the Provoke era of Japanese photography (Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Nobuyoshi Araki), simply for the amount of work that they put out, what about their manner of working resonates with your approach? Is it because they rejected the conventional approach to photography and publication?
BG: What resonates with me, especially with the Japanese guys, is their work ethic and way of thinking, A lot of people spend way to much time thinking about cameras and tools when that’s all they are — tools — but when you spend all your time thinking about that, it becomes a roadblock. With a lot of the Japanese artists, it seems more like the work is a stream of consciousness, and that’s what I like about it.
“I find inspiration in the smallest of things: the way a paper feels, the way a colophon is laid out, what thought process is shown through a good preface/foreword…”
EG: What are examples of what you were looking at when working on these publications?
BG: I don’t really look at anything in terms of inspiration for shooting, but when it comes to printing books, I look at various publications. Usually before I start laying out a book I will go to a bookstore and just sit in there for hours, combing through books. I find inspiration in the smallest of things: the way a paper feels, the way a colophon is laid out, what thought process is shown through a good preface/foreword…
EG: What does the shot-selection process look like for you? You shoot digitally now, but when you were shooting film, did you scan everything and make selections from there or did you still rely on contact printing your negatives and seeing the whole roll?
BG: What I like to do is clone my CF card to my external since the file sizes are so big, and then dump it all into Lightroom, Then, I’ll pick what I like and delete what I don’t, then edit, then render. I always keep everything — there have been so many times I have gone back and found photos on a memory card so now I just back up everything.
BG: For film work, I contact print everything and then go from there. I think if you’re shooting film and not contacting, you’re honestly just wasting time scanning everything, and my time means too much to me.
EG: Take me through the process from concept development to publication. What does the timeline usually look like? How long do you usually shoot for? How many copies do you run for each project? What are examples of what you were looking to say with these bodies of work, or what moment you were trying to document?
BG: Again, it depends on the project; some projects are treated like time capsules and are very specifically time-based. The size of the edition depends on the project as well. If it’s something time-based like, let’s say it’s me documenting a city block for a week, I like the idea of keeping the edition size as precious as the time spent there. In the past, I have done things where I shot for ten days so I printed ten copies. What my work says is nothing more than I was here, these are the moments that happened around me and in turn are a reflection of me in that moment.
ELEPHANT GUN is a global, contemporary collective telling compelling stories via multimedia. ELEPHANT GUN, headquartered in Atlanta, operates across 11 countries in more than 15 cities. Follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.