The creative team at GS is influenced by a wide variety of personal passions and interests. And for art director and lauded photographer Mark Brautigam, his work and his personal passion intersect in a way that brings his creative to a whole new level. I recently sat down with Mark to find out how he thinks the photographer’s eye influences and enhances everyday creative execution. If you’re interested in seeing more of Mark’s photography, head over to his Website or to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where his piece Eau Claire River, Wausau (featured above) is a part of the permanent collection.
How/when did you get interested in photography?
I started doing photography pretty seriously when I was stationed in California in the Marine Corps. California was such a new and interesting place to me, and traveling around the state with a camera was a fun way to explore it.
How would you describe your photographic style, and how it has developed over the years?
My work lives pretty solidly in the fine art documentary realm. This has a lot to do with the photographers whose work piqued my interest in the first place (see below). I definitely take my time when I photograph, and I think this shows. The pictures I make are usually pretty quiet, but they have an element within them that forces the viewer to stop, reevaluate what they’re looking at, and (hopefully!) connect with the image in a meaningful way.
How did you learn your “trade”?
I never took any classes so I’m pretty much self-taught. There really isn’t anything you can’t find out online, through magazines, and by talking to other photographers.
Who has influenced you?
My biggest influences were the American photographers who worked in a fine art documentary fashion and championed the use of color in photography. Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, Mitch Epstein, William Eggleston, and Richard Misrach to name a few. What drew me in was that what they were photographing wasn’t necessarily spectacular or exotic. It was largely drawn from the everyday. But whether it was a bit of humor in the subject matter, an unexpected pose, or an elegant depiction of a scene that most people wouldn’t normally pay attention to, they made the everyday intriguing.
Do you have a dream shoot/location that you would love to hit someday?
That would have to be Italy. But I’m not so sure my motivations would be purely photographic.
How does your photography work intersect with/enhance/shape your work as a designer?
Photographic imagery is a huge tool in the design tool kit, and designers/art directors/creative directors need to know that language. It’s inseparable from what we do as designers. Personally, being interested in photography, the history of it, and current trends just gives me a bigger well to draw from.
What would you say original photography can bring to design projects?
Original photography often separates the mediocre from the amazing. It’s all about the big idea, engaging the viewer, and driving home the message. There are a lot of points along the way where those elements can go off track. Having control over the photography is a pretty big step in corralling all those elements to make a great piece.
Do you have any words of wisdom to offer someone aspiring to become a photographer?
The best thing you can do is look at a ton of photographs, and try to find out how and WHY the photographers made them. But more importantly, just go out there and do it. And know this: You will make hundreds or thousands of horrible pictures in the process. I have boxes and boxes of negatives to prove that.