- By: Bob White
“Photography is an act of life.” So is the motto of Brian L. Schiele, who creates photographs that have been described as serendipitous, nostalgic, cinematic and dreamlike. As an artist, I’m nostalgic by nature; so it’s not surprising that his work strikes a chord with me. After all, the square-formatted, black-and-white images that this Utah-based artist creates remind me of the family photos in my parent’s attic.
Those old family records were most likely taken with a bakelite box camera, a Kodak Brownie. Brian creates his work in much the same way, with black-and-white film and a Holga camera—a plastic camera that many people would describe as a toy. In this age of digital photography, where perfectly focused and heartbreakingly beautiful photographs are the expected norm, I’m both surprised and intrigued by the direction of Brian’s work and his choice of equipment.
Brian was introduced to Holga cameras in the early 1990s, while a student at Weber State University in Utah. But it wasn’t until almost a decade later, when he felt compelled to recreate some extremely vivid dreams in photography, that the effects he obtained with the Holga began to shape and ultimately give direction to his work. Brian says that he’s embraced the challenge of working with such a primitive and rudimentary camera, and feels that it forces him to be a better and more creative photographer.
“There’s an idea in art called ‘wabi-sabi’ that celebrates beauty in the imperfect and unconventional. Using a Holga, I often get light leaks and photographs that aren’t as sharp as they would be had I used a more conventional camera; this makes the photographs I create with a Holga the essence of wabi-sabi.”
He continues: “Depending upon the subject and the composition of the image, these light leaks often become a compositional element as well as part of the spirit of the photograph.”
In a world where most photographers train and strive for perfection, Brian appreciates and incorporates the unpredictable and spontaneous “mistakes” that ultimately breathe life into his work.
“I think that working with a Holga is very similar to fly-fishing,” he said. “As far as equipment goes, both are pretty simple, yet challenging to use, and once you’ve mastered the tools of your craft, the results can be incredible. I think the tenkara rods and the whole aesthetic of ‘fishing simply’ has a close connection to my work.”
I find that there’s a wondrously strange and mysterious quality about Brian Schiele’s photographs that makes them perfect for fly- fishing images; they make me feel as if I’m underwater.
Contributing editor Bob White is a writer, fine artist and fly-fishing guide; go to www.whitefishstudio.com. See Brian Schiele’s photographs at www.mtbbrian.com, or visit Brian’s Flickr page, where he’s known as Red Holga Man.