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Cotton's Interview with a Photographer: Keiran Brownie

June 13, 2018

Cotton's Interview with a Photographer: Keiran Brownie

We love local. And being from one of the most stunning places on earth we couldn't be more excited to share what we see and experience every month, day, and year with each other. Kieran Brownie knows this all too well being from the hidden gem of Squamish BC. Kieran shares some ideas, insights, and images from behind and in front of the lens. Without further ado here is the next installment of our "Interview with a Photographer series" featuring Kieran Brownie.

Cotton Carrier: Where do you call home?

Keiran Brownie: Squamish is(more or less) where I’m based; I spend quite a bit of time on the road, but the Coast Range will always be home.

CC: How long have you taken photographs for unprofessionally and professionally?

K Brownie: I have been shooting professionally for almost 2 years. I think I took my first photos on road trips with my Grandpa who lived in Calgary. I would have been 10 or 12; he would eat spitz like a mad man, and I’d stare out the window taking pictures as we cruised through the national parks of Alberta looking for dinosaurs; it was just a basic point and shoot, maybe a fujifilm or something. I remember the flood of memories that would get unlocked once the developed film was in my hands, little details and pieces which one easily forgets; I liked that feeling so I continued to make images on and off (although with little intention). 

CC: How would you define your style as a photographer?

K Brownie: I don’t want to box myself in by claiming a style, although I will say that my images are defined by my interest in simplicity; I never found the patience to dawdle around in the muck, preferring to instead add tremendous amounts of friction to boil off what I can and break an idea down to its base elements and find the simplest way to present it. The challenge of doing this on the fly in all sorts of environments is where I get a lot of enjoyment, maintaining a certain tranquility in chaotic situations.

CC: Have you ever gone to photography school? 

K Brownie: I took a B&W photo course in high-school, which I failed...

CC: Where is your favorite place or thing to shoot?

K Brownie: My favorite place to shoot is where I am.

CC: What Camera(s) / Lenses do you use?

K Brownie: I use two bodies; a Canon 7DII, and a Sony A7rII(with Metabones). For glass, I mostly rely on a Canon EF 70-200mm f4 and 40m 2.8, and a (Rokinon)12mm 2.8 for when things get up close and personal.  

CC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “The Shot”?

K Brownie: I’m not sure what the craziest thing I’ve done for a shot is; I feel like crazy might be a relative term, it’s a fine line between bold and stupid. One situation that rides that line was when I first started rethinking what photography meant to me two years ago. I was working on an editorial piece for Coast Mountain Life covering an ongoing project to clear debris from a rockslide that had blocked the salmon run returning to the Seymour Salmon Hatchery. I desperately wanted an underwater shot of a fish in the river with the crews working in the background. The only problem was the lack of an underwater housing, a wetsuit, and a snorkel and mask. Luckily, I knew the crew which meant I had a little wiggle room because all I managed to find was the underwater housing. After what must have been close to an hour and half sitting in mountain run off in my board shorts, waiting for a salmon to swim in front of my camera, the guys had to break for lunch which was better than me admitting I was too cold and starting to have doubts. It started raining. I decided to leave, maybe it was a stupid idea. On the trail out of the woods I kept thinking about the shot, perhaps I didn’t even need the workers? I decided to give it just one more try but this far down the river the banks were sheer walls. I found a route down the moss and scrambled to a pool absolutely filled with salmon. I snapped away with glee, forgetting the cold water, moving slowly with frozen limbs so as not to startle the fish. Without goggles I either squinted under water or kept my face close to the water to see the lcd screen. I liked what I was seeing. After a while I realized how cold I had let myself get and stumbled back to my clothes. I stiffly climbed out of the river and shuffled back to the car, driving home I shivered uncontrollably; no matter, I had gotten the shot I wanted -or had I? When I got home; the photos were out of focus, under exposed, and totally worthless. I felt pretty beat down after that and basically didn’t really care about the article now that the chance to get the shot had passed. It made me realize that i had to be honest to myself about where my inspiration lay and that no matter how down you feel about yourself, you always must keep your editor happy.

CC: Who has inspired you as a photographer?

K Brownie: I’m constantly inspired by all sorts of things. Classical Art has taught me a lot about lighting -techniques like chiaroscuro and tenebrism. The grandfathers of photography have lots to offer but the list is too long, todays photographers that get my excited to shoot more are Krystle Wright, Dave Black, Keith Ladzinski, Jordan Manley, and Joe McNally to name a few.

CC: What advice would you tell an aspiring photographer?

K Brownie: Take photos, have fun, don’t sweat the small stuff. I am lucky enough to know photographers who know more about photography then I know about life, and treasure the fact that they still answer my calls. Much love!

CC: How has photography shaped your day to day?

K Brownie: I spend way too much time on the computer. 

CC: Where has photography taken you, and made you experience? 

K Brownie: Professional photography lets me spend more time taking photos, which is the goal right?

CC: Anything else you’d like to add? 

K Brownie: A feature article on an exploratory climbing expedition deep into the Colombian Amazon is in the current issue of Rock & Ice. Other than that, I’ve been focusing on some personal projects which I’m stoked to share in the coming months.