2.7.4 David Allan Brandt

The moment I clicked on the website - I was moved. Immediately, involuntarily I was moved deep inside my being. Perhaps like nothing since Salgado, Capa or Aget. In fact nothing like since seeing Salgado's images in full glory at the Tate Modern.

I'm a big fan of Edward Hopper and his unique depictions of people and space. These Hopper pictures came rushing in to my mind as soon as I saw Brandt's images.

And now Brandt's

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The similarities in the use of colour, texture and shadow are fascinating. Brandt does not quote Hopper as a source of inspiration but the parallels are intriguing.

Brandt's subjects seem vulnerable despite the contrasting settings. We see a bedroom that's looks worn and shabby and the physical expression of despair or scream a cry for help the classic 'lord give me strength position'.

In the next picture the subject is isolated in isolation. barren and bereft almost of colour too. The two pastel colours, occupying the upper two thirds of the frame, by the absence of all else feature strongly - a true less is more composition. In Hopper's images the natural light offers warmth and hope - Brandt's by comparison seem to say 'it is as it is'. The figure standing on the stair adopts a posture of arms to the sides - removing the defensive position of arms in front or folded. Body language is critical in conveying messages (as are facial expressions). This subject says this is my world I am resigned to it, yet the leg posture says I am relaxed and comfortable with myself. The cold of the blue and warmth of the yellow act like yin/yang to balance each other. Hence we do not feel concerned for the subject we admire the soft beauty of it. Even though the figure is small within the space we enjoy the colour and texture. The foreboding doorway concerns us not. Perhaps the placing subject at the top of stairs and towards the edge gives the subject the power of control. She is relaxed, not running away (whether up or down), she is not jumping over the edge, She has choices and is comfortable with them.

Then we have a young girl in what we would take to be an older person room (the furniture, bed covers and lace mat beneath the flowers). So the subject - a young girl - may look out of place. But somehow she doesn't. The rather dejected, helpless pose (slumped shoulders, hands held in a defensive position, feet towards each other) all suggest that she is sheltering in someone elses room. Refuge from a harsher life. She is not entirely comfortable here but is safe (knees apart tell us that she feels safe).  The body language is strong and so Brandt also use the room to tell the story. If the room were occupied by contemporary furniture from say IKEA, then we may find a different story for the body language. Each combine to provide signposts for the story. Here the light is behind her, leaving her in shadow - the opposite of Hopper's pictures.

Finally we have a subject placed smack centre in ostentatious surroundings. The light is behind and to the side of her - but not on her. She is looking way from us with her face in shadow. Not quite comfortable with it all. She leans towards the shadows (ever so slightly) her legs point to the shadows and somewhere to the side and beyond the camera. That's where she wants to be - out of the picture, out of the 'limelight'.

We will see this same spaces occupied in entirely different ways in Brandt's other images.

I've put together  a slide show of Brandt's images, from different portfolios, that depict or contain religious iconography. The Christian cross appears on the wall behind the girl and on the chest of a male. In other the cross is being formed either by people or in the case of the man in the water by the shape of the water filling in the gap between decking and man. There is the use of the 'prayer' handclasp and the classic meditation pose perhaps most often associated with Buddhism and Taoism. Whilst Brand does not make mention of this use of iconography, in his published work it is a recurring, if subconscious, theme.

David Allan Brandt has created a vast body of work, which includes a surreal series of romantic worldscapes combining people with urban structures and whimsical dreamlike environments. These elegant black & white and color creations along with his fashion work and environmental and studio portraiture make up a series of beautifully designed images that show his artistic versatility. David began his career as a photojournalist, then attended and graduated from Art Center College of Design, while still in college he became staff photographer with EMI Records. He later opened his own studio in Los Angeles which serves as his home base for international travels, producing advertising campaigns for American Airlines, Sony, AT&T, Hennessy, Canon, Mercedes Benz, Microsoft, Estee Lauder, K Swiss, Nokia, Hitachi, Kawasaki, Palm and Visa to name a few. His commercial work along with his personal projects that range from the conventional to the abstract is always a search for using the ordinary to create the extraordinary expression of life and art. His images have won him numerous awards from around the world, including Archive, Communication Arts, Graphis, American Photography, PDN and many more as well as having his work featured in several of these and other books, publications and exhibitions.

Here's another slide show I've put together, this time moving through portrait studio work, to location work and on to, using Brandt's own words, 'conceptual & narrative' images.

Drtikol's work too. We then see the use of colour and emotion before the location shots (ah but are the first few, very well propped studio shots). The emotive shots really stuck a chord with me and have given me a different idea for my portrait theme. I'm getting the sense that I'd like to bring someone in get a few shots of their 'normal' state and then encourage them to liberate their emotions, remove inhibition and see what we get. The idea would work well a 'campaign' to promote greater understanding/diversity in business.

Back to Mr Brandt. The show finishes with reportage style images and finally a departure from the norm and the striking use of colour reminiscent of Martin Parr and his 'Last Resort' images.


  1. Hi Joe
    Yes, there are some very inspirational images from this guy. The images of the girl in the purple dress is just so good. I don't how much work he has done on this image but the colours are really superb.I have already got his stuff on as he was one photographer that really caought my eye on the list.

  2. Ooooo....very cool slide show! how did you do that?!! great work by the way, you have a teqnique of explaining things well. I just talk mumbo jumbo!!

  3. Hi
    You have to coldly pull apart these images into their main parts so you can identify say use of colour and how much space it takes up within the crop of the image so that way of working can be tried by yourself, you may do this with say 6 photographers and add different elements together from each with some thoughts and ideas of your own.
    This will help you raise the bar as far as your criteria are concerned.


  4. 2.7.2 blog entry clearly shows that you have evidenced the photographers you have studied.
    This meets the criteria P3.