Jeff Brown is interested in the craft of making photos—both his own, and those of other photographers he admires. Brown, who often mixes multiple tungsten lights and strobes in his off-kilter portraits and still lifes (see The Pros and Cons of Continuous Lights), says that when he first went to Parsons the New School for Design to study photography, he wanted to work in the darkroom. “I was into printing. I loved making one big print and getting a friend to help dodge and burn it,” he says. As he moved into digital capture, he became interested in studio photography. “Lighting is fun because you know what you’re making.”
He has been inspired by many photographers, and has been voracious in looking at a variety of editorial work since he was a student. “I enjoy technique a lot and it’s fun to figure out how somebody did something,” he says. “My main sources of inspiration were Blommers/Schumm and Nadav Kander. What I like about them is that their style is pretty uniquely their own, no matter what the project.”
Like portrait and advertising photographer Nadav Kander, the Dutch duo of Anuschka Blommers and Niels Schumm have shot a range of work, both for themselves and for clients. After graduating from Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, they began working together in 1998. That same year, their work was shown at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. They have also had solo exhibitions at the Foam museum in Amsterdam, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and other institutions and galleries. From the beginning of their careers, they have shot fashion and portraiture, bringing a sardonic vision to the conventions of fashion photography in their work for magazines such as Self Service, Purple, AnOther Magazine, i-D, The New York Times Magazine, The Gentlewoman and Interview.
“Their influence on me had to do with the lighting, for sure,” Brown says, but he is equally intrigued by their approach to photographing people. “Each subject becomes its own character through their eyes. And all their photos are very still. Even if there is an action, you can feel how still it is.”
Their images are peculiar, he says, and that’s made them linger in his mind since he first discovered the duo’s work as an art student. “I like when you have to give something a second look,” says Brown. “I think they’re fantastic and just as distinctive today as when I first saw the work.”