Brian Slater: photographer

I've been waiting a long time to create this post. Since I started this blog I have wanted to showcase Brian's amazing talent! He is a past student of mine...from waaay back...and he currently resides in Kansas City. I asked him to write up a brief summary of his career since graduating from T. West:

"I graduated from West in 1997... I was going to go to KU and study biology, but it just didn't sound that fun... Having fun in life seems way more important to me than nice cars, houses, and 401k's. So i turned down my scholarship, and instead accepted a full scholarship to go study photography at Highland Community College. Another T West grad, Tim Fisher went to HCC for art, and went on to great success and fame with MK12, a flash animation firm based here in Kansas City. You might have seen some of their work with MTV and most recently on the intro credits and computer interface parts of James Bond - Quantum of Solace. The instructor at HCC is a gent name Glenn Gross, and he's still teaching there. Glenn has a masters in photography, and studied under the Ansel Adams camp, and another famous photographer at MU Columbia. When i was in college, digital was still up and coming, and we learned the traditional ways... I can't stress enough the importance of the Zone system, and having solid technical understanding of the traditional silver gelatin methods. Even if you shoot strictly digital, you'll never really understand how to "see" a scene, and know how it will translate in 2D, without understanding how exposures are made. Mr. Berryman at West was a crucial figure in my life. He really sparked an interest inside me to be more of a visual artist, and also, an example of how to "be cool" and still have all these great qualities that I didn't see in a lot of adults around me. Glenn gave me a really solid technical mastery, and helped push me creatively, technically and and visually. You can't just shoot when you feel like it, or only do the bare minimum to complete your assignments. If there isn't a burning desire to photograph and interpret the world around you, then you should probably consider a different career. Doing something for a living is a good way to ruin a perfectly good hobby.

After west I moved to Kansas City, to stay close to my father who was ill. My first job after college was managing the photo lab inside the Sam's Club, followed shortly by a highly sought after job at Custom Color, processing slide film in the E6 department. Working at Custom Color was a great opportunity. Now defunct, at the time Custom Color was one of only a handful of Kodak Q Labs in the country... used primarily by professionals for their very high standards of quality control and precision. My technical background allowed me to quickly learn how to control the chemisty, and gained me the trust of many photographers at the time. I was actually the youngest person they'd ever hired, so it took a while to gain the trust of the pros with their slide film. We processed nearly all the studios film at the time, including Hallmark. I left Custom color in the summer of 2000, to move to Chicago. I landed a graphic design job, downtown at a firm, and was trying to get my foot into the door at some studios, but my fathers cancer took a turn for the worse, and I moved back to Topeka to take care of him until he passed away. I moved back to Kansas City in early 2001, and was fortunate to have some good contacts and was able to freelance assist for some of the best photographers in the city, including Nick Vedros, Don Wolf, Mark Lozano, Tal Wilson (also a KCAI instructor), Mike Martin, Ron Berg and Matt McFarland, as well as Rush Wade and a handful of others. I was also able to do some test shooting for a local modeling agency. I learned unique things from each of the photographers I worked with, and was really blessed with some of the opportunities presented. After 9/11, things took a huge downturn in Kansas City, which once had a thriving photo scene. I took a job doing graphic design for a printing company, and have been doing graphic design as a 9-5 since. It allows me a lot of time to play in Photoshop and Illustrator, to surf the web and see whats going on around the world, and research other visual artists. There really is something profound to be learned every day. I would say my relationship with Mark Lozano has been one of the most important to me. Not only has he become one of my closest friends, he's also my Judo sensei, sounding board, collaborator, and he's gracious enough to let me use his studio on the rare occasions I use strobe and studio backgrounds. I'd thought about going on to an Art Institute, but every editor, photographer and creative director that looked at my portfolio told me not to waste the time and money. I'm a firm believer that a quality education can be had for the cost of a library card, internet connection, and alot of personal drive and ambition. Also, take time to think about thinking, to analyze, percieve, to study light, to meditate, and to really figure out who you are and what you have to relay about the world around you. You can learn a lot by studying other peoples work, but its hardly a substitute for your own voice and your own vision.

I dj'ed for 6 years, so it provided me the opportunity to work with alot of artists and musicians in Kansas City, many of which have since gone national and international. I'm primarily only interested in photographing people who I find interesting, and I have the financial freedom to pick and choose jobs as they come along. A short list of clients would include Datura Records, Fudge Factory Sounds, Innate Sounds, HHA, and a list of organizations and publications that I've sort of forgot about.

The opportunity to travel to Honduras just sort of fell in my lap. I went with my sisters church through a missions organization, and I was honored to be able to go and meet all these incredible people, and to serve God. Really, all my talents and intelligence, and incredible opportunities that I've been presented in life are from God, and I try to acknowledge that first and foremost. I'm just blessed to be able to be used as an instrument of his will, and to help witness the human condition, and relay it visually to others. I felt it was really important for me to take honest, unbiased portraits. While they may not have alot of the material things that we take for granted in America, they have so much more than we do, spiritually... Things we can't buy in stores. I didn't want to go and bring back a bunch of Sally Struthers' commercials' type of images of sad looking kids in filthy clothes... or to make images that depicted them as something they weren't. And while, yes, they live in a level of poverty few of us could imagine, The Honduran people are beautiful, intelligent, loving, clean and proud people. It was truly a blessing to be able to experience the people and have such incredible access to them, and have some deep, meaningful interactions with them.

For the rest of the year, I'm looking at a possible mission trip to Kenya in June for 10 days, trips to Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Hawaii and a possible return trip to Honduras to distribute prints to the families in person. I may also be going to an Indian Reservation in Arizona in October to help build a school. I'm also venturing into the world of film making, and learning how to get the most out of the D90's high def video features, and learning video editing software."

And now, a selection of images from Brian's photography website, forwardsbackwards.com:

(the following three images were taken on Brian's 2009 visit to Honduras)

1 comment:

dj ataxic said...

Damn bro. I am loving the work. Please don't think that i have forgotten about our talk with the pics, i am just going through some life stuff and trying to decide how much longer i am going to be djing. I will keep in touch though!! Great work!