By Polly Gaillard
From over 1200 submissions, Paul Martineau, the Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum selected 100 images for APA LA's Off The Clock 2022 Exhibition, including three Best In Show images, including one by Pasadena-based photographer Brian Lowe.
When viewing Brian's photographs of athletes and sports, you'll see that the pictures are not only advertising images; they are fine art. He frames subjects against minimal backgrounds or sky with graceful graphic lines and often deep shadows. Classic portraits of bodies in motion, gracefully diving, dribbling, the athlete always focused, attentive to the moment at hand. The composition is impeccable as if the athletes have paused in mid-air to wait for the click of Brian's shutter. He pulls inspiration from photography greats like Horst P. Horst and Helmut Newton – his work creates the same sense of timelessness. He admits that he wants the image to be more than an athletic photo, with a focus on its fashion of it and the gracefulness and power of the athletes.
It's all about a color palette, the perfect wall in the background, and the place to shoot so I can use the sky as the background. I see that first and then ask myself, 'What's going to look great here?’ I have to see the location, scouting the light is the most important part. then play out what will happen there. That's how it starts.
Brian has always considered himself a portrait photographer. After ten years of making entertainment portraits at CBS, he moved into the advertising world by beginning a career in sports photography. He explains, "I still wanted my sports photographs to look like portraits. I've admired photographers like Irving Penn and Albert Watson – if you look at their work, all these beautiful things are happening, but it's still about that one person in the frame. The background is out of focus, even if the pictures are environmental portraits. I want to keep a clean palette and make a portrait while photographing an active sport."
To create his distinct aesthetic, Brian revisited his early photographs made while studying at the Brooks Institute. He then realized that even as a young photographer, he found inspiration in graphic forms and deep shadows. "I still like looking at that work style, and my eye is drawn to it – I tend to go towards what's naturally intuitive," says Brian. Even though he is not a huge sports fan, he thoroughly enjoys taking pictures of athletes. After developing a portfolio of work he made for Nike, he was so excited that he started calling potential clients, exclaiming, "Hey, let's do this!" When the portfolios became tighter, he felt like he grew into a different photographer almost overnight. Finally, clients began to hire Brian for his style and color palette. "The aesthetic quality of my work is really me. I'm making work that feels authentic which helps me sleep at night."
The Off the Clock Best of Show award isn't Brian's first win at a significant photography competition, but it pleases him all the same. "I think winning competitions gives a longer shelf life to your images because you get to see them in print, and next to great photographers too. It's nice to be acknowledged by people you respect."