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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Bernard Brandt’s world in focus: From concept to capture his images are carefully calibrated

Bernard Brandt’s work is testament to the power of photography to capture not just images, but the essence of human experience like no other medium can.


He’s not your run of the mill photographer. Bernard Brandt’s journey through his lens is as much about capturing images as it is about exploring the depths of human emotion and connection. It’s what makes him tick and his camera click. “Photography means everything to me,” Brandt said, and shared the transformative impact it has had on his life: “It has allowed me to travel, meet new people. It’s what I love to do. I cannot imagine doing anything else.” Brandt’s decade-long career has had many memorable moments, his internship in America among the biggest influences on his later career.…

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He’s not your run of the mill photographer. Bernard Brandt’s journey through his lens is as much about capturing images as it is about exploring the depths of human emotion and connection.

It’s what makes him tick and his camera click.

Photography means everything to me,” Brandt said, and shared the transformative impact it has had on his life:

“It has allowed me to travel, meet new people. It’s what I love to do. I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Brandt’s decade-long career has had many memorable moments, his internship in America among the biggest influences on his later career.

The big move

It was a bold move that significantly shaped the journey of his life, and his career trajectory.

 Brandt, 38, quit a boring fulltime job in 2014, packed up, headed to Atlanta to learn about photography, and the rest, as they say in the classics, is history.

He is not just a photographer, but also a conceptual artist. It’s evident in his body of work, and there’s always a lateral segue in his visual expression.

Nothing is what it seems, but it seems to be everything at the same time.

It’s not so much a message as a feeling. It is important for him to create work that resonates personally.

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“The most valuable advice I found out for myself is to create work for yourself,” he said. You must be fulfilled in what you do.

The muses behind Brandt’s visual concepts are varied.

“Sometimes it is through collaboration. Other times it’s standing in the shower, riding my bicycle alone, going for a walk,” he said.

“The importance of allowing yourself moments of quiet for inspiration, for ideas to strike, can never be underestimated.”

Process

This introspective process has led to a reservoir of ideas, some of which have taken years to come to fruition.

“I am sure I have ideas written down from 10 years ago that I still haven’t executed on,” he said.

Sometimes it requires a long gestation period for creative ideas to blossom.

“Everything and everyone around me are an influence.” He believes in the interconnectedness of his personal experiences and his photographs.

READ MORE: ‘Photography helped me to forget there’s no food’ says FNB Art Prize winner Lindokuhle Sobekwa

When it comes to committing a moment in time on an image, his approach varies.

“I don’t believe I have a particular technique. It’s the way I engage or relate with the person or the subject in front of me and the camera that might define me.”

And when he has free rein to choose the subjects and scenes, it is a dynamic process.

Brandt blends intentionality with happenstance. “Sometimes you have to create the scene and sometimes it’s just there,” he said.

“There is a balance between creating and discovering photographic opportunities.”

Momentum

Despite the acclaim some of his photographs have received, Brandt never stops his momentum, a forward motion that he feels compelled to pursue.

“I feel pride in it and then become bored with it,” he said. It’s a chase to the next project, the next moment, the next eye candy.

“I don’t know if my work has necessarily evolved, but have I changed and evolved? I damn well hope that to be the truth,” Brandt said,

because there must be a symbiotic relationship between personal growth and creative output. Creative ruts plague everyone, and Brandt reckons there’s only one remedy.

“Inspiration only comes from the doing,” he said. Of course these days everyone with a cellphone can call themselves a content creator or photographer, but Brandt is unfazed.

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“A camera in a pocket means nothing to me. It’s the same as when someone says, that camera takes nice photos – that camera does nothing without me operating it,” he said, highlighting the irreplaceable role of the photographer’s vision and skill compared to, say, an overzealous snapper with a cellphone.

Yet, he charges himself with maintaining a beginner’s mindset. It’s a dichotomy but it seems to work for him. “Being technically skilled can mess with your ability to create.

As a ‘professional’, I feel it becomes more difficult to have a beginner’s mindset,” he said, adding a certain naïveté can be beneficial to creativity.

Brandt’s not a fan of photoshopping. “Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the bare minimum when it comes to post-processing,” he said, preferring authenticity over excessive alteration.

Looking at his work, it’s impossible not to feel something.

Brandt’s work is testament to the power of photography to capture not just images, but the essence of human experience like no other medium can.

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