Welcome to this weeks Artist Spotlight. This week we bring you Ken Bruggeman. Based in York, Pennsylvania, Ken is another photographer I came across that was a FIND alumni. He is a portrait and wedding photographer who’s creative juices have been flowing since a young age. That creative urge has taken him from mall photographer to graphic designer to successful studio owner and workshop teacher. To see more of Ken’s work, please follow the links below.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My interest in the arts has been lifelong. I grew up drawing and painting. After high school I worked at a retail mall portrait studio for a number of years and was managing multiple locations before I decided to get out of the retail scene and go back to school. I have a background and degree in graphic design. While I have been shooting for about 17 years, I was doing so VERY poorly compared to the last 2 years or so. In the last 2 years I have progressed very quickly and learned a lot in a very short amount of time. I began my photography business after losing my last job and not being able to find work in my field. I decided that instead of sitting around while looking for work I would use the skills I have developed and try to make work while I continued to look for work. And here I am, with an up and coming business and awareness that I wouldn’t have dreamed of just a year ago. I am continuing to look forward and work my butt off and BELIEVE that this will succeed and that I will be successful because I know it is what I am meant to be doing. I have no doubt about that.
(1) How did you get into instant photography?
I got into instant photography just from observing some of my mentor photographer friend’s instant work, loving the look and wanting to give it a go myself.
(2) What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
When I first started I bought a Polaroid Land Camera 100. And I didn’t like the results I got from it. I didn’t have enough control over my exposure and focusing, so I invested in a Polaroid 600SE and was instantly in love. Being able to control the aperture and shutter speed, having it be a full frame print, and the overall quality that the lens (Mamiya 127mm lens) gave were it for me.
(3) What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
I have always wanted to compare the Mamiya Universal Press with my Polaroid 600SE. I have friends that use the Mamiya and love it.
(4) What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
My favorite pack film type is the Fuji 3000b. I have also shot the Fuji FP-100c and like it, but I really love the 3000b. I love the crisp clarity and beautiful tones and contrast I get from it. I love to scan the negatives and get that delicious grainy, distressed look from the same image.
(5) How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
I am selective of when I shoot instant due to the cost of the film. So I usually use it when I am feeling particularly creatively charged and want that look that the instant film gives me for whatever shoot I choose to use it. Instead of using it as a test print to check my exposure, like it was commonly used for before the days of digital, I use it for actual work and love the artistry of it.
(6) How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)
It really doesn’t differ from my other work. it is just another medium and extension of my work. I will occasionally take my Polaroid camera, my Mamiya 645M and my Canon 5D mark ii all on the the same shoot just for fun to get all different looks of the same shoot. I shoot them all the same in their respective nature, and still end up with different looks, under each medium, but consistency in the style of my work.
(7) Any personal projects we should know about?
I always enjoy getting out to do personal shoots. Setting up collaborative efforts with stylists (hair, makeup, and fashion). Those are the luxury fun projects that I get to occasionally indulge in. Keep checking my work for the occasional fun project like that!
(8) What other photographers do you look up too?
Well I have a few photographer friends that I look to as mentors. But more living legends than those that you may typically hear about. Ryan Muirhead has been a huge influence in my creative journey. My work looks nothing like his, nor have I ever intended to imitate his style, but his work creatively inspires and charges me so much that I constantly look at his stuff to keep my creative juices flowing. The same with Mitchel Issel. That guy’s work is unreal as well, and incredibly inspiring to me. Again my work doesn’t really show reflection of his style either, but his work just makes me want to get out there and keep coming up with new ideas. Jon Canlas has been a teacher and mentor and very influential on me as a photographer as well as a business person. I have learned so much from him and am grateful for the wealth of information that I have gained from his teaching and guidance. And to throw down one of the more commercial names, if you will, Patrick Demarchelier. I have admired his work for almost 17 years. He is a master of using studio light and creative incredibly emotive portraits.
(9) What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
I would say to do as much homework (exposure, use of the camera, settings, light, etc) that you can before you start shooting since it can be an expensive lesson in trial and error, but then DO IT. Do your homework, then go try it, then when you have it down, trust yourself and make your images what you want them to be. Be creative.
(10) Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you wait for it to find you, or actively seek it?
I am open to EVERYTHING for inspiration. Whether it be watching a movie, looking through a magazine, walking downtown in my hometown of York, PA, going to a store that has a window display that I like, or an old factory that is decaying. I absorb inspiration like a sponge and then add other ingredients and bam I am inspired to do a project. It really is just absorbing life around me and seeing beauty in everything. That sounds cheesy but it’s true. There is something amazing in EVERYTHING around us. The question is, can you see it or not?