1. Can you please tell us a few words about yourself, where are you from?
My name is Brendan. I am 26 and am working on my Masters in Global History at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany. I am originally from Paradise, a small mountain town in Northern California, and more recently have spent the pandemic at my parents’ place in California and with my girlfriend in Hannover, Germany. As a hobby I am a photography shooting mainly film and on the side I have a small Youtube channel focusing on expired film stocks called Expired Bren.
2. What is your photography story, how did you start? How did you get where you are now?
I started shooting film about two years ago while living in Berlin, a city that has a thriving film community. My first setup was a cheap Voigtländer Vitoret DR rangefinder and Gold 200. Since then I have slowly upgraded to a sizable collection and have shifted to primarily medium format shooting.
3. What’s your favourite gear to use (camera, lens, film) ?
My favorite setup at the moment is my Mamiya RB67 with a 127mm f/3.5 K/L lens and Kodak Portra 400. A close second is my Nikon F with expired Gold 400.
4. What do you enjoy shooting the most? And Why?
I really enjoy scenes that I consider to be “home.” Having lived far from home I feel as though I’ve gained a heightened sense of what makes Northern California unique. The surrounding mountains, farmlands, and this fusion of small town Midwest and California that you find in the Sacramento Valley are what really appeals to me. In my mind, the medium of film photography offers the best chance to share my vision of home to a wider group of people, and that’s what really drives me to get out and shoot on any given day.
5. How do you educate yourself to take better photos?
The best education has been Ansel Adams’ The Camera and The Negative, as well as Youtube photographers like Nick Carver, Kyle McDougal, Jess Hobbs, and Azriel Knight. Conversations with peer photographers on Instagram has also been paramount to my growth and education. I really appreciate when people take time to share their knowledge and I think that is part of what makes this tight knit film community special.
6. Have you ever doubted yourself? And what helped you to overcome that?
I certainly doubt myself. Fairly often, in fact. I think it usually happens when I am not shooting much, or when some sort of issue with the film or camera affects the final image. Moments like that make me wish I shot digital instead. Usually I overcome it by just getting back out there and taking photos. In the end, the most important aspect of photography isn’t nerding out on gear (my favorite pastime), or scrolling Instagram. It’s actually getting out there and taking photos. Where the rubber meets the road.
7. What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?
The most rewarding part is when friends, family, or peers compliment my work. Even more so when people want a physical copy to hang on their wall or keep in their collection. Nothing has made me smile more than seeing my own photo on a wall.
8. Among your works, which one is your favourite? Tell us the story behind it.
My favorite work so far is a series of photos taken at Hallelujah Junction in the Eastern Sierra last winter. The sunset, cloud cover, and snow created the perfect conditions to express my vision of this lesser-known corner of the state along the Nevada border. As a historian, I also enjoy this work because it was taken along the former Oregon Trail in an area trail blazed by the legendary James Beckwourth. Just last week I returned to the same area to take some more photos, and am looking forward to getting the negatives back soon.
9. What gives you inspiration?
My primary source of inspiration is the work of peer photographers. To see growth from people that I have met in Berlin, in California, or over social media really drives me to improve my own images. It also reminds me to slow down and be patient.
10. Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs?
This is a great, but tough to answer question. I want people to feel some sort of emotion when they see my photographs. Don’t we all? It’s no guarantee, nor should it be so, that everyone feels like I do when they see my work. I do wish to convey a feeling of nostalgia in many of my images. Not too much beckoning to return to a certain time, but to a certain place or season, whether it be a fall day in the mountains or summertime at your local hardware store.
You can follow Brendan on Instagram @brenfleshfotografie