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• Biography •
Originally from Paris, France, I have been photographing since 1980
My original training was as a painter and from 1977 to 1980 I attended the Academie Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris where I studied drawing and oil painting. After graduating from the Beaux Arts I studied with master photographers at the American Center in Paris from 1980 to 1983. One of my instructors, Scott McLeay, taught me fundamental photographic practices which I still use today. Through his teaching he emphasized the importance that composition plays in successful photographs. The quality of the light was of utmost value for him and he constantly stressed how important it is to understand which light one likes to work with.
In 1983 I photographed the Western United States uninterupted for six months
I was driving a car bought in Los Angeles and photographing with an Arca Swiss 4x5 view camera bought in Switzerland. The landscape of the American West both surprised and amazed me. While I was aware of the unbelievable potential it had in store for an artist I was also acutely aware that I did not have enough time to do it justice or to become familiar with the layout of the land.
In January 1986 I was accepted as a Freshman at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona
I chose to study at NAU because it was on the Colorado Plateau and only 75 miles from the Grand Canyon. Living in Flagstaff afforded me easy access to the landscape that had so enthralled me during my first visit three years before.
Until moving to Flagstaff landscapes had been only one of my subjects
In Paris I photographed street scenes and worked in a journalistic style using 35mm cameras. After moving to the United States my work became focused on the landscape of the American West and I started using medium format and eventually 4x5 large format view cameras. My academic studies complimented my photographic work. Centered on the history of Landscape photography they allowed me to investigate the endeavors of the first photographers to venture in the American West as well as the importance of their contribution to photography as a form of visual communication. I received my Bachelors degree in 1990 and my Masters Degree in 1992, both from Northern Arizona University.
In 1992 I moved to Hancock, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to work on my Ph.D
I studied at Michigan Technological University. The Upper Peninsula provided me with an opportunity to discover the fascinating landscapes of the Upper Midwest and the lower Canadian Shield. We lived only a few miles from Lake Superior and I became fascinated by this immense inland sea, this massive body of soft water which I had heard much about but never seen before. I was shocked by the strength of the seasons which followed each other with no apparent connection among them. To a soft and delicate spring succeeded a summer overflowing with vegetation spanning all colors in the green spectrum and filled with swarms of mosquitoes. Fall appeared one morning after a cold spell and surrounded us with rust and yellows for what seemed to be a short weekend. Then winter came and for those who have lived in the Upper Peninsula there is little need to say more. For me it was a total shock from which I emerged 6 months later somewhat bewildered by the relentless snowstorms, the never ending cold and the discovery that cabin fever was a reality and not just an element of Jack London's novels.
Since 1983, the year of my first visit to the United States, my photographs have been intimately tied to the National Parks
Besides photographing extensively in the Parks I was selected as Artist in Residence at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, and at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin in 1994. Since 1997 I have been exhibiting and selling my work at Grand Canyon National Park. My posters, notecards, and Limited Edition prints are also sold in National Park bookstores.
From 1995 to 2002 I lived at Canyon de Chelly, Arizona in the heart of the Navajo Nation
This location gave me intimate access to some of the most impressive landscapes in North America and allowed me to photograph Native American Rock Art. In 1998 I received the Oliver Award for excellence in Native American Rock Art Photography from the American Rock Art Research Association. This national award is given to a single photographer each year. My knowledge of Native American Arts and Culture is passed on to you through the frames and the matting designs I select to make my work even more enjoyable.
In December 2002 I moved to Peoria, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert Region
At this time I just completed this move and I am just starting to explore the new possibilities that are offered to me. I am excited about working and photographing in a new area and I look forward to creating stunning images of the Sonoran Desert. This move also brings new opportunities for you such as workshops and exciting publications which will be announced throughout the year on my web site as well as on outbackphoto.com and luminous-landscape.com
In my photographs I express the beauty of the wild open spaces in which I live
I perceive these natural preserves, where land formations as well as flora and fauna are protected, as some of the last places where one can find peace and relief from the pressures of modern day life. I also approach these places as environments where one can get closer to oneself and to one’s deeper goals and beliefs.
For me the landscape represents not only what I see but also what I feel
For this reason my photographs often depart from a literal representation to reach a metaphorical level. In this approach I find inspiration in the work of artists ranging from Thomas Moran to Ansel Adams. This blend of inspiration, coming from both the American tradition of landscape painting and of landscape photography, is mirrored in my own training which began as an oil painter at the Beaux Arts in Paris and is continued today as a landscape photographer in the United States.
Alain Teaching in the field
Photograph by Steven Pope
Click here to see additional photographs of Natalie and me.
Copyright © Alain Briot 2011