Though he’s long been known for his work in the Midwest and across the country, Brian Von Briggs has spent the past several years establishing his fine art photography under the name Von Briggs. The name, he says, is an effort to separate his editorial and commercial work from his passion.
“Under the name Von Briggs, I’m devoting more and more time to each photograph, deeply considering the concept, the design composition, the story it should tell, and the atmosphere (through lighting) that I might achieve,” Briggs explains. “When you’re truly doing a portrait, there’s a personality that’s got to be brought forward. I want to uncover the inner person. I call this form of portraiture ‘Persona Unveiled.’”
Part of Briggs’ goal as a fine art photographer is to encourage the idea of a portrait as part of an individual’s opportunity to hand down a legacy (two examples of his work above). He concedes that camera phones and selfies have their place in the modern age, but points out that often, a person’s lifetime portrait—if created with artistic strength and vision—will be an image that endures through the ages. “Think of the most impressive achievers the world has ever known,” Briggs offers. “Don’t we want to see them in their greatest light? Aren’t we quite disappointed when a photograph doesn’t do its subject justice?”
Briggs doesn’t just shape a face with light. “I seek to know the person, to understand his or her personality—and through that single image, create a portrayal that unveils his or her true persona.”
The images that make up “Persona Unveiled” are striking and intense: combine the subject’s body language and facial expression, with mood and atmosphere through careful lighting, and you begin to approach a Von Brigg’s portrait. “But,” he adds, “I deeply hold, still, that the art is in the shadows.”
His other current series, begun a little less than a year ago, features high-end vintage guitars played by well-known musicians (a few examples: Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page). “I happened to be visiting someone with a beautifully made guitar and I photographed it in some interesting light,” Briggs says. He still prefers living subjects, but notes that “a guitar is the most lively inanimate object I’ve ever shot.”
Meanwhile, Briggs’ commercial and editorial projects take him from coast to coast, across the United States, including, this month, to the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. “For a week I’ll be shooting every amazing motorcycle and the wild characters that gather together in such a place,” Briggs says. Of course, his artistic work creeps in: at a previous rally, “I shot one of the coolest looking guys—the light just cascaded across him so beautifully. It made for an amazing, moody portrait of this guy who was on his motorcycle for most of his life.”
Wherever he travels next, one thing is certain: Brian Von Briggs is pursuing portraiture with a style that is his and his alone.
Brian Von Briggs creates fine art photography under the name Von Briggs. For more information, visit vonbriggs.com.