Allen Birnbach has had a remarkably varied and diverse career in photography. It ranges from fine art photography, to commercial work, from black and white with wonderful tonal ranges, to astounding color landscapes. His portfolio includes corporate portraits, fine art nudes in Iceland, ballet dancers, and ranchers herding cattle on the range. They all benefit from his craft and artistic eye.
With workshops across the county, he also shares his knowledge, as well as, his photography with other photographers.
Allen’s color work is spot on. The tonal range of his black and whites is astounding. He comfortably works in a studio or out in the open spaces to take beautiful landscapes. His range of work speaks to his skill and his vision.
Allen was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. We are hoping he will continue to receive the recognition that he deserves, as an emerging great American photographer.
Given the diversity of your work can you tell us something about your training.
Well, I attended college and went to pre med, pre law, and nothing really took, I graduated with a political science degree. My uncle came back from Japan and gave me a Canon. I was able to work as an assistant for a well-known product photographer in New York for three years, and that gave me a good foundation. I moved out west to start my own business. I have lived in the Denver, L.A. and N.Y but have always made an effort to work on a national level.
What do you strive for when taking your photographs?
I want there to be an emotional content and for the message to be uplifting .
What makes a great photo in your eyes?
The strength of the photographer’s craft. Content and line. Something that speaks to you the viewer.
Which photographers work do you admire?
Walker Evans, who was the first photographer I understood, and said yes I can do this. Wynn Bullock, Jock Sturges, Ernest Hass for his great eye and phenomenal color work. Ruth Bernard, William Eggleston and there are many more. I feel it’s important for people who want to appreciate and learn photography to study the Masters , and learn as much from them as possible.
How do you balance commercial work with your fine art work?
My wife is also an artist she has set up a visual map , divided into thirds, one-third represents my fine art, another third my commercial work, and a third for teaching. It hangs in my office where I can see it everyday. I make a mental note while looking at it which area may not be getting enough of my attention and go about trying to re-balance it.
I love to teach and I like to be in different locations, always on the move, so this has worked out.
Are you using both film and digital?
Digital mainly, but for my fine art landscapes I will use a Linhoff camera when possible. I really use whatever camera is best suited for the job.
How do you develop your ideas for a series?
Well, sometimes it is serendipity. While working on doing some corporate photography, one of the executives was also a rancher so that lead to an opportunity, I had these photographs but not a story. So when I learned that my wife’s Uncle was a rancher and that allowed me to develop the series, “Cogan’s Ranch”.
While doing the series, “Defining Eden” , being able to work with professional dancers helped me develop the series.
Then, as I got to know them they would invite me to their performances, which lead me to taking the ballet photos. Now I am doing a series on the Colorado Ballet.
Any special stories you would like to share about the shoot?
In the photo, Bristlecone in the, “Defining Eden” series,we had gale force winds, and it was snowing. Margret had such a huge heart working in those conditions and would not stop until I made the shoot. She made the shoot possible, I was just there to capture it.
Do you have any upcoming assignments you would like to tell us about?
I am in the planning stages for a two year project documenting the ranch heritage of Wyoming for the University of Wyoming. It will involve visiting the ranch multiple times, and also be published in a book.
Thank you Allen for your time and your art.
To learn more about the work of Allen Birnbach please visit his site at, Birnbach Images.