“I was originally trained as a painter before falling in love with photography. While I do sometimes use digital cameras, I felt that something was missing. That was the process of making things by hand and having something tangible to hold. I work in Carbon, Platinum/Palladium, Photopolymer Gravure and Gum Bichromate and strive to learn and share new ways of using these historical processes with other artists. Wanting to keep these practices alive and sharing them is what motivates me to apply for the Denis Roussel Award.” Gregory Brophy
Gregory Brophy’s work was selected as a Work of Merit in the 2019 Denis Roussel Award. We are pleased to share his work.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I have been a photographer for about 20 years living in NYC. I currently live in Brooklyn with my wife Eni. I have always been passionate about art and politics and believe in helping people where I can. I am like working with my hands and creating physical prints. I usually work in Photogravure and Palladium but also work in Gum and Carbon.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I originally went to school at Syracuse University for art, but in my third year I took a photo class in London and fell in love with photography. While there I was able to take a few classes in my final year at Newhouse. After that, I was self-taught but found that my training in art had helped me with things like composition and color. I have also taken many workshops in various printing process from people like Mark Nelson (photogravure), Carl Weese (platinum/palladium) Tony Gonzales (Gum Printing) and Calvin Grier (B&W and Color Carbon).
Why do you create?
It’s like asking why I breathe, I can’t imagine not doing it. I have many reasons, some selfish and some altruistic but as most artists know, it’s not for the money. I also have an insatiable desire to learn everything. Whether it is history or politics or a process I don’t know, it all adds up to motivating me to create. Being trained as a traditional artist I really love working with actual materials, paints, inks and paper and is one of the reasons I like working with alternative photographic processes.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
Currently, I am looking toward moving to a more poetic style. I love the work of Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb and Hiroshi Watanabe: The Day the Dam Collapses. They are two great examples of what I am thinking of. A book that has made me think differently is Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
Sally Mann’s “Candy Cigarette” which came out around the same time as I started to learn photography. I remember the uproar that “Immediate Family” had caused and every time I see a print from this series I marvel at the quality of work. Also, anything byJoel Peter Witkin, whose twin brother Jerome, taught me anatomy and figure drawing at Syracuse.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
Years ago, a stranger who had seen my work from the Help Portrait Project asked if I could come over to his house and take a photo of him and his family. He had been diagnosed with cancer and wanted a family portrait for his family before he died They were very poor and could not pay and I agreed. I don’t want to share it out of privacy and respect for him and his family, but that time and the photos I have taken of Ali from Willets Point who struggles to work every day for his family has taught me humility.
What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?
Every day I get to do photography is a good day. Every time a print doesn’t come out, I think, by doing it this way, it did not work. Now I have learned something I didn’t know before. I try not to let anything discourage me. A bad day is when I can’t work at all.
Please tell us about the work you submitted for the Denis Roussel Award.
The photo is part of a series called “The Iron Triangle” about a rugged area of Queens, NY where workers are being pushed out of their businesses by developers. The photo shows the hands of Louis who has been working there for over 15 years. His hands have been broken and crushed so many times that they have been permanently disfigured. A common occurrence there. Now he has moved to Virginia to start his own business cleaning offices.
If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?
Irving Penn to me is the photographer I would love to meet. His endless skill at all subject matters and his printing abilities are what draw me. As a painter, it would be Edward Hopper. His use of color and composition is inspiring.
How important is the photographic community to you?
You don’t realize how important a community of peers is until after you leave art school. I have lots of friends as artists and photographers, but photographers can be tough and sometimes very secretive. I am not a very competitive person so I am open to sharing with every one that wants to listen and look for people who are the same. I have been lucky to find a few.
What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?
Light, books and fellow photographers willing to share.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
That would be everything. The issue is more the time to do it. I would like to try making more handmade books and work more on getting better at the processes I already do. I love printmaking and want to work on combining photography and drawing into my work.
Whats on the horizon?
More color work in Gum Bichromate, Carbon Transfers and photogravure. I also want to work on photos that are more personal and poetic rather than documentary. Work that is more abstract and less representational.
To learn more about the work of Gregory Brophy please visit his site by clicking on his name.