Q&A with Brett Warren

When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer and what drew you specifically to fashion?

In middle school my parents gave me my first camera, and I have been smitten ever since. I would plan shoots during the last period of my high school classes with friends, and we would head out to one of their farms to create images together! In the early days, we would take turns in front of the camera which resulted in some fun photos. I was experimenting and learning along the way. My college years refined my technique, and I kept shooting fashion stories as a creative outlet. After returning from an internship in NYC, clients began hiring me for fashion work and my daydream became a reality. To me, fashion is one of the most personal facets of art. We put it on our bodies, and use it to shape our identity and perceptions of one another. The fun part is using this form of art to create small worlds and the characters that can inhabit them in my images.

Your images are more than just snapping photos of models in clothes, there’s a story being told through each one.  What’s your process of finding that untold story to tell?

The story usually begins with the subject. Models can morph into a multitude of characters, and it's my job to decide which one will create an environment for them to thrive within. In my work, the story is the most important element of any shoot. Story tells you who the character is, in what world they exist, and informs the specific details of what they are wearing. When writing a creative brief, I often explore a few worlds, and dive down the most exciting rabbit hole.

Can you describe your process with the engineering prints a little bit and why you choose to work with various mediums?

I have been showing my work in various forms for several years. One consistent comment from these various experiences is how people feel my work should be experienced at a large scale. Initially, the engineering prints solved a huge issue in the expense of printing large format work, but presented a staggering limitation due to the black and white nature of these prints. My entire body of work hinges on the use of cinematic color, yet I have found such a freedom by exploring the world of black and white engineering prints. Color is applied to specific areas using paints, pencils, and sometimes embellishment. The engineering prints have been a fun avenue to explore large format work, and present a challenging creative exercise by assigning a place for color within them in a creative way. 

Your images of frozen objects are jaw-dropping, what’s the story behind those?

My home is full of heirlooms. Some are mine with personal memories attached to them, while some are merely passed down to me through a multitude of friends. Special objects have a way of making their way into my life, and I began these creative exercises in an effort to document these objects as a still life. This is an ongoing project that I will continue to explore, and manipulate these objects to form a new meaning or life to them.

Where do you hope to see your work 10 years from now?

Honestly, I want to be telling better stories, and far less of them. Time is the ultimate luxury in our current culture, and I would love the ability to explore a fashion story to its fullest without feeling I had to "get it out the door". In  the next 10 years, I hope to explore my imagination far deeper than before, and have the resources to bring these worlds to life.

If you could give your younger self just starting out a piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself to keep creating brave personal work. Some of my favorite images were taken 6 years ago on a lesser than camera with unfortunate lighting. It was about the idea, and I would tell myself to pursue those ideas and concepts further and more frequently. Something I am still telling myself today. I would also be sure and let myself know to calm down a bit. Society leads us to believe that we should be creating incredible work while we are young, leaving many of us feeling as if we are racing to fit within a narrow window of opportunity. I now see that you can also learn, refine, and explore over time in pursuit of a career with longevity. I've learned some of the same lessons 3 times, but each time I get the chance to flex my muscles on a larger scale. All that to say, be patient... build a strong foundation of creativity and positivity.