Artist Interview: Brian Dean

Brian Dean

Why did you decide to focus on the Bay Trail in this body of photography?
My photographic process involves exploring a space on foot. By walking through the landscape I open myself up to discoveries and interactions that often don’t happen when in a car or some other way of moving around. The Bay Trail provided me with a structure to shape my walking and a goal to work towards. It is also a space of interest to me because it exists in a middle ground between the urban and natural. The Bay was the life force of the area attracting birds and wildlife before it was the life force as a shipping and transportation hub. The Bay Trail passes through many different landscapes around the bay, providing a glimpse of what was here, what is here now and what it could eventually be.

What do you want the viewer to take away?
I hope the viewer takes away a sense of the landscape that surrounds them that they may be unaware of. Part of the Bay Trail’s purpose is to provide a space to educate the public about the ecosystem of the Bay. I believe that that is also an important aspect of my project but more importantly I hope the viewer sees a complicated space that is worth exploring. Hopefully the viewer will be encouraged to explore the Bay Trail or another trail, that will bring them closer to the landscape around them and open them up to new experiences. By entering into the landscape themselves they will be able to make their own discoveries and determine what is important to them about a space.

What are the qualities of a place worth photographing?
I look for interesting juxtapositions, a play of form and light and something that tells a story when I photograph a place. Any place can be interesting to photograph as long as you find the story to tell about it. It can be a simple story or a complicated one but that is what makes the viewer stick with a photograph.

What other landscapes and places in Bay area attract your attention?
I am attracted to so many places around the Bay Area. I’m working on another project about the small local theaters which opened throughout the early to mid 20th century in San Francisco. The buildings of the theaters are still around as a reminder of an era and I find that link to the past fascinating. I am also very interested in the places of food production around the Bay Area and California as a whole. San Francisco is such a foodie town and there is a huge emphasis on local, organic food but many people don’t really know where that food is coming from or what organic means. Comparing spaces like the industrial agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley to industrial organic farms to small urban community gardens is really interesting.

How will the Jack and Gertrude Murphy Fellowships and the Edwin Anthony and Adelaine Bourdeaux Cadogan Scholarships Awards, administered by The San Francisco Foundation, and the accompanying exhibition support your work and future artistic development?
The Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award was a great honor to receive. Through its financial support I will be able to continue my work of photographing the Bay Trail and pursuing my MFA degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. The relationship with SOMArts will provide exposure for my work that I would not have been able to get on my own and is a great experience for an artist early in their career. I cannot thank the San Francisco Foundation and the Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award enough for this opportunity.

About the Interviewer:
Milda Vakarinaite is an Arts Leadership Associate at SOMArts.

Image above by Brian Dean