100 Creatives

Phoenix Photographer Brian Klein on the Lure of Black-and-White Film

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 87. Brian Klein.

Born and raised in Phoenix, Brian Klein knew when he first took up photography that it would be a life-long creative pursuit. 

But it couldn't happen without song.

"Music singly is the most important element of my day," Klein says. "It takes me to so many different places. The day would not be complete unless it had a soundtrack to it."

The 42-year-old works primarily works in black-and-white photography, capturing with a mix of digital and traditional processes abstract designs in architecture and landscapes. "I’m no purist, and have fully embraced what digital photography has become, and whether film or Photoshop is used, focus on the image should not be lost because of the tools used," he says. "Although I feel that there is too much digital noise out there, and that’s why we see a higher aesthetic value for older photographic processes."

Still, Klein loves the "nostalgic, timeless" qualities of black and white. "When I shoot, I see in black and white; it’s a different understanding of light and subject."

That level of dedication and commitment to process that it takes to shoot on film is what originally drew him in — experimenting with light, chemistry, and different types of film. 

"I still shoot film, and I currently have a series in the works photographing historic buildings downtown using a 4X5 B&W P/N film," he says of working with instant film, adding, "what's old is new again."

But he's also been experimenting with new digital printing techniques, thereby presenting his work in fresh ways.

"A series of architectural captures printing to brushed copper and aluminum was well received in an exhibition at Bokeh Gallery last November," he says. "I'm humbled by all the creatives I've met over the years and it's always an honor to be recognized as one."

I came to downtown Phoenix five years ago to become part of and contribute to this diverse art community. I have always enjoyed and supported the arts, and it’s gratifying to be able to exhibit my own work.

I make art because there is no better sense than getting lost in the creative process while finding the poetic nature in a scene that we may take for granted. I enjoy seeing the look of people’s amazement when they see something new and unique being done with photography. I like to try and break the boundaries of what we consider fine-art photography.

I’m most productive when the music is loud and jamming.

My inspiration wall is full of B&W photographs from greats such as Jerry Uelsmann, Mitch Dobrowner, Michael Kenna, Sebastião Salgado, but lately I've been inspired by the amazing imagery of Nick Brandt and his ability to create an important environmental narrative.

I’ve learned most from my educators and the work colleagues that I've spent the last 20 years within a specialized photographic finishing business. Their combined knowledge has been absolutely priceless, and I'm eternally grateful.

Good work should always be a communicative device that should convey, and even at times create, emotion and wonderment.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more retention, community, environments to live, create, and exhibit. Our arts district is at a watershed moment, so it is very important that Phoenix can say that we do have a thriving contemporary art culture in our urban core that is also responsive and supportive.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit