Artistic Identity

Two local photographers share their views on forming a photographic identity.

Image © Doug Birbaum

Image © Doug Birbaum

Kim Sikora: How would you describe your aesthetic?


Doug Birnbaum: I would describe my aesthetic as having a reference to classic hollywood films. I love shooting people and I like to plan series and shoots around cinematic moments. I love old films. I was a filmmaker before being a still photographer so I like to dream up shoots with people based around locations, props and wardrobe. I always dream of being able to direct bigger and bigger crews to achieve large scale production.


In photography so much of our aesthetics derives from the equipment that we use. Many times photography is dated because of the state of the art equipment available to the artist. I shot a series a couple of years ago about the golden age of California surf culture. We took some old Woodies down the beach and I shot up and down the coast on old film cameras, from 4×5 to Medium format on Ilford Black and White film. By stepping back into a photographic process that more closely matched the era of the historical piece that I was trying to create I found a harmony. This series really informed what I would try to do moving forward, to use current digital equipment to come closer to a film look. I needed to shoot a series on film to inform myself how things should look.


I also collect some old vintage photographs that I find in garage sales and thrift stores. I am usually looking for quirky stuff that is beyond anything that I could dream up on my own to shoot. I just love the richness of old photographs and I really love the way that the paper looks as it starts to discolor over time. In the past I have been known to soak my own photographs in tea to get more of an old fashioned look to them after they dry out. This process takes some of my photographs outside of the time that it was created and places the image further back in the past, it suddenly feels more nostalgic.

Anthony Kurtz: Painterly, atmospheric, cinematic, raw, adventurous and hyper-realistic. My goal has never been to perfectly represent reality because I’d like to think of myself as an artist. I need to apply my “paint” to make it my artwork. I think I might be a failed painter or director of photography because I’m mostly inspired by cinematography and European fine art painters like Rembrandt and Caravaggio or the American landscape painters of the late 1800′s.


When I was starting out, people were talking about “shadow detail” but I was going the opposite route, pushing the blacks to dominate my photos. Now, as I’m getting more experienced, I’m toning it back a little because in 2013 everything is starting to look the same. I want my work to evolve while staying true to my values

Image © Anthony Kurtz

Image © Anthony Kurtz

Image © Anthony Kurtz

Image © Anthony Kurtz