Originally published by LA CANVAS.
One can plunge far into the carefully hidden depths of a person’s character by simply turning a camera on them. Some are completely unfazed by it, flirting, purring, allowing the lens to applaud their image. But others become edgy, awkward, shuffling around in the heat under the magnifying glass. And then there’s the rest, desperate to appear unfazed, shrouding their insecurities with outstretched tongues and garish expressions. The photographer and his camera interrogate everyone they see.
Brantley Gutierrez’s portfolio is a hugely personal collection of photographs. The warm C-41 bathed faces of familiar rock stars and actors just keeps relentlessly coming gathering this peculiar swaggering momentum, so much so that once-Beatle, now-Knight Sir Paul McCartney’s face is about ten photographs into the reel, just casually tucked in there as an “oh yeah, and…”. We see Eric Clapton, the snow leopard of rock ‘n’ roll, belly laughing in his home. Paul Rudd sits backstage sipping from a pink phallus-shaped water bottle. A quim of Arcade Fire members (‘quim’ is the collective noun for a collection of Arcade Fire members) just having a deft canter on a heath somewhere.
You see light streams of diversity across his body of work, from sharpened editorial photography that utilize substantial budgets, settings, rigs and crews, to soft, casual, almost homely photographs that do more to counteract the the notion of ‘celebrity’ than almost any other outlet. From the palms of a generation strangled by its obsession with the lives of the lauded, it’s as fresh as frost to see someone that instills a silent humanity back into people we pushed onto pedestals high above us.
‘But it’s all about collaborating’ he said, teasing his steampunk inventor’s soul patch, ‘I really get my buzz on when I’m creating with other people. In portrait photography you’re constantly collaborating. On a movie set you have hundreds of people collaborating. Even right now. Trying to get something useful out of me!’
Brantley Gutierrez has taken photographs since he was a child. Raised somewhere between the rolling Virginia countryside and the static D.C. concrete, he grew up fascinated by the camera’s ability to extract hidden emotions from people. After a frustrating stint mainly photographing snow in Aspen, he made his way to Seattle, and eventually onto Los Angeles.
His transition into rock photography was impeccably timed. His first couple of high-profile gigs with the Foo Fighters came moments before the digital explosion and the music industry’s implosion. He was there, establishing himself as a fantastic photographer before detachable lenses became fashion accessories and every business felt that the privilege of experience was plenty payment enough.
But while he is still an ardent film user and a spontaneous shot fetishist, it’s not difficult to see that despite his wealth of talent his most vital asset could well be his personality.
‘People have to feel comfortable around me, because if they don’t then they’re not going to be themselves,’ he says, smiling as I note his smiles, ‘I liken it to a doctor’s bedside manner.’
And where war photographers are defined by their bravery, it seems that rock photographers are defined by their ability to ‘be cool’ and chill in the background, and if Brantley’s photographs are anything to go by, that is when you can catch and bottle that moment of passive humanity in those we treat as gods.
For a good look through his complete portfolio click here.