By Brooke Kremer
Cheap may be in the eye of the beholder, which in a way makes some sense if you’re talking about the photography of Michael Bryant.
That’s not the word to describe the result of the photographer’s iconic images of Atlanta, such as the Fox Theatre, King and Queen Buildings and Majestic Diner, only the method by which he has captured the images.
Bryant, whose work was one of the highlights at the recent Brookhaven Arts Festival, is a master of using his $25 Holga black-and-white camera, which he describes as a “cheap plastic Chinese camera, developed in the 1980s, designed to be for the masses.”
The camera, known as the “anti-digital,” has gained popularity as a cult camera, but because is has any similarity with the crisp, perfect, easy-to-shoot aspects of a digital. Rather, it’s not crisp, perfect or terribly easy to get a great picture.
But that is what attracted Bryant to the Holga. He says he, “needs the limitations” inherent with the camera, which forces him to work more creatively.
“You need to understand the light,” he says, “You have to adjust to the camera. It doesn’t adjust to you.”
Bryant has been using his trusty Holgas for the past decade, producing dramatic black-and-white images of statues and buildings from around the world. It’s his use of light and mastery of the camera that brings out the depth and dramatic affect to his subjects.
Why buildings? “It’s the architecture,” he says, “It fascinates me. If I hadn’t gone to school for photography, I would have gone for architecture. It’s the lines and the shapes.” One of his favorites in Atlanta is the Fox Theatre.“The shape of the Fox sign is fantastic,” says Bryant.
“When I look at a finished piece and for a split second, time stops and I hear my heart beating – I am unable to breathe and I am aware only of the piece and how it makes me feel. Then, I know that I succeeded.”
A native of Albany, Ga., Bryant graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta and has called Atlanta home for almost half of his life. He travels all over the country to the most prestigious juried art shows and festivals.
Gretchen Roberts, President of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance and founder of the Brookhaven Arts Festival was glad to have Bryant return to the Festival again this year, “He’s been a big supporter of Brookhaven in wanting to come back every year.”