Brian DeWolf thinks of himself as a photographer more so than an artist. But, if creating landscape images that evoke strong feeling is an art, he could be considered a photographic artist. Whatever label is attached to his work, it causes the viewer to reflect on it.
“The Fox Valley (mainly the Illinois river towns of Geneva, Batavia, and St. Charles), has been my home for more than 30 years. I made a project of photographing this area simply to develop photographic skills. Photographic inspiration seems to be everywhere I look when traveling on vacation. It seemed a practical exercise to develop a “photographic eye” in my own back yard, so to speak. After all, photographing is the process of selection and isolating a subject in favorable light. It’s a mental exercise. It can be done anywhere.”
And judges for Professional Photographers of America (PPA) agreed that he became skillful. A number of Brian’s photographs have been recognized in international competition. His image of a bicyclist crossing the fog-shrouded bridge over the Fox River earned a place in PPA’s Loan Collection for 2002. Marathon Press, publisher of the Loan Collection book, describes this array of images as the “best of the best” from over 8,000 entries entered in international competition. More of Brian’s photographs have been selected for the PPA’s General Showcase Collections.
Brian grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. He attended McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. He sold hardware for his father’s business in the 1970s and was a policeman in St. Charles, Illinois from 1979 until his retirement as a sergeant in May of 2000. He began photographing with a relic Mamiya 35mm camera and two lenses right after leaving school in 1971. As time permitted, he photographed landscapes on some sales trips around the Midwest. “I might have been a traffic hazard. I was always watching cloud formations and scenery as I drove.”
“Our mind filters everything that we see and hear. We unwittingly isolate parts of a scene that get our attention and ignore others. That’s one reason our photographs may disappoint us when we see the print. The camera records it all. A disappointing print tells us we should have noticed the clutter in the scene. Or maybe the light didn’t compliment the subject.”
“I rarely shoot spontaneously. I’m a plodder and a planner for the most part and, as photographer David Plowden aptly stated, ‘stalk photographs like a heron.’ I don’t photograph for sensation. Mood moves me. Sometimes I choose a subject and wait to take advantage of good light and revealing angles. But, most of the time I listen to my instincts. Either way, I think about the lighting and search the viewfinder for distracting objects. And I especially like black and white images. They are abstract and, in their own way, strengthen relationships between forms, textures, lines, and shapes. But if color holds the emotion, I’ll exploit it.”
“History intrigues me and holds its own emotion. I hope viewers get a feeling of the past, or a realization that our present quickly becomes locked away forever. Most people want to hold unchanged that which is interesting or gives them joy. It may be a folded wedding dress placed into a box, from a single day when hope and romance danced together. It may be a flower, now brown and brittle, that was tucked between the pages of a book to remind you of a walk on a shining May morning. Or maybe it’s a letter, with pages now tearing at the folds, from one whose voice you can no longer hear or whose hand you can no longer touch. I hope my photographs can bring this out.”
Brian’s business and artistic philosophy is simple: make the best images possible with the highest quality materials. When Brian was in sales, he saw some fine companies violate their customer’s trust. “They had good products, but they wanted more profit. Instead of maintaining the quality that earned their customer’s trust, they chose to cut costs. Sure, there’s a market for products of lesser integrity, but I didn’t want to be part of it. I don’t ever want dissatisfied clients to be figured into the cost of doing business.”
“I owe so much to my parents. My father has unlimited optimism and creativity. My mother loves people and has boundless generosity. They are inspiring.”
Brian DeWolf is a member of Professional Photographers of America and the Fox Valley Arts Council.
Brian also is a Patient Volunteer for Fox Valley Hospice. This organization assists persons with life threatening illnesses, and their families. It receives no government funding and is supported entirely by the donations of generous people and businesses.