Photographer Interview: Derek Bremner by Stoya
Derek on artists, crowds, and inner silence.
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Stoya You're a talented photographer, and, to me, you'll always be that person who bought me lunch in England when my bank decided to turn off my card and I hadn't thought to change money at the airport. You're dear friends with our main photographer, Steve Ronin, and the two of you have a rich trade in collectible art going across the Atlantic. What drew you to photography?
Derek Bremner I was doing a graphic design course during the British equivalent of the junior/senior years of high school and we had the opportunity to do a small photography course, it was all using film and we were able to develop and print what we shot. Around that time was when I started to go to gigs and I loved being able to take a camera and coming away with something to show for it other than my terrible memory.
Stoya What do you like about photographing live events?
Derek I love the challenge. Most of the time you aren’t in control of the lighting and there are usually constraints on how long you can shoot for (especially for music events), turning up to somewhere and being faced with the unknown but having to react and create something out of that is so much fun. I also have poor mental health and during live events my brain goes silent and the only thing I’m thinking about is what’s happening through my camera view finder. It’s a huge form of escapism that I’ve been incredibly grateful for.
Stoya What's the most affecting photo you've taken?
Derek So much of my self worth is wrapped up into what I create and I’m desperate to produce something that has meaning and worth. I spent a lot of time over the last year or so shooting protests. It’s something I’ve always tried to shoot but it feels like a lot of social issues have come to a head more than ever and it felt vital to be a part of that. Trying to find a way that I could help amplify and document the voices and stories that are important has been hugely important to me. It’s also been a way for me to process and deal with what was happening in the world at a time where everything felt like it was on fire.
Stoya What do you like about photographing portraits?
Derek I think again, it’s a challenge. A completely different one to shooting live events where you actually have control over lighting, the environment and posing. It’s also a completely different pace of working at times. It’s the area of my work I’m desperately striving to improve and push forward so that in itself is exciting and fun.
Stoya What kind of people do you like to photograph most?
Derek I adore being around creative people, anyone that has a skill or a talent whether that’s performers, musicians or artists. Anyone that is passionate about something makes me want to be around them and what they do. It’s been a great way for me to appreciate the things I’m into personally more as I get an insight to the processes that others might not. I really want to move my work into more of a documentary style and I want to get better at telling stories.
Stoya Tell me about your relationship with Steve Ronin. How much do the two of you talk cameras?
Derek I met Steve online in a photography sub community on a site and I adored his work. I was a complete amateur at the time and he was a professional I looked up to. I was at an incredibly low point in my life/mental health and I came to New York on a bit of a whim and Steve hung out with me, took me under his wing and we shot an event together and honestly I believe that trip saved my life. The thing I remember most was that he always treated me like a peer when I wasn’t even close to it. He has this infectious energy and excitement for everything that’s hard to not get sucked into.
We are definitely bad influences on each other when it comes to camera gear. We both get excited to share new equipment we’ve stumbled across and have definitely cost each other a lot of money through the years as we impulse buy something the other has mentioned. We definitely push each other to be better photographers which is amazing for me and I love how differently we approach work.
Stoya Who are your aesthetic inspirations?
Derek It kinda comes from all over the place into a weird melting pot of things. The photographer Boogie is a huge inspiration for me and there’s a quality to his work I aspire to in my own way but I also draw a lot of inspiration from artists I love like Tara McPherson, Brian Ewing, David Choe and others. Music and films are massive for me too, anything that makes me feel something.
Stoya Who or what, possible or not, would you like to photograph?
Derek I really want to find some long form documentary projects to work on especially with artists and I’d like to do something with that in the sports and fitness world. I’d love to try my hand at behind the scenes photography on a film or tv project. I just want to do anything that’s gonna make me a better photographer and improve my work as that’s kinda all I think about day in and day out, that thought process kinda eats me alive but it’s what pushes me on.