Photos courtesy of Mitchell Bryant
Lynchburg Living Editor Megan Williams: You’ve been seriously pursuing photography since you were in the 10th grade; were you initially interested in adventure and landscape photography?
Mitchell Bryant: The outdoors was often the subject of a lot of those early photographs as I didn’t know what I was doing. I could practice by myself and learn with no real boundaries. I’d grab my camera, go for a walk behind our house, and shoot through a roll of film. Now, my love for the outdoors is a much more holistic endeavor. I love being in nature. My camera has become a faithful hiking/backpacking partner throughout the years and one that I lean on to retell the stories in vivid detail.
MW: Who or what has most inspired you, or driven you forward in your growth as a photographer?
MB: In the early parts of my career I religiously followed Jeremy Cowart. He had such a creative and innovative approach to image-making, while maintaining such a lovely balance of technical prowess and experimental creativity. I learned a lot from his images and continue to follow his work closely today.
One of my favorites to keep up with is painter and traditional artist Mark Maggiori. His method of reproducing massive landscapes with impeccable detail and visceral color leaves me scratching my head often saying, “How?!”
Another no-brainer follow is Chris Burkard.
MW: How do you approach your outdoor/adventure/travel photography? Do you set out with a specific vision in mind, or do you tend to capture moments that are more spontaneous or real-time?
MB: If I’m traveling to a new place, I’m like a kid seeing the world for the first time. Almost everything is image-worthy. I want to remember it all, and some of it might be considered art. When I return to a place, experience or environment that I love, I’m much more particular and premeditated. There are certain aspects of that adventure or that story that I want my viewers to experience and “remember” even if it’s something they’ve never experienced. That often involves wide context imagery, action/journey of some kind, and, of course, my layered, textured, patterned, artful landscapes.
MW: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
MB: Technically speaking there are rules, a prescription of aesthetics that you can follow, like many art forms, that are the “compositional elements of a great, technically sound photograph”. Those elements come together to create a well-structured, beautiful, pleasing image.
Great photography is found at the intersection of innovation, expertise, courage, and creativity—knowing everything you “should do” and daring to abandon that appropriately. My favorite images (and most art for that matter) transport us to another time and place where presence—the power of here and now—is visceral and transformative.
MW: Looking back at your work, what are some of your favorite photographs that you’ve shot? What makes them special to you?
MB: I’m big on Type 2 fun (look it up). Any images that help me recall a certain moment, adventure, or experience of course have a special place in my book. My wife can tell you I’m constantly scrolling through my phone looking through old photographs and laughing, or sighing, or saying, “Oh man look at this, wow that was 2015?!” It is absolutely one of my favorite things. My friends and family probably get tired of me taking over the TV so I can Airplay an image and tell them about what was going on again and again.
Also in terms of favorites or images that are special to me—anytime someone seeks out my work for a large print in their home or workspace—that is the ultimate compliment.
MW: Do you have any photos or styles that you want to explore? Where do you see your photography going from here in terms of subject and style?
MB: This is fun for me to think about. In the future I want to involve my family more. Photography can tend to be a solo venture. I want my boys in particular to find a love and appreciation for this world and a love and respect for all of nature’s beauty and the people within it. If I could bottle the reactions my boys have, their wonder and imagination running rampant, and pour that all over my images, I’d be doing just fine.
The work I want to focus on involves being outside more and more. There is a lot left to be explored in that regard.
I’m also working on having more of my images printed/installed on a massive scale, whether that be in retail spaces, custom residential builds, or hospitality projects.