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Moshe and Eddie Brakha: Standardizing Creativity

When most photographers hit "a certain age," they might be tempted to revert to the mean -- to play it a little safer, creatively speaking. Not so Moshe Brakha, who has never been one for safe lighting.

These days, his collaboration with his son Eddie combines experience and relative youth in a photographic one-two punch. For the Brakhas, stale is not an option. And to combat it, they are setting aside regular downtime reserved solely for stretching themselves.

I make the age crack on Brakha the Elder only because we have already talked about his preference for "dirty light," dating back to the late '60's. Dude is no spring chicken. But then I'm kinda not one either, so I can say that.

Working alongside his son, the two are pushing lots of boundaries at one time -- a unique approach to lighting, heavy use of blogging, multimedia from the shoot and even going as far as set aside a day just to experiment. (More on the last thing in a minute.)

In the video above, the first minute or so gives a few glimpses of the atypical lighting behind the photos at top. The Brakhas are using four, hard hot lights arrayed at eye level with a combination of barndoors, improvised diffusers and gels.

Hardly the kind of light one would expect from a veteran photographer shooting an uber-trendy jeans ad. But then, you'd normally expect the photographer for this kind of ad to be some 25 year-old flavor of the month. It's the lifetime of creative stretching that keeps the Brakhas in a position to get these jobs.

About that light -- I kinda love it and hate it at the same time. But I am definitely reacting to it, which is certainly the point. I don't know if it is the sort of thing I would try to create, but it is right in Brakha's space if you look at his body of work.

And I can tell you one thing: It gets me thinking of several new ideas that are offshoots of what I am seeing above. And that counts for a lot.

On Standardized Creativity

If you take a look at the Brakhas' blog, you'll notice a regular string of posts called Sketchy Mondays. This idea, I love. It's the photographer's equivalent of Google's famous "20% time," in which engineers are encouraged to spend one day a week in purely creative thought.

It builds experimentation right into the model. And that yields unrestricted thinking in the day-to-day work, too. Will all of these techniques pop up on commercial jobs? Probably not. But it helps them to expand their creative toolkit while showing the results off to future clients, and all at no risk.

The compass point for Sketchy Mondays is intergenerational collaboration, creative trust and producing a strong visual. Or as they sum it up: "Mental sweat."

Sez the Brakhas:

Sketchy Mondays is our opportunity to share our sketchpad with the world.

For us, our minds, style, and overall craft are always evolving. We love to shoot. More important, we love to create. The way we figured was, why wait for a client or exhibition -- let’s go out and do what we breathe.

At the same time, we wanted to explore new untapped characters; young fledgling artists in their respective fields. Plain and simple, Sketchy Mondays is our playground, a chance for us to stay creatively healthy and tall.

After all, aren’t we all just trying to Stay Away From Passé?


And whether or not you respond to the specific lighting style they are pushing is not the point. The point is that they have budgeted in time, money and effort to do nothing but expand their boundaries.

And the more you study successful creative people, the likely you are to see that work ethic again and again.

Portfolio: Commercial Head Films
On Twitter: @EdwynnHollywood


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Blogger Dale said...

I'm sure some others have already commented to this regard, but I believe that it was 3M, not Google (sadly), that should be credited with at least the concept of this allotment of a specific amount of time dedicated to the pursuit of creative endeavors--and their "15%" was established sometime in the 1950s, according to some accounts.

See this quite dated, yet still appropriate article from Wired magazine:


November 29, 2010 10:58 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Building in a day strictly to be creative is a great idea. In today's business its not like we don't have the time! Budget, well, just another way to be creative...

November 29, 2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Hooray for experimentation! It's way too easy to find lighting tools and a "look" and then just try to use it for everything. Some of the tests will work, some won't, but at least you'll know! One question: The BTS video shows four hard lights, but it also includes flashes of light. Were strobes being used, or is that just an effect added to the video so it looks like a REAL shoot.

November 29, 2010 2:17 PM  
OpenID martin Kimeldorf said...

An incredibly engaging concept. I recently began a new project wherein the poses I'm getting look a lot like the one the Brakhas are doing. This new project is called Loosen Up Before The Lens. It's been a lot of fun.

I'd be happy to share this short experiment with you when it is done in a few months. Would you like me to send it to you? If so, please tell me how. Kimeldorf(atsign)comcast(dot)net.

November 29, 2010 2:59 PM  
Blogger Jeffn said...

What I don't seem to get is how on the first of the blog images, (with the figure standing on books in the corner); how do you manage the three separate shadow colors, yet the face is just one tone?

November 30, 2010 2:02 AM  
Blogger Bernhard A S said...

Hey Dave,

great how you bring up great sites like that.


In theory you use three different lights that combine to white(or the color intended).

In practice it will need a lot of experimentation to get the right gels and the right placement of lights so that one gets shadows that can be seen nicely.

November 30, 2010 11:17 PM  
Blogger Bernhard A S said...

@ Dave, just for you

The Swiss artist HAFIS.
Incredibly he is 76.

November 30, 2010 11:21 PM  
Blogger RayPlay said...

Refreshing look on multiple shadows, colors and lighting. Good thing that other photographers get attention in your blogs as well.

December 01, 2010 5:29 PM  

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