An Interview with Fine Art Photographer Brigitte Carnochan

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Fine Art photo Summer Moon by Brigitte Carnochan

Summer Moon

What is fine art photography? The term covers a broad subject range – it seems that photographers working in just about any genre of photography can produce photos good enough to exhibit and sell to the fine art photography market.

Photography magazines sometimes take a different tack, and publish articles showing you to create black and white images, usually still lifes overlaid with textures, that you can put on your wall. But is this fine art, or merely an imitation of it?

For me, one important aspect that separates fine art photography from other genres is the amount of thought that has gone into creating a series of photos. Fine art photographers are driven by a creative vision that works on a deeply contemplative and spritual level.

Take the work of Brigitte Carnochan. Her series ‘Floating World’ was inspired by a book of poetry she found in a second-hand book store. The poems were written by Japanese women in a period covering 1300 years from the 7th to 20th centuries. Her photos use the beauty of the natural world – its flowers, landscape, and the changing seasons – as a metaphor. They explore a world that’s centered on love and mystery.

Brigitte also used an interesting technique to create some of her photos. She uses a Canon EOS 5D converted to infrared in place of infrared film. The series is in black and white, and explores the relationship between the female nude and the natural world. The names of the poets who wrote the poems that inspired the photos are written in calligraphy by Richard Man on each photo.

I encourage you to take a look at Brigitte Carnochan’s website. She has some very beautiful work on there, plus news about her latest workshops and exhibitions. Her contact details, plus exhibition dates for ‘Floating World’, are at the bottom of the page.


Photo of Brigitte CarnochanHow would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of feeling are you trying to create in your photos?

My goal in photography is to create a beauty in my images compelling enough to establish its own legitimacy — whether beauty as a concept is in or out of fashion. Fashions come and go, beauty stays.

Beauty comes in many forms. I am drawn to the perfection of the formal beauties inherent in the human body and in flowers because I find in them the embodiment of the spiritual.

When did you start taking photos? What made you decide to explore photography as a means of artistic expression?

My first photos were of a new litter of kittens – taken with my 10th birthday gift, a Brownie Hawkeye. I’ve taken photos ever since then.

Why do you work in black and white rather than colour?

I use black and white film or convert a color digital image to black and white to concentrate each image to its most abstract form – and then I tone it or color it to energize it visually according to the sense of my own imagination – to make the image completely my own. I am moved by the ways in which the imagination colors everyday life – creates, in fact, private views of experience, whether revealed in words or in images.

What cameras do you use? Do you prefer using film or digital cameras to create your work?

In the past I used only a Sinar 4×5 with Polaroid PN55 or a Hasselblad and Kodak Tri-X or Konica Infrared. Polaroid PN55 and Konica Infrared are no longer available and the Agfa paper I printed on is also gone. I started shooting digitally about two years ago, when I felt the quality of printers (as well as cameras) had grown to a level I was comfortable with – and to see where I could go with it. I had my Canon 5D converted to shoot only infrared and I use the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II for color. I confess I’ve gotten very accustomed to the instant gratification of working digitally.

I had my 5D converted to infrared when I got the new EOS 5D Mark II. I have gradually figured out how to work in photoshop to replicate as much as possible the look of Konica infrared film, which I always used in the past for my figure studies (the first and last three pictures above are examples of Canon 5D infrared). Konica hasn’t made film for a number of years and though I have a few rolls in my freezer, I’m not sure whether they’re still good or not. The beauty of that film was that it didn’t have that harsh infrared look, which I don’t actually like very much. My converted Canon has the same ability to give skin a kind of perfection of tone that I look for.

A Bird Comes, Send A Message, How To Forget Him and Whenever The Wind Blows were all taken with the converted EOS 5D.

Briefly, what photographic techniques do you use in your work?

Over the years I’ve used a number of techniques. Almost immediately, in 1990, when I began taking photo classes and workshops, I came across painting with oils on gelatin silver paper – that technique spoke to me and I used it exclusively for my figure and botanical studies until 2007. When I began the series ‘Imaginin Then’, about my early years in Germany during World War II, I scanned old photographs and documents and toned and collaged them in Photoshop. That was a real departure for me. But it led quite naturally to the ‘Floating World’ series, which also uses collaging, though the photographs are basically my own rather than historical.

Name three photographers you like and why.

Robert Mapplethorpe for his sensuous formality in both his figure and floral studies. Julia Margaret Cameron for her compositional and narrative gifts. Josephine Sacabo for her passion and mythology.

Where is your photography going? What future photographic projects are you excited about?

I’m getting ready to use large digital negatives to print platinum/paladium and have a new series in mind that will again be literary in conception.

Photo Gallery – Floating World by Brigitte Carnochan

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Whenever the Wind Blows

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Songs of Love

Send a Message

How to Forget Him

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Golden Bee

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Cherry Blossoms

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Butterflies Tell Me

Purple butterflies

flutter through my dreams.

Butterflies, tell me,

can you still see in my village

the wisteria blossoms falling?

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

Bewildering Dream

Fine Art photo by Brigitte Carnochan

A Bird Comes

A bird comes

impulsively as a young girl

splashing in autumn puddles

in the shade of a tree.

Contact details:


Tel: 650.561.9177

Floating World will be exhibited at the following venues:

Galerie BMG, Woodstock, New York July–August 2010

Verve Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, NM September–October 2010

Modernbook Gallery, San Francisco CA December 2010-February 2011

Iris Gallery, Boston, MA May-June 2010

Prints from this portfolio may be purchased from the galleries above and from Gallery 291, San Francisco, CA

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