Currents is excited that Paul Brians is now sharing his work on this site in a new monthly column entitled, “Photo Album.” Read the conversation that Linda Kramer Jenning, journalist and AHB board member, had with Brians.
This exhibit is called, “People Elsewhere.”
“I enjoy taking candid photos of people doing interesting things when I’m out and about. A year ago I had a display of prints sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Photo Club at the Senior Center gallery called “People on Bainbridge.”
This exhibit expands on that idea by depicting people from a wide variety of places around the world—except on Bainbridge. They were taken over a couple of decades of travel in places as far-flung as India and Russia plus a couple just next door in Seattle. In this time of grim events and lockdowns, I hope you’ll find them enjoyable.” —- Paul Brians
Couple at Sunset, Bay View State Park
We were on a midsummer visit to La Conner in 2013 as the sun began to sink, and decided to head for this nearby park for a sunset view, arriving just as the sun was going down. My favorite shot was of this young couple enjoying the same view just after the sun had set.
But the picture needed a lot of work in Photoshop Elements. The foreground was very dark, and I tried to bring out the details of the dandelions and rocks without making them unnaturally bright. Across the strait was an oil refinery with dozens of pinpoint lights spoiling the view, so I took them out one by one.
The huge stretch of water between the rocks and the opposite shore spoiled the proportions of the shot, consuming too much space, so I selected it and carefully compressed the waves to shorten the distance they occupied, trying not to make them look weird.
“The Rule of Thirds” suggests that a composition is more pleasing when the focus of attention is 1/3 of the way vertically from top or bottom or 1/3 of the way from one of the sides. In this case the lovers’ heads wound up in the ideal spot with plenty of room for them to gaze out upon. The rising mountain slope in the background complements their upward gaze.
Boaters in Central Park
Before our daughter Megan moved to Bend, Oregon she spent most of her adult life in New York City, often enjoying Central Park where she loved to take us on visits. In June the year before she left she took us to see some of her favorite spots, including boaters on the pond. I took several horizontal shots of the scene including many more boaters and pedestrians, but for this show I’ve chosen a vertical one framed by shrubs to focus on the two pairs seeming to look across the water at each other as they enjoy their outing.
I hesitated whether to remove the random visitors on the path near the top of the image but decided they were not prominent enough to be distracting, even the red coat one was wearing. This is really what it looked like.
Ferrara man on bike
Most motor vehicles are banned from the historic central area of Ferrara in Italy, and the city is renowned for its bicycles. We were having a snack at a cafe in a plaza when this fellow pedaled around the corner smoking a cigarette and looking like the very opposite of a Tour de France contestant. I had been snapping pictures of the cyclists passing, but this is the only one I kept. He got neatly framed between the two windows in the bookstore behind him with the other bikes reminding us that he was just doing what most people do in this town to get around.
Cyclists in the Via Mazzini
Later I was aiming down this picturesque narrow street at the approaching cyclist when the woman in the red coat swerved perfectly into the shot. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Waiter in the Piazza della Signoria
We were waiting for our lunch to be brought to us at an outdoor cafe in the heart of Firenze (“Florence”) when this brilliantly clad waiter caught my eye, chatting cheerfully with a party of young diners. His head hides most of the crude copy of Michelangelo’s David in the background which tourists often mistake for the real thing. You can see a bit of the statue under his nose. My only regret is that the shot clipped off the bowl of the wineglass he was holding. I think this is one of the most cheerful pictures I’ve ever taken.
Woman Blowing Bubbles at the Fremont Parade
In sunnier and saner times we liked to go to the annual Solstice Parade. I was charmed by this lady next to us sitting in her wheelchair wearing fairy wings, a butterfly painted on her cheek, blowing bubbles. For me she summed of the cheerful, carefree mood of the day.
Twirling Dancer in the Fremont Parade
This annual event sponsored by the Fremont Arts Council shuns motorized vehicles, signs with lettering on them, marching scout troops and other typical American parade features. Its point is to celebrate art and fun on the Saturday nearest the summer solstice. Political statements are acceptable only if they can be conveyed without words.
This delightful woman was dancing/marching with a lively troupe, and her gleeful expression and swirling skirts seemed worth sharing with a wider audience. But the background was cluttered with irrelevant and distracting chunks of spectators’ bodies.
I painstakingly selected her and blurred and faded the rest, but I still wasn’t satisfied. So I decided to try the “out of frame fun edit” in Photoshop Elements. It took a great deal of work (because I kept making mistakes) but I was pleased with the final result. Don’t expect to see any other fancy edits like this on this site—not really my thing.
Father & Son on Hanalei Beach
One week during a very cold March we were the guests of a friend who owns a place on Kau’ai. The temperature was mostly in the 80s, so we spent quite a lot of time on various beaches. I often like to shoot photos with large “negative space”—that is areas that surround the main subject, like the huge leaves on these Hau trees. To me this shot combines natural grandeur and human intimacy.
Those white patches showing through the branches aren’t mistakes—there were clouds on the horizon.
Bridal Photo Shoot Lunch Break on the Seine
All over the world bridal couples have their pictures taken in front of famous sites, including the banks of the Seine in front of Notre Dame cathedral (before it burned). On this 2014 trip to Paris we saw Asian tourists everywhere. I was entertained by the contrast between the fancy clothing worn by this pair and the simple take-out fare they were eating while another bridal photo shoot was going on nearby.
Cyclist on the Kealea Beach Trail
I was struck by the powerful frame of this fellow dwarfing his bicycle on this popular seaside path on Kau’ai. While he was enjoying a peaceful ride, drama was developing in the sky overhead. A downpour ensued not long after.
This is another example of my favorite technique of situating the main subject in a large space.
Street Singer in Lucca
As we exited the Torre Guinigi in this charming Italian town we heard this young woman’s lovely voice down the street and stopped to listen for quite a while, then bought one of the home-burned CDs you can see in the red case. Her name is Pamela Larese, and she specializes in the traditional songs of Tuscany, including those sung by emigrants to the US. The album is titled Tra la Maremma e l’America, Memorie Musicali di Toscana (“Between Maremma and America, Musical Memories of Tuscany”).
This is hands-down my favorite candid shot of all time.
Sunset in Montmartre
On our 2018 trip to Paris we stayed not far from this Bistro. It was the evening before our departure, and I managed to grab this shot during our final evening walk.
I had taken my large (and heavy) Canon SLR with me, but wound up using my much lighter iPhone 8 Plus, with pretty nice results. The original shot was very dark in the foreground—you couldn’t even make out most of the people under the awning, so I brightened that up quite a bit and was impressed by how much detail the phone’s camera had captured. I wish the cars parked along the curb weren’t there, but this wasn’t the sort of auto-free zone we’ve enjoyed so much in other parts of Europe.
Flute Vendor, New Delhi
In 1992 a group of faculty from WSU went to India as part of an NEH-funded project to train us to teach new world civilizations courses. World music instructor Paul Smith is here trying out one of the flutes being offered by a street vendor.
Woman in Yellow Raincoat in the Petit Palais
This is my favorite shot from our most recent trip to Paris. I don’t usually photograph the famous works in museums (you can Google better shots in a moment) but I do like to shoot architectural details and the occasional visitor.
Here I’ve deliberately contrasted the ornate railing and flooring with a wide expanse of featureless wall, with the young woman in the raincoat delivering a powerful focus point in one of the “rule of thirds” sweet spots.
I thought at first she was consulting a guidebook, but of course it turned out to be her phone. I shouldn’t complain—I shot this with my phone as well.
Pickup Musician in Seattle
The car my friend was driving was stuck in traffic in front of the downtown Target store when this spectacular guitarist caught my eye and I shot the picture out the side window. We couldn’t stay to hear his performance but I imagine it was spectacular—his get-up certainly was.
The lettering at top left originally had a bit of a letter “R” ahead of it, for “customer.” I deleted that but left the other word in because it had so many possible meanings, including the pickup microphone on an electric guitar.
Lovers in the Parque de María Luisa
In 2006 on a hot afternoon in Seville we rested for a while in this park. I was struck by this couple, legs intertwined under intertwining vines. The guy caught me aiming my camera and he grinned at me and leaned in for a kiss.
The red flowers in the foreground tended to bleed into a smear, and preparing this exhibit is the first time I’ve been able to bring any detail out in them. I have a print of this shot hanging over my desk, but this version looks better.
Two Artists, St. Petersburg
This is my favorite shot from our 2011 trip to Ukraine and Russia. Walking in a St. Petersburg park I was taken by this woman painting with her daughter seemingly reading while she waited on the bench nearby. I discovered when I got home and zoomed in on the shot that the little girl was making her own picture!
If you’d like to view the “People Elsewhere” gallery, please click here.
ABOUT PAUL BRIANS. Paul Brians does extensive volunteer photography for the Bainbridge Island Land Trust. He created the photo book Four Seasons on Bainbridge Island (2010), was principal photographer for Natural Bainbridge (2019)and contributed the majority of photographs in Dave and Alice Shorett’s Thirty Walks on Bainbridge (2020) published for the benefit of the Land Trust. He also took photos for some years for Bainbridge in Bloom. He has had six exhibitions of his prints on the Island and his pictures have appeared in many regional publications and on Bainbridge-related Web sites. He posts photos daily on Facebook and is an active member of the Bainbridge Island Photo Club.