Early this year, we zoomed in on the works of Los Angeles-based photographer Brice Bischoff, absolutely positive that film-loving people and long exposure fans would love the way he brought color to a bare and dull-looking location. We got in touch with Brice to learn more about him and his work, so if you're also curious, let's revisit some of his colorful long exposures, take a peek at some of his new works, and find out more about his inspirations, motivations, and plans as an artist.
1. Can you tell us something about yourself and what you do?
From the first time I picked up a camera and learned how to use it until now, I’ve been in this awkward dance/revelry with light, visualizing impossibilities and searching for things on the edge of vision. I’m from New Orleans so I suppose revelry is in the blood. New Orleans haunts, myths abound, spirits saunter the streets, a perfect home town for me.
2. When we speak of long exposure photography, the first thing that comes to mind is shooting at night or in dim lighting. What made you decide to do it in brighter lighting conditions?
I discovered the technique during the last year I lived in San Francisco. I had this job for a real estate database company. They assigned you a zip code and said we want a picture of every house in this zip code. As cool as it sounds and it doesn’t sound that cool…I hated it. I had time on my side though. Plenty of time to think. I was doing all these experiments like throwing unexposed film in a box to record the light that filtered through the cracks, or pushing film behind my eyelids in the darkroom and walking out into the sun to record the light and color that filtered through. It was during that time when I walked over to Golden Gate Park from my apartment as the sun was setting and made the first photograph using the technique. The photo is called “Color Over Rock.” I had thought to try the technique the day before, and it worked! First try and all.
3. We’re curious: what was it like conceptualizing for your Bronson Caves series? Was it part of the plan that it will be part “performance art” (since you had to move around with the sheets of colored paper)?
Yeah, it was this perfect marriage of site and technique. I really wanted to focus the technique. I started to think about the about the set up, I was creating movement/action for the camera over time, there was something fundamentally cinematic about it. I moved to Los Angeles at that point and that’s when I discovered the Bronson Caves. It was the cave’s deep history as a site for cinema, a site of action and fictional realities, an any place that gave me reason, over a year of reason, to photograph there. The colored sheets are a kind of poetic potential. Rainbows are beautiful but also containers for every possible color. Everything is represented in a rainbow.
4. Using sheets of colored paper to “liven up” the bare Bronson Caves was quite the clever idea. How did you come up with it?
The colored paper was my palette and my clay to form. The metamorphosis of this everyday material, paper, into some spectral, gaseous object cannot be overlooked. This is the conceptual foundation for this whole project. Even though I am speaking to cinema, cinematic motion, and cinematic time, I am doing so through purely photographic means. The colored paper turned other cannot be experienced anywhere but standing in front of the final photographic print. If you were to stop by while I was performing for the camera, you would see paper, and me, flailing about. Instead, in the final print, you see this object that is entirely photographic.
5. Working with a large format camera (especially shooting film with it) isn’t something photographers do every day — what preparations or precautions did you have to do to make sure that you get the results you had in mind?
I needed the detail. The resolution needed to be there so the prints could be bigger so I used the larger format. I couldn’t afford a digital camera that produced that kind of quality, and besides, film is much better at drinking up the soft light of twilight over time than sensors in a digital camera; at least it was better then. I know the technology has changed rapidly.
6. What do you think about the interpretation of your work as light painting during daytime, where colored paper is used in place of the pen lights?
The movement is completely different though. In longer exposures at night, light just cuts through the exposure in one pass. This technique is a slow build. The movements I make are slow and continuous. 20 minutes of movement wrapped in paper, mixing colors, and expanding forms. People are often visiting the caves, walking right past me as I’m shooting, but they don’t show because they are too fast to register.
7. Have you thought about the future of this technique? Do you see yourself taking it somewhere else other than the Bronson Caves, and if so, do you think it will work just as good?
Well, I have taken it further, and the future is now. I’m in the middle of a series called the Glassell Park Series. It is named after the neighborhood is Los Angeles where my art studio is located. It is all about investigating the moments when art is made, that origin, that myth, as an artists moves about touching a brush to canvas, molding clay, carving wood, anything. The struggle to will something into being. I am using this technique to present that moment as a single photograph. Where the other series used the Bronson Caves as a site of creative production this series uses the artist’s studio as a site of creative production. I’m really excited about this series! Right now works from the series are hanging in the Orange County Museum of Art as part of the California-Pacific Triennial.
8. Is there anything else you wish to achieve with this technique – variations, new projects, etc.?
Projects will come and go. I guess the technique will always be a part of my overall vocabulary and I’m proud of that. It all goes back to that awkward dance/revelry with light I mentioned earlier.
9. What do you consider to be the most challenging aspects of your work? What about the most rewarding?
For someone who casually comes across this work online there is an initial curiosity and intrigue. The response has been amazing! However given the rate images are consumed online there is little time to delve deeper to consider the vocabulary of a photograph and the various things it is speaking to. When making this work my reaction to what I was seeing each time I processed my film was almost spiritual. I think the images have that somewhere in them. I also think the history of the caves is somewhere in there too as well as my movement and technique. But there is no right way to see these photographs, and I’m so grateful for how many people have seen and liked the work.
10. Lastly, do you have any ongoing/upcoming exhibits or shows where we can catch you and your work?
Yeah, the California-Pacific Triennial is on view at the Orange County Museum of Art through November and another show a Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco that is up right now called Journey Forth.
Thank you so much, Brice, for finding the time to squeeze in an interview with us! We look forward to seeing more of your works!