To enrich the cultural landscape of Lemont by fostering the production and appreciation of the arts.
William Brisick – I’m a self-taught photographer. I was born in Chicago and now live in Orland Park, IL.
“With the click of a shutter, I have the power to make a lifelong statement.”
—Jim LaSala, Lenswork Magazine, #112 May-June 2014
I never started out to be a photographer but perhaps I was always destined to be one. It was 1966 and I was in the Army. Two friends at Fort Bragg helped me buy my first camera at the PX. I would tag along when they walked around the base doing general shooting. My two mentors didn’t go to Vietnam with me. I was on my own. I learned some things from photography magazines and had purchased a better camera, but it was my purchase of a 135mm lens that changed everything.
I had been into photography less than a year when I went to the nearby town of Bien Hoa to try out my new lens. The very first time that I raised the camera with the 135mm lens to my eye everything changed. I instantly knew that this was the look that I wanted. The images through the lens were closer and the compositions were tighter and stronger. I came alive! I was a shy person then but to my surprise within minutes I had solicited a passerby in the street to take their photograph and they agreed. It was a pleasant interaction even though we didn’t speak the same language. It was then that I knew what I wanted to do. So I learned photography while taking street portraits of the Vietnamese people.
Over the years, I’ve tried to understand how I knew what “look” I had wanted and where did my inspiration come from. I’ve now come to think that it was from the old, oversized, photography driven Life Magazine. Life Magazine would have been my only exposure to high quality photography during my early years. Life photographers such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, W. Eugene Smith, Margret Bourke-White, Philippe Halsman, and Andreas Feininger had colonized my subconscious. Their consistently strong photographs had imprinted in my mind an image how good photography should look.
When I returned from the service reality set in. I had to get a job and put photography on the back burner. I shot what I could over the coming years but ultimately I had a span of 20 years when I didn’t do much at all in photography. The kids were growing up and time and money were tight. I didn’t exhibit for the first time until the year 2000 when I had five framed enlargements of photographs shot in Vietnam on exhibit in the lobby of the Philip Lynch Theater at Lewis University. Also in 2000, a diagnosis with Type II Diabetes had me walking for more exercise along the I & M Canal Trail at various points. It was often so beautiful that I started carrying a small film camera with me and I taught myself nature photography. Eventually, the limitations of the small film camera became apparent and I moved up to a Nikon N80 with 28-200mm Nikon zoom lens. I became serious again about photography.
I retired in 2009 after working for more than 40 years for railroads and steamship companies. In 2010, I reinvented myself as a photographer and started doing art fairs. In 2011, I joined the Lemont Artists Guild and started to exhibit in Artists Guild shows. In 2012, I participated in a two-man Civil War themed show at the Lemont Public library which received a little reprise at the Lemont Historical Society. In 2013, I had a photograph in the Alliance of Fine Art’s Best of the Best show in Oak Brook, IL. Later, I was in an Artists Guild show at the McCord House Gallery in Palos Park which netted me a mention in the Chicago Tribune. Most recently, I organized an exhibition of Veterans artwork which showed simultaneously at the Lemont Public Library and at the Lemont Center for the Arts. I’m currently working on two photo books, a magazine, and some creative writing.
At this point in time, I’m still shooting film and I’m quite comfortable using my Nikon N80. Right now I’m not interested in going digital and I’m against image manipulation beyond basic cropping, lightening, and darkening. I still try to capture good images with the camera and don’t rely on post-production to save me.
For the past fifteen years, my favorite photographer has been Sebastiao Salgado the Brazilian photojournalist. I like his humanistic approach to photojournalism. His subjects are depicted with respect and dignity often in harrowing situations. Salgado hasn’t influenced my work as I was shooting my street portraits in a humanistic style from the beginning and long before I knew the Salgado even existed.
In recent years, I’ve become interested in the post-war Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama. His gritty, high-contrast, black and white images of post-war Japan are the direct opposite of Sebastiao Salgado’s humanistic photography. Moriyama’s photographs of the underbelly of post-war Japan were in response to the Japanese government’s attempt to represent post-war Japan as all cherry blossoms and idyllic temples to attract tourism.
Too often art is reduced to a completion (its lowest common dominator). Art is not a completion. There are no winners or losers. It doesn’t have an objective result as in sports. Art is a highly subjective endeavor. Art says different things to different people. Reducing art to a completion implies that the winner was the only valid piece to artwork and the rest were just losers. Of course, this is ridiculous.
My photography may be purchased directly from me. I hold the negatives for all of my work. My photographs may be purchased in frames or as loose prints and in sizes from 5×7 to 16×20. Also, as basic prints or as hand struck silver gelatin prints made by a custom lab. I may be contacted at email@example.com or at 815-725-5297.
What Inspires Me
I own over 160 fine art photography magazines from around the world and a variety of books on photographers and photography. Going over this material regularly inspires creative thought and constantly reminds me that anything can be done in photography.
“Awareness of the transforming power of the photograph is often embodied in popular stories like the admiring friend who said, “My, that’s a fine child you have there!” Mother: “Oh, that’s nothing. You should see his photograph!”
—Marshall McLuhan, The Photograph from Understanding Media, 1964