50 STATES – MISSOURI WITH BRIAN CUMMINGS
BRIAN CUMMINGS – “IT’S A BEER DRINKING TOWN, WITH GREAT TALENTS THAT VERY FEW KNOW ABOUT”.
This week Creative Chair is in St. Lois Missouri where we’re talking to photographer/director Brian Cummings for the 12th edition of 50 States.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do
I am a commercial director/photographer, living in St. Louis, MO. My background is graphic design & advertising. I have my BFA in graphic design and spent 13 years working in advertising as a creative director. While working on national brands and campaigns, I was fortunate enough to shoot with some the best commercial and editorial shooters in the country, i.e., Jim Fiscus, Jill Greenberg and Michael Mueller. It was this exposure that ignited a desire in me to expand beyond the boundaries of just art direction.
I like to tell stories. I like to communicate a feeling, a mood or an idea through moving or still imagery. I’m not a writer, nor am I an illustrator, but I’ve dabbled enough in both to be able to bring aspects of each into my work.
I like working commercially because it’s still a challenge. How do you communicate to an audience easily, while still crafting your own artistic expression?
How has your state influenced the work that you do?
I relocated to Missouri (St. Louis specifically) in 1999, from my home in North Carolina. While I have been a mid-westerner for nearly 20 years, I’m a southerner at heart.
St. Louis is a hybrid city. It’s traditionally Midwestern, but with a deeper history that reflects times of being cosmopolitan. Like Detroit, St. Louis, saw a decline from the 1960’s thru the ’90s. I moved here during a rebirth.
I live in the city. It’s a mix of new and decay, classical and post-modern, white collar and struggling blue collar. It’s a beer drinking town, with great talents that very few know about. The city has a craftsman’s do-it-yourself spirit. This has greatly influenced my work.
I like contrast, and that’s visible in my work. Whether it’s a tattoo series shot like Baroque masters or fashion film for a skateboard company shot in an abandoned church with a skate park built in it, I combine the grit with the beauty. Dirt and decay is not always a negative. I do not like pretty for pretty sake. I like finding beauty in the rust.
Of your own work, what is your favourite project and why?
My favourite project would be the Side Project Skateboard fashion film. It was as a personal as commercial work can be for me. I worked directly with the brand to execute something different for the category. I asked the client, “what if John Varvatos made skateboards. What would it look like?”. I’m not saying we achieved that goal, but it lead to something different, unique, I think.
And finally, if you died and got reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
Tighten Up by Archie Bell and the Drells (1968)
I play this track at some point, nearly every shoot. In the intro, Bell introduces each member of the band and their instrument. The song builds with each part added. It’s a kicker of a song.
“According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Bell had heard a comment after the Kennedy assassination in Dallas that “nothing good ever came out of Texas.” Bell wanted his listeners to know “we were from Texas and we were good.””
Kinda how I feel about my state.