The Recreations Of David B. Brooks
The Pictorial Side Of Our Digital Guru

The Recreations Of David B. Brooks

Photos © 2002, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

Each month in Shutterbug our own David B. Brooks reveals why he's an expert in the field of digital imaging. His Digital Help column, as well as his reviews and in-depth how-to articles, have made him a recognized expert who commands the loyalty of his readers and the respect of the industry. David has been involved in photography for over 50 years. He began his career by studying art, design, and theater at Oregon State University and professional photography at the Brooks Institute of Photography (no relation). He also showed an early interest in anthropology and philosophy, eventually leading to a bachelor's degree from California State University, Northridge. David's experience in professional photography is wide ranging. His experience includes public relations, commercial studio assignments, and glamour photography. In addition, the work he did in multimedia and industrial film production for the record industry in the 1960s eventually evolved into rock video.

However, there's more to David Brooks than all that experience and expertise, and we thought it was high time we shared his more personal work with you. Like David, the work's gentleness is often masked behind its complex nature.

A Mind's Eye
Before we can truly delve into David's most personal work, which he refers to as "recreations," it's important to understand where his heart lies. The key to this understanding is knowing that he idolizes William Mortensen, a pictorialist who was Cecil B. DeMille's photographer in the golden days of Hollywood. Pictorialists choose to see what's in their mind's eye, a philosophy that suits David rather nicely. "My heart is still with the pictorialists," he says. "My recreations are an addition to the distortion already there. It's a redirection of how people respond to it." David further believes that photos "always lie...all photos distort reality."

When viewing his recreations, which tend to take on a rather painterly feel, it is critical to note the role he plays in them. Said David, "Roland Barthes who wrote Camera Lucida said something that struck me strongly: `One thing that distinguishes photography and other visual arts is that the photographer is inexplicably tied to the subject.' In my recreations I'm breaking the inexplicable link between subject and photographer. I'm doing something like a painter would do: reproduce what's in my mind's eye with digital photography."

To David, part of the beauty of digital photography is that it broke that inexplicable tie. As he puts it, "Digital photography is pure information. A photograph is no longer embedded in a physical model."

Working From A Vast Collection
For the past 10 years David has been recreating images from his vast collection, which at one time totaled over one million images. To date he's recreated over 500 images, admitting that "what really worked only applied to a small amount." David started recreating his images because, as his friend Oliver Gagliani, a San Francisco based photographer, once said, "You make a photograph that's successful and you can't repeat it. You can't do the same thing again."

Although the process of how David recreates his images is far too complex to cover in this article (something we'll leave to David in a future story), he can usually make an image in five or six hours if he works steadily, using a total of four software programs. His working suite includes Adobe's Photoshop, Synthetik Software's Studio Artist, Corel's PHOTO-PAINT and Painter.

Abstract School Of Thought
David began doing his recreations to calm an inner frustration about a sense of misdirection he had for most of his life. In essence, the work process helped free his creativity. He says, "I have a lot of education and a love of ideas. For a while I felt that I had to say something. However, ideas are abstract thoughts. You can't photograph abstract thoughts."

To comprehend David's abstract thinking, an exploration of his figure photography is helpful. For many years he chose to create "juxtapositions," putting nudes against a backdrop man created. In doing so, he exploited "hostile" environments in contrast to a natural pureness of the figure.

One of the most appealing aspects of his recreations is that each one conjures up a different mood and emotion. With so many images in one's collection, how does he go about choosing which photos to recreate? The answer may surprise you.

David chooses photos that capture a "magic" moment, paying no attention to when the images were made--some that he's recreated were taken 40 years ago. "The results of that magic are what I choose to work with...the basis being what's endured. Something with universal appeal like flowers are shapes that have a universal attraction. In a sense, we mimic what attracts us."

Of A Personal Nature
Since these recreations are so very personal, you may be wondering why after all of these years David is finally ready to reveal his true creative self. The bottom line: "I do what I do for Shutterbug because I like to share what I know with others. That's why I do Digital Help. I like to give a helping hand to my fellow photographers. That same feeling is at the heart of this work. Also, people have been reading me for 30 years but don't know what I'm about."

If you have any questions about David's Recreations send your e-mail to