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Fictional Pixel People: Brian Walker

Sydneysider Brian Walker is making a living out of poking the absurdities of fashion photography straight in the eye. Avoiding the obvious targets, his approach is thankfully (and refreshingly) more a cheeky nudge than an all out philosophical slur. The beautiful and disturbing imagery in Brian’s current collection are inspired, he says, by “the intriguing world of the retouched magazine models whose non-fiction bodies are pulled, stretched, coloured and smoothed into hysterically fictional pixel people.”

Brian’s work takes on those pristine, composed magazine or billboard images with all their awkward beauty and throws in a detail that turns them on their head somehow. That small switch incites in the viewer both a grin and a grimace; whether it’s a milk advertisement satire that shows an obscenely surgically perfect naked breast, a multi-hued eyelid with horror-movie-like eyelashes that drip with sparkling diamonds or a prim girl scooping up a rainbow of breakfast cereal with a prosthetic robotic arm. It’s humour with a dark edge; “I guess it’s a bit of reference to that self-destruction thing that humans have, not on a deep or concerned level, though one that can sit back and have a giggle at people that take things too far and try very hard to keep it together and current, kind of like looking at a current picture of Melanie Griffiths,” Brian explains.

Some artists use their medium to examine their own internal conflicts but Brian doesn’t take himself – or the world – so seriously. He wants to poke fun at it and, unwittingly, himself at the same time, as he explains his motivation is “exposing my own satirical view of our aim for picture perfect lives. It is my love of concept and visual wit that I like sharing”.

A love of the surreal worlds of Dali and Magritte fuelled Brian’s youth. He became frustrated with other visual mediums, such as paint and pencil; unable to bend them to his will in a satisfying way. The ability to “create plausible scenes and ideas” is what drew him to photography. To create these off-kilter compositions, sometimes a little Photoshopping is required – he can’t really go around lopping off pretty girls arms after all. The flexibility and the ability to finesse and perfect allow him a great level of freedom to create the world of each individual shot as he sees it. Conversely, all that freedom can become a problem for the artist with the perfectionist streak, as Brian’s “self-inflicted need to refine my work leaves me spending countless hours in front of my slave-box”.

In order to achieve such perfection, there is ample meticulous planning. The process begins with inspiration; or “spontaneous brain-spasm” as Brian calls it. Then begins sketching, over and over, until he finds the right composition. After this blueprint is ready, the logistics of construction and props have to be planned and designed and built. Only then can trivialities such as models and hair and makeup be considered. After all preparations are complete, the lens cover has come off and the shooting is done, then begins the fiddling; taking various shots and chopping them up into the final piece. Some call it perfecting but Brian is a little more critical, calling it “self-fuelled obsession for detail”. Either way, the end-result is worth the pain because his images are beautiful, dark, and funny, all rolled up into one.

To see more of Brian Walker’s work have a look at his website, Lick the Sun. Brian is currently working on a new collection so keep an eye on the site for new pieces over the coming months.

words: Kristen Hodges


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