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Exploring the Human Condition – Interview with Photographer Brian Ceci

July 9, 2018

To put it simply photojournalism is the art of storytelling through photography. When you hear the term photojournalism you may think of war photography, it is so much more; photojournalism is a way to bring awareness and education about people and worlds unknown to the vast majority.

Cinematographer and photojournalist, Brian Ceci, uses his photography to capture the human condition. Brian brings the viewer into the world he’s shooting, allowing them to see it through his eyes. Brian’s photography beautifully captures the emotions of his subjects and their surroundings. I could go on but let’s hear from Brian himself.

Höllviken, Sweden

Summer beach houses in a row near Höllviken, Sweden


Emily E: Which came first, cinematography or photography?


Brian: Thinking about it, photography came first. I took lots of photos on my awful camera while travelling when I was 20, and that lead to going to film school which ultimately lead me to cinematography. When photo/video DSLRs came out in 2007, I started doing both. It was really simple to switch between them, and it became a collection of moments travelling mostly. I spend the majority of my time doing cinematography for commercial projects, but I love taking photographs. There’s something challenging about capturing a story in a photo – videos require more time to develop.


Emily E: Where do you get your inspiration from? Are there any other photographers that inspire you?


Brian: There’s quite a few. Sebastiaõ Salgado is an incredible influence. He’s got an unbelievable story that you can watch in the film Salts of the Earth. When I was in South Sudan in 2012, I met a photojournalist named Brian Sokol who has also had a particular influence on me.
South Sudan

Cattle Camp near Rumbek, South Sudan at dusk


Emily E: You mentioned South Sudan. I know you do a lot of work in Africa with the Obakki Foundation, how did you get involved with the foundation?


Brian: I’ve been involved with this organization since 2011. They’re absolutely amazing. I’m sure this will start a huge debate about doing free work but that’s for another time. The foundation is fuelled by a fashion line in which proceeds go directly to the causes they support in South Sudan, Cameroon and Uganda. In 2011 when I was first freelancing, I had no portfolio. I saw an ad for one of their fashion shows and emailed them and told them I’d shoot it for free. They liked it and kept calling me, which lead to numerous trips to Africa.

Moral of the story – look down the pipe and foresee if you think free work will lead to work that you want.


Emily E: Wise words.

For those of you not familiar with the Obakki Foundation, the foundation provides aid to South Sudan, Uganda, and Cameroon, focusing on clean water, education, agriculture, women’s initiatives, vocational training and medical care. To name just a few of their accomplishment, in South Sudan Obakki has drilled 1,000 water wells, supported various orphanages and created 12 schools in Cameroon, and working to transition the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda from a crisis settlement to a sustainable city. For more information on the foundation and ways to donate visit, obakkifoundation.org.


Etosha National Park in Namibia

Double sided Zebra in Etosha National Park in Namibia


Emily E: In regard to your photojournalism work, how do you choose your subject matter?


Brian: I find that I often don’t choose the subject matter, but I do choose when to take the picture. I find some of the most powerful images are one with contrast – This photo is of Dassi standing on his new limb for the first time. He’s looking at the Obakki Foundation’s Prosthesis, Scott, who fit him with a brand new leg along with the Founder, Treana Peake.


Dassi at the Bafut Rehabilitation Center in Bafut, Cameroon


Emily E: How would you describe your style of photography?


Brian: I tend to lean towards dark, contrasted images with deep blacks and bright highlights shaping the subject. If given the choice, I’ll almost always choose to light from behind, casting a thin rim on the subject. Life’s moodier when you look into the light.


Emily E: What gear do you take with you when you travel?


Brian: It changes every time I go. I own a few different cameras (Hasselblad Xpan, Canon 5D Mark III) but on the last trip I took the Sony A7SII. Great little camera – I’m not crazy about the mirrorless style, to be honest. It certainly makes things easier, but the aesthetic of searching with your own eye to find your moment is lost when you’re watching a video through the EVF. For lenses, I usually will be carrying primes – (24mm, 35mm, 50mm) with the exception of a 70-200mm.


Nuuk, Greenland

Two Greenlandic children testing the water for a swim in a summer’s evening in Nuuk, Greenland


Emily E: What are some of your upcoming projects?


Brian: Aside from non-stop commercial projects with Noravera, I’m currently developing a feature-length documentary on two runners tethered together running the world marathon majors. Should be interesting.


Emily E: That sounds amazing, can’t wait to see it! You’ve travelled a lot, where would you like to shoot that you haven’t been to yet?


Brian: I absolutely love to travel – it’s been a huge part of my life. Lately, I’ve found the most interest in places that Canadians consider off the beaten track such as Mongolia, the Stans, and a lot of Africa. We often refer to Africa as a whole – there are 54 countries tucked in there! Unfortunately, it’s just skipped due to hasty media assumptions. If you get the chance, do some research and you’ll see how wonderful it is.


The Takeaway:

Photography can be a beautiful and effective way to bring people, ideas, and situations to the forefront; giving a voice to those who go unheard. And it doesn’t hurt to do unpaid work, you never know where it might lead you.

Brian’s work can be seen at noravera.com and on Instagram.

Buea School for the Deaf in Buea, Cameroon

School children in Buea School for the Deaf in Buea, Cameroon




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