Giving a unique slant on photographic portraiture and still life, Brian Riley evokes the classical elements of photography through compelling studies of the male physique and inanimate objects. Riley’s unique choice in subject matter and object placement reveal a subtle dramatic quality that invites his viewers to conjure imaginative interpretations. In the case of his figural portraits, he arranges his models as if setting the stage for a theatrical scene. Riley therefore focuses on capturing the character he establishes for the scene, as the individual takes on a role of a character that extends beyond his true self. The result culminates in compositions that not only emphasize the beauty of the human form, but also indicate an underlying narrative, as if capturing an “in the moment” reaction to a particular situation or emotion.
Interesting couplings of flora, produce, and unusual objects mark Riley’s exploration of the still life genre. Employing a variety of perspectives and detail shots, he draws attention to the relationships created by form, space and shadow when items are grouped together, evoking the same dramatic feel as depicted in his use of models. Riley also produces a number of images of each still life making slight adjustments to the positioning of the objects to reveal varying moods inherent within each composition.
Drawing from his background in painting, Riley’s overall aesthetic reflects a painterly quality with specific regard to composition, lighting and perspective. Each photograph is envisioned beforehand with a specific theme, model, or arrangement in mind, seeking inspiration from such vast and varied sources as books, recently viewed images, or special insights gained from a previous photo shoot. Though conceptually predetermined, there exists an element of spontaneity to his process as he works in accordance with environmental changes while altering lighting and backdrops to achieve his ideal composition. In effort to convey a compelling sense of of depth and visual appeal to the images, he relies heavily on lighting for the manner in which it accentuates and defines form in many different, and interesting ways.
Brian Riley was born in New Jersey in 1972. He attended Cooper Union College and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1994. Trained as a painter as well as a photographer, Riley describes the process of photography as “like painting with light.” Riley is part of a new generation of photographers, classically trained in composition and design that use the sophisticated tools and opportunities afforded by the digital age. His work has been published in international fine art journals as well as exhibited in several galleries since 1995.