Local photographer strikes gold in desert
Canmore-based photographer Brian Van Tighem is set to return to the desert in Nevada this month in hopes of returning with some shots that recently earned him a gold medal at a prestigious European photography competition.
Last summer, Van Tighem ventured to the Black Rock Desert, approximately 193 kilometers north of Reno, to attend a week-long event known as Burning Man, an experimental arts happening that relies heavily on self-expression and self-reliance.
The photographer returned with a series of five photos entitled Desert Vision that he submitted to the Prix de la Photographie Paris (Px3), a competition that promotes the appreciation of photography, discovers emerging talent and introduces photographers to the artistic community of Paris.
“I was very surprised,” Van Tighem said after he received notice his series had won a gold medal in this year’s competition for the Press (travel/tourism) category. “It feels good for me to have that recognition because it helps me give myself that recognition.
“(Photography) is one of those fields that’s so overrun that it can be hard to know where the line is and it’s nice to know you’re going in the right direction.”
Having committed himself to the art of taking pictures three years ago after studying digital photography in Vancouver, Van Tighem took the opportunity last summer to try shooting something a little different. The end results paid off in different ways.
“I’d seen some pretty incredible things there from previous years and I heard it was different every year,” he said about Burning Man. “There were a number of occasions where it was just kind of stopping and looking around and saying ‘what is going on?’
“I definitely think that it’s expanded my view and given me an opening for other options and different ideas to approach a career in photography.”
Regarding the collection of images he submitted to Px3, Van Tighem admits the selection process was a little tricky. However, the photos he went with all shared the same theme.
“There were photographs that I liked better than some, but what I was really looking for was five images that could actually be put together as a series,” he explained. “I was more looking at content and quality. I’m really happy with how they fit together.”
The experience at Burning Man has not only encouraged the local photographer to return this month (the event takes place every year during the final week of August), but also possibly travel to other places while still keeping an eye on the mountains.
“It was the side of me that really wants to travel and document the things that I see,” he said about his experience last summer. “It was more of a personal journey accompanied with a camera.
“I’d like to travel, but I am the kind of person who would like to retain a home base,” he added. “I do hope to be travelling for a portion of every year, that would be ideal. There’s so many places in Canada I would just love to go and see.”
For now, Van Tighem is focused on finishing up his summer work involving weddings and portraits, but his recent gold medal win has also inspired him to start submitting his wedding photos into competitions. Besides receiving accolades, the Jasper native’s biggest encouragement has been from those close to him.
“Especially from the work side of it, I’ve gotten most of my work through friends and family who were willing to put the recommendation out, “ he said. “The first year was quite frustrating. You come out of school with high hopes and you’re ready to take over the world. They’ve played a huge part and they still do support me all the time.”
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