Brad Mangas, Photographer, Topeka, KS USA

 

Head ShotEWW: I am curious to know if someone were asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?

 

Brad:  This is something I have given no thought about at all. Honestly this is not even important to me. At the risk of sounding uncaring or disconnected from viewers, what others think about what I do and what I create cannot be something that I concern myself with. I intentionally approach my work with that as a requirement. It would completely change my work if this were of any concern to me.

With that said I can share some real world examples and not have to assume. I have had the opportunity to receive some direct opinions about my work over the last 3 years. This has been due to my participation in art shows, local venues and an effort in just getting my work in front of the public on a consistent basis.

Most comments are not surprising. There is a slight range depending on individual circumstance, but in general I hear things such as; your work is very colorful. There is a lot of contrast in your work. You sure do love Kansas and the Flint Hills.

These are some of the typical comments I have heard personally. As you can tell with the first two comments these are standard run of the mill responses. Typical, polite comments that could be made about any other photographer. All except the last one concerning the Kansas Flint Hills. That is the comment that means the most whenever I hear it. It may seem odd that it has nothing to do with my photography or even quality of work. It has to do with a location that has tremendous influence on how I developed into the photographer I am. A location that has helped shape me into the person I am today. If others can notice that one thing when viewing my work then I am meeting at least one of my personal goals.

 

EWW:  What would be your comments about your work, as a whole?

Brad:  My comments about myself reach many levels when it comes to my work. My work as a whole has grown since 2006 when I began to realize photography was more than just taking pictures of things I like. Almost from the inception I understood it was a way to visually depict the world that I live in at that very moment. When I say “I live in” I mean exactly that. My work is produced as if nobody else exists. It is not for, about, or concerning anyone but me. That may sound selfish and honestly it is. I am a very reserved person when it comes to my art. I make no excuses for that and in fact I am proud of my reserved ways. I did not choose to be a reserved type of person and I make no excuses or justifications for who I am. I have no problem explaining or talking about myself or philosophies but I do not justify myself to others. I believe my work has progressed to a point where the very reason for creating it is portrayed as well. If I accomplish nothing else with any work I must attempt to please myself or it is all for nothing.

In short I believe my work is an attempt to capture my personality in visual form. I’m not quite sure that is even possible, but that’s Okay. It really is about the journey for me not any specific destination.

 

EWW:  What photographer, past or present, has been an inspiration to you and and your work?  Why?

Brad:  I will preface this by first stating there are past and present inspirations to me and more than a few at that. I would never rate them against each other because those who inspire me do so in their own unique way and of equal importance.

It is easy for me at this moment to go with a present source of great inspiration both photographically and probably even more so philosophically. That would be Guy Tal.   From the first article I read by Guy, now possibly 8 years ago, I knew he had a different approach to his work and his philosophy when it came to his art and art in general. It makes me think beyond what I see or wish others to see and into the realm of what I can only describe as spiritual motivation. I don’t want this to come across as some type of psychobabble but his work takes me to places no other artist or writer does. And to be honest as much as his visual art inspires me his writings do so even more. His visual works of art are like stories and his writings are like visual art. Sounds kind of wacky I know but nothing else does that to me. If I find myself in a non-creative mindset for too long a period all I have to do is go to Guys work, read a blog post or two and things begin to switch in my mind. I actually feel fortunate to be able see and read his work and see his journey progress in my own lifetime.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

 

EWW:  Your work on your website cover several different subjects.  Is there one of these subject that you enjoy shooting more others?  If so, why?

Brad:   Since I have directly brought this up already I am glad to answer this with a resounding yes. The subject is The Flint Hills. This is going to sound like a plug but is the one thing I actually get worked up about when I talk to others about what I do and why. I have no doubt 99% or more of readers will have never heard of the Flint Hills, or more specifically The Kansas Flint Hills. I have written pages and pages on this subject and since I cannot do that within this answer I will simply state a few items of importance. The Flint Hills holds within its geographical location the largest and most dense coverage of tallgrass prairie in North America. The tallgrass prairie once covered lands from Texas to Canada and from Indiana into Kansas. This is what has been referred to by explorers such as Zebulon Pike who coined the name “Flint Hills” as “The Sea of Grass”. With the advent and growth of civilization and subsequent agriculture this once very abundant and wild land has dwindled to less than 4% of its original coverage. This makes it one of the rarest and most endangered ecosystems in the world. The largest remaining area still left unplowed is in the rocky and hilly region of Kansas called the Flint Hills. This physiographic region averages 60 miles wide and stretches from the Nebraska border, south into northern Oklahoma. With over 90% of that residing in Kansas. This is due to the shallow layers of chert (flint) and limestone that exists in the Kansas Flint Hills making it impossible to plow and turn into agricultural lands. Its main use now is to help grow the Nation’s cattle herds from Spring to Autumn. This has allowed it to remain one of the great grasslands of the world for over 10,000 years. Quite a subject if you ask me and right here in my own backyard. I have no doubt most folks would be shocked to know Kansas has such unique and endangered lands.

I grew up within these lands. They are my home. They truly have made me who I am today.

 

 

EWW:  What do you look for in deciding on what to shoot?

Brad:  I like this question. It makes me think about not only what I do, but why. Up until the last 8-12 months I have been very spontaneous with my photography. I leave home in the morning and just go. Basically I ramble here and there looking for something that catches my attention then I will slow down and explore the given subject closer. I enjoy this approach but have never felt completely comfortable doing it. I believe I thought this was what I was supposed to do. Never giving it much more thought than, just go have fun and take pictures.

To be honest, now after almost 10 years of doing just that, it doesn’t have much appeal to me anymore. I am realizing I missing something. Something important. Something I desire my work to be. I haven’t completely figured out exactly what that something is, but I have come to a firm conclusion. My work, my photography, must be more about my philosophy of life. That would be to say, more about personal motivations and what I consider is important to me. It cannot “just” be about taking pretty pictures. Images must have meaning. Deep, personal, and important meaning. This may sound all pie in the sky type of stuff, but I don’t take it that way. To me it is as serious as anything I have done in my life. I have slowly been making a transition but really do not know where it is taking me. This is an ongoing process. I am expecting this year will be a much more defining year when it comes to my work and exactly what it represents. I’m actually very excited about this “unknown” direction I feel I am beginning.

 

EWW: Excluding subject matter, are there themes that consistently run from one work to the other such as colors, perspective, lighting, movement, style, etc.?

Brad:  This is really an interesting time for me to be answering questions like this. My first 8 years in photography I could answer that somewhat easily. I simply referred to myself as a nature and landscape photographer. This was enforced with photography of wide open landscapes, colorful lands, and sunsets. I say sunsets as opposed to sunrise for one simple reason; I am somewhat of a night owl due to how I have made a living for over 30 years. Nothing against sunrises I love them but I have witnessed many more sunsets than sunrises.

The last couple years this has been slowly changing to more intimate landscapes and specific natural subject matter. An example of this would be apparent if you watched what I did 5 years ago and what I do today. Five years ago there would have been a wide angle lens on my camera, a 24-70mm was a permanent fixture on my camera body, and I would have been setting and waiting for a sunset. Probably out in the Flint Hills with a colorful foreground land of tallgrass and or wildflowers. If you were the mouse in the corner today you would see me with a medium telephoto lens such as a 70-200mm and surrounded by tallgrass waiting for the breeze to stop for just a second to capture a specific blade or leaf of grass. Remember this grass I am referring to grows 4-7 feet high most years. That would be an example of my now changing theme and even perspective. I have always been drawn to color. Colors seem to actually excite me mentally.

I will say something about style since it is mentioned in the question. I use to really fret over it. When you are learning photography you read all kinds of things that talk about style. You can rack your brain figuring out what kind of style you want, you have, you need. It can drive you crazy. That was me for almost 8 years. Then as if a light bulb was turned on I realized. Everything I do is my style because I am the one doing it. All of a sudden “style didn’t mean much to me anymore. Actually my answer to; “what is my style” is; who cares, I sure don’t. I am concerned with purpose, not style.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

 

EWW:  What do you see, or have experienced, as the most effective way for you to market and promote you and your work?

Brad:  I believe it is common among artist to be, not so good marketers. After all, artist create, they don’t market. The problem with that is that artist have to eat just like everybody else and you cannot buy a bunch of bananas with a piece of art.

For me personally this attempt to market is a multifaceted approach. What I have learned over the last couple of years is that folks are interested in the artist as well as the art. This is my downfall. I have not been an active participant in the social aspects of marketing. Online marketing has its place. A website serves a purpose. Social media serves a purpose. Those purposes are small and specific. They do not, even though the marketing experts will say they do, make much impact when it comes to visual art. Pictures are fine on the internet. The look good at 800x600px but that is about as far as it goes. I don’t blame a person for not wanting to purchase a 24×36 inch print for hundreds of dollars when all they have to go off of is a little image on a computer screen.

To help counteract this severe restraint, in 2014 I began doing a few art shows. I done a few more in 2015 and will be doing more in 2016. Along with getting actual physical art in front of the public I do local events such as First Friday Art Walks, I donate to well-known charitable organizations, and reach out to my community in an effort to be more personable instead of just a guy with a website. I once read something that Scott Bourne wrote on the subject of marketing and making a name for yourself. The quote is: “Own your zip code.” That seemed to personalize it for me and help me to understand it on a smaller scale. I believe it is a matter of marketing locally, and when I say locally this can be community, city, or state. The exact way to do that is and will always be up for debate. But I believe it must be a multifaceted approach.

 

EWW:  Do you use social media platforms to market and promote your work?  If you do, which social media platform seems to work the best for you?

Brad:  Yes I do. Mostly facebook. I stay active almost daily on facebook. I have also purchased marketing on facebook. It seems to work good enough for the money. You can purchase a facebook ad for as little as $5.00 and reach a few thousand people. In general I stay active just to stay active. I am not going to start learning about social media marketing and get deeply involved in it. That’s not what I do.

 

EWW:  Just to wrap up this interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work that you think would be important for others to know about?

Brad:  As odd as this may sound, I don’t believe I am the one to tell anybody about my work. I will cheat a little here and refer to a statement on my website I wrote some years ago and has remained to this day. It states; I would like to say, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”, quoting from one of my favorite movies The Wizard of Oz, remember I am from Kansas. I would much rather have my work speak for itself, it seems to do a much better job explaining most things about me than I could ever do in a few paragraphs but perhaps some things are not so obvious beyond the love for nature. I like to keep life and most things in it simple.

I realize we all are curious of others. I will first state, I am not completely comfortable explaining anything about myself. It is that deep introverted part of me that really just wants to be left alone when faced with such explanations. A one sentence explanation of “who I am” can only be summarized as; I am the person who experiences those things I choose to be part of my life. My experiences are continually forming the person I choose to become.

 

Website: www.bradmangasphoto.com

Blog: www.bradmangas.com

 

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