On Thursday, Nov. 29, the Southern Utah University College of Performing and Visual Arts held its latest Art Insights event. Brian Sokol, a freelance photographer and journalist, was the featured artist of the night.
The main insight left by Sokol was that although photography is a wonderful and aesthetic tool, it must be used to tell human stories. Far too often, creative minds focus on the logistical side of the work- the equipment, the location, the parts of the job that do not have as big of an impact.
“Tell human stories, now more than ever. Not the one you have been told”, said Sokol, “[but] dig in yourself, spend the time, and to use your craft to convey a story or concept or idea.”
Sokol spent many years of his life abroad working in remote locations such as the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal, South Sudan, and Myanmar. He stressed the importance of having a “willingness to step outside of what you know” as a creative mind.
In the early years of his career, Sokol used a lot of light and color in his photography. One of the pivotal moments in his career is when a fellow photographer who he had been acquainted with called his shots ‘pretty’. Slightly offended, yet with a newly found sense of meaning, Sokol returned to Nepal to seek work.
After assigning himself a story to cover, Sokol found a brick factory in Nepal that he had visited and worked with before. This time he was determined to improve himself and seek to push himself out of his comfort zone so he completed the shoot in black and white.
“Intentionally crippling myself in order to build strength was one of the most valuable lessons I received” stated Sokol.
Years later, he found himself in the world’s newest country, South Sudan. There, he spent time in a refugee camp, an experience he had not had before. Sokol was originally hired to tell the story of what all people think of when refugee camp comes to mind. In the end, Sokol did his own version of the story in which he spent genuine time with each person he photographed and asked them to show the “single most important possession you own that you were able to bring with you from home”.
Items ranged from jeans, a sewing machine, a tent, to even a stick (a prized possession by a blind woman and her son). Combined with the component of black and white photography, Brian was truly able to capture and portray these unseen moments of refugee camps.
With something as heavy as war-ridden countries, land affected by natural disasters or refugee camps, life can seem dark and gloomy. One of Sokols final thoughts was the importance of “being able to play” and the importance of having the “ability to let go of the confiding things you know, to explore and fall back in love with the craft itself”.
To view his work or learn more about Brian Sokol visit: http://briansokol.com/
The next Art Insight will be held Jan. 10, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. at the Southern Utah Museum of Art, located at 13 S, 300 W. For more information about the Art Insight series visit:https://www.suu.edu/pva/suma/experience/university-programs.html.
Story by: Cade Higbee
Photo by: Guillermo Esteban