Brian Howell

It was 2006. Photojournalism was a profession, George W. Bush was president, journalists were “imbedded,” cameras were digital, the Internet was fast, Paris Hilton was the most famous person in the world. And photographer Brian Howell was getting ready to release his book Fame US, which looks at the culture of celebrity.
The men in this picture, from Fame US, are both Mick Jagger impersonators, photographed backstage at an impersonators’ convention in Las Vegas. “The project was in response to the proliferation of ‘info-tainment’ and the focus on celebrity in news,” says Brian. “I photographed nearly 100 people who sought acclaim for looking like someone famous.”
The impetus of Brian’s earlier work was to consider the camera as a vehicle for change. “I continue to pursue projects that hopefully reflect aspects of our society/culture that require consideration or a longer gaze. I’m not entirely sure how my work affects people. What I do know, however, is that photography and journalism have changed. Content, beauty, poetry and accuracy often take a back seat to speed, sensation and volume.”

Brian Howell graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical University, Toronto in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Film and Photography. His contemporary photographic work examines vernacular expressions of shifting societal and personal values. Howell’s subjects are drawn from fringe, or marginalized communities; both people and places resonant with allegorical meanings for an age that seems to Howell both broken and blinded. His photographic series build on the truth-telling mantra of an earlier era of documentary photojournalists—though are given structure and further meaning by a more rigorous contemporary conceptual framework.

Each of Brian Howell’s individual projects have been successfully exhibited and published as a book or catalogue. One-Ring Circus–Extreme Wrestling in the Minor Leagues was published in 2002 by Arsenal Press and Fame Us–Celebrity Impersonators and the Culture of Fame was published in 2007 also by Arsenal Press. The 2011 catalogue for Howell’s exhibition of Carts at Vancouver’s Winsor Gallery featured an Introduction by author Douglas Coupland. Howell’s recent series of large-scale photographs of newspaper printing plant interiors offer a bold look inside the factories that are the backbone of the journalism industry.