Thomas Brummett

Gallery & Artist Biography


The works of US photo artist Thomas Brummett (b.1955) have a strangely old-worldly feel to them. Like witnesses to a past age, yellowed with time and covered now with the patina of transience. Yet what we are offered in the tones of historical photographs is actually the product of ultra-modern reproduction technology. After manually processing the prints Brummett digitalizes and then reproduces them, among other things, using an Iris printer.

This contradictory combination of the traditional and the very new applies not only to the manufacturing process but is also what makes Brummett’s œuvre so catching – that irritating and yet inescapable sense of seeing something strange and yet familiar. “I lure the viewer in with a 19th century “look“ but the more one looks the more one does not know quite where they are. These images are a type of visual trap…”

Seen historically, Thomas Brummett’s works are a synthesis of two key currents in the history of photography. For example, the isolated and strongly enlarged plant shots are reminiscent of the photographs made by proponents of the Neue Sachlichkeit in the 1920s and 1930s. There are analogies here to the works of the German photographers Karl Blossfeldt and Albert Renger-Patzsch just as there are to the work of the US Straight Photography of an Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham. The plant photos created by contemporary photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Thomas Struth and Nabuyoshi Araki can likewise be placed in this lineage. Photographers Claudia Fährenkemper and Eva-Maria Schön even go beyond the experiential world of the human eye, and with their micro-photographs lay new foundations for the focus on nature and the world of flora and fauna.

However, the similarities between Brummett and photographers working in the Straight Photography tradition are limited primarily to motifs and compositional aspects. His technical realization of the images and his artistic aims are completely different. He does not emphasize some objective reproduction of the world, but its subjective appropriation by the artist and the viewer. Accordingly, Brummett’s photos stand out not for their acuity of focus, but for the opposite. His world is not objective in appearance, but is shrouded, as unreal as a steamy mirror.

In this regard, Brummett’s works bring to mind the blurred images of a current in art photography that dominated the international photographic scene around 1900. Photographers such as Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Demachy and Heinrich Kühn endeavored first and foremost to reduce the inherent realism of the object photographed. The preferred reproduction techniques were therefore platinum, rubber and oil prints that all produced a chalky, soft effect. Deliberately created blurring and manually processed prints were also ways of instilling the images with depth and mood – and thus according the medium a status equal in ranking to the traditional artistic processes.

Brummett works in a very similar manner, but less with photographic and more with painterly means. For Brummett, photographs of nature are but the first step in the complicated process of making the work. He makes a quite traditional silver-and-gelatin print, and then reprocesses it in various steps. The print is manually bleached and re-inked, whereby the image almost disappearing in the process only to re-emerge. The “original” created in this manner is then scanned, enlarged a great deal, and then printed using an Iris printer or turned into a C-Print.

In other words, Brummett stands for the unification of two essentially diametrically opposed approaches. On the one hand, he creates enlarged, detailed shots in the style of the realistic photography associated with the Straight Photography movement. Yet instead of clarity, the result is openness, images that could have been culled from dreams or appeal to the unconscious. On the other, he works in the painterly idiom of the Pictorialists without a clear focus and yet does not seek to imitate painting or any other medium for that matter. Instead, Brummett develops an aesthetic of his own that arises betwixt the different media. What is fascinating about his work is that the product is something quite new. The images seem so irritating because they strike a fragile balance between photo and painting, between the real and the artificial, between the unequivocal and the polyvalent. The images open out to us by dint of this vacillation, this hesitancy. Enabling us to immerse ourselves in them, while going beyond the actual objects represented in our thoughts and feelings. “These images are a type of visual trap but hopefully lead the viewer to another place where thy can truly experience the work in a more spiritual manner.“  It is a trap you gladly step into.
-Excerpt from A Kind of Visual Trap, Photographs by Thomas Brummett, text by Dr. Adriane Mensger.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
Solo Museum Exhibition (with  C. Conrad)  at Pfalzgalerie  Kaiserslautern, Germany;
at Schmidt / Dean Gallery.
Solo Exhibition at Gallerie Karsten Greve, Koln, Germany (over 50 works).
Solo Exhibition at Gallerie Karsten Greve, Paris (over 50 works).
Art Chicago / Navy Pier Festival Hall, Solo Exhibition,” Desert Series “@ Schmidt / Dean Gallery.
Solo Exhibition at Schmidt / Dean Gallery
- (Sold Out).

Selected Group Exhibitions:
Anne Reed Gallery , Ketchum Idaho Group exhibition;
2008: Anne Reed Gallery, Ketchum Idaho, Animalis Exhibition;
North Dakota Museum of Fine Art; Animals: Them and Us.
2007: Bentley Gallery, Arizona;
Anne Reed Gallery , Ketchum Idaho;
Common Threads
, Fresh Paint Gallery, Culver City, CA.
2006: Clamp Art, New York;
Woodmere Art Museum Triennial Of Contemporary Photography;
Anne Reed Gallery, Ketchum Idaho;
Limn  Gallery Group Show, San Francisco, CA.
2005: Philadelphia Museum of Art,  The Silver Garden. 2002: Masterworks of Floral Photography, Gallery Sink, Denver Group exhibition.
2000: A New View, Noyes Museum of Art.
1998: Photo:Synthesis, Group Show at Philadelphia Art Alliance;
Biennial  98
, Delaware Art Museum Juried by Roberta Smith; Pennsylvania Photographers, Photography 96  Biennial.
Two Up  at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
1995: Friends of Photography Museum, San Francisco, Group exhibition and fund raiser.
1994: Small Works II, Swanstock Gallery, Tucson, Arizona Group exhibition.
1993: Biennial  93, Delaware Art Museum.
1992: Twenty Twenty Vision,Survey of the last 20 years in Photography at the Cranbrook Museum of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. 

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (Desert #14 and Horse Hair Nest)
Philadelphia Museum of Art (Desert #15)
Cranbrook Museum of Art (Nocturne #15)
Museu De Arte Moderna, Rio De Janeiro Untitled #11 (Hanging Flowers)

The Silverman Collection, Detroit, Michigan
Willmington Trust Collection, Willmington, Delaware
Dechertt, Price & Rhoads Collection, Philadelphia
Blank, Rome, Comisky & McCauley Collection, Philadelphia
Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers Collection, Philadelphia
The Cranbrook Academy Museum and Library, Bloomfield Hills, Mi.
AAA Collection, Philadelphia
Collection of Senator Arlen Spector
Joaquim Paiva, Brazil
AXA Insurance, Belgium

2008: 2nd Place for the World Photography Awards, Cannes France;
2004: International Photography Awards for Desert Series;
2003: International Photo Award Winner;
1998: American Photography #11 + #12. This is a hard bound annual honoring the best photography in America, Nikon / PDN Award;
1993: Graphis Photo 88: This is a hardbound annual published in 3 languages honoring excellence in photography from around the world.

Publications and Press:
American Photography #23 (web only);
Museum catalog with essay; Thomas Brummett & Cristiane Conrad, Pfalizagalerie Kaiserslautern;
‘Neo-Impressionism / Artists on the Edge’, Catalog essay for the exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art, in Sabrina DeTurk, Points and Pixels: Looking at Neo-Impressionism and Digital Art;
2000-01: Work featured in the movie: “Animal Husbandry”, Staring Ashley Judd;
Harpers Magazine Work featured in the Oct/93 Issue; Philadelphia Inquirer: Sunday Magazine Interview, (Dec. 6th 1993).