LexJet Sunset Print Award winner Brian Castle of Picture Perfect Photography was destined to be a photographer. The Kingsport, Tenn., native grew up in a town that was home to Eastman Kodak.
“My dad worked for Eastman Kodak and I spent time in the darkrooms, where I learned to develop film,” Castle says. His experiences in the EK darkrooms and his parents’ influence led him down the photography path. “I was in high school when I picked up my dad’s film camera. I was hooked, it was over. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a photographer.”
Since Castle started with film in a pre-digital world, he had to learn to get the shot right from the beginning. “I learned early on that I needed to set the shot I wanted and then take it, not shoot a bunch of pictures and hope for the best,” he says. “Even with digital, I still set the shot beforehand. I guess it’s because I can still hear my mom and dad saying, ‘don’t waste my film’ when I was younger.”
Castle is already inspiring his 2-year-old daughter to follow in his story-telling footsteps. “Now that I’ve given her a camera, I’m teaching her about telling a story,” he says. “It’s not about getting the perfect picture, it’s about telling someone’s story. If I didn’t do that, I didn’t do my job.”
With his PPA Southeast District award-winning image “Heaven’s Hands of Hope,” Castle did his job by telling his own story. He says that he wanted to do something different, he just didn’t know how. The idea for the photo came to him in a dream.
“I wanted to tell the story of how I turn to God when the weight of the world is too much to bear,” he says. “The hands below me are my wife’s and daughter’s and represent my Earthly family. They are the ones who lift my hands to Heaven when I don’t have the strength.”
Castle knows that the presentation of the image is just as important as the story, which is why he used lighting to create an oblong vignette, giving the appearance of praying hands behind him. To create a mystical look and complete the ethereal feeling, he chose to print the image on LexJet Sunset Cotton Etching 285g.
While this is a very personal image for Castle, he felt that it was important for people to feel the impact of the story and understand that there is a place to turn in times of struggle. He’s had such a profound response to the image that he’s decided to make a video about the image to share the story and show people how to look for help when they need it.
Creating impact for his clients is what drives him. His motivation comes from his clients, but he’s learned the importance of impact through competition. “When I can give my clients an image that creates emotion and causes them to tear up, I know I’ve done my job,” he says. “I would never have learned that unless I started competing.”
Competitions are critical for photographers. Not just for merit, but for experience and guidance. The opportunity to improve comes with every competition and feedback provided by the judges. Castle takes the competitions seriously, not only to help him with his clients but also in hopes of reaching a personal goal: Rich Newell’s World Photographic Cup team. “When you represent Team USA, it’s like being in the Olympics of Photography. That’s the summit,” Castle says.
With continued support from his family and his faith in God, Castle feels that he will be able to climb any mountain that lies ahead of him. In the meantime, he wants to continue creating art for his clients: “I don’t want to give them just a photo for their wall. I want to give them an experience, a piece of art. I want them to feel emotion every time they look at the image.”