Weekly Local Biography

  Brent Madison

Brent Madison is only a young photographer, but he is a committed one. He is a man who is living his dream, saying, "I canít imagine doing anything else." He is also a committed Christian, which may give some clues as to his photographic direction in life.

Brent was born in Hong Kong, but he is not Chinese (if you are born in a stable, it does not make you a horse, as my mother used to say) as both his parents were Canadians involved in the post war Vietnam clean-up. His father was also a professional photographer, so it may give just a little insight into Brentís final choice of career.

With his very mobile parents, young Brent, with his elder brother and younger sister, had his schooling internationally, in the true sense. Elementary and middle schools in Manila, then again to Hong Kong and finally finishing in California.

At that stage in his life, he still had no real career path, but went to university, majoring in Asian Studies and minored in Japanese. At this time he began to take photographs for an interest, and then began working as an official Ďstringerí for the university itself.

He continued in his quest to see the world, going on home stays in Mexico, Japan, Israel and the UK during this undergraduate period. However, this was more than just a youngster trying out his wings. This youngster had a Ďneedí much greater than most. When he was 19 years of age he found he had leukaemia and had to face the reality that life does not go on forever. At an age when most of us thought we were ten foot tall and bullet-proof, Brent Madison was looking at mortality. His own!

Autologous bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy were next in his lifeís moves, but were successful in producing a remission in this form of blood cancer, after the two year intensive treatment period. "It affected my faith and how I treat life. I donít want to waste it," he said simply.

His university education finished with a 12 month stay in Japan, to complete his classes, but those 12 months ended up as 36. He also got married to Karin, a young lady he had met eight years before and who had been something of a Ďpen-palí. "We got married three months after we met again!" The man who didnít want to waste his life wasnít going to waste any time with long engagements!

To keep themselves alive, Brent had been working as an English teacher, but then they moved to Mt. Fuji, at which stage, Brent began shooting film full time. "I was collecting images for a proposed book in the future, called In the Shadow of the Mountain." This required the young couple living on Karinís wages. "I was a kept man. Everyone should try it some time," said Brent with a wicked grin.

However, it was time for the young globe-trotters to keep moving, and they both wanted to remain in Asia. Hong Kong and Singapore they decided were too expensive and Manila too dangerous. His sister, who had spent some time in Thailand, suggested that Chiang Mai might be the destination for the young couple, so they arrived.

So how does a young photographer get assignments in a strange country? One answer is a publication called the Photographers Handbook. In this there are listings of organizations that use photos, and you contact them and if you are the right man in the right place at the right time, you just may, note may, get given an assignment. Brent struck it lucky and landed an assignment from the LA Times.

Since then he assiduously tends to his photography and his email program! "Everything is done on the internet these days," said Brent. "You make the connection via the net and I send the photographs digitally."

Despite the fact that his photographer father has given him images from his 25 year career in photography, Brent must still go and get photographs himself. "The timeless image is impossible, which is what keeps me employed!" again all said with that big infectious grin. For those who are interested in the equipment that our young professional uses, it is all Nikon, with an F100 and an FM2.

He described the fact that the world today has a huge, insatiable need for images. "Today itís not shooting it. Itís how to sell it," he says. And it is not that easy either. He spoke on a shoot which took several days of trekking, dragging 8,000 baht of special photographic lights, and the reward at the end was 1,500 baht. He has had an offer to go and shoot in Malaysia, but has to pay for his own air fares. Deduct that expense from what can be achieved in sales, and you can see that pro photography is a difficult way to make money. "Itís hard to get the balance between art and finance," said Brent.

I asked him about his hobbies and he replied with, "Itís very difficult for my wife to get me to put the camera down. There are always photo opportunities that shouldnít be missed. I suppose photography is a really lame hobby for a photographer to have! But I really canít imagine anything else." He would, however, like to do rock climbing and has an unfulfilled desire to race fast cars.

He describes his life as "Living my dream. It can be ramped up or improved upon, but Iím growing and becoming a better person. Iíve been given a special opportunity." He also says that his lifeís motivations are through a Christian perspective, and he has hopes that some of his work will be seen and go towards producing a change in the world and its attitudes. Both he and his wife have a special interest in refugees. "These are people that canít tell their own story." Brent just hopes that perhaps his images can.