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
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.
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
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.