Every picture tells a story
A near-fatal accident united Phillip D. Breske with his true calling, professional black-and-white photography.
Heron at Santa Rosa Island, Pensacola
From a searing gaze to unique perspectives on figure and form, photographic art distinguishes itself through truthfulness. As Dorothea Lange once told the Los Angeles Times, The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
Phillip D. Breske also takes an uncompromising view of his subjects.
Widely recognized throughout North Central Florida, the Belleview-based photographer is enamored with the human form, wildlife and his Florida home-state, and all three are lovingly conveyed in his black-and-white images. Whether he’s zeroing in on a close-up of a guitarist or shooting motorcycles, cars or an independent film such as “Signal Lost: Revelations,” Breske brings an artistic vision grounded in sincerity to his work.
“I’ve dedicated myself to doing black-and-whites the best I could,” Breske said, “and I think at this point I’ve gotten to the point where I have a style that is very much my own. It varies depending on the subject. Everything up to 16-by-24 inches, I print myself using the giclee process, (which involves the use of inkjet printers). The larger prints I have done by a small online lab that uses my exact paper and inks so they look and feel just like the ones I make myself. ”
In a previous life, as he describes it, Breske was a military helicopter pilot and a field technician for a major telecommunications company. A near-fatal propane explosion affirmed to him that “Life is precious and fleeting.”
“I spent three months in the burn unit at Shands (UF Health Shands Trauma Center) in Gainesville, and six weeks of that was in a coma,” the 54-year-old photographer recalled.
The near-fatal ordeal of having burns over 30% of his body, a collapsed lung and a bout with sepsis caused a seismic shift in Breske’s priorities.
“Enjoyment takes precedence over making money,” he said.
A near brush with death also has a way of diminishing the finger-wagging of others, too, especially if it gets in the way of your art.
Breske has recently had to defend his choice to take photos of nude subjects, adding that he’s able to work with just about anybody who’s willing to stand in front of his camera and make what he thinks are beautiful, nude portraits. He said that he’s open to working with men and non-cisgender individuals.
For the past 20 years, however, females have dominated his portraiture.
“What I’m trying to do is just show the beauty of what I think is a wide variety of women in my portfolio,” he said. “I don’t have a type. I reach out to women that I meet and ask them if they’d like to do some modeling. A lot of times they say, ‘Oh, no, I’m not photogenic,’ or ‘I don’t have the body for that.’ And that really makes me sad because it points to a flaw in society that says you must look a certain way to be a model, which you don’t.”
Because the Miami native challenges viewers to appreciate the human body, partially or completely unclothed, he has been vocal against censorship, reminding critics that nudes are a time-honored tradition, a point brought up twice at recent Ocala City Council meetings after a city representative asked him to take down some of his photos from his First Friday Art Walk booth.
“The response from the Council president was telling,” he wrote on his Instagram page (@phillipdbreske):
“Ocala City Council President Ire Bethea began by saying that he listened to my argument but then went on to say that he thinks the city does have the right to restrict any content they feel is inappropriate. The City Attorney then cut him off and told me that they did not have a response that night, but that they would contact me ‘soon’ to discuss the matter.”
As of this story’s run date, there has been no resolution to the matter. Breske gave a public comment at the Nov. 1 council meeting (covered in the Gazette on Nov. 9).
“The First Friday Art Walk is sponsored by the city government, and because of that, there are very clear First Amendment rules that take precedence over whatever they think are the rights they have,” he said. “I researched a lot of this, and I contacted the National Coalition Against Censorship. They told me the same thing. They said, ‘Look, this is not even a question.’”
To see more of Breske’s work and find out about his upcoming events, visit pdbreske.com or instagram.com/phillipdbreske.