Darren Bowen Photography Blog

Let’s Talk Art With Brooke

by | Sep 14, 2019

Let’s Talk Art With Brooke

by | Sep 14, 2019 | Core Vision, Marketing, Portrait Work

Today I talk to an old friend, Darren Bowen, of Darren Bowen Photography. I met Darren when I worked at a Starbucks, downtown. He has since become quite the photographer. It’s a good time catching up, finding out what he’s been up to since I saw him over 10 years ago!

Interview Transcript

BROOKE

This is Brooke with Let’s Talk Art. Today I’m talking art with Darren Bowen of Darren Bowen Photography. I actually met Darren about 15 years ago or so when I was working in uptown Charlotte. I didn’t know he was a talented photographer until recently. That’s when I knew I had to have him on the podcast. You see, he runs this thriving business selling his art. I wanted to find out more. Enjoy.

BROOKE

Hey Darren, how are you doing?

Darren

Oh, not so bad. It’s been a million years.

BROOKE

It has. It has been a million years. It has been a million years. You look like you’re doing great. I see this website is fantastic.

Brooke Musterman

Let's Talk Art With Brooke

The mission of Let’s Talk Art With Brooke is to promote the exhibition and accessibility of artwork, by promoting galleries and artists. It all started when I was working on my second book about a 20th-century art dealer. There was so much to learn. Take a course? Get an MFA? Why not speak directly to the experts.

So that’s what I did. Surprise! They all wanted to talk to me as well and tell their stories. That was in 2016 and it’s still going!

Interview with Darren Bowen Photography

by Let's Talk Art With Brooke

DARREN

Oh, thank you. Yes. It’s a little bit of a hobby.

BROOKE

Yeah, a little bit of a hobby. I didn’t know you … Did I know you were into photography when we were downtown?

DARREN

No, not back then. It was a wholly different world. This really emerged around 2009, which was somewhat close to that period, but didn’t kick off really until 2016.

BROOKE

Okay. Okay. Yeah, I think I left … I stopped working at the Charlotte Plaza, I think that was 2008, I believe.

DARREN

Right, right.

BROOKE

I don’t remember completely, but yeah, so that’s … Yeah, I didn’t know that. That’s the reason I didn’t know it.

DARREN

Yeah. I mean it was funny because from 2009 to 2016 it was really just, I think, emotional picture taking, to be honest with you. One just collected photographs. I think I … Well actually, I don’t think, I know I created a Facebook album called 365 images of complete and utter bollocks and I actually posted a stupid picture every day. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a photographer. It was just it seemed like so easy at that point.

39.99@
© 2017 Darren Bowen Photography
Bored Boots
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography
It’s A Coke Day
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography

BROOKE

Just for fun, yeah.

DARREN

Yeah. Then people started complaining when I didn’t. Yeah, that’s kind of how the whole picture taking started in its infancy, but it was never going to be a business at that point. It just … That was in 2016 when really the sun of the moon kind of came together and it was a very bizarre happening.

BROOKE

Yeah. Well that’s really neat. Your photographs are just fantastic. I mean, they’re way better than mine or any hobbyist’s.

DARREN

I’m very proud of the work I do, but yeah, it’s real special. I appreciate that Brooke, thank you. 

TWENTY SIXTEEN COLLECTION

We believe wandering around an art gallery is pure inspiration. So check out our current collections and pick your favourite piece. All our photography is available as wall hangings on canvases and fine art paper, greeting, invitation and note cards, classic, two-tone and combo coffee mugs and personal device covers, professional cases as well as laptop protective skins and sleeves.
Love Is Art
© 2017 Darren Bowen Photography
Coffee Stop
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography
Khan el-Khalili
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography

BROOKE

When you were working for the bank, were you into like any kind of artsy type stuff?

DARREN

Oh yeah. I mean, going way back, going back to when I was a toddler, I was actually going to be a commercial artist.

BROOKE

Oh, neat.

DARREN

I never … Well, I kind of got put off that for various reasons. Then I ended up playing in a band. I was a musician for 10 years in London.

BROOKE

Yeah, I think I knew that.

DARREN

Yeah, and so that’s kind of how it all came about. Then from … Well, from when I came to America until 2009-ish, I was a software engineer and still am actually, but that’s where all my creativity was going. Then I got bored and I hit my 40s and software engineering wasn’t really that much fun anymore. 

BROOKE

Right, right.

DARREN

I really didn’t do a whole lot until it was actually around 2016 where I ended up actually work full time for Coca-Cola.

BROOKE

Oh, neat.

DARREN

Yeah. It wasn’t very creative there. I’ll just leave it at that. I think the photography, my DNA is an essential part of my character, obviously. The creativeness wasn’t happening and it found its way out in photography.

BROOKE

Well what were you doing for Coca-Cola?

DARREN

Well, I was doing … I was a technical lead, so I’ve been leading a team for three and a half years there. You don’t really do a whole lot of fun things other than keep the panic low.

BROOKE

Right, right.

DARREN

Anyway, yes. I actually … It first came out that if you saw the Coca-Cola picture ironically, that was the very first picture when I kind of was talking on the phone. I took it with an iPhone 5. I was talking on the phone to the girlfriend, and as we wrapped up, I noticed in the far corner a sign, the Coca-Cola sign. I hung up the phone and walked over into the bushes and simply took that photo with the phone. Then I looked at it and I went, “Oh my God, what have I just taken?” It was just stunning. I really think it’s very … It’s iconic of an iconic logo.

BROOKE

Right.

DARREN 

You’d recognize that picture wherever you go. It was that powerful to me, but it wasn’t for another six months that the photography really went anywhere. It was just a wow moment. Yeah, so it was quite strange really. Then I think it was May, May of 2016 when that sun and the moon came together and things just all started happening that I even couldn’t hardly explain because it’s been a really weird journey when I look back on it.

 

IF I COULD TEACH THE WORLD TO SING

It was on a brisk November morning in 2015, I was standing outside Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated in Charlotte NC. I was speaking on my mobile phone to my girlfriend and as always in observation of the environment and having only recently arrived here I was enjoying the exterior, water fountains, a couple of flags up high and to the left of me the classic Coca-Cola logo that the world has come to know and sing about.

BROOKE

You’ve got some really, really cool partnerships, it seems like. You’re in that coffee place, which I wrote down the name, in Rush Espresso Café, which is in Waxhaw, right?

DARREN

It’s actually … Well, the sad part about that, that’s a bit of a story, but they were in Ballantyne Village. They were in uptown by Hearst Tower and they were also in Latta Arcade. I did … Yeah. They were all over the place and then the guy that ran the show just simply disappeared and went to Florida, I think, and shut everything down.

BROOKE

Good for him. He’s smart.

DARREN

Yeah, it wasn’t a bad idea. Yeah, and I have my work in various places, but predominantly it’s done online and then I do shows on and off as well. I think one of the most fascinating things is in the early days … It’s a very strange feeling when somebody asks you to sign something. Actually it’s-

BROOKE

Yeah, it’s like you’re signing your life away.

INTERVIEWED ON FOX46

Darren Bowen Photography is showcasing Photography at Rush Espresso Cafe. Page Fehling and Jason Harper sit down with the artist responsible for all of the artwork adorning the walls of Rush Espresso Cafe in Ballantyne during FOX46 Good Day Charlotte’s Free Coffee Friday.

DARREN

It’s a really surreal moment. I remember I was doing a small show and this guy walked in and he was just so super excited about one of my prints from a shot I had taken in Charleston. He says, “Oh, is that Charleston?” I said, “Yes.” He says, “I grew up there.” And then he says, “Tell me about this picture.” I started telling him, because most of the pictures, the abstract work or the core work really has a story behind it. That morning I’d come out the hotel and I started following this very southern gentleman down the road and I really loved this hat. I really kind of wanted it. I followed him down to actually a Starbucks. I don’t really know why because it was quite a while ago that was taken, but he just suddenly came out with his whatever he had, his latte, and stood there. If you look at the picture, it’s called Coffee Stop. He just stood there and I was sort of behind him and I thought, “Well okay, I’ll just take a picture for the memory because he’s not going to give me the hat.”

BROOKE

Right.

DARREN

I walked away. That was really the end of that until many years later. Well this guy at the show was all about it and he called it his “Kramer“. He said, “This is my Kramer.” I was like, okay, so he bartered me down on the price and then asked me to sign it. It was just a very, very surreal moment because I mean, who am I? You know what I mean? It was nice. It’s those sort of magical moments.

BROOKE

Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s a great moment. That’s got to be a really cool feeling that like someone who you don’t know just like really, really appreciates something that you just kind of … I mean, just something that you just took, I mean, I don’t know-

DARREN

Just randomly.

BROOKE

Yeah, randomly. Exactly. Exactly.

Darren

Yeah, and then sort of in the very early days, I’d kind of went and joined the photography club, not that I … I mean, because I really don’t … I’m not really a photographer. It sounds insane. I just love just taking pictures. I went to this club and the guy that ran it was an English guy. A few days later, a week later, whatever, we met for coffee. We were just sitting there chatting, kind of getting to know each other. I said to him, I said, “What is it about these pictures that people like?” Because it was really getting a lot of attention and like I said, it was quite surreal.

Brooke

Right.

Darren

He said this to me, which I’ll never forget, he says, “We as photographers are trained to have what you have and you don’t even know you have it.” I said, “Well, what’s that?” He says, “An eye. You have a natural eye for taking pictures.” From that point it sort of became even weirder because now I’m getting worried. It’s like, “Well, what am I really doing? What if I can’t do it anymore?”

Brooke

Yeah, yeah. Tell me what it is so I can recreate it.

Darren

So, it’s like I try not to get too technical. I don’t really want to know all the details. Let me just take the picture.

Space Ports
© 2018 Darren Bowen Photography
Mission Blvd
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography
Waxhaw Trading Path
© 2018 Darren Bowen Photography

Brooke

Right, right. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. You’ve got a really good eye for composition. I mean, that’s a big word that doesn’t enter too many conversations, but I mean, it’s true.

Darren

Thank you.

Brooke

I actually, I think I wrote down, you were talking about this on your website and I wasn’t sure about how to pronounce this word, licentiate, “Once a licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society.”

Darren

Yeah. I don’t know what that is either. I just took that from his credentials. It’s actually something quite fancy.

Brooke

It does sound fancy. I don’t know what it is.

Darren

I wasn’t going to question it. It just isn’t worth it. If it means something to him, that’s all that matters.

Commercial & Retail Photography

Established within Waxhaw’s old historic mills, Emmet’s Social Table is a chef-driven concept focusing on shareable small plates and creative entrees. Specializing in shareable small plates diners should plan for “an experience”, where you can order in waves and try a little bit of everything!. The comfortable bar features primarily small production craft wine and beer, paired with a creative cocktail list that will bring you back to the early 20th century.

Brooke

That’s funny. I think that’s really cool. Like I said, you’ve worked out some really good partnerships like with the coffee shop. You do like photographs for businesses, like for CHC Continued Care. Is that Carolina’s Healthcare Center?

DARREN

Yeah. That’s Continued Healthcare. Yeah. That’s the funny thing because this really blew up. I mean, if you go back, I mean the story, if we take it through the course, it started off with the core work, the Coca-Cola sign, the pair of boots or whatever. I was doing a show and this beautiful young lady was there with her mum. She was just really nice and talking about everything. She suddenly said, “Would you take my picture?” I said, “I don’t do people unless they’re not looking.”

Commercial & Retail Photography

Carolinas ContinueCARE Hospital at Pineville, formerly Carolinas Specialty Hospital, is a stand-alone 40-bed LTACH housed in a modern facility that was custom designed to treat critically ill, medically complex patients. Located in southern Charlotte on the Carolinas Healthcare System Pineville campus. The hospital is specifically licensed and administered to provide care for patients who require daily physician and staff attention for complex conditions.

DARREN

It was very strange. For five months she constantly kept in touch with me, asking, “Please do my picture.” I was like, “Okay, this is really weird.” I said, “Okay.” I really didn’t have a clue. Again, I didn’t want to get into the technicalities. I simply said, “Okay.” I thought, I love Central Avenue and really know nothing of it. It was really just … I think I was just bouncing a ball and we met there and we just started walking around. I just discovered some great little places, the murals and all that. I went around the back of one of the areas where there’s trash cans and an old dark alley. I’m not sure she thought I was going to kill her or anything.

Brooke

There’s always a danger around there, or certain parts of it.

DARREN

We went in there … Yeah, really, eventually, yeah. I took this picture and it was like as soon as I took it and it’s on the website, and you can check out under portraits, but I looked at the camera of what I had just taken and I just went, “Oh my God, what is happening again?” I realized at that point it was getting bigger than me. I went back and I kind of looked through them all on the big screen and I just was blown away. I just thought, wow. Then again, I thought that was kind of the end of it. Then I was in a health food kind of weight lifting type shop, where they sell all the protein powder. There’s this beautiful bloke in there and he knew that I had a photography show across the street. He says, “You’re the photographer.” I said, “Well, yeah, I guess.” you know, again I don’t go by that terminology of being a photographer.

Creative Modelling Photography

I met Siobhan in 2016 at a reception I was doing; she asked me if I did portraits; at the time I didn’t and only worked in my core genre. She thought that my work was unique and she just wanted to work with me. Five months passed and Siobhan again asked me if I would do a session with her; this time I did agreed. We met on Central Ave in Charlotte, NC and spent two and a half hours working together. The results are stunning and the work was out of this world, clearly they belong in the pages of Vogue. It’s at that moment I realized Siobhan’s vision of my style had come life. I am forever grateful for the opportunity of working with her.

DARREN

He says, “Look,” and I know admittedly he was a good looker, but he said, “If you do a couple of shoots for me, I’ll train you.”

Brooke

Oh, cool, a barter.

DARREN

Yeah, really. Yeah. I was like, “Oh, okay.” I thought what I could do with it. It seemed a fair trade. Again, I took him out. It was with his girlfriend, they were doing it for their business. Again, it was just the most amazing pictures. I just thought, “This is just weird.” I started doing more and more and then I started doing retail and commercial. It was because the people were getting to know me as just doing what I do and they just thought, “Well if he can do that, he can do food and he can do a building.”

Brooke

Right, right.

DARREN

It just grew. It’s just become weird.

Brooke

There’s nothing you can’t do.

DARREN

Yeah, I mean, why not? Again, don’t get into the technicalities. Just do it.

Brooke

Right, right.

Ceiling Chairs
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography
Lonely Light
© 2016 Darren Bowen Photography
Trackside Craft
© 2017 Darren Bowen Photography

Creative Modelling Photography

I was approached by Brett out-of-the-blue to provide him and his girlfriend Abby a photography shoot for marketing and promotional material and in return Brett made the offer that he would train me for free in exchange for photography services and business advice in his fitness business. This was the second portrait photography shoot I did and again I found myself in awe, the results were stunning and the work was out of this world, clearly, they belong in the pages of a fitness magazine.

DARREN

It was really weird. Now when I look at it, it went from just in … I love taking individual people, the really unique type people. One of the projects I’m working on at the moment is called Black and it’s where I just happened to see somebody, and I don’t care whether they know me or not, I’ll stop them in the street and I’ll say, “Do you mind if I just take your photo?” I started doing that and the first one came out of Asheville. I was up there and there was this bloke sitting outside a cigar shop. I was walking on. I was just doing photos anyway, and I said, “Oh, that looks cool.” I said, “Can I take your photo?” He was obviously very obliging. I did, and at that point I realized, “Wow, that would be a really cool project.” This project I’m working on, which I would like to make into a book, it’s just called Black and it’s kind of like pictures out of nowhere never to be seen again type of thing.

Brooke

Neat.

DARREN

Yeah, that’s something I’m working on there because I just love … You ever walk past somebody and ever wish like, “Wow, they look really cool,” or you wish you were them, right?

Brooke

Right, right.

DARREN

It’s that sort of moment I want to look for. It’s not something you always come across.

Brooke

Right.

DARREN

It’s fun. I’m always kind of ready, because of course the iPhone serves great purpose.

Brooke

Yeah. Oh, that is so cool. That is really neat.

DARREN

It’s growing. Probably, I don’t know if it’s still a hobby, but it’s more of an addiction now, I think.

Brooke

Yeah. Yeah. Well that sounds really awesome. Yeah, this is really neat. I saw that your work is available on Amazon, but I couldn’t find it. I searched for it and I couldn’t find it.

DARREN

Right. Yeah. I’m working through some changes on that at the moment. A lot of the work you’ll find, if you go to shop.darrenbowen.com, that takes you to the shop where you can actually buy what you find on Amazon.

Brooke

From your website.

DARREN

I’m actually in the process of moving it to Pinterest and relaunching Amazon. Yeah.

Brooke

Okay, because I was going to say, Amazon is a platform that I only recently found out like you can actually get fine art on it.

DARREN

Yes.

Brooke

I thought that was kind of cool.

DARREN

Yeah. It’s very challenging because when it comes to … If you look at a piece of canvas, I mean the possibilities of how you might want to order that are horrendous actually. To set all that up on Amazon is a monumental task. That’s part of the reason I actually didn’t put my …

Brooke

Part of the reason you don’t do it.

DARREN

Yeah, I didn’t put the canvas work or the fine artwork up there for that, but I did put the other stuff, but another thing that I do on my site is that I’ve crafted the sizing how I want it, not for standards. I kind of went against the grain, when often you go to kind of like art.com or something, there’s very stereotypical sizes, although you can always customize it.

First Time I Did…
© 2017 Darren Bowen Photography
Coffee Shine
© 2018 Darren Bowen Photography
Snakes and Shadows
© 2017 Darren Bowen Photography

DARREN

But there are also standard sizes. I went against that by going, “I want these particular sizes.” I actually … The store down in Waxhaw, there’s Stewart’s and Eight Legs Gallery. They’ve got very unique versions of my work there as well.

Brooke

Cool.

DARREN

I’m trying to create that sort of a little bit more uniqueness because I’m trying to make the brand a little bit different as well. It’s kind of like you get into branding it’s a whole other thing, but the logo that I use is my real signature ironically.

Brooke

Yeah, I saw that.

DARREN

I started to not want to sell pictures. I wanted to sell Darren. That is kind of where I started to head.

Brooke

Yeah, I think that’s great. I know that’s great. I think that that’s the ticket. That’s absolutely what you should sell, because everyone can take pictures, but not everyone can be Darren.

DARREN

Yeah. I thought that as well.

Brooke

Yeah, or it would be very hard for someone … Talk a little bit about that, about that difference. How would you … You said your logo was your signature. I mean, that’s a little bit of a vague concept. I do understand it, but I’m just having trouble putting it into words. Just kind of like, how would someone see one of your pictures and just know kind of that it’s a Darren Bowen original?

DARREN

Yeah, I mean, I agree with you, that’s always a huge challenge, right? I think a lot of it is often just society. I mean, because if you … I mean I do think my work stands out on its own. I mean, I research a lot of photographers. You have a lot of what I’d call everyday photography, which is all very nice, but then you have this sort of high end, really cool looking photography and it’s mostly Photoshopped. I think you can aspire to either one or the other or anything, but one thing I learned when I was younger was when I was going to be a commercial artist, as I started off earlier, I just kind of changed my mind. Well, the story and the breeding of that is I didn’t believe that I was good enough because my brother in law, who was also called Darren, was the most amazing artist. I remember looking at his work and going, “Wow, that’s some cool shit.”

Brooke

Right.

DARREN

I just felt I’m nowhere close to it, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that was probably a mistake. Not a bad one, it was probably intended, but I realized that my work was good. It was just different.

Brooke

Just different.

DARREN

It was mine. It was just Darren again. When I think about that past and I look at my work now, and I’m also looking at what everybody else is doing, I believe that my work does stand out. Once you get it enough into the conscience of others, they’ll start recognizing the style. If you look at them as an overall kind of canvas of a lot of the pictures together, there’s a very common theme of angles and style in the pictures themselves. It’s weird. A lot of people say, “Why do you take your pictures crooked?” I said, “They’re not crooked.”

Brooke

They’re not crooked.

DARREN

No. I said, “You’re crooked.”

Brooke

How do they like that?

DARREN

They always smile. I do believe that. A lot of what we believe in society or as an individual, we make happen by believing in something. Yeah, I thoroughly believe it’s got its own edge. I don’t think I would fool myself on that one, because I look at it and I go, “Yeah, wow. It’s certainly got its own look.” I can say it’s a Darren Bowen, yeah.

Brooke

Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. Well, yeah, I am certainly impressed with the website, with the business, with everything. I think it’s fantastic.

DARREN

Thank you, Brooke.

Brooke

Yeah, well, thank you so much for chatting with me and I’m glad it worked out to do it today.

DARREN

Oh no, it’s been absolutely a pleasure. I appreciate your time as well.

Brooke

Thank you so much to Darren Bowen for chatting with me. It was really great catch up. If you want to see more of Darren’s work, go to DarrenBowen.com. That’s B-O-W-E-N. Thanks for listening. This is a Hotspur Media production.

-Darren Bowen