Brownie Harris Talks Shooting Film

Brownie Harris Talks Shooting Film

This week I thought I'd mix up the Fstoppers format a bit to introduce you to a good friend of mine and an amazing photographer Brownie Harris.  Brownie is based out of Wilmington, North Carolina and shoots all sorts of projects all over the country. I think I was first introduced to his work through the praise of some of his previous clients that were based here in Charleston. A name like Brownie is not easy to forget so I thought I'd call him up and see if he was interested in sharing his work with the Fstoppers audience.

Before I let Brownie win you over with his charismatic stories and spectacular images, let me give you a little background on Mr. Harris. For starters Brownie is one of those "been there and seen it all" sort of guys. From portraits of Bill Clinton and James Earl Jones to commercial shots of multimillion dollar satellites and industrial assembly lines, Brownie's images definitely make you stop and do a double take. His approach to simplistic portrait lighting might make you think he is no fancy lighting pro but do not be naive. During this interview I could tell he had a lot of tricks up his sleeve when in comes to elaborate lighting, and he even told me one of his shots required 27 Dynalite heads! What is even more amazing is he learned how to do all of this without the use of that LCD screen we all depend on so much. I have no idea how he did what he did in the age of film but I think it is an amazing testament to the creativity and insight Brownie puts into his work.

Since our format is 10 minute short films, there was really no way I could squeeze everything into this single video. However, I think it is quite easy to see how much knowledge Brownie Harris has to offer young and established photographers alike. And for you collectors out there, you have to see the number of antique cameras this guys has! It's amazing, and he has a story for each of those as well.

You can view more of Brownie Harris's work at

Patrick Hall's picture

Patrick Hall is a founder of and a photographer based out of Charleston, South Carolina.

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Great interview, very insightful.

Some amazing portraits! I would love to listen to all the stories this guy has to tell.

I love this interview. I'd like to see more famous photographer interviews in the future. Even Patrick and Lee. I'd like to know more about you both. =D

We hope to bring you guys more content like this as well. I think Brownie's interview also proves that you do not have to have some crazy photoshoot to contribute to FS in a useful way. As for an interview with Lee or I, those are coming in about 30 years :)

OMG, what an amazing interview, thank you guys for all this info I love it,!!! great great job!

Man this turned out so good. I'm a jealous little monkey after seeing the shots this guy keeps in a drawer and forgets about.

What a video. I think I could listen to Brownie talk for hours... though it's unlikely I'll ever be that lucky. Thanks for making this guys.

greatness patrick!

Wonderful interview!

This video makes me realize how lucky i am to have been photographed by Brownie. Good work Patrick.

Such an interesting interview! Great job guys! WOW! how did you meet with Mr. Harris to have this interview? Great job guys! Great job! I'm really proud of you guys! :)

I just called up Brownie and asked if he would like to be a part of our website and he told me to come down to Miami! I couldn't do that at the time so I scheduled to come up to Wilmington. He works out of Charleston a lot so we knew a lot of the same people and had some common ground. I really can't speak highly enough of him; such a great guy!

Great interview!

Thx for sharing! ;o)

Dear Patrick & Lee.
I have been deeply moved and touched by your brillant viedo of Brownie to the point of tears. It is hard to believe but when I met Brownie sixteen years ago everything was in a box. Photography to him isn't just an art form to be celebrated, it is his life and how he makes a living. Thank you for celebrating him this way.Our girls will treasure this forever. Very well done!! The quality of your work to put this together is amazing!

Thanks so much Christine, we are so thankful you guys allowed us to do this.

Brownie - Steve and I loved watching this video and also enjoyed hearing more about your past and your many accomplishments.

Everyone should know that not only is Brownie an amazing photographer, he is a treasure to work with.

Brownie you have truly enhanced the profile of our medical center with your award winning work. Hopefully we'll do many more shoots together.
Martha Harlan

Those of us who hung with Brownie in the 1960s back in Cumberland, Maryland saw this coming. He was always creative and pushing the edge, but with style and charm. At the same time, it was that gift that gave him a knack for skirting trouble. As a side-kick, I was always the one sent to the Allegany High School vice-principal's office. To this day I remember Brownie painting wall murals for a local bank (perhaps one of his first commissions) and going through my uncle's huge junkyard taking photographs and looking for items for sculpture. I don't think Brownie would want Christine to know about the Playboys we also had hidden away in an old railroad car, so I won't mention it. For me, the best part was that familiar laugh at the very end. Nothing has changed.

Patrick & Lee did a wonderful job capturing the essence of Brownie in just a 10 minute video! Brownie and his lovely wife Christine are both incredibly gifted artists! To know them is to love them, and be loved in return. I had the opportunity to work with Brownie on a project, patient, humble and gracious are the first words that come to mind. The experience...priceless!

Thanks for sharing this information about Mr. Harris. I had no idea we had such a talented artist living in Wilmington! I just got a Nikon D5000, I wander if he would let me follow him and learn a little about photography. He must be an actor also. He is so comfortable in front of the video camera! God bless his talent!

I've had the pleasure of working with Brownie and find his images to be as genuine as the man shooting them.

His passion for the craft shows, thanks for the video!

As I said on Lee's Facebook we loves your work. This website is in my bookmarks from the first time i visit. And like me i think a lot of people appreciate the passion that you take in this project.
Good Luck,
Ale from Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

Just a few thoughts to the younger photographers out there. Just keep shooting
and keep it simple. Don't get boughed down with all the equipment. Especially the lighting equipment. The camera is not going to do everything you want. It's a camera, not a wand. Your eye is more important than the camera. You have to make it happen & with too much technical issues you'll forget why you are taking the photograph.
Another thought I had was remembering the day I photographed the actor Paul Newman and his race car in Lyme Rock, Conn. racetrack. I had only met him for 5 minutes and we sat down by his car that he was racing that day. We had not talked much about anything except I was to photograph him. He said right out of the blue,
"Brownie. What if a photographer gets an A in photography and fails life?" I was so young I really didn't know what the hell he was talking about. In fact, it startled me thinking he was talking about me. Took me years to realize that as creative people we strive so much sometimes and in selfish ways so totally absorbed in ourselves that we forget about why we are creating. Years later, I realized what he meant when we had two beautiful children. That is the most creative undertaking one could have in your whole life. Not photography. And lastly, maybe photographers should give back more pro bono photography to charities that they deeply care about. Some of the best people I've ever worked with are the ones I had the pleasure to give back to and we became life long friends. If anyone wants to ask any questions feel free. Regards. Brownie Harris

This short feature is only a glimpse into life and artistry of Brownie Harris. He is so much more than the sum of the body of his life's work. He is a true humanitarian that gives back to his community through his art. The thing that makes Brownie so great is his ablility to see and capture that special moment, and to remain so humble, almost surprised by his extrodinary photographs. If you will notice, in the film, he always gives credit to the lighting or to his subject for the exceptional outcome. In fact, it is because of the man, the artist, Brownie himself. Brownie has the unique ablity to capture that magical facet of his subjects persona that transforms a photograph into a work of art. Brownie is one of those special people that you meet only once in your life. If you are ever lucky enough to be on the other side of the lens... treasure it, because Brownie is like his famous subjects... truly remarkable

Absolutely fabulous! Brownie is a fantastic talent, a real pro, and wonderful to work with. I'm also very lucky to call him a friend.

I had the pleasure of meeting Brownie Harris this weekend and he is an amazing person and photographer. I enjoyed listening to this interview to learn more about how he began and the different experiences he has had as a photographer. Meeting Brownie and his family was one of the highlights of my weekend and I look forward to seeing more of his work. He is truly an inspiration.

Thanks for this wonderful and inspiring interview.

Like Albie, my days with Brownie were in High School. Borwnie was my "campaign manager" for class office and even then had an unusual eye for the creative. I was always drawn to creative, exciting people and Brownie fit that description. He and I were friends for all of our high school life and lost touch after that. We re-connected through the internet about three years ago and I am not at all surprised with his success and the artistry and passion he has in all aspects of his life. His art is beyond amazing!

Very nice Brownie! Loved seeing this. Miss you in Charleston!!

"Brownie Harris, never more important than his subject..." If you've never met Brownie in person, consider this video your introduction. This is the closest thing you'll get without actually doing it for real. Great work fstoppers! Thanks for letting us in Brownie.

What a wonderful tribute to a true American treasure! Brownie, you are such a gifted artist and this video is incredibly moving in its simplicity. the man and the movie!

FStoppers, 10 minutes was wonderful, but it made me want a full-length feature film! I'm certain you enjoyed your time with Brownie as there's so much to learn and absorb from him. Yes, he's "been there, seen that" and then some. But he's so relevant to today's photographic community as well. During my work with Brownie, I was most fascinated by the time he spends getting to know his subjects before he shoots them. That ability to connect and help someone truly relax makes for the most amazing portraiture. Cheers to you for this wonderful glimpse into a national treasure. Best, Pamela

I've had the privilege of working with Brownie on a number of projects through my design business. He is a remarkable and extremely talented photographer. Whenever we collaborated on a magazine article, brochure or website, the results was outstanding. Some of my proudest portfolio pieces came from the integration of Brownie's photography. He has so many stories and this video does a good job capturing his diversity and experience.

Brownie, thanks for everything and all we've accomplished together over the years.

Love the interview. Brownie photographed myself and my son and is amazing to work with. Captures the spirit of the person, not just the picture, and that is true ART. Love his work.

Over the last several weeks I have been thinking about what to write about Brownie and it’s no easy task as there are so many special stories that I could share. I first was introduced to Brownie while working at UNC Wilmington. Right off the bat I knew Brownie was the man we needed because of his passion and vision for the University. We worked on various “projects” from head shots to ball games, scenic shots around campus and around Wilmington and everything in between. To my knowledge in the 50 year history of UNCW this was the first time the university had been documented with film for a full year. The most interesting shot we did was supposed to be a “diverse” group of students in a very simple shot “just sitting looking up into Brownies camera”. This was a very interesting shot because only 1 of our 15 “student models” showed up. I will never forget Brownie and me scrambling to find 14 “diverse” students on a campus that was, at the time only made up of several hundred minority students out of about 10,000. After only about 10 minutes of asking just the students that walked into the building we had the perfect group and got the shot in just a matter of seconds. The following day after shooting this “diversity” picture we found that one of the students, that we just happened to find that afternoon was killed on her way home to visit her family. As a fitting tribute to the student the family agreed to let UNCW publish the picture as part of the annual UNCW Viewbook for prospective students. This was one of the most talked about pictures in the entire book, a book made up of over a years worth of Brownies work at UNCW. Several months after the Viewbook was released this special picture popped up again. This time on CBS on The Late Show with David Letterman as part of the Top 10 List (Letterman called this “diverse” group of students “his Late Show interns”). Looking back almost 10 years later, this very simple shot, in my opinion turned out to be the most “spirited” and “real” shot that we produced over an entire years worth of pictures. This very simple shot is just another example of the ability Brownie Harris has to be able to get that perfect shot. As Brownie always says, “All we need is one” just like some of his well known pictures of famous folks like JFK, Jr., David Brinkley, Frank Capra, Jr., Pat Hingle and this particular case the not so famous “diversity girl”. Brownies vision and ability to show the soul and spirit of someone helps them live forever. I am proud to call Brownie Harris a true friend and hope you will someday have a chance to meet this special man.

Great interview so happy to know you and be able to call you my friend. Great pictures you're truly gifted and talented. Your work with September's Mission for Voices, taking protrait pictures of families who lost loved ones on 9/11 will be a lasting Legacy to us and those we lost. We were so lucky to have such wonderful pictures taken by someone so talented and well respected as you. We will be forever grateful. thank you to you and Howard my wonderful Board Member for introducing us to you.
Monica Iken

Marvelous video.
I really enjoyed it.
There just seems to be a "soul" to black and white film that I don't see duplicated in digital work, and I really feel it looking at Brownie's b/w portraits. It was a pleasure and privilege to see Brownie's work and listen to him talk about it.



That was awesome. Thanks for sharing this with us. I really enjoyed watching this interview.

Inspiring. I'm part of a local photo coop and I'm thinking of using this as a lead-in to future discussions. Thanks for posting!

Let us know how it goes Juan. I'd also encourage you to tell your photography friends to start filming interesting BTS and how to videos during their next photoshoots.

What an interesting interview. I really enjoyed the time we had together in the shoot you did with me,my dog "Misty" and the duck calls. That was so much fun and you were able to capture the feeling of the hunt and the expressions of the Labrador Retriever. I hope to get out to your place and see your collection of cameras. Great to have shared those times with you and I hope we can get together soon

Excellent interview. Thank you guys for your hard work.