Bruce Burgin, Photographer

The Photography of Bruce Burgin

I was born in Marion, NC in 1949. As an infant, I moved to Mount Hope, WV where my father was working as a coal miner. My father eventually became a heavy equipment operator and home became wherever the highway construction jobs were. As a child I lived in VA, PA, NC, and KY, but fortune and circumstance brought us back to Beckley time after time. At 15, I was back in Beckley, WV, for good. I’ve sailed around the world twice and visited numerous foreign countries, and as beautiful as many of the places I’ve been are, it is the Mountain State that has truly captivated me for over half a century.

In 1968, I enlisted in the US Navy and went to basic training in Orlando, FL, where I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend the US Navy Photography School in Pensacola, FL. Before this, I had no interest in photography whatsoever. My dream had been to become a commercial artist. My introduction to photography was quite unique. Most photographers start out with small 35 MM equipment. My first day at the school I was issued a large format 4”x 5” View Camera, tripod, sheet film holders, and a box of black and white 4”x 5” sheet film. I was not issued a light meter for more than a month. I was first trained to calculate my exposures based upon existing light conditions. As school progressed, I was trained in all aspects of photography.

After graduation, I was stationed aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS America CVA-66, home ported in Norfolk, VA. After a training cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and around the Caribbean, we set sail on a 9-month cruise to Vietnam. During my tour of duty I was fortunate to also visit and photograph in more peaceful locations like Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, many Pacific Islands, and the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

After being honorably discharged in the summer of 1972, I returned to Beckley and took a full time job as a draftsman. At the same time, I opened a freelance commercial photography business. In 1995 I quit taking commercial photography assignments and began concentrating on my personal photography.

San Juan Art Center

Over the years, the classic black and white photographs of Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Edward Weston have left the greatest impression on me. Their photographs inspired me to focus my own efforts towards high quality, extremely detailed, large format, black and white photography. Like these legendary photographers, I made the choice for my art to include the entire process. By today’s standards, I’m a dinosaur. As old as my methods are, they cannot be matched by today’s small format and digital cameras.

After something catches my eye, I set up my equipment, envision how I want to represent the scene in the final print, choose my filter, calculate the exposure with a hand held light meter, and finally take the photograph. In my darkroom, I do all the processing of my negatives and prints by hand. My photographs are archival printed and selenium toned for maximum preservation. I also mount, mat, and frame the prints using the finest acid-free materials available. As labor intensive as all of this is, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it gives me complete control in creating the final image.