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Brent Clark

Season’s Greetings

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Season’s Greetings is an ongoing project documenting the physical representations of Christmas in my native North Carolina. I am drawn to the luminous and imaginative beauty of Christmas, and also interested in the way that Christmas has become, to a large degree, secular and commercial. To this end, the photographs in this project contain various and often incongruent combinations of religious, commercial, and folk symbols that have become an accepted visual vocabulary and source of human expression during the otherwise cold grey winter.



Brent Clark is a photographer born and based in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004, and has since pursued a career in documentary photography.

His work has been recognized by the Jen Bekman gallery, the National Press Photographer’s Association, the Venice International Photography Contest, Travel Photographer of the Year, and the International Photo Awards. His editorial clients include Popular Mechanics, Popular Photography, and AARP Bulletin.


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Brent Clark

42 thoughts on “brent clark – season’s greetings”

  1. Yes, another essay under your nose and an essay in patience 1 month a year to capture the christmas sparkle.


    yes, exactly like the dog in car essay…a “why didn’t i think of that?” package…again, so obvious…and like the dog essay, another book to be done for sure…the only tough thing about this one is deciding the geographic parameters…the dog essay could all be done within 50 feet of the photographer’s house…this Christmas icons essay could be done all over the world and this would be the one thing Brent must really consider…he says it now a Carolina only project and maybe he should just leave it that way…either way, a good one…like the dog essay, Brent needs a more provocative book title imo…i am sure it will come…by the way Paul, in my town in Carolina the Christmas shops are full of people in mid-July when everyone is running to the beach in sandals…so it is not just a one month a year shoot….Christmas decorations are a big year around business here…and maybe in other states as well…i do not not know…

    cheers, david

  3. I LOVE THIS ESSAY! :))))

    It’s not only gorgeous but also filled (for me) with so much sadness….how we all just construct away the light of life to shine out the damp and the dark…and that light often makes the alone, the vacant, the stark open bruise of our lives and heart so clear….and yet…

    We continue and we ring up the lights, string up our hearts for all to see…kitsch?….not, the beautiful, childish desire to bring happiness to the world and ourselves, even when the world breaks down around…

    i call that the human heart…

    and damn, you’ve got beautiful light Brent….my heart was racing i was hoping to see my brothers home…of my daddy’s apartment…

    one of my brothers and sister-in-law and new nephew and papa and soon to be moving-there-too-mom all live in Charlotte…..and so many memories from my childhood of Eastern N.Carolina….even in december, i can smelll the wet chicory, the dried tobacco, the white-wurl of cotton passing along route 1, the hills and oak and maple…god damn i love that state…

    Congrats on publishin the perfect essay before the holiday seaons….



    off to moscow

  4. Excellent idea well executed. But, strikes me as two essays mixed into one. Had I been in charge of editing it, I’d have left out the straight forward (weaker) images (such as the living room tree one) from the intentionally incongruously funny ones, making for a stronger, tighter, more original statement.

    Happy Holidays and New Year to all, and may BuRN prosper and thrive!

  5. Very good to see this essay.

    Indeed, like David said, the geographical concept is an issue.

    Dominik and I went to a workshop about photobooks recently where we met a photographer, who had a (very) similar idea, only that he started with this somewhere else. BAUTIFUL work, indeed, well done and everything, and when we saw it, we all thought that this would be THE book. We all were very excited for him.

    We met him again at Paris Photo, where he pitched the idea & portfolio to publishers worldwide. Without going into detail, the results were not so positive. It is not that he did not do a good pitch, he is in the business of pitching, so to say … and people liked his work, too.

    I will write him a note with a link to this essay. Maybe he will jump in, maybe he will not. I feel a bit shy talking about his pitch. Better if he does it if he wants to.

  6. Lassal, what do you mean with ‘pitch’? I’ve looked it up (don’t know the word, or the one that I thought it was does not make sense here), there are gazillions of translations.. can you give me the German term, please?

  7. Eva, auf Deutsch sagen wir auch immer pitchen :)

    Ist eher Agentur Slang, denke ich. Bedeutet, dass man eine Idee anbietet, versucht, diese einem potentiellen Kunden zu verkaufen – es bedeutet aber nicht unbedingt, dass dieser potentielle Kunde einen dazu aufgefordert haben muss, obwohl es in der Tat manchmal einer geladenen Wettbewerbsteilnahme gleich kommt. Gute Frage, ob es dazu eine geeignete deutsche Übersetzung gibt … keine Ahnung. Hoffe, meine Erklärung hat Dir dennoch geholfen?

  8. Lassal, danke.. ich glaube, mein Deutsch ist ein klein bisschen angerostet und mein Englisch etwas rustikal ;)
    Aber ich verstehe, wie Du’s meinst, thanks!

  9. Eva, :)

    das hat wohl nichts mit eingerostet sein zu tun; es ist eher Berufs-Slang … und wirft damit eher einen Schatten auf mich, die das nicht ins Deutsche übersetzen kann.

    Wünsche Dir herrliche Weihnachten! Wir gehen gleich noch eine Runde mit dem Hund in den Schnee.

    Snowing here! White Christmas in Frankfurt is really nothing that has happend all too often in the last years. Very nice.

  10. LASSAL..

    when i say good book, i do not necessarily mean commercially successful book…matter of fact, most of my truly favorite books probably have zero commercial value…like Winterreisse for example…only the brave publisher or the publisher with a real love of fine photography books will do those…Phaidon (Winterreise publisher) makes their money doing architecture books etc, so they will do a photo book they love perhaps knowing they will lose money doing it…i do not see a Christmas decoration book as much of a commercial success…

    Robert Frank’s Americans was not a commercial success either until Robert Frank became Robert Frank….in this recession , there may indeed be few who will take the risk or the loss on a book that is not likely to sell well…still no reason to not try anyway…making money is best done by not trying to do it with photography in general…nothing new in this…photography is best done by those who just do not care about money coming from their craft…they might surprise themselves of course…but that should never be their goal…certainly it was never a goal of Frank…

    there is another whole topic that i will bring up after Christmas which relates to this…and this is satisfaction from some photographers at being ACCEPTED by the publishing world…suddenly feeling different about their own work because somebody bought it..anyway, later on this one…

    Merry Christmas Lassal..


    nice to read you again here….i felt all of these pictures were incongruous and frankly in general with sequencing pictures do not like to have the same beat for each picture following another but rather prefer staggering the notes so to speak…high note/low note …but then we all have different opinions on what is funny, what is normal, etc etc…in any case, i do look forward to publishing another one of your essays at some appropriate point..

    cheers, david

  11. Interesting project, and some really fantastic images. Great work Brent, I hope you do pursue this one further. I’m also enjoying the conversation on sequencing images – some cool thoughts there. I’m inclined to agree with David about spacing the beats. Frank’s The Americans is one I return to constantly as an education on making a project hang together well (wish I could see the different edits in different versions, to compare) – in this age of digital consumption and flickr and so on, the single image has really begun to dominate and I’ve noticed that can sometimes lead to collections of images (in exhibs e.g.) or projects not being cohesive. Making projects work as projects is something that has been at the forefront of my mind at the moment. Nice one.

    And Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you guys all have a great day tomorrow, and a fantastic new year!

  12. DAH, I have a copy of Winterreisse, a favourite despite its bleakness. I also have Cuba, bought before Road Trips or Burn. Merry Christmas all.


  13. @david alan harvey

    Know what you mean David: different strokes for different folks indeed! Mine was a very minor, very personal quibble. Overall, as I said up front, it is an excellent idea well executed and I’m glad you published it!

    As for another essay of mine, I do have my tail firmly between my legs because of being ever so behind on providing you with the material you requested so long ago. Shame on me. My first resolution for the new year is to put it on the front burn(er)!

    Love to you and your entire clan!

  14. DAH,
    sure, good books are not necessary commercially successfull books. I totally agree and never said otherwise. We talked about John Gossage’s “The Pond” lately, remember?
    But if you for some reason do not feel like you want/can/should publish yourself, you need to find a publisher … And that be become quite an adventure and odyssey.

    Looking forward to your next post :)
    Always interesting topic.

    We just had our little christmas dinner – lamb cooked in wine, à la Tony – yummy! While listening to John Lee Hooker … and went to our last snow walk outside at the river. Perfect Christmas!

    I wish you all a good night and beautiful dreams!
    Merry Christmas to everyone!

  15. This was another, ‘Whoa!” moment for me. Not because this is an essay under everybody’s nose, but because I had just been out running a last-minute Christmas Eve errand when I decided to shoot a few Wasilla Nativity scene shots from the car for my Christmas post and then decided to park and walk right up to it. It was maybe a 200 yard walk and it was cold and the wind was blowing and I was protected by only a light jacket and although I have the toughest cold weather hands of any photographer you are likely to meet, my fingers went numb and my ears felt like they were going to fall off.

    And then there was something else that happened, after I got back into the car, that I just can’t go into, save to say that it was extremely emotional.

    And then I came home and opened up your essay for the first time.

    My experience had been a bit bizarre and now here I was looking at your stuff and it was also bizarre and in the same way. What was most incongruous to me was the simple fact that there was no snow to be seen in any of these pictures.

    And I respectfully disagree with Michal about taking out the Christmas tree. I thought that was one of the most incongruous shots in the essay. C’mon! Betty Boop, hanging from the Christmas tree? I had to search for her, but I found her, alright.

    I want that Betty Boop ornament, by the way.

    Please go back to that house, tell them you missed an important angle and then steal it for me.

  16. Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
    A Catholic tale have I to tell:
    And a Christian song have I to sing
    While all the bells in Arundel ring.

    “I pray good beef and I pray good beer
    This holy night of all the year,
    But I pray detestable drink for them
    That give no honour to Bethlehem.

    “May all good fellows that here agree
    Drink Audit Ale* in heaven with me,
    And may all my enemies go to hell!
    Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
    May all my enemies go to hell!
    Noël! Noël!”

    Hillaire Belloc

    It’s very Catholic, I think, but I agree with Belloc’s conclusion. And so a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night…even you.

    AKAKY IRL: Go blow it out your ass.

    AKAKY: Just filled with the spirit of the day, arent we?

    AKAKY IRL: Goddam right, bubba.

  17. Thanks to everyone who said they enjoyed my essay! It’s really nice to hear that other people enjoy my work. Especially when those people are mostly fellow photographers.

    I have been continuing my work on the project the last couple of weeks, including last night and today. There are some cool new images, including a plastic baby Jesus surrounded by peanut M&M’s! I will be adding these new images to the essay on my website in the coming weeks.

    I also shot a behind the scenes story of a youth ballet Nutcracker performance, which I will post to my site once I have all the permissions necessary. The red curtain image posted here on Burn is from that shoot. I’m really happy with the the images I got, and can’t wait to share them.


    That photo of Santa with the cigarette sign was taken in 2005, in rural central North Carolina. That photo was actually the inspiration for the entire project.


    I wasn’t entirely aware that the title of my essay was a boring, so I appreciate you pointing that out. I have always had trouble coming up with titles for my essays. If you or anyone else has any ideas for a different title, please feel free to share.

    The reasons I have thus far focused the project on North Carolina is time and money. If I ever get more of either, I would love to go global with it.


    I see what you mean about how it seems like two essays in one. That being said, I kind of like the diversity of images. I enjoy exploring different visual styles and subjects in my work. I think I would get bored and feel constrained if I only took the photos of incongruous things. I also think it might make the essay more negative in tone than I would like. However, I don’t overly think about these things. I just go out and shoot what I think is pretty or interesting, or hopefully both.

  18. Understood Brant, one must always follow one’s own heart and eye. You did both and the result is excellent. Hope you do get extra funding to expand this work. It made me laugh and I always treasure that in photos. Best!

  19. Sorry for the typo Brent! Hate it when people spell my name wrong and dislike it even more when I do it to others!

  20. BRENT

    i do not think the title of your essay is boring, it simply seems a bit descriptive and i could imagine one that is more provocative OR the cover of the book could be one of those Seasons Greetings pictures and then THAT would be the typography/title……but i do love the essay and the concept and sorry if my comment about the title gave you the wrong impression..a very small point indeed…if you move fast, we can still include your new pictures from the last few days…i mean, why not??

    cheers, david

  21. “I kind of like the diversity of images”

    Me too, absolutely.. and what might be the norm for some is completely different for some others.. while the idea of Christmas and its decoration is not new, the actual way of doing it is very different.. it’s fun to look at..

  22. David

    I didn’t mean to put the work “boring” into your mouth/keyboard! I suppose that was an overstatement of your position. Regardless of the particular adjective used to describe it, I am open to changing the title, and not the least bit offended by the idea that it is not particularly provocative. Though I was really excited about using the image of the red curtain with “Season’s Greetings” written on it as the cover of the book. I’m glad you are open to that possibility, but I am also willing to scrap that idea, if a better title comes to mind, or is suggested. Speaking of which, I am still hoping to hear some alternative title suggestions! I think it would be fun to hear what other people think would be a good title. Also, I like the idea of adding some of this weeks photos to the essay, and will try and send some new pics your way today.



  23. Brent, if you expand your project and think of coming to Italy there’s the biggest Christmas tree of the world, 650 meters high and 350 meters wide. The town of Gubbio (Perugia) at the base and the tree all up the mountain, had to think of your essay yesterday when I took a pic of it :)

  24. Eva

    Thanks for the tip! That sounds really awesome. I will definitely try and make it there one day. By the way, what do you think about the title of the essay? Do you have any alternative ideas?

  25. Brent, we climbed up right in the middle of it, each lidght is made of three coloured neon lamps bundled together in a hard plastic kinda case.. they are perhaps 1 to 1,2 mt long. During the day you can only see the star up up at the top of the mountain.

    As for a title, the first thing coming to my mind when looking at the essay the first time was: happy happy, joy joy… but keep in mind that I lack references when it comes to English language :)

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