+ By Christine Filla + Photos by David Burroughs
A trip through photographer David Burroughs’s website is a journey to the chic, the fashionable, the elegant, the corporate, the sensitive, and the hip. This is a sojourn through David Burroughs’s sensibility. Models are casually glamorous, adorned with beautiful leather handbags. Architecture and gardens are infused with atmosphere that is impeccably lit, with a sense of serenity. Portraits infer a relationship between subject and viewer. There’s something special going on here, something that goes beyond your typical photograph.
“I try to find narratives that I can explore through visual means,” says Burroughs. “I come from the film business. I like to tell stories. That’s my approach.”
Burroughs’ earliest experience with film came when he was a child growing up in Laurel, Maryland. His father, a media specialist, brought home Super 8 and video cameras. Burroughs and his lifelong friend, Brian Lichty, messed around with the cameras and made animated movies (Burroughs and Lichty are now married to sisters).
After high school, in the early 1990s, Burroughs attended film school at New York University and waited tables by night. “In New York, most people eat out almost every night,” explains Burroughs. “You would get to know people. The same couple came in several nights a week. She happened to be a music video director, and her boyfriend was a producer. So, I just hammered them for six months.” Through his connections with the couple, Burroughs broke into the music video world, first working as a production assistant. “That’s how I started learning the lighting,” he says. “ It just clicked. I was drawn to it.”
Burroughs got to know cameras and lighting inside out, eventually moving to Los Angeles. He worked in film, on music videos, and in photography with the best in the business: Spike Jonze, Lance Acord, and Matt Mahurin, among others. He became a master of lighting and image making.
In 2000, with his young family, Burroughs moved to Annapolis. “Parenting is a full-time job,” he says. His oldest daughter is in her freshman year at the University of Maryland, where she’s studying journalism. His youngest daughter attends Annapolis High School. Both are learning photography on an old Pentax K1000 film camera.
Right now, his studio is filled, floor to ceiling, with handbags so he can shoot the entire web product photography catalogue for HOBO handbags. This would explain all the pictures of purses on Burroughs’ website. He also specializes in architecture and corporate portraits.
There is magic in Burroughs’ architectural photography, a timelessness with a bit of the human element. He seems to get to the essence of a beautiful place. Recently, he spent a full day photographing a kitchen, ensuring that the lighting was absolutely right. He may photograph a certain home as many as eight times for different clients—the architect, the interior designer, the landscape architect, and the builder.
Burroughs is loath to take all the credit for the scenes he creates. His clients are often the creatives in design fields and are hands-on during the shoots. They know what they want in the final image. “It’s really nice to collaborate at that level,” says Burroughs, “where we’re all speaking the same language and working toward the same goal.”
In 2016, with Lichty and Chad Knight, Burroughs started Dirt Media, a multimedia creative marketing company. It has worked with the Hope for Henry Foundation and the Connected Warrior Foundation, making promotional films for public awareness and fundraising purposes.
Burroughs has quite a collection of cameras, as one might imagine. When he started out in the business, film was still the method of capture, and shots had to be tested on Polaroid film. Today, he uses instant film for a specific kind of experience. It takes time for instant film to develop. The photographer and the subject have to wait for a minute or two after the shot is taken before they can see the photograph. During this down time, conversations ensue. “[Y]ou get to know the person that you’re photographing,” says Burroughs, “and it creates this whole different way of working, it’s more personable.”
He uses an old Polaroid passport camera with two lenses to shoot diptychs. He covers one lens with gaffer tape, exposes the film, moves the tape to the other lens, and takes a second shot. A wall in Tsunami Restaurant in Annapolis is covered with several of these types of shots, telling the tale of a night at the bar. “It all goes back to the narrative, telling the story,” says Burroughs.
Does Burroughs have a dream project that he’d like to work on? “I already do what I like to do,” he says. “If anything, I want to do more of the storytelling through video with Dirt Media. I think that’s definitely where I’d like to go.”
Be sure to check out the elegant swimsuit calendar put out by Sailor Oyster Bar to benefit the Oyster Recovery Effort. You will see Burroughs’ photographs of the lovely boys of Sailor in cheesecake fashion—quite the narrative, indeed. █