Mark Brown

Fireboy

First Place Manipultated Images

No need to sound the alarms. Mark Brown's winning picture, "Fireboy," is in fact a photograph. It's only the manipulation that makes the result s enormously painterly.

The dense saturation of exquisite tones and luxuriously rich effect comes from scanning a black-and-white picture into his computer and then using the computer program PhotoShop to add color.

"I don't think there's anything sacred about a negative or print," he said. "I think that it's something to improve and improvise. I see it as a place to start from and to take somewhere else."

Brown, 48, gets to experiment constantly as a graphic designer. But while he does a lot of digital photography to bring art to the consumer world, he still remembers the first picture he took.

"It was second grade at the Bronx Zoo. An ostrich," he said.

His compositions aren't just a trick of the digital tool, however. It was as an art major at Stanford University that he learned how to use a darkroom, and he then got into photo printmaking while getting a master's degree in fine arts.

"But digital photos are different," he said. "There's no toxic chemicals, and I can know do work in hours that used to take me weeks."

The winning picture was actually a product of years. "It's my son in a little fire truck--one of his favorite toys," he said. "I took it when he was a lot younger and then did the digital manipulation a lot later."

With his newest work, Brown uses his computer to go beyond the photographic techniques his parents, both picture-takers, used. Using his scanner as a camera, his overall approach to presentation is a combination of photography and illustration.

"When I got PhotoShop, it was like a whole new world," he said. "And the tools are only getting better and better."

--Heather Wax