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Local Ashland photographer’s work, career a rolling stone

Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, photograph by Brian Brown.

Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, photograph by Brian Brown.

In July of 2015, Randy Blythe, lead singer of well-known Richmond-based heavy metal band, Lamb of God, spoke to Rolling Stone about his passion for photography. One Ashland resident did not expect that he was about to gain a lot of popularity from this same article.

“I was speechless. I hadn’t heard from [Blythe] in a couple weeks. He sent me a text while I was at work…. I opened it up, and all it was a link. I was like, ‘Alright, what is this?’ And then I get into reading it,” Brian Brown, 26, of Ashland said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I’m on this list he’s talking about.’ I scroll down a little bit and I was the first one on the list! I was blown away.”

This list was Blythe’s top five Instagram accounts to follow and Brown, who works for an electronics company in Fredericksburg, was featured above four other varying professional and amateur photographers. The Rolling Stone article published a photo Brown had taken and posted to his Instagram account of Levi Benton, lead singer of another metal band, Miss May I. Brown said his Instagram following received a lot of attention after the article’s release.

“I got a pretty big bump right away as soon as he shared the article and then it’s been pretty consistent after that. A lot of people have mentioned that they had seen me mentioned in that article,” Brown said.

Even before that article, Blythe had drawn people’s attention to Brown’s work. On Nov. 29, 2013, Blythe posted a photo Brown had taken to his own Instagram account and praising Brown’s skill. Brown said he went from having 400 to 1,100 Instagram followers within eight hours after Blythe’s post.

Scott Ian of Anthrax. Photograph by Brian Brown.

Scott Ian of Anthrax. Photograph by Brian Brown.

The relationship between Brown and Blythe dates further back than 2013 though. It began when Brown was a teenager attending Patrick Henry High School and working at Best Buy selling cameras. Mark Morton, guitarist for Lamb of God, came into the store and Brown assisted him. Later, Brown contacted Morton through Twitter “then, long story short, he invited me over just to meet some of his other friends and I just asked for a photo pass,” Brown said.

Brown soon met Blythe at Morton’s house during a cookout, Blythe was just beginning to delve into photography. Brown took Morton out to downtown Richmond and Texas Beach to teach him about photography and take photos of rocks, graffiti, the river and more. From then on, they have maintained a relationship and “became good photo buddies,” Brown said.

Most recently, the two worked together capturing photos for Richmond author Karla Helbert’s book, “Yoga for Grief and Loss,” which was published in early 2016.

“It’s unbelievable. He’s amazing. I look up to him now to get inspiration and learn techniques,” Brown said. “His ability with photography has just skyrocketed.”

His experience taking photos for and with Blythe and Lamb of God over the years has helped Brown to network and make connections with other bands, including the Tennesse-based band Whitechapel.

“Actually the first show I shot was [Whitechapel’s] show,” Brown said. “I had no idea that just a few years later I would be able to have the guys’ phone numbers and they would use my photos for promotions…. It’s been pretty amazing.”

“He’s gotten do be close with a lot of bands, which a lot of people don’t get to do,” Trevor Williams, a photographer friend of Brown’s from Tampa, Florida, said. “He’s a really down-to-earth, genuine guy. His photo work is fantastic and speaks for itself.”

Wiliams recalled the first time he met Brown while they were both shooting photos during a concert at the NorVa nearly five years ago when Williams lived in Norfolk.

“It was pretty interesting, during one of the opening bands he took a photo of me while I was in the photo pit taking photos of the band,” Williams said. “It was one of my favorite photos of myself for a long time. It was my Facebook profile photo for years. I didn’t expect someone that I didn’t know to take a picture of me like that and capture that moment.”

Brown became interested in cameras and photography around age 16 when he began working at Best Buy. He would practice with some friends who took photography classes, but he didn’t become as invested in the art until after graduating from high school.

“My first time I borrowed a digital SLR camera was back in 2008 after graduation, and I went on a vacation to Hollywood with my aunt,” Brown said. “With those types of cameras, the SLRs, they make way different photos than a normal point-and-shoot camera. So just two or three shots with that on the flight over and I was hooked.”

Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. Photograph by Brian Brown.

Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. Photograph by Brian Brown.

Brown’s tool of choice is his Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and most of his work is of musicians and landscapes. While he has been hired for several paid portrait sessions, he said that most of what he does is for pleasure.

“It’s just something I love doing,” Brown said. “If it’s a shoot I’m doing for free where a band has hooked me up with a pass, I’ll publish [the photos] onto my Instagram account and notify the labels or the band. They’ll share the photos, then it’ll generate more traffic for my social media.”

As far as his photography plans for the future, Brown wants to simply learn something new, since there are so many options and things one can do with photography, he said.

“I want to learn something new and then get those photos out there and share or published,” Brown said. “And they don’t necessarily have to be [photos of bands], maybe even more of the landscape stuff, or maybe more of the just regular portraits, too.”

“He gets to do all this cool stuff and he never brags about it, he never gets cocky. He enjoys the experience for what it is and has fun with it,” Williams said. “That’s the best you can be not only as a photographer but also as a person.”

More of Brown’s work can be viewed on his Instagram account, @_brianbrown.

Abby Mergenmeier can be reached at