Creative Class: Bruce Giffin


Photo by Kristina Sikora

Being painfully self taught after 30 years of beating my head against the wall, I stopped long enough in 2011 to receive a Kresge Artist Fellowship for a project called “The Face Of Detroit”. I am humbled beyond words and if anything, it has motivated me to beat my head a little harder. I’m not yet good enough…

I have made a living for the past 30 years as a freelance photographer, and when I’m done for the day with that, I go into the city and attempt to feed my heart for no pay. This is a pretty good definition for “happiness”!

What inspires you to create?
I think photography saved my life. I had as sales job in the 70’s and 80’s and my life was miserable. Since I walked away and started to work as a photographer, I don’t have bad days…
I tell young people that to make it as a freelancer, you have to despise the work you were doing enough to NEVER go back. I create new work, or I have to go back to sales, which I will never do…

Can you describe your greatest creative achievement?
I suppose that would have to be my project ”The Face Of Detroit”. It was a photo project featuring street people I randomly bumped into on the street! In all, there were about 150 subjects about 1/3 to 1/2 homeless. I was awarded a Kresge Artist Fellowship in 2011 for it and it continues to be my most requested work for exhibitions!

What advice would you give to the next generation of creative people?
Minor white said it takes 20 years to become a good photographer. I agree although 18 or 19 years ago I didn’t believe that was true. I think the biggest failing of young photographers is using tricks and schemes and gimmicks instead of just shooting good pictures. I don’t think there is a shortcut to doing quality work. Shooting an excess of pictures in a short time won’t get you there in a shorter period of time. You have to put the time in and do the work. I don’t think there are any shortcuts…

What one word would you use to describe yourself or the work you do?


I think if you trick people into noticing your work, they will not trust you when they find out you’re using tricks instead of technique…


slide1_fotoris a series of profiles of creative people throughout the world that I have either shared the stage with or have observed their talents from a far. The questions are my own and their answers are unaltered.

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