Bryan began photographing when he was eight years old after being given a Kodak Brownie camera as a birthday present. As his interest in photography grew, he progressed to developing his films and making prints of his photographs, using a broom cupboard in his home as a darkroom.
In 1966, Bryan visited the famous London photographer Bill Brandt, whose work he greatly admired. It was Bill Brandt’s encouragement, that made Bryan finally settle on a career as a professional photographer, and he went on to study photography in London.
Bryan’s interest in Arctic peoples began in 1969 after reading a book about the Inuit of the North Greenland by the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen. Influenced by the writing of both Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen, Bryan used a Royal Society of Arts travel bursary to visit Northwest Greenland in 1971. He spent four months there, photographing the daily life of the local Inuit. That was the start of what was to become a lifetime’s work of documenting the Arctic and its peoples.
For the past 50 years, Bryan has travelled to the Arctic every year and spent weeks, and sometimes months, at a time living and photographing in remote communities around the circumpolar north.
Bryan’s work has evolved into a fascinating and unique archive of over 50,000 photographs. It is not just a massive collection of great photographs; it is also a valuable ethnographic record of a period of enormous change for the Arctic’s peoples. The focus of the collection is the traditional life of more than fifteen different northern cultures. Many of the photos feature cultural traditions, as well as communities, that no longer exist today. This only adds to the importance of this collection.
What is particularly remarkable is the considerable time that Bryan spends in these remote Arctic communities, often returning to the same areas time and time again. This is reflected by the depth of his coverage of these different northern cultures.