It started as an artsy social statement. Brian Belefant photographed scenes in Mexico through Coca-Cola to symbolize American culture and imperialism. A copywriter, commercial director and advertising account manager, he knew a thing or two about taking pictures.
The results were so good, says Belefant, he became obsessed with the technique, in which he seals a liquid between two pieces of glass and shoots through it. He expanded his scope, photographing various places through a related liquid, like maple syrup in Montreal or Turkish coffee in Istanbul. “It became a neat way to travel,” he says.
A few years ago, he settled in Portland, set up shop, and now is taking his amateur photography hobby to the next level. His brother-in-law, a chemist, helps him to refine the process with each liquid, which requires a lot of experimentation — and patience. Belefant says he’s spent six months working with local beers but has yet to make them work because of all that yeast. His latest photos are postcards of Oregon photographed through pinot noir. (They can be viewed on his website, www.elixirlens.com.)
From the landmarks in Portland to the wineries of the Willamette Valley, Belefant has explored the state with his camera and filtration system. “If you find the right light, the picture will lend itself to you,” he says. The cloudy skies of the Northwest become dynamic when shot through wine. Hard and soft light affects scenes differently, bringing out bold colors. The idea sounds like a gimmick at first, but the photos prove it is a legitimate and intriguing technique.
Belefant’s key subject is Oregon’s already picturesque wine country. He hopes to sell his work to winemakers, who can in turn sell his photos as souvenirs. Per an admirer’s suggestion, he may next take on the coast’s famous lighthouses through oil, and there is the elusive beer elixir still to be tackled.
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