Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1933, Brakhage moved to Denver, Colorado at the age of six. He sang as a boy soprano soloist, dreamed of being a poet, and graduated from South High School in 1951 with a scholarship to Dartmouth. After one semester, he left to pursue a life in the Arts, returning to Denver to make his first film in 1952.
As a young man, Brakhage lived in San Francisco and New York associating with many other poets, musicians, painters and filmmakers, including Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, John Cage, Edgard Varese, Joseph Cornell, Maya Deren and Marie Menken. A youthful "poet-with-a-camera," Brakhage soon emerged as a significant film artist, evolving an entirely new form of first person, lyrical cinema.
Brakhage married Jane Collom in 1957, and from the early 60s they lived in Rollinsville, Colorado, making films and raising their five children. Brakhage also continued to travel around the country and abroad becoming a leading figure of the American avant-garde film movement. He lived in Boulder from1986, and in 2002 moved to Canada with his second wife, Marilyn, and their two children.
Before his death in March, 2003, Brakhage had completed more than 350 films, ranging from the psycho-dramatic works of the early 1950s to autobiographical lyrics, mythological epics, "documents," and metaphorical film 'poems' -- variously employing his uniquely developed hand-held camera and rapid editing techniques, multiple superimpositions, collages, photographic abstractions, and elaborate hand-painting applied directly to the surface of the film. A deeply personal filmmaker, Brakhage's great project was to explore the nature of light and all forms of vision - while encompassing a vast range of subject matter. He frequently referred to his works as "visual music," or as documents of "moving visual thinking." The majority of his films are intentionally silent.
Brakhage taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and as Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The recipient of three Honorary Degrees and numerous prestigious awards, he lectured extensively on filmmaking and the Arts, and is the author of 11 books - including his seminal 1963 work, Metaphors On Vision, and his more recent series of essays, Telling Time.