Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of Camille Seaman.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
My high school year book quote was, “Wow! Look at that turtle go!” I didn’t decide to become a photographer until I was thirty-two years old. Most of my life has been about exploring, doing things I like doing and making things, I like making.
How did you get started photography?
I loved making pictures with a camera even as a small child. I never took formal classes for it. I traveled all over the world with a camera but never thought of myself as a photographer. When I was thirty-two years old, I was really fed up with the darkness and cynicism I was seeing in our daily news. I thought there must be someway to counter it, and show that there was something beautiful and awesome about life and the gift of this planet. I methodically made goals for myself and was fortunate enough to have a meteoric rise of my work.
Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?
There are far too many to list. I look at everything, not just photography, but also painting, drawing, films, music, poetry etc. Two photographers that inspired me to want to be great are; Steve McCurry for his incredible use of available natural light, color and composition. The other would be Edward Burtynsky who just blows my mind with the scale, color and deeper questions his work makes me ask.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
Probably, I do not just make images for others to see. I make them as part of a compulsion; a need to communicate what I felt and saw in a particular moment in only the way I can communicate with a camera.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.
Hah! My process. Do I have one? I look. I make sure I am feeling something before I lift my camera to my face. Sometimes that takes a long while and sometimes it is immediate. I am so tired of seeing technically proficient images that have no soul, no feeling. What is the point of an image like that? I was taught to crop with my feet, and make the image in camera not in computer. I have no patience for Photoshop or filters or gimmicks. The world is awesome as is. Just be sensitive to what great light is, what is needed in an image and what is distracting from what you are trying to relate. Stay playful, joyful and when you are tense, put the camera down. Be aware of your intention, your language inside and out. I do not “shoot”. I make an image. The violence in a word has repercussions.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
Challenges? It is easy to look for the same image over and over. it is harder to make new ones, things you have not seen before. I challenge myself during my long-term projects (10 plus years) to keep looking. I do not always succeed, but I try.
If you could work with another photographer living or passed who would it be ?
I think I could have a fun time making images beside Atget. He never went out on a “shoot”.
How do you view this time in the history of photography?
In many ways photography has finally come of age as a respected art form, an important medium. I hear many people complaining about how difficult it is to make a living as a photographer, how the good old days are gone. It is true that everyone thinks they are a photographer. I do not feel threatened by any of what is going on. I know why I do what I do and that no one on this planet sees the world quite the way I do. People do not collect my images because they look like Ansel Adams, they like my unique voice with a camera. That is where the value is.
How do you over come a creative block?
I have never had one.
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
I want them to have a personal moment with the image. Some feel fear, or awe. Others see beauty and sadness. I want them to feel something that will hopefully inspire the start of a relationship with this planet.
Would you like to share a story about one of your images?
When I get up on a storm-chasing day, anything could happen.
We’re usually are somewhere deep in Middle America, in a motel like something out of a movie with the cars parked out front. We pile into the meteorologist’s room, sit on the bed, and he projects the day’s weather from his computer onto the wall. We analyze the data and decide where we’re headed. Then, we’ll go to some greasy-spoon diner, again like something out of a movie, where it’s all, “How y’all doing today, what can I get ya?”
After that, it’s usually many, many hours in the car. The thing with these storms is that they take all day to form. All that warm, moist air has to hit a certain temperature in order for it to start-up. A super-cell isn’t part of a storm front, it’s an individual cloud up to fifty miles wide. It needs perfect conditions to attract all that moisture, and blow up like a beautiful cotton ball in the middle of the plains. Only two percent of super-cells create tornadoes, but when one starts to happen, we get into ‘chase mode’. There are no bathroom breaks, no pulling over to get a drink, no chance to check the map. These storms are moving, some of them at twenty miles an hour, some at sixty. It’s like the whole car is taken over by this euphoric silence. You see people on TV shows yelling, “Drive faster! Drive faster!” but our cars are never like that. For a photographer, it’s not ideal because it’s dark under there, the wind is blowing, and there is no time to set up a tripod. If you’re too close, it’s so huge you can’t fit it in your frame, so we look for the sweet spot; just far enough away to get the perfect image.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
Maybe it is the other way around. The way I see the world affects my art. I was raised by my father’s tribal affiliation, Shinnecock Montaukett, a small fishing tribe. As a child, I was shown how everything is interconnected; the rain, the snow, the ice. We were taught that there is no separation, so when I see one of these storms, I think, “Oh my goodness, who among us is this? How is this a manifestation of who we are?” I use to photograph icebergs. With them it’s, “How is this a manifestation of who we were?” How many ancestors is this, human and non human? How many lives?
This point of view is a part of why my photographs resonate with people. I get emails saying, “I never thought of ice that way before!” That’s amazing, because I’ve shifted someone’s consciousness. The first time I stood under a super-cell storm, I was so deeply moved because the experience was so much more than I could have imagined. I had seen storms on TV, but this was different. It was an incredibly tactile experience, with the smell of charged particles in the air, and of the warm, moist earth.
Thank you Camille for sharing your work and your words.
To learn more about Camille Seaman please visit her site at Camille Seaman.