Interview #80: Warren Sebastian
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Warren Sebastian: Photography is something I had always wanted to try at some point. I met someone who inspired me & made me realize I had a creative void so I picked up a camera & was hooked straight away.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
WS: I've never studied photography & learned just by doing. It's what I love. I just explored it all through looking online & picking up books. it's taught me to be more intuitive maybe without any other influence that might come from doing any kind of course.
CUS: Tell us about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an effect on your photography?
WS: I live in a suburb of Brighton right on the coast of southern England. Surrounded by country & having Brighton a thriving city 20 minutes away gives me a good contrast & plenty of things to photograph. Brighton is a pretty multicultural city with a big student population which keeps it a creative and a diverse place to be & photograph. There's also a lot of tourism in the summer with its undercurrent of a very traditional typical British seaside vibe. That all dies down a bit in the winter. I like seeing those changes in the city along with the seasons. Lately, I'm drawn more towards the outskirts & suburbs where there are more isolated communities that i generally find more interesting and satisfying to photograph. It's like rediscovering where I've grown up & has given me a new appreciation for the area.
CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.
WS: I generally like to keep it open-ended & leave it up to my environment & weather. Usually, I have a loose idea of what i would like to photograph & go with that for the day. I think just seeing what comes your way is what gives that continual inspiration of not knowing what you're going to photograph. Some days i go out looking more for portraits and think more in terms of creating images to fit into a project of some kind. If I'm photographing in the city It's usually only for a couple of hours, go for coffee, meet some friends, keep it casual & fit it in between. In the country or other out of town places, I spend a whole day taking it in & explore more.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
WS: I don't eat breakfast & start eating around 5/6pm.
CUS: Who are the individuals in your photographs?
WS: Given the nature of my photography, mostly strangers, people I ask to take their photo, a process I enjoy. Talking to strangers I wouldn't approach otherwise & hearing their stories otherwise friends and also family.
CUS: What makes a good image?
WS: The ability to put your feelings & vision into that usual split second process of making an image, with some good knowledge & understanding of light & composition, perhaps. Something that transcends the purely visual and hits you a little deeper.
CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from? What is the motivation behind your image-making?
WS: Hard to say at the moment. I nearly always feel motivated to take photos. Main inspiration comes within the process of taking photos itself. Each time i go out and photograph the more that gets revealed to me, that's the continual inspiration.
I get inspired by anything. Music inspires me a lot. How it can be mood inducing & effect your psyche, certain notes, scales have a feeling. Makes me think about creating photos to that mood sometimes. The photography that I enjoy and inspires me usually has those mood inducing qualities.
CUS: Tell us about the locations in your photographs.
WS: I photograph at the beach a lot as its on my doorstep. it's generally a nicer place to be than in the city and after spending most of last summer photographing in the country & small towns, villages. Coming back into the city is like a sensory overload sometimes, of noise, fumes. Sometimes being in a city environment is the last place I want to be as I become more health conscious, but depending on my mood I also thoroughly enjoy photographing in such an environment.
CUS: What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography; photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…)
WS: I don't think there is any need for them to be against one another. Digital & film, both are essential now & serve their own purposes for professionals and casual shooters alike. Film has more of a discipline & a more organic process. Digital a quicker way to get access and learn which is excellent. Both are equally great. I began on digital and shoot mainly digital, but have grown to love & appreciate film and that aesthetic more & more.
New technology always seems to be double-edged. Digital brings some great aspects but de-values it at the same time in some respects. With everyone being able to take photos now, seems being a photographer maybe has lost some of its prestige it once had. Photography is now more widely used as form of communication. We're the very first generation to have all this technology fall on our laps. The internet is obviously great for sharing work & spreading awareness & connecting us all, but standing out against the rest as always takes a level of passion & skill more than anything, even more so now & that is not necessarily defined by likes or favs, but It shouldn't faze you either way.
CUS: How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?
WS: To be honest I don't think it's worth pondering over too much. Its as much to do with the perception from the viewer's standpoint as it is from the intention of the creator. Its starts with an idea & concept perhaps. Art usually resolves something in you & shows you something you've yet to experience or thought you could on a deeper level I find. It stays with you. For that sake it has to be pure & honest.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery, photo book, or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?
WS: Yes, totally. Every time you post something to the internet you have the chance to exhibit it to the world. It's the biggest exhibition going. With most people viewing art so easily now & photographs on their phones & the benefit or not, having things be so easily accessible. At the same time with so much available it makes it hard to appreciate it fully. It connects us and disconnects us at the same time. Going to a gallery to see photos in person with other like minded people or picking up a photo book is what it is about. it's an experience.
CUS: Your favourite photographer?
WS: As of right now, Eggleston. I really need to get a couple books of his.
CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
WS: Alex Webb. Would never happen as I don't possess his level of wizardry. I like his approach and intention through photography.
CUS: Your dream equipment?
WS: Probably a contax 645 and unlimited portra & pan F
CUS: Your dream location to shoot?
WS: A road trip through the Sahara.
CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
Just being consistent & remaining focused. I'm a Gemini & always feel I'm in two frames of mind in the way i approach things
CUS: Describe your most recent dream.
WS: I don't seem to remember any lately.
CUS: What are some of your favorite books and films?
WS: I've been reading Osho's book on creativity lately and that is becoming a favorite. I have a bunch of books I need to get round to reading.
I recently watched collateral with tom cruise. Really like the way that film was shot. Coen brothers movies. Seven with Bradd Pitt & Morgan Freeman. Apocalypse now.
CUS:" If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?
WS: Oh, that's tuff. Bob marley I think. Fela kuti or Coltrane. Being their photographer on tour. Musicians of those periods are people I look up to and have nothing but admiration for.
CUS: What are your plans for the fall?
TWS: To embrace the cold. Breath deeper & run more. Photograph more at night.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming exhibitions or publications?
WS: At the moment only a friends wedding, which will be my first so that will be interesting. Some interest for a couple other online publications. Nothing solid at the moment.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Tessa Bolsover, asks: What makes a moment worth photographing?
WS: Feeling & light
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
WS: Name or describe a photo you wish you had taken & why?
My name is Warren Sebastian. I currently live and born and bred here in Brighton, England. I live just outside of Brighton, five minutes away from the beach & countryside which i really value. I currently work in construction & landscaping & the odd bit of photography work & personal training. I studied I.T. at college for 3 years only to discover it wasn't for me at the time. In the past, other creative outlets have been music based & made some music for a few independent snowboard films here in the uk. Now photography has consumed me & is what I have been hooked on since 2011.