Being a Kid Again
Being a Kid Again, by Jen L. P.
I’ve been admiring Scott Brown’s work for quite some time, and was thrilled when I noticed early on that he was a fellow Seattleite. Although I’m shy, I was willing to get over it so that I could watch him work. There’s something he does with light and muted colors that always fills my heart right up. I don’t know what it is he’s doing, but it speaks to me–and a lot of other people. I’ve watched his follow count grow in a short time and am impressed at his ability to have great and humorous conversations with everyone who comments. I’m glad to see other people getting joy out of his images and I hope that by sharing this interview, We Are Juxt can help spread the word even further. Imagine me standing on a mountaintop: Hey, World, check out Scott! …And here he is, describing his selections and answering all the questions I pelted him with…
J: Jen S: Scott
J: So, Scott, it was fun to meet you on that windy day at Discovery Park. You and your sister are quite the fabulous duo, sparking laughter wherever you went. (Check out @olylo on Instagram. She’s got some serious “Wow”, in her gallery, too!). There was a lot of wild wind and a lot of people to interact with that day, so I didn’t get to be your shadow as I would have liked. Maybe next time—unless, of course, I’ve just scared you away from all future walks!
S: Rest assured, Jen, that you did absolutely nothing to scare me away from any future events! I truly enjoyed meeting you. As for this image…
I dig reflections. That’s the short of it. What’s the long of it? Well, I also like creating tons of ‘one shot tags’ that are obscure and result in having just one of my shots on them, though there are a few exceptions. This particular image fits the #landmarkswithatwist tag. It’s rare that I am able to shoot during optimal lighting times or golden hours as it were. I happened to be downtown as sunset approached and I spotted the opportunity to photograph this oft documented sign in a new way. (Well, I hadn’t seen it done yet, but it probably has been.) I used the window from Café Campagne to get this reflected image of the sign. I had the usual joys of waiting around for a clear shot because there is a wall menu just past the window and lots of folks stop to read it and decide whether they want to go in or not. I’m glad that I waited around because I really enjoyed how it turned out. Edit: I believe this was solely a Snapseed edit and I had to do a lot of ‘selective adjusting’ to darken the street below.
I started doing IG in April of 2012. I had the app before then, but hadn’t realized what it was or how it worked and was quickly turned off by the popular page. I was in San Francisco at a conference and had some time here and there to just walk the streets and take pictures. I was immediately drawn to the architecture and took most of my shots looking up. When I got back to Seattle, I still took plenty of looking up shots, but I slowly moved away from it as I tried new things and also had already photographed a lot of the landmark buildings downtown. I love the looking up art form and always enjoy photos from folks who focus on that type of image. I was driving through downtown on the way to work one morning and even though I had driven right by the building on many an occasion, I decided to pull over into a 3 minute load/unload zone and try to grab a shot of the Safeco Plaza Building. I had tried my best to square up a shot (it was quite windy and I wasn’t quite able to hold my phone steady long enough) when I noticed a plane approaching. I love the building and plane combination shots and have done it only at the Pac Med building in the past because it’s directly in a flight path and usually vacant. For this shot, it was definitely a case of right place, right time, but because I didn’t have much time, I was pretty nervous about missing this opportunity. Fortunately, it worked out pretty well and I even got a piece of the plane reflecting in one of the windows. I enjoy how common it is for IG folks to start making all kinds of sudden, unplanned stops and U-turns along the way to try and capture something and this is definitely one of those instances. Edit: Snapseed for adjustments, then a B&W filter and finally vintage filter 3 I believe.
J: I really relate to that nervousness you describe. On the #automugshot image (below) you talk about that as well—the tension involved in getting a good shot. Do you think that plays a part in your drive (pause for “stupid pun” groan) to take photos?
S: I would have to say no in general. Although there are instances when tension is present as described below or a bit of nervousness or angst tied to not wanting to miss that moment you believe will make for an interesting image, I find mobile photography to be very meditative and stress-relieving for the most part. I think I use (or try to use) parts of my brain that can often lie dormant in addition to the fact that often if I’m out shooting things, it means I happen to have a few hours with nothing pressing scheduled. I can simply wander about and just explore areas and see what pops up and where the discoveries take me. It’s like being a kid again.
Automobiles are as close as I get to Portraiture in general. I find parked cars to be great artistic subjects and although they have their own challenges to deal with when shooting, movement is not one of them. I stumbled upon this 1962 Ford Thunderbird in the Pioneer Center area. It was parked just off the street behind an open bay door, which allowed for some quick front end shots. I loved the hint of the interior fluorescent lights reflecting off the chrome and the natural light hitting the grille. It’s a simple shot, but I loved how it turned out. These front end shots morphed into #automugshots, which involves low angled front-end vehicle shots. It’s always fun to shoot autos because you never know when something interesting will pop up, what the setting and surrounding will be, and how much time you may have to try and capture it before someone drives off in it. I’ve rarely had issues, but there have been a few times when owners returning to their car to find me crouching all around it have yelled at me, but it’s always funny how their anger and suspicion quickly turn to pride and an exuberance to show me every last detail of what they’ve done to their vintage autos after they realize what I’m doing. Edit: Camera + clarity and the IG x-pro ll filter.
J: You have so many great shots of cars… it makes me wonder: do you drive a vehicle that’s worthy of a mugshot?
S: You just had to go there didn’t you, Jen? I absolutely do not. Other than my first car, a gold 1977 Pontiac Catalina named the Golden Axe, I have not driven anything that would be considered particularly worthy of a mugshot. My father owns a 1954 Two-Tone Chevy 3600 and my Grandmother has an orange 71 Fiat 500 Vignale Gamine, both of which would make wonderful automobile portraiture subjects. So, at the very least, I have some in the family.
I am also drawn to puddles and their reflective nature. This is also technically a #landmarkswithatwist shot as well. I have enjoyed the way that Instagram and the Instagram community have sparked new ideas and concepts about how to photograph things and trying out new ideas. It’s not that this is an especially creative shot, but historically, I’m sure I would have never thought to take a picture of the Space Needle like this. I also love that the crop makes this puddle look like an eye and the cracks in the pavement lend a nose line and eyebrow as well. Edit: Snapseed and potentially PicFx. The lighting was great for this one, so I didn’t have to do all that much, but I remember increasing the contrast on the Space Needle.
J: The colors in that space needle image make me swoon. Do you have a background in photography? Other art forms? Does your job involve visual arts?
S: Thank you so much, Jen! (Photography purists, please skip this paragraph to avoid absolute incredulity.) I began taking more of an interest in photography after it went digital. I think the first time that I can recall trying out different aspects of photography, such as long exposures or landscapes, was on a road trip from Seattle to Guadalajara México about 10 years ago. I took HWY 101 all the way down to Los Angeles before cutting inland and heading over and crossing the border in Tucson Arizona. Because I had time on my hands and such extraordinary landscapes, I stopped constantly along the way to take pictures with my 2MP Canon PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH. I really knew nothing about photography, but enjoyed playing with settings and testing stuff out. My interest in photography grew from there, and I’ve always had some form of digital camera. In the last few years, I got a Nikon D90 and the 35mm, 50mm and 85mm 1.8 lenses to take pictures of my daughters mostly. I have no training or technical knowledge regarding the art of photography, which is an area that I should probably invest some time in. I do think that owning only prime lenses did help me to transition to mobile photography, since my instinct is to zoom by moving my feet versus twisting a lens.
In terms of other art forms, I enjoyed making wheel-thrown pottery for a long time, which I also found meditative, and I did participate in Drama and performances in High-School and College, but that’s about it.
My current job is highly analytical. I study large amounts of data and find patterns and inconsistencies indicating fraudulent behavior in the digital realm. Although it doesn’t sound very artistic in general, I believe that the field does involve both an Art and a Science, much like photography. You can study all the technical tools and programs that you like, and those things can definitely help you, but to be good at fraud mitigation, you have to understand the art of fraud and how it is committed. It is in many ways similar to the having an eye for photography versus just understanding all the inner workings and technical specs of the camera you use. It is of course important to understand how to use your camera, but at the end of the day, it is what you see and how you see it that most translates into your end result.
Washington is an incredibly beautiful place to live. This shot was taken at Mukilteo State Park. I took a lot of Ferry Shots and beach shots as well, but this one was definitely a product of being into mobile photography and Instagram in general. At the far end of the beach, there are some rocks and a ‘do not enter’ sign leading up to the tracks. (It is there for good reason of course, but gramming definitely requires some calculated risks at times.) I just loved the symmetry of the tracks and the rising hill and greenery on one side with the beauty and light of an overcast day and the water on the right. I just felt like it was a reflection of how in Washington, even something like train tracks (which do have their own beauty too) can be situated in such an amazingly beautiful location. Edit: Snapseed with vintage filter 4 at about 40% style strength.
S: I think that it has changed a bit over time and a lot of it has to do with my physical location and surroundings. When in the city, I was originally drawn to mostly architecture, but I have started to pay more attention to reflections and cars. I am not often shooting in ideal light (as if I knew exactly what that was), so lighting isn’t usually the draw, but more lines and shapes and sometimes color. I don’t know if I could honestly explain why I stop in certain situations and decide to try and capture it, it just sort of happens. I do definitely have themes that I repeat, as previously mentioned. I definitely have a preference for symmetry or at least some form of balance. When I alter my framing to include or exclude aspects of a scene I am shooting, it is usually some inner feeling of not liking the balance or an aspect of the shot such as where windows or trees will be cut off. I think portraiture is very difficult with so many factors involved (movement, trying to get a candid and timing of course), so I am mostly drawn to static scenes and areas devoid of people, which gives me a much better chance to test out different angles and compositions when I stumble upon something interesting.
This self-portrait was from my early IG days, about two months into it. It was the first ‘concept’ shot that I took, where I identified a space that would be interesting and planned to go there, versus just shooting what was around me. It also somewhat confirmed that I was ‘doing this IG thing’ with more than just a passing interest. This spot is a unique space in Bellevue surrounded by the Bravern office buildings, condo towers and the Meydenbauer Convention Center. I took this midday during lunch and used a jerry-rigged gorillapod that I had for my first digital point and shoot camera years ago. I used a suction cup attachment stuck to the face of my iPhone and staged it, while workers from the convention center out for a smoke and office workers watched on. I just went for it despite feeling a bit awkward and I’m glad I did. It turned out much better than expected. I like it mostly because it reminds me of a turning point, when I began to invest my time, energy and imagination more into gramming. Edit: I believe I had Snapseed at this point, so some adjustments there likely and my favorite IG filter x-pro ll.
J: That wall is fantastic; you look tiny! I’m really impressed that you put yourself in that situation where people could see what you were up to. You went for it and I’m glad you did; you got great results! And your ingenuity—I’ll just admit that I’m jealous of that, but weren’t you worried about someone grabbing your phone?
S: Thank you Jen, those are some mighty kind words and I always appreciate your input and feedback. If you need help jerry-rigging a Gorillapod then I’m your guy! I think most people would just buy the appropriate gear, but I guess my procrastination or hesitance to buy more stuff sometimes leads to ingenuity? I had no fears about an iPhone theft in this instance. There were plenty of people around, but mostly looking down from office windows. The actual lot is about 50-60 meters deep off the street, so you have a pretty wide open view of anyone approaching long before they would get close to you. I guess I don’t tend to think about that as a possibility too often in general, though I have done some self-portraits in parking lots and a few less secure places in SODO. We live in a pretty safe place in general, which is great because you can pretty much just head in any direction and start taking pictures at almost any time of day or night.
J: How has taking and editing photos changed the shape of your life? So many people describe their relationship with Instagram as addicting, so I’m always curious to learn how they and their families have made adjustments to allow for it.
S: Yes, it has definitely been addicting. It has made things like waiting in lines and walking from the car to work much more interesting and often welcomed because it gives me some time to take a few shots or look at posts or edit, etc. In terms of my own personal involvement and family time, I choose a few hour block period once a week to be able to go out and actually take pictures. Selecting and editing pictures usually takes place late at night when everyone else is asleep and of course I check in all the time during the day to see posts, comment, and explore. I think it filled a void because I really didn’t have many interests or hobbies by and large prior to getting involved with it. I sometimes have trouble putting the phone down and I have stayed up very late on numerous occasions, but it is interactive and I get a lot of enjoyment out it. If anything, I’m probably a bit more physically active now because I tend to be a homebody. There is of course the community aspect, which is the main draw and what makes it fun and rewarding. It has also definitely influenced my life and ideas. I truly enjoy interacting with people globally who share many of the same interests and are so supportive, encouraging and funny. This also includes being a member of @justgoshoot, which works to find and highlight underrated Instagrammers. That has been very rewarding and helped me to build new friendships.
J: Scott, the couch shot is one of my favorite shots. The muted colors, the mood, oh my! Can you tell me how it came about, or what drew you to it?
I honestly look at that image now and think ‘Did I take that? How did I do it?’ I had decided to go to the UW on my weekly IG session due in part to Noah (@newteam on Instagram), who had recently visited Seattle. We talked a lot about seeing your city through the eyes of a tourist and not avoiding some of the popular landmarks just because they had been photographed so often before. I went to the UW and am very familiar with the area, but wasn’t totally sure what it was that I was going to try and capture that day. I parked to the North of the University because parking is usually easier to find in the neighborhoods. I was just fortunate to be walking on that street towards the University and spotted the couch on the sidewalk. It was a quiet weekend morning and I just loved the idea of a random couch and newspaper sitting on the side of the street at an institution of higher learning and it actually reminded me of going to school there a bit. The sofa was under a tree and the day was already quite bright out, so I crouched down in the shade and took some shots of varying exposure. When I reviewed the roll back at home or during some down time I just liked the balance of light and dark and that you could see all the details around the couch and then the image transitioned to a blinding light in the background, as if the occupant of the couch had reached a sudden epiphany or turned about in their deepest seat of consciousness and walked away into enlightenment.
J: Wow, those would be GREAT final words but… well, I’m obnoxious. I can’t stand it, and have to ask: you said you were involved in drama in school… what was your favorite production and what part did you play?
S: Oh boy, well, although I was involved in drama, it wasn’t in the classical sense for the most part. It was usually in the form of performances that I put together for things like Lip Syncs or Contests. I really enjoyed doing those and coming up with performance ideas and music. Those were my favorite kinds of dramatic outlets.
I think that the full extent of my formal roles in a Play/Production are as follows:
1. I had the lead role in Who’s afraid of the Big, Bad Pumpkin In the fifth grade. I was a skeleton Lawyer and remember having to memorize a ton of lines. I think I did OK given the expectations of the production in general.
2. Due to performing well in an Intro to Drama class in high school, I was asked by the teacher if I would be in the school production of Our Town because there were some roles that needed to be filled. I accepted and it turned out to be a lot of hair, makeup and wardrobe preparation for 12 seconds of being a pall-bearer on stage. Needless to say it was not a riveting performance.
J: I’m so sorry I missed it. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Scott and let folks know a bit more about you. See you at the next @IGers_Seattle walk!