Today my guest on the blog is Seth Avant. Seth is a photographer and sometimes art teacher in Laredo, Texas. He also likes to ride his motorcycle to search out hidden places. He has an online gallery at www.sethavant.com.
1. How did you begin taking pictures, Seth?
I started shooting in the sixth grade with my mother’s old Argoflex Seventy Five which used 620 film. You hung it around your neck and looked down into it. I still have it. I was raised on on the road and was born to roam. My father was a geologist I began to travel with him as a pre-schooler. He showed me how much there was to see along the road. Dad was an aviator in WWII and great vision. He could spot a horned toad or a ground squirrel way down the road. “You’ve got to be alert!”, he would always say if I missed something.
I have always had a camera. I bought my first SLR while in college, studying art. The camera was a tool for me, photography wasn’t my medium. Late in my education I began to use the camera in conjunction with screen printing.
I didn’t really become serious about photography until much later in life. I was travelling around quite a bit and looking at things that interest me and realized others people might be interested in those things too.
2. What are some of your favorite subjects or sites for photography? Why do you like them?
I recently began photographing the cartoneros here in Laredo. They are the people who go out each evening and collectcardboard boxes from the downtown merchants to sell to recyclers in Mexico. I’ve also been shooting rusty boxcars quite a bit lately. I like the textures and the shadows under the peeling paint. The deep gouges in the metal from years of rough use fascinates me.
I’ve always been interested in ruins and abandoned places. Probably some of that comes from visiting old ghost towns and gold mine in Colorado as a young boy. Real de Catorce in Mexico is one my favorite places to explore and shoot. It’s an old mining town in the state of San Luis Potosi that was abandoned but made a comeback due to tourism. It’s also where the Huichol people make their annual pilgrimage to collect peyote and have ceremonies on nearby Cerro Quemado. I’ve been there twice and I want to return. There is still a lot in those mountains that I haven’t seen.
My love of railroads comes from my Uncle Bubba, who was a brakeman on the Cotton Belt and lived in Commerce, Texas. When I stayed with my grandparents, He would come pick me up on Saturday morning and we would go down to the depot and he’d go get a big ring of keys off the wall and then we would go climb up on the locomotives and the cabooses, which were his second home. There was a roundhouse and repair shops in Commerce, also. All of that is gone now.
I shoot things that most people wouldn’t take a second glance at. I believe that everything is interesting, how it is presented is what is important. Doors have been a favorite subject of mine for years. I’m especially interested in the heavy Spanish Colonial type doors that are common in my part of the world. My grandparent’s home in Commerce had doors with transoms and skeleton key locks. Old door hardware and hinges interest me. It’s not hard to find door hardware made by blacksmiths along the border.
Last spring, I shot an abandoned house that I had driven by countless times. I was intrigued by it and returned another time to shoot it inside and out in different light. Two weeks later it was demolished, leaving not a trace behind. Many of the subjects of my photographs come about only once, so now I feel like I have to get out and shoot every day or I’m going to miss something.
3. What sort of camera do you use? Any fancy lenses, settings, etc?
I use a Nikon D3200 and have a couple of lenses. Nothing fancy. I like using a polarizing filter out doors to bring out the
clouds. I was taught, “f8 and be there.” The most important thing is to be there. I believe there is no substitute for the light of the early morning. I also use an iPhone 5 so that I can share images while out on the road. I’ve only recently begun to manipulate my photographs with the computer. I wanted to keep my photographs as they came out of the camera, but a few of my peers took some of my photos and made a few changes and sent them to me and it changed my mind. I’ve spent the last couple of months experimenting with the possibilities which are infinite.
4. I know you’ve taken many, many pictures of the sun rising. What inspires you to do that?
Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I was in denial until I had a horrible seizure that landed me in the emergency room. The rising of the sun marks the beginning of a new day. I see each day as a gift and full of possibilities. Sunrises are colorful and in a state of constant change. The sunrise brings the hope of a new beginning. Crepuscular rays are especially exciting to me. I like to shoot sunsets also, but I find it harder to get out at that time of day. Sunsets are often more intense.
5. Where can people see your art?
I have an on-line gallery at www.sethavant.com that I try to update often and also at https://www.facebook.com/savant237. I’m also in instagram at: #sethavant. There are also some gallery shows in the works , but no dates at present.
Thanks for being with us today!
It has been my pleasure! Thank you for your interest in my art.