We want to take this week to discover the creative energies of those around us. Going to school in San Diego has exposed us to a huge variety of creatives and got us a bit more in touch with nature. With such a positive and humorous personality, our buddy, Dustin James, chats with us about his exploration into photography and how he connects that with insects.
"As a photographer, you can often become detached from the 'moments' you shoot"
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Redlands, CA but I like to think a part of me grew up in Germany. Since before I can remember I’ve spent every one of my summers there to visit my mom’s family and it’s definitely had a big effect on the person I am today.
Tell us how you got into photography.
I got into photography sophomore year of college so a little over two years ago. I never had to the chance to learn about it formally before so I decided to take an Intro to Digital Photography class and I've been shooting ever since. I firmly believe that people should take classes that have nothing to do with their major if they can spare the time because that’s when they learn things they never would have expected to learn, let alone enjoy.
Nature plays a pretty big role in your life. How's does it feed into
how you shoot?
I would say I try to depict the feeling I get in nature through my photographs. I took a field course in ecology last fall and it definitely opened my eyes up to the little intricacies of nature. I think the true beauty of nature comes in how simple and insignificant things can seem, like a tree, but when you think about all the life that tree supports you realize there’s so much more to pay attention to than just “that tree.”
And it’s crazy because nature can appear to be pretty random and disorganized but if you look hard enough you’ll start to notice a lot of patterns and repetition that make you almost think there’s an order to it all. Add all that in with my almost obsessive search for bugs and spiders and I can find a good amount of sweet subtle things to shoot when I’m out in the field.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee for sure.
"I have to be more observant and conscientious of what I choose to shoot."
Whats your morning ritual look like?
I’m not at all a morning person so my mornings are pretty un-ritualistic. Typically I wake up, shower, make breakfast, then head over to school. The days where I don’t have classes I might listen to an album or read something or watch a few episodes of a show while buried in my bed. Like I said, mornings are not my thing.
Insect photography is pretty niche. Did you grow up with bugs?
haha yeah you could say I grew up with bugs. I've always been a lover of animals in general but as a kid I was always in the backyard looking for insects to collect. I remember a moment when I was like 6 or something where I watched a female black widow kill the male. It was insane. But yeah, I didn't really rediscover my love for the creepy crawlies till junior year of college but I'm real happy I did cause insects are dope.
What type of music do you listen to? What is your favorite song now?
I f***in love music. I’m very open to all types but my favorite genres are 90’s hip-hop, 80’s synth pop, and indie music. Right now I’ve actually been super into YG which has been somewhat of a surprise to me. His album My Krazy Life slaps way too hard and his song “Why You Always Hatin’” has been my jam for the past few days, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Is there a certain approach you have when it comes to shooting?
I wouldn’t really say there’s much of a conscious creative process going on when I’m taking my photos. I’m more of a point-and-shoot kind of photographer so I shoot as things just come and go but it's funny because when I look through a lot of my photos I can see a good amount of repetition in my style which I think is pretty neat.
I’ve been strictly shooting on film since summer and it’s really changed how I approach making images. As a photographer, you can often become detached from the “moments” you shoot because you’re experiencing them from behind the camera. I feel like shooting on film has lessened this for me somewhat because I only have a limited number of shots. I can’t just keep snapping photos and looking back at them to see if I got the right one. I have to be more observant and conscientious of what I choose to shoot. Because of that things just feel slower and I feel as if I can immerse myself more in what I’m shooting.
It’s definitely changed how I shoot in nature because now I can’t just snap a photo of every cool little thing I see out there, I have to be a lot more patient and selective in my search. But that's definitely not the case when I do my insect photos. When I do them I kinda just let my freak flag fly and just throw around bugs and construction paper and other objects and see what comes out of it.
We're always appreciative of all creatives that truly enjoy their craft and after chatting with Dustin, it was clear that he's passionate about photography. If you're passionate about photography and want to dive deeper into the creative process, read more of our snapshot interviews.