Q&A with Sean Goswell
While Sean Goswell (@Somerset_Traveller) does have a color gallery on his official website, I first familiarized myself with his monochrome work from Instagram. Black & white are my favorite colors (yes, I'm calling them colors, don't @ me), but I am not traditionally drawn to work like this - what is it that sets his work apart from others, and what were the intentions behind stripping away the elements usually thought to be so critical in photos?
|P&F| - There's a certain clarity and focus in your portfolio. It draws my eyes away from the light spaces toward the dark objects, creating literal focus. But there's also that metaphorical light & dark balance that creates a serious, sometimes bleak vibe. What is it about this aesthetic that drew you towards creating a black and white gallery?
Sean - I've always loved black and white images in the sense that it strips away the distractions that colour can bring, which is why I chose to keep my colour gallery separate. I'm always looking to create a mood and atmosphere with my images and I really feel that black and white does this for me.
|P&F| - It's so interesting that you describe color as being a possible distraction, but I think you're absolutely right. However, I think I'm more used to seeing portrait photography and people in monochrome than nature, so this feels very fresh to me. What is it about trees that you're particularly fond of?
Sean - I’ve been photographing trees and woodlands on and off from when I first started out in photography, back around 2010. I lived in Oxfordshire UK at the time which had a lot of trees and woodland, so it was a subject that was on my doorstep and easily accessible. The more I photographed them through the seasons, the more passionate I became about them. Myself and my family have recently moved down to Somerset UK, where we have the Exmoor National Park on our doorstep. Whilst the woodlands are very different to Oxfordshire, the trees on Exmoor are fascinating, the way they have been sculpted by the seasons over the years, so they have provided plenty of fresh images for me.
|P&F| - How do you determine which photos "make the cut" to be a part of your gallery? Is there something particular you look to capture?
Sean - Sometimes I have what I call a "yes moment," when I stop and say yes, this image makes me feel something. But to be honest, that's a very rare thing, and there's probably only a handful of images I'm truly happy with. I've tried to lesson my time editing on the computer, preferring to go out when mother nature is doing the editing for me, be it through dramatic lighting or great clouds.
|P&F| - I think that's incredible, and admirable - overly tinkering with my own creative works is something I definitely struggle with, and it sometimes hinders my output. But nature is glorious, and I think the way you're able to tap into what already exists out in the world and bring that to audiences through the lens of your personal aesthetic is special. Do you have other photographers that inspire you?
Sean - Probably too many to mention. The obvious ones are Michael Kenna and Ansel Adams. Eliot Porter was an early influence. More recently the work of UK photographer Paul Sanders has had a big impact on my work. I’ve also recently discovered the black and white landscape work of Don McCullin which is just beautiful.
|P&F| - I will link these photographers as well for others who are interested! (All page links in red). Checking some of these out, I can definitely see where the inspiration comes from. I'll also add this music video that I've always been in love with since I think it fits in nicely with the work here; Ben Howard - "Oats in the Water" directed by Harvey Pearson. I think you'll enjoy that video particularly because I believe you've told me you're in the early stages of a new project?
Sean - Yes, recently I have gotten back into surfing, particularly now that I'm living so close to the ocean. I'm trying to incorporate my love of photography into surfing by documenting the local surf scene; it's a far cry from what I've done before, but it's pushing me outside of my comfort zone, and it's something I really enjoy doing.
|P&F| - That sounds fantastic! I can't wait to see what comes from that.
Sean - I'm sure I'm not fully done with trees and woodland photography, but for now I think I'm done with them for fear of becoming stagnant. I think it can only be a good thing for anybody to push their boundaries creatively.
|P&F| - Variety is the spice of life, and I'm sure it will only further inspire you and nurture the passion that you have for taking photos.
I want to thank Sean Goswell - Somerset_Traveller for taking the time to speak with me, and I hope this has been entertaining!