Design Assembly recently got the opportunity to chat with landscape photographer Thomas Seear-Budd to find out more about his work and his passions.
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Hi Thomas, can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are and what you do.
My name is Thomas Seear-Budd. I am a photographer and architecture graduate. My life is split between architecture and photography. My photographic projects tend to revolve around travelling to remote places, working with various brands, tourism boards and magazines.
How did you initially get started in the industry?
I became really interested in photography during my architecture degree. I found myself using photography a lot in the initial study and design stage of architecture projects. For my final year thesis I conducted a project in the burnt mountain ash forests of Victoria, Australia. This place became pivotal in the project and my understanding of the place. This project showed me the power of photography in the way it can convey emotion and mood, ultimately creating a sense of reverie and wonder. I have sought to create these emotions in my work ever since.
Whereabouts are you based?
I am based in Wellington, New Zealand. It has always been my home as I was born and grew up there. I went to Victoria University, which naturally progressed into a job at Wellington architecture firm Studio Pacific. I enjoy the creative vibe of Wellington and the proximity to other parts of NZ such as Tongariro National Park where I shoot a lot. However, the isolated nature of New Zealand makes it difficult to conduct photographic work overseas due to cost and distance.
As we liaise (October 2017), you’re currently in Norway. Is this for work? Can you tell us a bit about what you’re doing there, and also about the travel side to what you do.
Yes, I am currently in Norway. The Faroe Islands are next followed by a brief stint in Iceland. I do have the privilege of travelling to some remarkable places for my photographic work, both for commissions and personal endeavours.
What have been some of your favourite places?
One of my favourite, most influential projects was in 2014 after completing my final year thesis project. I spent three months in the Arctic creating work for the Greenland Tourism Board. It was incredible to witness the place and its challenges at that time. It was also a personal journey to photograph the deteriorating landscapes of Iceland as well as Greenland. This was completely shot on film and I experimented a lot with abstract images of the ice sheets, which one day I hope to exhibit. This trip really inspired me to travel more with my photography which has led to various trips to places such as Japan and Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
What are some of the best bits, and also some of the challenges about what you do?
The travel aspect of my work is an obvious plus. Having a project that takes me to remote locations that not many people get to witness is very special. However, I also really love coming home with not only great memories but images that I am really proud of. Images that convey the mood of a place that I can look back on in years to come. It’s nice having journeys so well documented.
Keeping up the intensity of my work not only while travelling but also while at home is a challenge for any creative. It’s a very competitive industry and everyone can now take really great images with their iPhone. This creates a great opportunity and challenge for me to find those unique angles and locations to present a particular place in a different light, in a light that makes people feel something. I don’t just want to present people with ‘pretty’ images.
What project, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
The Arctic project mentioned above has, until recently, been my favourite. However, I think I am now most proud of the images I have taken on this trip to Norway for Rains (a Danish rain jacket company). The Lofoten Islands provided the ideal location where the light and colours were just perfect. The images are quite different to the rest of my work which excites me as it might be another creative path I pursue further.
Your images are starkly beautiful, and people are portrayed as arguably somewhat insignificant and set against majestic, epic backdrops. Do you have any insider tips for budding photographers out there?
Figures often play a small but significant role in my images. However, I am now finding myself focusing more and more on the human figure and perhaps transitioning into more fashion-based work set within the landscape. I am currently trying to steer away from the ‘small person, large landscape’ images and focus on more subtle images where the light, tones and textures of the landscape engage with the human figure.
My advice for those interested in photography is to just shoot shoot and shoot some more. The images you create will enable you to become technically more proficient but also help find your aesthetic. I think experimenting is also really important. Experimentation can be really hard as a photographer as we can have a lot of preconceptions of what will look good or bad, but it can lead to some really interesting work or avenues for further exploration.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
I study the work of other photographers a lot. But I also look to artists, particularly abstract expressionist painters. I also find a lot of inspiration from the landscape itself. When the light and colours of a place are right the images can sometimes create themselves as long as you’re paying attention and ready to capture it.
What’s next for you in 2017/early 2018? What do you have lined up?
I hope to come back to Europe one last time before the end of year to visit my partner Talia who is currently based in London. Work-wise I am hoping to line up a couple of shoots in New Zealand when I get back and begin planning some more travel-based work for 2018.